New Frontiers: Getaway in North Dakota's Badlands
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My knobby bike tires sputter and skitter along this little stretch of the 100-mile-long Maah Daah Hey Trail, and I can't stop the staccato refrain in my head: "I don't know if I can do this." I've never mountain biked in my life. How did I end up on a run known for its canyon-hugging curves? Ah, I remember now. My friends talked me into it over a dinner of creamy Alfredo pasta at Medora's elegant Rough Riders Hotel.
Maybe it was the restaurant's exquisitely restored pressed-tin ceilings, or the professional servers who hail from around the world, or the perfectly plated food I typically find in towns with populations much bigger than 100, but I felt at home at Theodore's. My companions are North Dakota natives—they work in offices most of the year but feel their spirits soar at glimpses of moonlike canyons foreign to people who live just about anywhere else in the Midwest. A little bike ride led by a spunky 50-something outfitter sounded completely reasonable after a glass of good wine and a crackly crème brûlée.
North Dakotans like to joke that their home is the 50th state, the last on travelers' bucket lists. Medora shines as its biggest draw. A dashing French game hunter settled the town in 1883 and named it for his wife, but its more famous resident became president in 1901. Wild mustangs, bison, elk and pronghorn antelope still roam the national park named for Teddy Roosevelt.
Pictured: Dakota Cyclery Mountain Bike Adventures leads riders along one of the region's most beautiful trails.