Janet Frost has a hard time narrowing down her favorite place in North Dakota to ride her motorcycle. She loves to ride along the water, whether rivers or lakes. The Turtle Mountains are a gorgeous drive, and so are flowing fields of wheat.
“It’s enticing. You get euphoric. It’s so relaxing to experience state roadways without radio, air conditioning, the creature comforts we’re used to,” she said. “You get the smells even — some good, some not so good. But it’s the whole experience of freeing your mind and being able to relax and enjoy your travel, enjoy your journey.”
North Dakota has a short window in which riding a motorcycle is safe and practical, but the number of people who are choosing to travel the state by two wheels continues to increase.
Frost, the marketing and promotions director at ABATE of North Dakota, said the organization, which promotes motorcycle safety, awareness, training and motorcyclist rights, puts on training courses seven days a week in multiple locations throughout the state and trains nearly 2,000 riders per year in safe motorcycle techniques.
The uptick in motorcycles on the road seemed to begin a few years ago when gas prices rose, Frost said. However, she said involvement has experienced a steady increase, whether among people who ride for enjoyment or those who use motorcycles as a primary mode of transportation.
North Dakota Tourism saw the potential motorcycle traffic had to get people off the beaten path. Scooter Pursley, information specialist at North Dakota Tourism, said the hope is riders will get off the highways and on the roads less traveled, into communities and businesses that they may not otherwise see.
So, a few years ago, they created the North Dakota Scenic ByRider Program. The program has 25 locations and rides for riders to consider, and anyone who visits five and takes photographs with the North Dakota Travel Guide in one year can apply for a patch from North Dakota Tourism. Pursley said a dozen or two people annually have requested patches.
This year, the tourism department also created a guide book of the routes, which has gotten a lot of early interest from riders, Pursley said. Anyone interested in the guide can contact North Dakota Tourism. The guide has routes across the state, so if someone is in the Badlands or in the Red River Valley or anywhere in between they can find a day trip that might interest them.
Pursley advises riders to take one of ABATE’s courses. He said the lessons learned in the classes transfer over to driving a car and are likely to stick with riders and drivers alike.
While his favorite route is Highway 22, north of Dickinson to New Town, he said North Dakota is full of great roads, wide open spaces and things to see.
“Now is the right time,” Pursley said. “Summer’s coming around. Once you get out on the open highway, it can be really relaxing.”
Along with the open roads are rallies and other events for riders. Coming up this weekend is the Menoken Grove rally, which is ABATE’s largest fundraiser of the year. The event, in its 41st year, features bike rodeo games, a live auction and music. It’s open to ABATE members 21 and older. It costs $40 to attend. Tents are free, and campers are $20.
Frost said riders from across North Dakota, as well as adjacent states and Canada, are expected to attend.
“To me, it is the best family reunion you can ever attend. And if you miss it, shame on you, because it is just so much fun,” Frost said.