Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Day 3: Fergus Falls, MN – Miles City, MT

Page 14 says: “We have learned to spot the good ones [roads] on a map, for example.  If the line wiggles, that’s good.  That means hills.”  Ri-i-i-i-i-i-i-ght. So how come in more than six hundred miles I didn’t encounter one corner requiring me to brake, eh?  

Shortly after Fergus Falls comes the so-called Red River “valley”.  A valley is usually thought of as a more-or-less deep hole with a river at the bottom; that of the Red River is flatter than a recently-ironed pancake and makes the Bedford Levels look like the Matterhorn.  After Ellendale things are similar, but with a profusion of small lakes; after crossing the Mighty Missouri (which is fairly mighty at this point, due to the presence of a dam about seventy-five miles downstream) things get drier and lumpier more or less all the way to Miles City.  Inspiring it is not; as a venue for a motorcycle ride it must rank alongside Antarctica for suitability.

Moreover, many of the locations mentioned in the book proved elusive or vanished.  The last rest stop of the first day was at the Camp Buell State Historic Site, south of Milnor.  There are even photos to prove it, but I couldn’t find the wretched place at all.  The motel in Oakes apparently burned down in 2001, while the restaurant in Ellendale where the party had breakfast and thawed out was also conspicuously absent.  The gas station in Hague is long gone and the park in Herreid was hiding, as was the surface of US-83 through town.

By happy coincidence, though, I stopped to fill the tank in Mobridge, right next door to the Yellow Sub restaurant, which in a previous life was the A&W.  The Prairie Motel in Lemmon, where Mark Richardson nearly copped off with the receptionist, has not yet been burned down for the insurance money, but appears still to be closed.  Shadehill Reservoir, where the party camped on the second night of the trip, is still there, as is the final rest stop of the third day of the Zen trip, some thirty miles before Miles City.  I haven’t yet looked for the hotel – possibly the Olive on Main Street – or the successor to Bill’s Cycle Shop, but might do so on the morrow.

Thought for the day: why would anyone equip an automatic gearbox with a manual overdrive button?  Ford, over to you…

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