It’s hard to think of yourself as bypassed by people who have no reason to drive by you in the first place. Sturgis is different in that people plan for months what route they are taking to the granddaddy of all bike rallies each August in the Black Hills.
That means there is plenty of time to consider a route through North Dakota either on the way to, or going home from, the Black Hills rally. The question is – why consider North Dakota for your riding pleasure?
Why would somebody from Missouri or Texas or California want to go farther north than they have to to get home or get to Sturgis?
Here are 10 reasons why it’s worth adding a couple hundred miles onto your trip to ride through North Dakota:
1. Theodore Roosevelt rode through here. Talk about a hardtail, Roosevelt was a Roughrider who knew his way around the dusty trails that passed for highways in the 1800s. The national park named in his honor is not even three hours north of Belle Fourche, S.D. and has a spectacular loop ride through herds of buffalo and deer and other wildlife. And the trail today is well-maintained Highway 85 straight up from Belle Fourche (pronounced Foosh). So just roll the throttle and go.
2. Have you ever had a picture taken with a giant – and I mean giant – pheasant. Or seen geese in flight that blotted out the sky? Let me tell you about the Enchanted Highway. It’s 30 miles of quirky roadside art between Gladstone on Interstate 94 and Regent, on your way to Sturgis. Giant fish, giant people and giant bugs spring up from the prairie. You won’t have to wash these bugs off when you get to the Hills.
3. John Lindemann’s Harley collection is a must see. Lindemann has almost as many Harleys in the garage as there are people in Golden Valley, the western North Dakota town where the museum is located. His collection includes a 1921 J and one from every year from 1936 to 1970. Lindemann opens the museum by request and if you are a true Harley lover, you have to see this. Call 701-983-4231 to schedule a time to visit.
4. There are two ways to learn about history: Read it in a book, or motorcycle through it. Did you know that five legendary figures of the West have ties to the Bismarck-Mandan area? Lewis and Clark camped for months along the Missouri River through North Dakota. They met Sakakawea north of Bismarck at Knife River Indian Villages. Sitting Bull and Custer were practically neighbors at Standing Rock Reservation and Fort Abraham Lincoln, but they didn’t get along after running into each other in Montana, and history has told us what happened at the Little Bighorn. Custer’s home at Fort Lincoln and Sitting Bull’s burial site are a nice bike ride along the Missouri River on the Standing Rock National Native American Scenic Byway south of Mandan. It’s one of many ways to reach Sturgis coming down from I-94 through North Dakota.
5. Here’s one multiple choice test you can’t fail. What’s the best way from north or eastern North Dakota to Sturgis? It all depends on what you want to see. Farmlands line the roads east of the Missouri River through North and South Dakota down to SD Highway 212. Meanwhile, a ride on most of the highways south of I-94 and along or west of the Missouri River lets riders know what it was like to head out into the wilderness on their trusty horse back in the day. There are enough fuel stops to keep your ride fed, but traffic is very light, roads are good and the scenery near the border with South Dakota is awe-inspiring. Global crowding? Not here.
6. To helmet or not. Hey, it’s up to you. DO NOT BYPASS North Dakota for fear of a mandatory helmet law as there is none for anyone over 18. That’s not to say we encourage you to go topless – you know what I mean – it’s your coconut, protect it as you see fit.
7. It’s North Dakota. It’s on the other side of South Dakota for people riding long distances from states south of South Dakota. But hey, if you’ve come this far, what’s a couple hundred more miles to be able to tell folks back home that you’ve actually ridden in North Dakota and it looks a lot like – South Dakota without the Black Hills.
8. A chip off the old leg. That’s right, the woodchipper that made Fargo famous is in Fargo at the Convention and Visitors Bureau, just an exit ramp and a couple right turns from the Interstate. What biker wouldn’t want to cozy up for a memento photo (leg and all) to take home to friends? And for a classic biker meal, head downtown to the Wurst Bier Hall for awesome sausages and a boot o’ beer that is shared by the group.
9. Those who can’t wait to get to Deadwood to drop some coin in the slots, North Dakota has stops near its southern border at Prairie Knights Casino south of Mandan and Dakota Magic Casino near Hankinson on I-29.
10. Bison roam here (freely in Theodore Roosevelt National Park and at the National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown) and deer and antelope and prairie dogs and eagles play. You can see these and more, and experience the fresh smell of grass, crops and grasslands as you glide down the highway toward your destination – Sturgis.