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Monday, June 23, 2008

More adventures in North Dakota

We are in Fargo, North Dakota and in the next hour or so we will cross the Red River into Moorehead, Minnesota. We stayed in Fargo last night and we have been taking in all that this city of 90,000 or so has to offer. Actually, not all of it, but I was excited to find hummus and tofu at the grocery store and yesterday we went to a huge sporting goods store that had a ferris wheel in it. Fargo is home to the North Dakota State University and seems quite sprawling, but there is a nice downtown area. We found the first fully equipped bike shop that we have seen since Whitefish, MT. There are lots of people bicycling around town and there are good bike lanes and routes.

Before we proceed into our fifth state and start our fifth map (we're nearing 2,000 miles and we are probably somewhere near the half way point of this trip) let me tell you about the rest of our adventures in North Dakota.

It starts back in Minot. We planned to leave around noon, and after a very productive time there, doing errands and such, we left closer to two. The town quickly faded into flat fields and another straight stretch of road. About twenty miles from our planned destination, the sky filled with clouds and it began to thunder. As the wind picked up and the storm was approaching we decided to stop and Granville, a small town that we were near. We got to an overhanging porch on the main street just and the rain started pelting. The downpour lasted for maybe half an hour and then let up, but the sky was still dark and it was pouring off and on. We wandered around a bit, checking out the two bars which seemed to be the only places to go. Finally after about an hour the sky to the west looked like it was clearing so we decided to continue on.

We were riding toward a completely dark sky, but it didn't look like anything was following us. After a couple of miles, though, the wind changed direction and we were pushing into a strong headwind. I stopped to ask Ray if it was worth it to try to ride into this for twenty miles. Then I noticed that the storm that had blown to the north was now coming back toward us, with the change of wind. It was coming fast with lots of rain and lightening. We quickly turned around and raced the couple of miles back to Granville. As we rode into town someone pointed us to the Memorial Diner, the restaurant in town where we could take shelter. We left our bikes on the porch and got inside just as rain and hail and wind filled the streets and the air.

We ate dinner at the Memorial Diner whose menu featured freedom fries, as well as every other possible kind of fried potato. They also had a range of bison burgers and hamburgers. I think their patriotism may have fallen short by putting swiss cheese on the American burger, but then again the Swiss are neutral, so I suppose they, unlike the French, can stay on the menu. Anyway, the owner was very friendly and of course it was a pleasant experience. We spent some time at one of the bars and set up camp in the city park once the storm had passed.

The next morning we awoke to clear weather and set off early to make it to Minnewauken on Devil's Lake, about 100 miles away. We stopped first in Towner ("The Cattle Capitol of North Dakota") for some breakfast food and then in Rugby to get groceries and enjoy being in the geographic center of North America. Then we headed south through gently rolling hills and fields of cows, bison, horses, wheat and corn. It was a hot day and shade was difficult to come by -- there are definitely more trees in North Dakota than we saw in Montana but at first they were mostly planted around houses and farms to shade them and protect them from the constant winds of the plains. It was kind of a long day, but eventually we arrived in Minnewauken to find a nice city park and a couple of cyclists from Omaha, Nebraska. They were a father and his 11 year old son who were doing a tour from Williston to Fargo, ND. We swapped stories about touring and some of the differenced between the east coast and the mid west. We also had a delicious feast of corn on the cob, strawberries and quesadillas. Little did we know it would be our last meal on that MSR stove.

The next day was going to be a shorter day so we didn't leave particularly early. We rode away from the lake for a while and for the most part had a good wind behind us. In the Spirit Lake Sioux Reservation the road went along Devil's lake which was an amazing change of scene from the flat, straight field-lined roads that we were used to. It was lovely to be near some water for a while. We stopped and sat by the lake next to a large casino resort. There weren't any towns along the route that day, but we did ride a mile off the route to the town of Tokio and bought a box of mac and cheese for dinner. The ride was gloriously easy since the wind was almost always behind us. We cruised into Pekin, another small town with a bar, a few streets of well kept houses and two city parks, one of which was for camping. We lazed about in the park, enjoying reading our books for a couple of hours, then stopped in at the bar where we saw our friends from the night before as well as another couple of older gentlemen riding the Syracuse, NY.

