DAY 45 JULY 11 78.9 MILES
Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.
John F. Kennedy
Today we entered the West! North Dakota is experiencing an oil boom and we witnessed some of evidence of that activity this morning. However, this afternoon, we rolled into the Painted Canyon Visitors Center and the west began. From a vantage point high above the canyon, we saw how time and weather have resulted in the beautifully crafted and colored rock formations of the Badlands. Then, tonight, we drove our van on a 36 mile loop through some of the canyons beyond. In addition to the beautiful, multicolored scene, we saw a bison in the wild and followed him on foot for nearly 30 minutes.
During the ride, we observed patches of Scoria, a phenomenon which causes parts of the hills to turn a beautiful reddish color. Scoria, or Clinker, was first observed by Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition through the western US in the early 1800's. It is formed by strata of coal deposits in the hills catching fire from lightning. The heat bakes the remains into a very hard surface up to 50 feet thick to preserve it through time.
The Badlands gained their name from the difficult terrain which made traversing by foot or by wagon extremely difficult. In later years, many criminals sought refuge there as well which it did not help the Badlands' reputation.
Our day started quite well when a very light breeze was blowing from the north. It never intensified and had virtually no effect on our ride. After about 20 miles, we realized that our maps contained a mileage error and we had 8 fewer miles to pedal. In the game of Monopoly, a bank error in your favor, pays you an extra $50. In this case, we would prefer the savings of 8 miles over the $50 because it gave us more time to experience the spectacular scenery.
Medora is a company town in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The company actually is a non-profit foundation which owns and operates all of the property and businesses. The employees think that someone is making a huge profit because prices are quite high and salaries are very low. But that is another story.
We have an easy day tomorrow. Only 65 miles! You know you are a true cross-country bicyclist when you think that 65 miles is an easy day.
Tip: Saddle soreness is something all new or infrequent cyclists experience. It will pass as your riding becomes more regular.