Any Road Tour: Day 31 – A dirt road and a gift brick

The day began with me wondering how I’ve finally gotten used to sleeping in a tent.

I broke camp and headed to the local diner which was on the short side of mediocre but the only game in town.

I sat at the counter and talked with an old man who spent his life making drag lines. I looked it up later. Suffice it to say, drag lines are one of those things you didn’t know had a name but are used in big construction projects.

Off I rode after bidding adieu to Salem Sue who is one of those inexplicable roadside attractions that make America surreal.

The route goes on I-94 but most people take a dirt road instead. The shoulders on I-94 are 10 feet wide and paved. Some genius at the North Dakota DOT put rumble strips across all ten feet. If you rode the entire 10 miles of the route on this, you could forget about having usable personal parts for a year or two.

The dirt road was a little bumpy. I was concerned about breaking a spoke so I took my time. The scenery was splendid. Whoever said North Dakota is boring got it totally wrong.

One downside to the dirt road was the cloud of dust that was kicked up by passing trucks. I pulled out my bandana, which I had hoped to use to rob a bank. There were no banks just my rather delicate lungs.

Along Big Dirt Highway I passed my second Twin Buttes. I figure if both DC and Baltimore can have a Washington Monument, North Dakota can have two Twin Buttes. This one did not have an ugly McMansion in the middle.

The scenery was pretty and interesting (to me at least) wherever I looked

Once back on pavement I rode into Glen Ullin where I snacked in the shade of a gas station convenience store. Up pulled an eastbound tandem pulling a trailer. Gail and Bill Buckley were riding to somewhere on the New Jersey shore.

Back on the road the ranchland gave way to farms. I guessing this yellow stuff was mustard. (Post tour note: It’s alflafa in bloom. Pollinated by the bees owned by the owners of the Honey Pot bike shelter in Gackle.)

I rode into Hebron and saw bricks being staged for transport on trains. I went into Pizza Pantry and had lunch. As I was paying the proprietor, gave me a small brick so that I’d always remember the Brick City. We agreed that it would be too heavy to haul all the way to Seattle so we settled on him taking my picture with it.

The road to Dickinson passes through Taylor. I saw an interestingly weathered old building with a note on the front door. Condemned. As I read the note I could see that the structure was crumbling away.

The last ten miles featured a hill that went on for miles. At the top we’re two geodesic domes under construction. They looked a bit like the space ship from Lost in Space.

Dickinson is a bustling town of about 18,000 people. I decided to check into a hotel to clean up and do laundry. Then I went out and had a massive dinner of salad and jambalaya. I can barely move.

Medical update: The compression sleeve did the trick. My left calf is now almost back to normal size. It doesn’t seem to like confinement though. It’s been itching and sending me little pain shocks all day. Small price to pay, I suppose.

Sociology observation: The people of North Dakota are incredibly polite. It’s a bit hard to get used to. Also, they are whiter than a cue ball, both in terms of complexion and demographic make up. I’ve seen one person of color since Morehead Minnesota.

Chronological note: My maps said that I crossed into the Mountain Time Zone after Hebron but the next set of maps says the time line is the Montana border. Either way my body is still inexplicably on Eastern Daylight Time.

Miles ridden: 73.5

Total tour miles: 2,319

Any Road Tour: Day 30 – Nothing up my sleeve

After last night’s dinner (I had the Fatty Burger), I slept like a rock. Except for waking up with s cramp in my swollen left calf that nearly sent me through the ceiling of my tent. Dang that hurt. Oh and there were the three other times that the compression sock on that leg caused my Morton’s neuroma to flare up. This feels like a nail is being shoved into your foot.

Nine hours of semi-restful sleep later I awoke to bid farewell to Peter and Gregg as they headed east. An hour later I was heading west after a healthy breakfast of two pop tarts. I had 45 miles to go until the next store st Bismarck so what could go wrong.

I munched in Gardettos snack mix from time to time as I negotiated the curving rolling hills.

More and more crops are giving way to cattle ranches. I looked forward to Twin Buttes that was indicated on my map. They weren’t twins (one was bald, the other covered in vegetation). And there was McMansion in between them. Location, location, location.

The picture makes it look like Uluru but it’s not a tenth they size.

My destination for the morning was the trauma center at Sanford Hospital in Bismarck. Before going in I stopped st s sun sandwich shop for second breakfast. I was handed s scratch off card and won a second sandwich.

I walked into the ER and there was no line. After getting a room a nurse told me that the place filled just after I came in.

I was given a Doppler ultrasound on both legs. The doctor poked and squeezed my calf trying to find some area of sensitivity. Nothing. The ultrasound showed no DVT. The doctor told me to wear a compression sleeve on my calf and sent me on my way.

I decided to press on to New Salem for the sole reason that it was only 23 miles away. A nurse said the area was part of the Badlands but I looked it up. This area is topographically similar but much too green. One massive cattle ranch after the next.

To get there I crossed the Missouri River. Woot!

The ride featured significant climbing but I kept at it and arrived in New Salem at 6:30.

Once in my tent I realized that I intended to ride only as far as Mandan which is across the river from Bismarck.

When I left camp this morning I expected to lose a day to my schedule. Instead I gained about a third of a day.

Miles today: 81.5

Total miles: 2,245.5

Any Road Tour: Day 29 – Recovery is for wimps

Martin woke me at 6. I suppose it was only fair since I woke him after midnight. He headed out before I got out of bed.

I lingered to recharge my electronics. Then hit the road. There was no breakfast to be found in Gackle so I rode 12 miles, including 5 miles off route, to Streeter. They had no cafe and only a poorly stocked market. I bought two apples and a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich. Bike touring diets are strange, what can I say?