After socializing for a while we went back to the park to cook our dinner. The water was taking forever to boil, it seemed like the stove needed cleaning and after ten or fifteen minuted without a boil, our campmates offered to let us use their stove. Ray turned off our stove and then started to tinker with the fuel line. At the instant he realized this was a bad idea, the stove burst into flame, catching a bit of his hand on fire. He dove away into a classic stop, drop and roll, preventing further injury. Meanwhile we got the stove onto the ground so it wouldn't burn the picnic table, although it was close to one of the beams holding up the pavilion. The flames grew higher as we all watched in horror. Ray ran to get a hose which was nearby just as the plastic fuel pump part melted and the fuel bottle rocketed toward our camp mates' tent. Luckily it stopped before hitting the flammable nylon. In the end the fire was quickly put out and no one and nothing was hurt. The saddest part of the story is that when we finally cooked the mac and cheese on our friends' stove it was the worst tasting pasta I have ever eaten. As Ray said, the cardboard probably would have been better.

The next day, we got up early to do another 100 mile day to Arthur, which would put us about 30 miles from Fargo, so we could do a short ride on Sunday. It was a really hot day, but we made good time which allowed us to stop at every small town along the way. First was Binford, were we checked out the cafe and found the tastiest cinnamon rolls that we have had on this trip. We even bought two more for the road (or the trip across the street to our bikes). Then we stopped in Cooperstown for groceries. The next town was Hope where we ate our lunch and then visited the ice cream shop next to the park. With 20 miles left we stopped in Paige for a rest in the shade. Finally we made it to Arthur and camped in the city park. Lacking a stove we went to the local cafe for another grilled cheese dinner.

We're excited to get out of the plains and into the land o' lakes! As I write Ray is putting new tires on our bikes. He's already worn through one of his, mine have gotten worn down a lot, too, but this new set should last really well. Just for the record, he's had 3 flats so far, I've had four. Not sure what other statistics to relate, but a few people have asked if we've lost wait -- as you might have noticed in this post we are eating plenty so I don't think anything has changed there. Other than a few sunburns we are healthy and happy and not sick of each other yet. Quite the opposite really. Things are great! I hope you all are doing well, too. Keep in touch! Lots of love to you all!


steve said...

The West Coast, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plans, and now the Land ‘o Lakes … good for you! And if you guys can stand each other after this adventure, with all its ups & downs and trials & tribulations, you should be ready for anything. And I’m glad you’re both healthy? Why not? You’re getting lots and lots of fresh (and unpolluted) air, and lots and lots of exercise. I’m sure you’re a lot stronger in both mind and body than when you started, and I, too, was wondering if you weighed yourselves then.

Jess said...

It all sounds very adventurous as it should... I am so glad that you are both enjoying yourselves (I'm assuming Ray feels the same as you, Anna)! I CANNOT believe you are about half way through with your trip. It is going by so quickly (maybe not for you?!)
Much love,

Anonymous said...

Fargo is the proud home of North Dakota State University... glad you enjoyed it here.

Hello from Michelle and David! said...

It is so fun to read your posts - thank you for writing them! And glad you're enjoying it.

"Other than a few sunburns we are healthy and happy and not sick of each other yet. Quite the opposite really."

Awww. :) (yay!)


Emily said...

Dear Anna and Ray,

Wow, you are having some amazing adventures! I'm so glad you didn't set your friends' tent on fire and that Ray was okay! Where/when will you get another stove? Did he ever get new shorts? I hope he had a spare pair for the ride to the store :).

The oil things you saw earlier in your trip were likely derricks, pumping oil out of the ground.

Also, was there really a ferris wheel in that sporting goods store, and, more importantly, did you go for a ride? Are stores generally bigger out there, or was that an exception?

Thank you for all your wonderful posts- it's great to feel a bit like I'm with you on your journey. Congrats on making it halfway!!

Lots of love,

Anna Be said...

We did get a new stove and will have a picture of it up here asap. It really was a ferris wheel and we didn't go on because it cost a dollar, and although it probably would have been fun, it was inside a huge store so there wasn't much to see from up there. Its great to hear from you all!!