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.



Wanna ride a grasshopper?

Yes, you can saddle up on an enormous green thing.

You can feel very very small at the enchanting stops along a highway in Western North Dakota. Gargantuan sculptures give travelers and tourists a reason to pull off I-94 at Exit 72 and head south on a gentle rolling blacktop highway called the Enchanted Highway.geese-in-flight-sig-small

I have. More than once. Over several years.

For me, the first enticement came from that eye-catching structure on the north, Geese in Fight.

It’s considered Sculpture #1. Structurally as well artistically, artist Gary Greff’s design is impressive and deceptive.  It’s larger than you think, over 100 feet tall.  Geese that are 5 or 6 feet big pass in front of sun rays, hillsides and a great “eye.”

Like most people, I buzz by it more than I stop.  It’s a good place to stop on my way to or from Dickinson.  There’s a parking lot and room to get out and stretch your legs, so I do — sometimes when the dog is with me to let him get out of the pickup for a while. Or on a summer motorcycle cruise we’ll stop with fellow riders.

Sidehack Mary's rig is dwarfed by the giant sculpture

Sidehack Mary’s rig is dwarfed by the giant sculpture


This is how most drivers cross North Dakota see deer, running across the highway, jumping the fence. TomMN’s blog includes this pic. You can see his blog at

And those grasshoppers…the scourge of the prairie.  Bikers from the old days will tell you how they rode across North Dakota in August and at the end of the day, their shins were bruised from the biggest devils…but they weren’t this big.

mike-mary-grasshoppers-2Still, the rascals look to me like they need a little wrangling and riding.  So, on occasion, that’s what I will do, just to keep them in line, you understand.  I don’t win any buckles or anything.  I make sure they don’t get away and I use my best bronco riding techniques to stay on.

They look fearsome, but a calm head and a steady hand is all it takes to bring one under control and ride it to the sunset.

Ride. Ride the um, grasshopper

Ride. Ride the tiger…er um, grasshopper

Down the road a ways, things get a little fishy.  I couldn’t begin to design something so realistic, but I can sure admire it. I’d hate to be the fisherman in the boat above all these monsters, but he’s up there.  I’m glad it’s him and not me.enchanted-highway-fish

After you've slid out of the boat wreck watch out you'r not swallowed by a walleye -- bikers need not worry.

After you’ve slid out of the boat wreck watch out you’re not swallowed by a walleye — bikers need not worry.



Don’t stand under the back end…the “plop” may be more than you expect












The 32 mile stretch has a stop near the north end at the quaint, protected, sheltered little village of Gladstone, or you can keep going all the way to Regent, at the end of the line. It’s where Gary Greff makes his sculptures and is working on his next one, a knight in not-so-shiny armor.

The last time I visited the Enchanted Highway, fall of 2016, I got to the south end in time for one of North Dakota’s legendary sunsets.  In my mind, I removed the highways, the ranches, the signs of civilization and could imagine how rough it must have been to cross this region in a real stagecoach, not a plywood replica.  In fact, the Mandan to Deadwood stage did pass near here. What a ride!enchanted-highway-stagecoach-sunset-sig-small

At the end of my late-day drive down the highway, Teddy was there to welcome me, the moon at his hand, his gregarious outgoing nature larger-than-life.  And wouldn’t ya know it — as a president, you could say he was “transparent!”tr-on-enchanted-highway-with-moon-sig

The North Dakota Tourism Department does a great job of promoting this loop off of the beaten path. Read about the Enchanted Highway here .  Do you have photos of your enchanted visit?  I bet you have photos of Paul Bunyan, or New Salem Sue, or some other monster replica, right?


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?




A wet Grand Forks — May 15

Grand Forks Red River bridges

It sure can be pretty, the full moon, the still water, and the bridges over the Red River, but as spring 2011 winds down and summer is headed to North Dakota, there is still plenty of water — or as some would say, “water under the bridge.”

Water under the Sorlie Bridge

A stroll by the Red River in East Grand Forks

And indeed there is water under every bridge in Grand Forks in May 2011.  The East Grand Forks Recreation Trail goes now where, suitable only for scuba divers.

The Sorlie Bridge is a landmark in Grand Forks and all of North Dakota. There are few if any bridges like it.  In order to accommodate the freeze-thaw cycle that causes steel to expand and contract, as well as to accommodate the traffic on the bridge, it is built on railroad wheels that move with the bridge in it’s seasonal changes.

Sorlie Bridge

Near the Sorlie Bridge, along the Red River on this spring evening people gather at one of the more popular watering holes in East Grand Forks.  They’re anticipating summer. ready to ride through the bridge across the swollen water on their bicycle.

