Across North Dakota’s midsection on #36

Wilton Cenex

Whip in to Wilton’s Cenex station for gas.

Pull in to the pumps furthest from the building, the only one with high-octane fuel not the one closest to the building like it used to be in this photo.  Use your card if you want, but you might as well pay cash because the walk to the building will do you good for what you’re about to do for the next few hours.

While you’re in the Cenex Convenience Store, pick up some gum, some water, whatever else you’re gonna need for a long 100 mile ride with few if any services along the way.

Like much of North Dakota, long stretches of well-maintained highways take you across the state relatively free of competing traffic. However, most of those highways are in western North Dakota, or “west river.” Highway 36 is in eastern North Dakota, or “east river.”  It’s a slash across the midsection of the state, like an appendectomy scar.  Like someone who is free of their appendix, Highway 36 is for someone who is free to ride without complications.  You have to be. Even cell phone service is remote.

Wilton Grain Elevator

When you leave the Wilton  C-store, you can cut through town and head out the back road past the grain elevator, or get back on the 4-lane Highway 83 for about a mile south of town, then turn east on #36.  See the rolling terrain in front of you?  You’ll get plenty of that for the next hour and a half.  Few if any other vehicles, maybe a few tractors, but lotsa rolling countryside.

Highway 36 Rural Transportation

You will pass the little town of Regan, a nearly abandoned Main Street with a post office, an abandoned grain elevator, an abandoned jail, and lots of abandoned homes.  Down the road a bit further on the right (south) side of Highway 36 is a unique formation of sandstone jutting out of the ground next to the road. Known as “Regan Rocks” it’s a quiet place to pull over and reflect or whatever it is you do when you pull over by the side of the road for some R&R.

Leaving Wing

The first town you’ll pass of any consequence is Wing.  A bar that is open sometimes, and a gas station that’s been known to pump gas once in a while, a school, a couple of churches and that’s about all there is to Wing.  The falling in implement dealer building and the grain elevator next to the highway are markers.


Keep heading east on 36 and you’re back to the rolling peace of North Dakota’s central region until you roll through Tuttle and past Robinson.  Again, a couple of communities that have outlived their vitality.

The highway itself is another tribute to the North Dakota Department of Transportation. It’s clean, smooth and open.  Approaches and crossroads are visible, but you’ll still want to keep an eye out for farm implements crossing the road.

Otherwise, your route is a pastoral glimpse of a rural lifestyle that few, very few people every get to see, and fewer still ever get to experience.

After the towns of little consequence such as Regan, Wing, Tuttle and Robinson, your ride will be uninterrupted until you get to the T-intersection at Pingree.

Robinson school

Along the way, you will have passed Lake Williams and Woodworth. If it weren’t for the stop sign at Highway 52 at Pingree, you could buzz right past that former market stop for farmers who lived in the region a century ago.

Pingree and Hwy 52

It’s at Pingree you have a choice to make.  North to Carrington and beyond or south to Jamestown.  I use the terms “north” and “south” lightly as Highway 52 is a diagonal connection of towns across the state.

If you head south to Jamestown, you’ll be treated to a pretty community that is home to Jamestown College, Stutsman Harley-Davidson, good restaurants such as the Buffalo City Grille and Babb’s Coffeeshop.  Jamestown is a “town between and neither.”  It’s halfway between Bismarck and Fargo; it is like

neither the cosmopolitan society of Fargo or the political society of Bismarck.  However it is home to the Jamestown Independents Motorcycle Club, the Farmers Union state office as well as the North Dakota State Hospital, primarily a mental health institution.

If you head to Jamestown, may I recommend the two restaurants across from each other. Bobb’s Coffee and the Buffalo City Grille.  Buffalo City is a white tablecloth upscale eatery that welcomes bikers who like good food and have a fat wallet.  Babbs is a good place for deli-type food and an assortment of coffees, cappuccinos, espressos and lattes.

If you head “north” on Highway 52 you’ll get to Carrington, a bustling railroad town that is home to Harley’s and other watering holes.  By summer 2012, you’ll be able to read about Hwy 36, and other recommended rides in North Dakota.   Great North Dakota Rides, four different books, one for each corner of the state will be published by Kickstands Up.

2 Responses to “Across North Dakota’s midsection on #36”

  1. Clark Wold Says:

    I grew up in Regan, and very much appreciated your description of Hwy 36. I learned how to drive on the then gravel roads of 36, and could drive to this day to the mile section of road where I first hit the 60 mph mark driving our ’53 Ford.

    The Regan Rocks are special to everyone who grew up around there. We had year-end school picnics there, and if the Rocks could only tell of the parties that took place there deep into the night. I’m sure that safety laws would never permit a school picnic at the Rocks these days.

    I took my 38 and 33 year old kids there last summer when we went to celebrate Wing’s Centennial. They live in big cities now, but grew up in Bismack, and do appreciate that you can see for miles from the top of the Rocks.

    I played basetball in all of the towns along 36, and married a girl from Wing. Lots of cousins from Tuttle, and sister-in-law whose parents grew up in Robinson.

    When I drive any stretch of Hwy 36, but particularly piece between Hwy 83 and Tuttle, I know I’m home.

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