Golden Valley – the town that met the rail company halfway

Incredible marketing and entrepreneurship in 1900 started the happy little town of Golden Valley. Out of nothing, the town started and grew – and to this day Golden Valley gives you a reason to pull off Highway 200 between Hazen and Killdeer.

The disappearing tribute to North Dakota's indigenous people -- the Indian Head State Highway Sign. Just one or two remain along Highway 200 near Golden Valley.

The disappearing tribute to North Dakota’s indigenous people — the Indian Head State Highway Sign. Just one or two remain along Highway 200 near Golden Valley.


We like stopping there because it has a peaceful and protected feel to it. Nestled in a valley, noise, weather and outside traffic is minimal.  Plus, it has a couple of interesting shops for browsing and a great little place for food and libations.

snowy hilllside at Golden Valley North Dakota

Sunrise at Golden Valley, North Dakota

The town is a tribute to perseverance and entrepreneurship.

George V. Bratzel took lemons a corporation served him and turned them into proverbial lemonade.  He was a rail agent for the Northern Pacific Railroad in Hebron, North Dakota. The company shipped him to the far end of the state, to Beach.  Then, yanked him back to Hazen a couple of years later and fired him.  It turns out his supervisor at the railroad wanted his son to have a job, so Danielson was fired to make room for the son.

“Ha!” Bratzel said. “I’m just gonna make my own town!”

Northern Pacific told him, “Go right ahead, and we’ll build a rail line to your town.”

(I suspect NP didn’t think Bratzel would succeed – but he did.)

Bratzel searched for a location for his town; he traveled and surveyed the prairie north of Hebron, North Dakota. One late summer day, he spotted a valley about 40 miles north of his home. The colors of the valley were – you guessed it, golden.  And since the initials of his first and last name were GV, he named the town Golden Valley.

The First Golden Valley before it was moved next to the Northern Pacific Rail Line. (from the ND Historical Society collection.)

The First Golden Valley before it was moved next to the Northern Pacific Rail Line. (from the ND Historical Society collection.)

He called the Northern Pacific on its bluff, and it responded.  It built the line along the best route engineers could find.  It was about one-and-a-half miles from where George had set up his town. So again, turning those lemons into lemonade, he picked up the town and moved it to the railroad.

From NDSU library: paul-weiracuk (left) and james-opsahl (right) at the weiracuk homestead near golden valley-

From NDSU library: paul-weiracuk (left) and james-opsahl (right) at the weiracuk homestead near golden valley- Permission of the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Libraries, Fargo, ND –

He promoted the town heavily, even sponsoring a free dance for all the region’s ranchers and farmers.  Isolated across the rolling prairie, families, as well as single men, looked for any chance they could find to socialize. A community dance, in 1914 was a rare event. That’s why all the neighbors from across the rolling prairie and distant towns came to see what he had built — Golden Valley. Some even moved to the new town.

Golden Valley about 30 years after it was moved to be near the RR tracks.

Golden Valley about 30 years after it was moved to be near the RR tracks. Permission from the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Libraries, Fargo, ND –

Once the town was set up along the tracks, farmers brought their grain to town where they could make more money than if they hauled it many miles down the road.  They were willing to work for it even without a grain elevator.  They loaded rail cars one shovel at a time, pitching their grain from their wagon into rail cars.golden-valley-grain-elevator-at-sunrise

Later, the grain elevator was built and the town became a commercial and transportation center.  One of the more successful businesses was an earth-moving company that did much of the work on the Garrison Diversion projects.

One of the success stories of the region is marked with an antique truc.

One of the success stories of the region is marked with an antique truck.

Now the town’s main draw is the Saddle Sore Saloon where festivities are hosted, even outdoor street dances and wedding parties.

The Saddle Sore Saloon in Golden Valley is the central gathering point. The Saloon’s Facebook Page includes this photo and other like it.

For example, on Valentine’s Day, the dining room serves Prime Rib with baked potato, salad bar, and a desert for $24.00.


From the Saddle Sore’s Facebook page, a summer evening collection of motorcycles and vintage cars.






Across the street from the Saddle Sore is a curio store, a flea market of antiques and collectibles.

Across the street from the Saddle Sore is a curio store, a flea market of antiques and collectibles.

golden-valley-gas-pumps-nov-2016-copyAround the corner, one of the most brilliant Gems in the United States – a Harley-Davidson museum, with a motorcycle from each year – all of them in running order and operational.  The museum is bright, clean, and more impressive than most small town museums of any sort.  Ya gotta know the guy, to see it. It’s his private collection, but he’s willing to open it to let you in.

The private collection of Harley-Davidson motorcyles is a worthy attraction to the community.

The private collection of Harley-Davidson motorcycles is a worthy attraction to the community.

