To Sturgis via North Dakota on I-94 (East River)

Highlights: World’s largest buffalo at Jamestown, ND State Capital, Good road, good stops, gentle scenery.
Concerns: Construction at many locations
Good gas: Valley City, Jamestown, Bismarck.
Gut bombs: Valley City, Jamestown, Steele, Sterling, Bismarck.

I-94 gentle and open

So you’re headed west across North Dakota, headed for Sturgis?  Good move.

Two words are used to describe the trip – “wide open” and “peaceful.”  (I guess that’s three words.) At least that’s what Sturgis-bound visitors say when I ask their impressions of North Dakota.
You have several options for your ride across the Roughrider State, but I-94 is the most popular. It will get you across the state the fastest, with the least romantic excitement.  So, if time is your essential concern, here’s what you’ll want to know to take I-94 from east to west.  Good stops are about every 100 miles apart, which is a comfortably do-able distance.

i-94 construction

First, you need to know you will definitely come to some highway construction, perhaps more than once or twice.North Dakota boasts that it was the first state to complete the Interstate from border to border.

That means the pavement and bridges are among the oldest in the Interstate system and need to be replaced now.   Because of the construction you may not save as much time as you think. So, like Pappy Hoel from Jackpine Gypsies used to say, “Don’t be afraid to ride slow.”

Fargo – say hello to some of the flattest land on the continent, the Lake Agassiz bed.  Get gas in Fargo at any one of the truck stops that have easy on/easy off.  Also while in Fargo, you can visit any one of the motorcycle dealers such as West Fargo Harley Davidson, Wheels Inc Kawasaki, Suzuki, Road Wolf Motorcycles, and an Indian/Triumph dealer.

Valley City hi-octane gas at south pumps

Let’s hit the highway, and here’s what you can expect:

Fargo-Valley City, 60 miles — the western half of Lake Agassiz and very flat.   The ride will be smooth and easy with little variation in scenery.

Valley City has both gut bombs and gas. Exit 292 has good gas.  High octane gas is at the south pumps. If you have time, buzz on down the hill to the north, down in to the valley.  Though only about 6,000 people, the town has 14 bridges, each different each representing a different architectural style, including the state’s only suspension bridge (now a pedestrian bridge).  Downtown are local eateries that are good and fast.  The chains and franchises are there by the Interstate.

Valley City – Jamestown, 50 miles, of slowly rolling hills.   It’s this section of North Dakota that begins the slow changes in to what is eventually the Badlands.  But that’s on the other side of the state.  It’s a slow transition to that kind of ruggedness.  For now, it’s easy slow hills.

Exit 160 good gas, good on and off

Jamestown is your first 100-mile stop coming from Fargo. It is your first good stop for good gas if you skipped Valley City.  I recommend the first exit on the east side of town, exit 260.  Roll down to the truck stop for easy on/easy off gas stop.  In fact, I think it’s the easiest on-off  I’ve ever encountered, a direct loop down to the truck stop, or a

From the Jamestown truck stop back up to i-94

quick ramp from the truck stop back up to the Interstate. The truck stop is friendly to bikers, a good open parking lot and a truck stop eatery on site.

Jamestown truck stop

Bobb's Coffee on Jamestown's Main Street

Buffalo City Grille

If you want to take the time, stay on that road past the truck stop to the north and it will take you through an architecturally interesting community and several good restaurants, some on the high end of the social scale, but very hospitable to bikers.  I recommend two eateries across from each other. Bobb’s is an artsy coffee shop with outdoor seating.  The other is the Buffalo City Grille where there’s fine dining and very hospitable to bikers – a favorite stop.

Stutsman H-D next to Kawasaki and Suzuki dealer

If you stay on the Interstate, after you get gas, you’ll pass the Stutsman Harley-Davidson Dealer who is conveniently located next to the Kawasaki and Suzuki dealer.

Get back on the Interstate and keep heading west.   It’s going to be 50 miles again before you find a place to get gas and food.  You’ll likely ride past coal trains.

Dawson watering hole

You’ll also buzz past Dawson, unless you have a craving for a cold refreshment.  Other than that, remember I mentioned good stops are about every 100 miles?

Jamestown to Steele and Sterling, 50 miles — These are two separate towns about 18 miles apart.   You’re going to ride through wetlands that make this the waterfowl hunting paradise that it is. It’s the Central Flyway.  From ducks and geese to seagulls and pelicans, you’ll find them on this stretch of road.

Steele boasts of the Lone Steer in Steele, across from the Truck Stop has good food and cold refreshments.  The gas station has good gas.
Sterling is truck stop that has good gas.

(Detour if you want to Highway 10 at Steele, parallels i-94) If you want to get off the Interstate for a while,  you can step back in time to about 1960 to catch highway 10 in to Bismarck.  It parallels the Interstate about a mile-and-a-half southof I-94.  Along this road you’ll find remnants of what used to be the trans-continental highway 10.  Quiet rest stops andlittle used motels dot this road the closer you get to Bismarck. Highway 10 becomes Main Street in Bismarck.

Bismarck exit 161

—and All the way to Bismarck. If speed is your concern, stick to I-94. Exit 161 is the Oasis Truck Stop.Easy on, easy off with good food and a 24-hour buffet, a trucker’s delight.

First glimpse of Bismarck from the east

Across the street is a motel. The Truck stop is a Stamart gas station and has good fuel.  But if you prefer to stay on the north side of the Interstate, you’ll find a Clark Food and Gas center and a Cenex station.

The next exit, number 159 is a jackpot of gas stations and eateries.  From Hooters to Ruby Tuesday to Arby’s you’ll find food at Exit 159, also known as Highway 83 north. There are 6 motels and 4 gas stations within 3 blocks of this exit.

The handiest gasoline is Interstate Tesoro and Landers Conoco to the south side of the Interstate at exit 159.

You’re riding on the jackpot of eateries and fuel when you are riding through Bismarck and Mandan. You will want to stop here because west river, things get a little more barren.  Seven exits in Bismarck and Mandan all have access to a biker’s needs: food, gas, refreshments.

Mandan begins the “west river” side of North Dakota and your ride across the state.

West River i-94, headed in to the sunset

Once you leave Bismarck-Mandan, the whole ride changes.  You’ve just ridden from urban (Fargo) through farms.  West of the Missouri River and you’re in ranch country.  My next blog will tell you what to expect from here on.

4 Responses to “To Sturgis via North Dakota on I-94 (East River)”

  1. I think that you may have an opportunity to be on the Travel Channel.

    The pictures are beautiful. Not every one knows where North Dakota is.

    Signed,
    I future follower

  2. cheap food…

    […]To Sturgis via North Dakota on I-94 (East River) « 2wheels2lanes1camera's Blog[…]…

  3. #trans Nice job, really good article mate

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