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The Reservation And Some Much Needed Hospitality

posted Aug 24, 2010, 9:29 PM by Matthew Gorzlancyk

July 26

‘Wolfpoint, MT… Holy hell!!!’ …fear and loathing on the Assiniboine – Sioux Reservation…

 I woke up in Williston, ND with another vicious hangover, but I knew it was time to get on the road and as far as I could. The gang was really fun in Williston, but the environment was definitely not conducive to a productive tour. I decided to get on the bike and hit the road.

 The road conditions varied on the way, from a nice four-lane highway with large shoulders, to a two-lane highway with tiny shoulders and rumble strips. This was definitely where the road became increasingly dangerous. Most of highway 2 in North Dakota and eastern Montana would prove to be dangerous, even when shoulders provided a fair amount of space, due to the big oil boom the region was seeing. There had been a new drilling method being used to extract oil from previously existing and new oil fields. Either way, I made it to Wolf Point, MT. I think Wolf Point was significantly more scary and dangerous than the road had been, even at its worst!!

 I cruised through a couple of really shady reservation towns on the way to Wolf Point and wondered how the destination I had chosen would turn out. Well, it was not much better than any of the ones I had passed… Upon arrival in Wolf Point, I noticed a very high percentage of the population was either drunk or high on some type of narcotic or another. It seemed that meth had taken something of a toll on the community in the city, and pretty much every reservation town I had been through. Having noticed this gloomy presence, I entered McDonald’s hoping to find somebody to guide me to a decent camping spot. I ended up meeting a few people who had advice, though it would prove to lead me down a very interesting road…

 The people I met were outside of McDonald’s in a white Chevrolet truck that looked as if it were on its last leg. It was covered in rust, the door was bungee-corded shut, and I think a window was broken out. There were two native guys and a native gal who were sitting inside of the death trap vehicle. They said hello, so I walked up and asked for advice. They told me that there were two public camping places that were free, but there was a high probability of being messed with by the drunks, meth addicts, and drunk meth addicts. They did not appear all that reliable on first impression, and I guess I should have followed my gut instinct. I did not take the hint though, and they welcomed me to camp behind their grandmother’s house. I decided to take their offer (damn that was stupid) and the next thing you know I was in the death trap with three natives and a case of Budweiser (It turns out they had been drinking for awhile, while cruising around town). Upon putting my bike in the bed of the truck and entering the cab, the girl in the group had become engaged in a fight inside of McDonald’s. By the time I realized this was happening I was already seated with my bicycle on-board, in the bed of the truck. One of the guys grabbed her and threw her in the truck next to me. The concern for my safety began at this moment, and increased as the night progressed…

 So we made our way onto the reservation housing project. Holy nuts! There were multiple houses that were burnt down, many that appeared as if they should be, kids running around in underwear, garbage all over the place, and broken blanketing the road (essentially a great place to raise a family). Having lived in a section 8 apartment for the last year, I was not completely blown away by the way the neighborhood looked, but I was slightly freaked out. What really caught my eye were all of the wandering dogs in the streets (this reminded me of past trips to Mexico). The driving ended outside of the home of one of the guys’ girlfriends. Apparently he had had a few kids with her, was seeing a couple of other women, and was still able to stay with her…? Weird.

 The group was actually quite nice to me in the beginning. They offered me beer and I reciprocated with some whiskey (though they definitely destroyed the flask with haste). By this time it was already dark, my bike was inside the house, and we were deep in this housing section. I thought we were going to stay, but the group had planned on going out to the bar to get more whiskey, and they pretty much told me I was coming with. I am pretty sure that during the two or three hour drive we took, (to obtain whiskey and drive around with it) we stopped for gasoline two or three times due to the fact that the group did not have much money. We even stopped at a bar so one of them could shake somebody down I think…

 The night was ridiculous. We went to a so-called secret native place that was extra windy, down by a river (where I thought they might ditch me), and to a bar or two. We got back to the house very late in the night. The two guys fought, the cops came by, and I slept on a floor in an extra bedroom. I chose the floor due to the bloodstain I found on the bed I was told I could sleep in.

 I woke up early the next day and got the hell out of there. This was the most uncomfortable day of the trip to this point. I don’t think I ever want to see the Wolf Point reservation again.

 July 27

 I woke up real early. I had already packed my stuff the previous night, unlocked the bedroom door, and hit the road as fast as I could. My only plan for the day was to get as far from god-forsaken Wolf Point as I could, and fast.

 I got my first flat on this day, and due to this minor inconvenience, I did not make it into the town of Saco, MT until sundown. I did make it far from the reservation though, 99 miles away. The town had free camping next to the train track. Perfect.

