140 miles - Total 1935 miles
Windless. Sunny. North Dakota prairies. Traffic: almost non-existent. My condition: superb. Best day of the journey so far.
If I could use a time machine one of things I would love to witness would be the herds of bison (or American buffaloes) move through the Plains during the change of the season.
Just imagine this: "Suddenly a cloud of dust rose over its crest, and I heard a rushing noise as of a mighty whirlwind, or the charging tramp of ten thousand horses. I had not time to divine its cause, when a herd of buffalo arose over the summit, and a dense mass, thousand upon thousand, galloped, with headlong speed, directly upon the spot where I stood. . . . Still onward they came—Heaven protect me! it was a fearful sight". A writer noted that "immense numbers, countless numbers, countless thousands, dense masses, one great mass, herds that blackened the plains, bulls roaring like distant thunder or like a river's rapids, bison in such numbers that they drink a river dry or the ground trembles with vibration when they move."
This, this very land where I am letting my wheels spin is where the bison used to roam freely and where the Natives used to thrive according to their way of life. They are gone and the few that exist are tamed, confined, quite. This is the land of the disappeared.
It was a clash of civilizations, of cultures and ways of life. Sound familiar? I don't mean to get all political on you now but this land bears witness to the tragedy of the extermination of the bison, which in my humble view remains one of the crucial, most complex chapters in American history. The U.S. government pursued a policy to eradicate the buffalo and thereby extinguish the Indians' very sustenance. But it was not until the rail roads went west and the white man expanded to the west that the numbers decreased.
The buffalo was first and foremost of utmost significance to people of the plains and prairies. In a very different way, its crucial standing was underscored by native people. With the bison in the way, Native Americans and their way of life could not be eliminated, with the bison, there would be no railroad, no drilling, no crops, no oil, no magnates, no There Will Be Blood's Mr. Plainview. He is the embodiment of the worst part of the 20th century, the worst part of us. The greed of today. The extermination of the true inhabitants of these lands may find an explanation in economic greed, personal fears and blatant misunderstandings. It paved the way to a whole new different form of government and way of life. Once the grass along with the bison and the Indians had been cleared, the railroad brought thousands of farmers that planted the land and grew wheat. The rest is history.
I keep postponing my rest day which was supposed to happen in Fargo. And this morning the weather forecast was more than promising: no wind or at worst a 5mph East wind! I am not going to waste the chance. I leave the hotel after a quick breakfast and I ride out of Bismark and I enter the enchanting, and I do not use this word lightly, prairies. Literally, as soon as I cross the Missouri river the land becomes arid and rugged. This is the semi-arid land of ND where locusts and Buttes dominate. With no wind I cycle beautifully for most of the day, stopping to take photos and just breathing in the air of this incredibly fascinating landscape. It exceeds my own expectations of the image of the prairies of Dakota that I had in my mind. At times I enjoy a completely solitary ride that I can just cycle on the faded yellow line in the middle of the road, the old Highway 10. I love it and it gets me quite emotional as I am thinking that Washington DC is a long way from here and I feel I could even end my bike ride here because I don't have to prove anything (else) I can just savor the air, the smell of the prairie, the sky, the boundless land, the beautiful desolation that feeds my body and soul.
I will take a day off tomorrow and I will ride around the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Tamed and confined... yes but I will see the bison nonetheless.
Look at this flag, motionless. In North Dakota, am I dreaming?? I am not, so I take the bike and fly West
Missouri river. West of it it is a whole new landscape. And I love it.
You know it is going to be good when you see this!
Desolation in this semi-arid prairie. The view is incredible, the silence is inebriating and cycling here is one of the best experiences
These pictures don't do justice to the rugged beauty of this land
An old piece of farming machinery sits in the middle of the field
The open prairie and an abandoned farm
All alone cycling as happy as I have ever been, can you see me there?
A creek near the town of Hebron, population: 747
Right here the strong and well organized Sioux annihilated the 7th Cavalry of Gen. Custer on June 25, 1876.
By 3pm the sky begins to darken but I have already cycled more than 100 miles so I will not get soaked today!!
North Dakota sky
Approaching Medora, the sky looks bad...a thunderstorm would break out in less than an hour
Close to my destination for the day, I do get soaked but I am happy with the ride today