The road was actually quite hilly in sections, not exactly what my dead legs needed. In one marshy area the bird life was going nuts. I slowed to listen to their little symphony.

It seems like every day I see a new animal. Today was pelicans.

I rode by many herds of cattle. If you call out to them and say “Let’s go!” they’ll start running along side you. One herd got rambunctious and practically stampeded. Layer in the day I had horses galloping with me. They must have recognized The Mule.

And there were crops. So many. Most fields around here have rocks in them. Some farmers make stacks of rocks. This farm had just cut its hay (I think).

The uphills finally ended and I was given the benefit of a few miles of downhill.

At Hazelton, I grabbed a campsite next to Peter (from Maine) and Gregg (from Boise, Idaho). They met on the road and seem to be well matched by the bike tour gods. We all went out for dinner and ate way too much.

Miles: 71.5

Tour miles: 2,164

Medical note: My left calf ballooned today. It doesn’t hurt and I am breathing normally but it does not look good. Bismarck is about 40 miles away. If it looks like this tomorrow, I think I’ll swing by an ER.

Any Road Tour: Day 28 – Bury me not on the lone prairie

It turns out that Terri, my Warmshowers hostess, is my sister from another mother. She’s crazy about Brandi Carlile and loves everything bagels. We talked about the former last night and I had the latter for breakfast in her kitchen this morning. I lingered a long time, first chatting with Terri then with Drew, Scott, and Poppy.

I rolled out well after 8 and headed to the post office to mail back some maps.

Then I ride across the Red River of the North into Fargo. I was expecting a run down place with weathered buildings but I was pleasantly surprised. All the old buildings look like new. Flower baskets hang from street light poles. Trees and greenery abound. I even got stuck waiting for s couple of trains on my meander.

I am embarrassed that I didn’t recognize that the colorful bike racks below spell “Fargo” in ASL.

I headed south out of town with a nice tailwind and turned west near Horace. Drew told me that the big crops around here are barley (for beer) and sugar beets.

This is what I saw for the rest of the day.

I met Tim on the side of the road outside Kindred. He’s riding the Northern Tier in chunks because he’s otherwise busy running a couple of businesses in Sandpoint Idaho. He gave me lots of information about the roads out his way and invited me to stay at his place in Hope Idaho later in my tour.

Tim and I talked for a half hour. I rode into Kindred and had a noontime breakfast at the cafe he recommended.

The high plains are known for their abandoned buildings. This one caught my eye from the highway so I rode down a dirt road to get a better look.

The route took me straight west for miles and miles. The wind was pushing me along at 14 miles per hour.

Along the side of the road I saw a wild turkey just hanging out. Wildlife is random out here.

At Enderlin I stopped for a late lunch. The cafe was also a thrift shop. I had a hot roast beef sandwich that filled my tummy.

After my meal I stocked up on water and food at a gas station convenience store. My maps said there were limited services for the next 78 miles. (Mostly this meant there were no toilets.) I arrived at Little Yellowstone Park, a roadside state-run campground, around 4:30. It was clean and empty. I decided that I’d do something a little crazy. I was going to run the deck of the rest of those 78 miles!

First I had to climb a big hill in my granny gear. On the way up I startled a doe and she dashed from the tall grass along the side of the road. Ten yards later I spotted a fawn nestled in the grass checking me out.

Five miles later I came upon Emily and Jay who were riding Bruce Gordon bicycles from Bend Oregon to Boston. (

We talked for 20 minutes or so before parting. They had stayed the night before at the Honey Pot in Gackle. That was my destination. I expected to get there no later than 10.

Then the winds died. No tailwind. I just rode and admired the sound of the noisy critters on the prairie. Just before sunset they get LOUD. The birds made R2D2 sounds. There was one in particular with an orange head and splashed of white on its shoulders that stood out both visually and aurally.

Each time I stopped I was engulfed by swarms of mosquitoes. These and other flying bugs would get caught in the sunscreen and hair on my arms and legs . Emily had talked about ticks so I was clearing off the bugs constantly. Their distraction was slowing me to 9 miles per hour. I finally put on my sunsleeves and a hat for sanity sake.

The sun set to the north peeking through overcast skies.

Now it was dark. I toyed with the idea of riding without lights. The heavy truck traffic from the workaday world had ended and I was all but alone. I’d turn my lights on whenever I heard a car coming from behind or saw headlights up ahead. The headlights seemed to take forever to get to me.

After a while I just left my lights on. My ability to sense my environment was now confined to the white circle of my headlight beam. I could have been anywhere for all I could tell. Now and then I’d see a farmhouse’s lights in the far distance but that was all.

I was eating constantly but I was slowing down. I was riding uphill but could only tell when my pedaling became labored.

Then came the rain. It was light but added to the lunacy of the whole affair.

At one point I nearly ran over an owl who was sitting in the road admiring his dinner.

This was getting weirder by the mile. Because of the rolling terrain I didn’t see Gackle until the last half mile into town.

I arrived at the Honey Pot just after midnight. I woke up Martin, a Swiss cyclist bound for Seattle. He returned the favor by waking me in the morning.

Happy trails Martin.

Earlier in the day I learned that Tom Gjelten of NPR had begun a 70th birthday ride from the Oregon coast to Massachusetts. Around our house, Tom is known as Jake’s stepdad. Jake and our son went to high school together. I hope to see him in a couple of weeks.

Total mileage: 136.5 (smashing my personal record of 118)

Tour mileage: 2,092.5