 July 28

 Well, camping next to a train is not so perfect. I woke up every 20-30 minutes to the Amtrak or a freight train flying by. The park had a sign that directed where one was to camp due to a sprinkler system in one area. Unfortunately the sign was put in the wrong place. Once the sprinkers came on, I did not sleep for the rest of the night. The sprinklers were actually pointed right at my tent. I was really unable to exit the tent until the sprinkler system turned off. This caused another late start.

 I ended up bicycling to Dodson, MT, where I would meet a couple really cool bicyclists on a cross-country tour headed east. Aaron Delatorre and Phil Fortenberry. We hung out in front of a convenience store for a while and then decided to just call it a day. We hit up a tiny bar with very few patrons, and grabbed a little off-sale beer for some fairgrounds camping. The lady there was very helpful and found out for us that we could camp for free at the fairgrounds, and that there were even showers available. Thank goodness for the free showers (I smelled absolutely terrible. It has not been uncommon on this trip to have to go for days without a proper warm shower. I have even done a few ‘lady of the night’ showers along the way, just hitting the ‘special spots’ with a rag).

 It was really nice meeting these two goofballs. They were simply riding on an atlas much like I was. Many people utilize the Adventure Cycling maps, but these guys and I have been trying to avoid their use unless we ride with others (my primary reasons for not using these maps have been the cost and the fact that they will not be available once I hit the Mexico-U.S. border).

 July 29

 The next day we woke up and parted ways. We exchanged information and some contacts for places of interest and friends to stay with. ***It was nice to meet you guys. Have a great tour!!!****

 I got on the road a little late today, but made it all the way to Havre, MT (even after having 3 FLATS IN 1 DAY!!!!). I stayed at the Montana State University North for only $10 per night!! What a smoking deal. I got in a nice shower, did some laundry, and found out that a nearby bar had $1 beer night. This needed to be taken advantage of, so I took the panniers off the bike and did a little load-free riding into town. I grabbed a little subway and enjoyed a few delicious Budweisers at a Havre pub. I stayed out for awhile, and with a nice little buzz I made my way back to the dorm for a night of sleep on a bed. BOOM-BAM!!

 July 30 DAY OFF

 I spent this day taking advantage of the shopping available in the area. I purchased a nice bicycle bell, ate some double cheeseburgers at McDonald’s, and posted a bit on the blog.

 Later in the day I ran into a dude from Jacksonville, FL who had began a bicycle tour there and was heading to San Francisco, CA. His name is Paul Calewarts. We decided, now having met on the road for the second time (the first being in Williston, ND) that we would tour together for awhile. This was probably a very good thing for me. I had had a couple of rough days, and was kind of hoping for a companion.

 I found out the prior day that the Brekken family was to be coming through Havre, MT on this day. Ben and I stayed in touch throughout the day, and upon their arrival, I got on my bike to meet them at an RV park nearby. It was a fantastic night. The Brekken’s made dinner on the grill (Turkey filets, potatoes, coleslaw, mmmm….). We all ate together, shared some beers and stories, and Ben and I were able to do some catching up.

 Prior to my late departure from the RV Park, Ben and I heard a very loud noise from across the street. There was a truck pulling a boat behind it. Turns out they had lost a wheel on the trailer, and the boat fell right off. It was damned hilarious. One dude was wandering around the truck, looking as if he had no flipping idea what to do. The other, fatter dude, started walking down the street they had come from to see if he could find the bolts that came off the wheel? Ben and I stood by the fence of the RV park laughing and waiting for the police to arrive. There is a high probability these two were wasted drunk. They somehow were able to find a construction sign and dump the trailer. Lucky guys got away.

 Since nothing came of the boat incident, to the dismay of Ben and I, I ended up heading back to the dorm. It was time to hit the sack.

 July 31st Day off

 I had a pretty rough night of sleep. I had dreams of the ex-girlfriend and was feeling really down for the first couple hours of the day. I have learned that the regular ups and downs of life are highlighted when you have little else going on (for example: a job, a dog to walk, or daily household chores). When I finally walked out of the dorm room, I ran into Paul. Thank goodness. He was the positive light I needed to get me motivated for the tour. I don’t think he realized it, but I think I was faltering and he picked me back up.

 I went for a kick-ass 8-mile run, ate 6 tacos at Taco Time, and got a new collared yellow riding shirt. I drank some beers to celebrate the departure the following day, then went to bed. I decided it would be good to chill with Mr. Paul Calewarts for a little while on the tour. 

***I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has helped me this point. It has been an adventure thus far. There are plenty of stories to come!!