Day 82, July 20th – West Fargo to Enderlin
Well not a whole lot of progress today. The views were a vast expanse of farm fields and the terrain was flat. Decent headwinds slowed me this morning as I headed ~15 miles south to 54th Street; the nearest west running road south of the interstate that goes all the way to Bismark. Once I turned West the wind wasn’t quite as direct, but the heat sure seemed to crank up! So by the time I made it to Enderlin I was ready to call it. There was a luxurious pavilion in the park with a water spigot, bathrooms, and electricity which was hard to pass up. After the hot day I could really use a washing and so could my clothes. Plus the next town west of here is 75 miles… Enderlin was sounding more and more like a smart stop for the evening.
This town pretty much shuts down around 2-3 PM on a Sunday so I made some rice and bean burritos, washed up, and headed to the tent fairly early.
Day 83, July 21st – Enderlin to Napoleon
My first presumption about riding through North Dakota was that it would be flat and with relatively boring views. The fact that I could write out direction half way across the state on 5 lines of a note card and stories of the extreme winds had me presuming that North Dakota would be flat with relatively repetitive and boring views. My notecard reads something like “turn right and continue straight for 100 miles”. Even though directions are easy and the roads start off straight, flat, and the only sights early on are cornfields, I’ve started to grow fond of North Dakota’s scenery. As I head west the contour begins to change. Farmlands turn to stretches of grazing fields that extend beyond the visible horizon. Low spots and dimples in the land have “Lakes” (I might call the large ponds) are frequent and provide habitat for various birds, frogs, and turtles. There’s a calming quietness – just the birds, crickets, and wind. The barrenness makes it easy to see why winters here are so intense.
Today was a big riding day. I had slight tailwinds at my back so I had to take advantage of it! By 1:00 PM I was at the destination I originally planned on stopping at for the day… Instead of calling it I had lunch and swung by the Honey Hub to relax for a bit and use some wifi. The Honey Hub is a family’s home who let’s cyclists use their basement for lodging free of charge. I spoke with the wife who was home for a bit and learned some interesting things about the place. Her husband and his dad and brother are co-owners of “Honey Stinger” which makes energy food products for athletes. If you’ve ever been shopping for energy gels, electrolyte tablets, etc. then you’ve probably seen them on the shelves (I know I have and I’ve enjoyed their stuff). So the husband left his job with Apple a few (maybe more?) years back to join the family business of bee keeping and help grow the Honey Stinger business. They sweeten all their products with honey – That’s their niche if it wasn’t obvious already. They bring their bees up to North Dakota in the summer for harvesting honey and stay at their home in Gackle, ND. In the winter months they move with their bees to a place north of Sacramento where the bees pollinate for the winter. Cool stuff. Before I left a few cyclists showed up and I got to chat with them. I got some good info on how to approach my route into Glacier National Park.
The riding after Gackle got really warm and humid. The weather talked about potential thunderstorms early in the evening so I wanted to get to Napoleon (40 miles from Gackle) before any storms showed up. Tail winds turned into headwinds as I turned south for ~10 miles. When I headed west again they had shifted to crosswinds and then eventually… no wind. As I neared Napoleon I could see the distant sky turning darker, but it did not look threatening. I figured perhaps there were storms farther west but not in my path. Besides, all the clouds have been coming out of the southwest today. Well, the closer and closer I got to town the darker and darker these clouds got. It was a strange thing because it seemed to happen all within a matter of 2 miles of riding. I was really close to town when I realized I was in trouble. Things were looking quite serious and these clouds were headed my way… Fast. Next thing I know I’m sprinting hard to try and reach town before this storm breaks loose.
I didn’t make it. All of a sudden I see a wall of brown lifts off the ground. I couldn’t see past it and it was about 400 yards away (instead of hitting the ditch I pulled out my camera for a quick snap – big dummy). Then it hit me. My standing sprint turned into a crawl as wind gusts nearly ripped me off the road. I could hardly see anything through the dust and rain. I pushed on to the nearest shed and took refuge behind it’s walls. Around me the rain shot like bullets at 30 degrees from the ground. At some point in this madness I pulled out my GoPro to film my final minutes on earth… I’ll have to post it if I remember. If I do just remember that’s rainwater and dust in my eyes… not tears of horror. OK?! 😉
When there was a small break in wind I decided to jump on my bike and make a break for it into town. To my good fortune a mom and her son whipped a U-turn in their pickup and offered me a ride. With bolts of lightning hitting the ground all around I happily accepted the offer and the son jumped out to help throw my things in the back. We had to park the truck under a grain elevator garage when the hail started. I don’t think it was too serious but a couple large ones hit the truck… better than my face. They dropped me off at a bar/cafe where I had dinner and waited out the storm. The camping area was just down the road! What a wild day.
Acts of Kindness: 2 – Stopped into the Honey Hub to use some wifi; Saved from the hail by mom and son just outside Napoleon
Day 84, July 22nd – Napoleon to Bismark
I slowly got going after several coffees and writing out a review of the REI Half Dome 2 tent. I was soon to replace it with the new tarp tent my dad was bringing along. I was expecting him to catch up with me today. He is driving a friend’s older MG Midget (tiny convertible) out near Cut Bank, Montana where it will go into storage and then he’ll hop on a train back to Minnesota. Instead of zooming straight out there, he was going to hang out with me as I slowly tick away the miles. Hope he doesn’t get too bored 🙂 PLENTY of time to burn through a stack of books.
I was riding to my grandma Jean’s sister in-law’s (Nancy’s) house in Bismark today. If I have met Nancy it was when I was little so it was great to meet her. When I arrived I got a beer, shower, laundry done, and a great dinner! Nancy was an amazing host. My dad showed up just in time for dinner. We had a great evening catching up and learning a bit more about what the family has been up to.
Acts of Kindness: 2 – Dinner and a bed at Nancy’s! Gear delivery from Dad!
Day 85, July 23rd – Bismark to Hebron
Nancy made breakfast and kept the coffee coming this morning. She even hooked me up with leftovers and snacks to get me through riding today. I swapped out the new gear I ordered that my dad had brought with him and packed the bike up. It’s slowly getting lighter… trying to drop those pounds before the mountains! We said our goodbyes to Nancy and I ran a few errands before heading out of town. I had to get some measurements for a tux (September wedding) and a new pump. Hopefully that’s the last pump I’ll have to replace – 4th one of this trip.
Winds were favorable again today. For all those who thought I was crazy for going east to west… Well I’d love to smile and wave as I flew past you on the road with your head down and legs churning 🙂 I’m sure my fair share of headwinds await. I was a bit tired today so even though winds were good, my pace was slow for a majority of the day. As I approached Hebron I picked things up on a perfectly smooth road. Clipping along at 25 mph I decided to take my first digger of the trip. Luckily I was pretty graceful in doing so and only lost a little elbow and knee skin. Nothing to keep me off the bike.
Acts of Kindness: 3 – Nancy hooked us up with breakfast AND lunch! Dad grabbed some groceries for dinner and snacks.
Day 86, July 24th – Hebron to ?
Raining this morning so been spending some time catching up with emails, blogging, buying plane tickets, health insurance, etc. Hopefully get some riding in soon!