Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Westward Ho, Day 4: North Dakota & Montana

Today was another LONG day in the saddle: 496 miles in 8 hours. So far our journey has covered 1,927 miles, and we're just getting started.

We begain today in Custer SD, driving west to Newcastle WY on Route 16. There was still much evidence of the forest fire that was ignited by a severe thunderstorm just as we entered Rapid City on our motorcycle trip in 2001. In fact, the area was mostly obscured by smoke in 2001, so this was the first view I've had of the devastation.

From Newcastle, we ran up to Devil's Tower (you know, from Close Encounters?). We stopped and visited a little while with the prarie dogs at the base of the mountain.

By way of Hulett and Belle Fourche, we got back on US85 and headed toward North Dakota. Neither of us anticipated the miles and miles of open range all around us for most of the day. While western South Dakota is heavily forested, North Dakota and Eastern Montana is barren and mostly treeless.

Our stop tonight is in Miles City MT, right on I-90. The hotel shares a parking lot with a Chinese place, and the food was good.

We went back to the hotel to map out tomorrow, and I thought I would take one more look at what we might do around Yellowstone. Before we left Columbus, I checked out the Yellowstone website, and it said the roads would be closed to wheeled vehicles on Oct 15. Too bad, I thought, we'd be there a week late to get in. Well, tonight the website said the roads would be closing on Nov 5th. Great news! We've made reservations at a hotel right outside the west entrance, and tomorrow will be hustling down as quickly as possible.

A personal note: with today's journey, I have passed through two of the remain three states (North Dakota and Montana) on my goal of visiting all 50 states. The only one remaining is Alaska!

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