Or next to the bridge, they park their motorcycles while grabbing a beverage along the river, then heading out for a evening’s chilly ride.  They’re excited to see spring, even if they’re a bit concerned about all the water.  On this particular evening, even the dogs are out, well sorta out.  They’re in their master’s truck while he and his family enjoy a night along the river.  These dogs are particular friendly and have a nose for the camera…well almost, until I stepped just out of the wet sniffer.

I had already eaten and now was wandering the parkway looking for a way to capture the swollen river.  The sun set before I got out of there, and headed back to my motel for the night.  But before I left, I had to capture the image you see at the top of this blog, and the one that ends this blog, the traffic across the landmark Sorlie Bridge.

Have you been to Grand Forks and enjoyed the summer evening next to the Red River?  It’s a nasty beast as residents can tell you, and as you can survey the rebuild from the 1997 flood.  But on this night, though flooding it was peaceful.  How’s it when you are there?

August 14


Captains Cabin's ride for CF


Every summer, Ron and Marge at the Captains Cabin in Washburn sponsor a ride to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis.  I’ve been otherwise occupied each weekend they hold the ride, but this year, I was free and caught the event.

Ron in the CF tent after the ride

It was a questionable ride from the beginning as rain was moving through the area. So the ride started about a half hour late and dodged rain most of the day.  It was cold and windy but in the end a good hardy crew raised several hundred dollars to fight Cystic Fibrosis.  That’s a good thing for me personally since I’ve had 4 cousins die from the illness.  Thanks to Ron and Marge for their support.

(I’ve got a file on my other computer of more pics and will post them here when I consolidate files.)

August 7

Motorcycle at Lost Bridge

There. See it? Coming up to that first curve at the bottom of the hill. It’s a motorcycle traveling one the most scenic route in North Dakota, Highway 22 from near New Town down to Killdeer, North Dakota.

This is the most scenic route in the state because it follows the cuts, buttes and bluffs of the Badlands along the western edge of North Dakota.  Those people who drive through Fargo and Grand Forks and call North Dakota a flat feature-less landscape are not seeing the whole picture.  This route, with its curves and hills is a grand sightseeing ride especially at the end of the day like this.

And while it is great to ride through, it’s even better if a person has a chance to stop and hike a bit at the Little Missouri State Park.  That’s the Little Missouri River down there where you see the bridge. It meanders from the southern part of the state north to near here where it empties in to the Missouri River.

Have you had a chance to explore the Badlands?  I mean, on foot.  First ride or drive through it, then get out and hike a bit.  Have you done that yet?

August 4

Hey! Your tail light is broken!

A late-afternoon drive out of town provides a variety of welcoming opportunities that just kept getting better.  On this drive, as I was leaving town, I was the welcome wagon for this mini-chopper coming in to town.    A rope-start on the engine, a flywheel and belt pulley and a dangling tail light added character to the black flamed paint job on this orange chopper, complete with full size mirrors.

I continued my drive east of Wilton and welcomed a new birth as I headed east — a bale was born.

Yep, I welcomed this baby bale in to the world with um, well, “maternity” photos of the baler giving birth to the round bale.

My trip continued eastward, only to welcome a parade of harvest equipment as it rolled down Highway 36.  The combine leading the pack because it travels the slowest, followed by the support crew including the grain wagon.Harvest is a bit slow to start this year because of the late spring and heavy rains that dampened not only the unseeded fields, but then the rains that came right as harvest commenced.  So, these farmers are actually some of the first to get rolling in the neighborhood.

And speaking of neighborhood, the neighborhood welcoming committee was on hand when I drove in to Regan.  These guys were a friendly bunch and mobbed me with wagging tails and airborne, all four paws in the air, exuberant dancing right on Main Street Regan.

Regan Welcoming Committee

Regan, like many small towns allows the resident’s dogs run “at-large.”  I don’t mind. Do you?  I suppose if the town is much larger than Regan, population 43, that too many at-large dogs could be a problem.  What do you think of letting dogs run loose in town?

July 28

Susan and Norm Westbrook

Here is a father/daughter team that has the priorities right. (The father is the one with the hair on his lip, the daughter has the hair on her head.)

Norman and Susan Westbrook have thrown themselves in to being patriots. They stand with the Patriot Guard Riders every chance they get. In this case, it was the welcome home of soldiers from Kosovo.  Imagine the closeness of this team focused on a good cause such as service to country and patriotism.  They both ride their own bikes and fly their 3×5 flags from their bikes in escorts and parades where the PGR is invited.  Susan is going to be a very well-grounded and confident woman. She is already, though she’s only in high school.

Norm and Susan visit with Vernon

The PGR rally gives people such as Norm and Susan a chance to meet with other like-minded people such as Vernon Bjerke a Marine who is from the eastern part of the state. He stands with patriots every chance he gets.  These are not noisy outspoken in-your-face people. Their quiet upright strength is the kind of position that we could all emulate.

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?