To Sturgis via North Dakota I-94 (West River)

West River I-94, wide open ride

Highlights: Wide open riding. Choice of southbound highways, convenient stops, world’s largest Holstein at New Salem

Concerns: Heavy construction in the Mandan area, late afternoon t-storms, sparse services

Good gas: Mandan, New Salem, Dickinson, Belfield

Good Shops: Mandan, Dickinson

Gut bombs: Mandan, New Salem, Dickinson, Belfield

Choices — you’ve got ’em on  I-94 West river across North Dakota. Is’ s like riding a different state compared to the eastern half of North Dakota.  Not only will you ride through rugged country, but you’ll have choices to make to get to the Black Hills.  Here it is step by step:

Mandan is where the west begins.  It has three regions for gas and gut bombs. Exit 156 is a loop down to The Strip, Memorial Highway or also known as Old Highway 10.  Krolls Diner (an old-fashioned diner with thick malts), Prime Steer (a working man’s dinner club/supper club) and McDonald’s are your eats.  There’s one Conoco gas station on The Strip.

Here too is where you’ll find the Victory, Honda and Harley-Davidson dealers. The east end of The Strip joins you to your next choice of exits.

Headed south from I-94 through wide open country

Your second choice in Mandan is Main Street, Exit 155.  A half-dozen fast food joints and  gas stations are along Main Street.

The third chance to get food and fuel is Exit 152 where you’ll find both a Conoco and Tesoro gas station, and two motels, Seven Seas and The Ridge that both have restaurants.

Choice #1 South to the Black Hills on Highway 6 or 1806.  1806 is closed at the South Dakota line.  Don’t go that way.  No detour is provided.

New Salem and New Salem Sue

Highway 6 is a ride through pristine, untamed and unmarred country.  It’s also “no-service” country– no gas, no food and no cell phone service.  It is one of my favorite rides, vast, open country, very scenic.

Mandan to New Salem 33 miles of increasingly hilly country.  It’s the last time you’ll experience much traffic as locals will also be on the road, but it thins out as you ride west. You can stop for gas near Mandan at Exit 147.  It’s a good place for food too, at the truck stop.

New Salem Last chance for good gas.  You’ll know you’re getting close to New Salem when you see New Salem Sue, the Holstein cow standing watch over the two gas stations, a Cenex and Tesoro.  Both gas stations also have food.  The Tesoro is a traditional truck stop. Next to the Cenex is a restaurant and bar.

Highway 49 near Elgin

Choice #2 South to the Black Hills on Highway 49 at Glen Ullin, runs to Elgin and Lemmon South Dakota.  It’s another one of those extremely pretty rides, but very open and barren.  Elgin has food but not high-octane fuel.  You won’t find that until you hit Lemmon, SD.  Like all of these back-country routes, you’ve got a good view of weather to come.

Watch out for weather

Late afternoon storms are common,  so keep an eye to the skies.  Since you are in back-country and near-wilderness areas, there are few places to hid from storms.

New Salem to Dickinson 66 miles is peaceful rolling countryside. You’re not far from civilization at Glen Ullin, Hebron, Richardton and Taylor. You can stop there for refreshments or food, but not high-octane fuel.  If you insist on high-octane fuel, keep going to Dickinson.

Dickinson's Evil Olive

Dickinson good fuel, good gas, good entertainment, good route south.  If you are passing through Dickinson, hit the first exit. It’s easy on and easy off.  Head to the Tiger Truck stop. Next to it is a diner with good food.   About a mile west is the Evil Olive a great bar and awesome pizzeria where you’ll meet many local and very friendly bikers.

Evil Olive Pizzeria

Head back up on to I-94 and continue your trek west.


Catch the second exit # and stop at the Tesero gas station just south of the interchange where you can also get a good cup of coffee or latte.  Across the street is Subway. Another welcoming spot is a few blocks south and then east a few blocks to Bernie’s Esquire Club.  Bernie and his family are lifelong bikers and very involved in ABATE. You can read more about Bernie here on 2wheels2lanes1camera archives.

Dickinson Honda and Yamaha

If you need service for your ride, I highly recommend Patriot Custom Cycles on the West end of Dickinson. Wes and Kevin are extremely talented, and like most North Dakotans are very hospitable to travelers.  That’s how I met them — a breakdown in Dickinson, a story you can read here on 2wheels2lanes1camera archives.  Also on Dickinson’s main business street, Villard, is the Honda and Kawasaki dealer.

Hwy 22 south out of Dickinson

Highway 22 turns to 79 in South Dakota

Choice #3 South to the Black Hills on Highway 22. It’s a direct route to Full Throttle Saloon!   This is my recommendation. It heads straight south to Sturgis, coming out at Full Throttle Saloon. You can’t beat a trip like that!  It’s the most scenic route. It’s well maintained. It is wide open but there are few services.  You need a full tank of fuel to ride this route just to get to your next stop, Newell, SD.  It is 170 miles to good fuel at Newell, SD.  So, if you have a 5-gallon tank, you better get at least 35 miles per gallon. If you’re nervous about running out of fuel, just before you leave North Dakota, on Highway 12, buzz over to Hettinger. It’s 13 miles east of the Highway 22 and 12 junction, but you can top off your tank there.

Dickinson to Belfield 22 miles of I-94.  Enjoy the last of fast Interstate speeds because if you’re headed to Sturgis, once you get off I-94, you’ll ride 10 or 15 miles an hour slower than when you were on I-94.  This portion of the Interstate was refurbished over the last couple years and is in good shape.

Bike comes off I-94 at Belfield

Belfield Cenex

Bikers converge at Cenex

Belfield is a popular stop.  It’s on the south side of I-94 There are gas stations, food, motels and even a NAPA parts store if you need tools orrepair parts.  Most riders stop at the Cenex on the east side of Highway 85.  It’s a common rendezvous point to meet up with other riders. It’s also a chance to visit with riders who are coming and going and can give you a heads up on road conditions and other pertinent information.   Do not even think of riding north on Highway 85.  It’s a construction nightmare!  Besides, as you can figure out, South Dakota is south on Highway 85.

Choice #4 South to the Black Hills on Highway 85.  This is THE MOST POPULAR route riders take to Sturgis.  You’ll be in good company all the way down with literally hundreds, if not thousands of bikers going your way.  60 miles south is Bowman where the truck stop has good gas.

While in Bowman, stop at Windy’s.  It’s a biker hangout, home of both cowboys and bikers who get along very well.  You may notice a burnout donut on the dance floor. Some wilder bikers (whose names I will not mention here)  wheel in to Windy’s on occasion and do a burnout before exiting out the side door.

(This is also known as the “B” route to the Black Hills. Belfield to Bowman (60 miles), to Buffalo (50 miles), to Belle Fourche (60 miles) to the Black Hills. B-B-B-Bf-BH — get it?)

Want to know more?  I’d be glad to tell you more about each of these routes south.

What’s your choice of routes? Do you prefer popular, or the more scenic and open routes?

One Response to “To Sturgis via North Dakota I-94 (West River)”

  1. Peter Rouse Says:

    91 octane at Wade’s in Elgin now. Have to pay inside during business hours.

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