That’s why motorcyclists who like to explore the 2-lane highways of the prairie can put this on their destination list.  Anyone who likes photographic road trips, any time of the year will be rewarded with a trip to Golden Valley.  They may give a tip of the hat to tribal elder, historian and businessman August Little Soldier who did much to provide industry to the Three Affiliated Tribes.

And give a tip of the hat to the famous roadside bronc of Wayne Herman world bareback rider who will greet you.



Riding in to Medora

Riding in to Medora

Summer in North Dakota means at least one ride to the old west town of Medora. It’s an unparalleled ride in North Dakota, and on August 4, I headed out there to see how successful tourism officials were with their first promoted biker gathering in town.

Hangin' out in Medora

While the event itself was nothing to speak of, the ride, the town and the scenery are always top drawer.  In fact, an ebook to be published next spring of Great North Dakota rides will highlight Medora as one of the great rides in the state. (kickstands up)

Riding in to TRNP

Shooting bikes in Medora on this day was one of my favorite shoots of the summer.  I positioned myself where ever I thought I’d catch a motorcycle riding in or out of town. I didn’t get there until mid-to late afternoon, so I only had an hour or so to shoot. BIG MISTAKE.  There is no hurry-up in Medora.

A Medora Street Musician

Don’t make the same mistake. Take your time, enjoy the Theodore Roosevelt National park, ice cream on main street, or even the local variety of a street musician. 

The North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame and the remnants of the Medora Packing plant tell a story around which you can wrap your mind and imagination, harkening back to a romantic period of Americana.

Father’sDay Hill climb

A dusty race up the hill

A traditional event — competition much like the Wing Rodeo I wrote about last week — only different.

Dakota Riders

The annual Father’s Day Hill climb by the Dakota Riders at Valley City pits local riders against each other and nature — in this case, a hill.  The goal for the smaller bikes is to see how far up the hill they can get.  The larger more powerful bikes challenge each other to get to the hill the fastest.  In all cases, it’s man and machine against nature — this hill.

It’s a subculture of note, these North Dakotans who gather at the base of the hill to socialize and to watch the events.  They share a commonality of a love of motorcycles and the motorcycle lifestyle.  But that’s about where it ends because they come in all sizes and shapes.


Cheetah Chopper

Still, a warm Sunday afternoon, good people good entertainment and good competition make the Fathers Day Hill Climb one of my annual events.  I used to shoot the competition and that only.

Now I see there’s a whole lot more to the event, and that’s the people, and in some cases the motorcycles.  It’s not a drunk fest like some motorcycle events, it’s much more family oriented so there are plenty of good photo ops.

Sometimes I think as a photographer I forget to look at the whole picture. I get so focused I miss the best stories to be told by photo — the people and the crowds.

You can check out more images of the Hill Climb in the photo garage at

Have you been there to the Hill climb?




July 24

Good riding across ND

Hold on to your hat, helmet or headrag. This blog is visual trip across western North Dakota.

If you are a motorcyclist who is used to riding through and in lots of traffic, you would love North Dakota’s motorcycling, especially west river North Dakota. 

I followed I-94 across the state for a photographic entry in to my other blog 2wheels2lanes1camera.    It was a great day to show what North Dakota looks like this time of year, a perfect entry for North Dakota 365.

From the outskirts of Mandan where “west river” begins, motorcycles are numerous.  Near the city, sport bikes or “crotch rockets” are plentiful, speeding down the smooth concrete ribbon of Interstate 94.

Further west, it’s motorcycle touring terrain.  Packed motorcycles head west across the state, enjoying the lack of threatening drivers in their cars and trucks — free to twist the throttle and cruise.  People whom I’ve talked to from other parts of the nation such as southern California where it’s thought that motorcycling is a popular pastime are impressed with the number of motorcycles in North Dakota.  They are surprised to see scenes like this where bikes fill the parking lot of a local pizza joint/beer joint called the Evil Olive. (More about that in a soon to come blog entry.)

Dickinson's Evil Olive

I’m certain you’ll find more pickup trucks with one passenger headed down the highway than any other form of transportation, but it sure seems to me that it makes more sense to take advantage of North Dakota’s wide open spaces to conserve gasoline, leave a smaller carbon footprint and enjoy the ride on two wheels at 45 mpg than to hurl your pickup down the road on four wheels at 12 mpg.

So, if you’re headed across North Dakota, don’t be surprised if you see more motorcycles than you expect. North Dakota is a motorcycle haven of wide open vastness.  What would it take to get you to ride across the state with me?

July 17

I can only imagine what motorcycle travel was like 40 years ago, heading north along the Missouri River.

I was riding my 1978 HD superglide with that vibratory shovelhead engine, heading north up River Road, or State Hwy 1804.  Years ago, this was a good road by travel standards. A few miles to the east was federal highway 83, a more straight shot from Bismarck to Minot.

On this night, I had left a weekend-long party north of Bismarck.  It was dusk and I wasn’t real comfortable with the ability to see deer crossing the road as they do at this time of day.  My headlight on that old bike isn’t very powerful.

Still it represents some of the best riding a person could have enjoyed in the 1970’s.  It was a warm night, so I didn’t need to wear my leather jacket.  That’s it bungeed to my handlebars on the bottom of the image.  In the 70’s few bikes had windshields and a rolled up sleeping bag or jacket did a noticeable (though not “good”) job of breaking the wind and deflecting bugs up over the head of the rider.  That’s still the way I ride.

June 18 part deux

Remember these days?

On the way back to Bismarck from the Twin Buttes Powwow, I drove through Golden Valley, North Dakota.  A remarkable family tradition of a different kind is enshrined just off  Main street. There the Lindemann’s have invested themselves in restoring and maintaining a bit of history.  This Standard Oil gas station is actually the entrance to a private Harley-Davidson Museum.  Neatly displayed inside the museum is at least one Harley-Davidson from every year of production — and each one runs, ready to be rolled out on the street of John chooses.

John Lindemann inherited his father’s love of meticulous restoration.  His father, Bill restores old Model As and Model Ts to running and operating perfection.  It wasn’t too long ago that the pair would be seen putting down some back road to a car show or motorcycle show in Canada or the West Coast to display their work and take home accolades.  Their attention to detail is evident with the effort put in to just the front door entrance to their private museum.  The gas pumps that I can barely remember from my pre-driving days.  How far back does your memory of these corner icons go?

May 28

Got a gun on her tank

I love it when cool people whom I love get together to make something remarkably memorable.  Kirk, whom you met here on ND365 in April is not only just a tattoo master, but a very gifted artist. I wish I could just sketch anything similar to what he does all out!  This revolver on the gas tank belongs to another friend whom I love, Krystal Haibeck.

Judges Choice from Glendive MT bike show

She’s a fireball, a pistol in her own right, a hunter, a marksman and a hard-working construction worker.

These two collaborated to do a design on her bike that is a trophy winning design.

I wear some of Kirk’s ink, not only on my body, but on vests he has airbrushed for me.  This work on Krystal’s bike is testimony that you can trust him with your work.  I want more.  Wanna know more about Kirk? How to reach him? Leave a comment here and I’ll get back to you.

May 15

Getting ready to ride

Yesterday it was the Patriot Guard Riders honoring returning soldiers. Today, it is the Second Brigade Motorcycle Club honoring all vets but especially those in the First Brigade, our peers who served in Vietnam and were not well received when they returned in the 60’s and 70’s. (There was no Patriot Guard Riders in those days.)  That generation is honored these days by clubs such as the Second Brigade Motorcycle Club, Vietnam Vets motorcycle club and Legacy Vets motorcycle club.

On this day, May 15, all who served were honored in the annual Armed Forces Day ride, and it would appear that there may be hope for the next generation to honor veterans as well. A young pair of boys waved and saluted as the riders started their ride.  Personally, I found it very touching.

The day was perfect for a spring ride and so more than 100 riders covered Burleigh and McLean counties on their fun run, a ride of fellowship and of fundraising.  They hit Washburn, Mercer, Wing and ended in Bismarck where they started.


The day was not only about remembering vets and socializing, it was also to raise money for the POW/MIA monument to be erected at North Dakota’s Veterans Cemetery at Mandan.

By day’s end, nearly $3,000 was raised in the fun run, the silent auction and a large personal contribution from the owners of Lucky’s in Bismarck where the ride ended.

I don’t know if this is just a local phenomenon or if it’s happening elsewhere, but I know in the Bismarck/Mandan area veteran and military support motorcycle clubs are becoming more visible and more popular.  What do you see in your area?

April 26

Hangin' out at Roughrider H-D

One of my favorite places to hang out, even drink a cup of well-cooked coffee while visiting and browsing — Roughrider Harley-Davidson in Minot.

I’ve done business there for years, even back before it was Roughrider. Folks like Kevin back behind the counter have done a lot of good things for me and my old 1978 fxe with a shovelhead engine and my 2005 Road King with a twin cam.  So, it’s only natural that I’d still visit there and check out the new models, the new accessories and the new clothing.

This chameleon HD in the foreground, as you can tell, changes colors depending on how the light hits it.  Walk around it one time and you’re not sure if it’s blue, burgundy or black.

April 20

1978 fxe

I love my old bike and as you  know, if you’ve seen any of my more recent entries, I’ve been using it as a model these days.  Here in a stubble field, overlooking Hwy 83, north of Bismarck, the bike looks good. I will be sad to part with it, but I actually took this photo for a want ad.

However, it doesn’t have the romantic glow about it that something like this would have.  It’s a 33-year-old scooter, so if one puts a little romantic imagination to it, it can look more like this.  I wish I’d not put the copyright logo on top of the vignette like I did, but oh well.  It makes the vignette look too stark, too well-defined.

So, one more Photoshop alteration just for the heckuva it.

fxe and colored sky