June 22, 2015 – sun, 90 degrees
Miles Today: 93
Miles to Date: 2,852
States to Date: 14
I woke refreshed, had a big Super 8 breakfast, and headed out on a beautiful calm morning. My route out of Fargo turned into gravel roads, so I reverted back into town and had my first experience riding my bike along the Interstate – four miles along I-29 until I hit old 81. It’s safe and easy, but I was happy to get on a local road. The wind was light, the Sunday traffic even lighter.
I turned west at Gardner for my thirty-mile stint to lunch. Every mile the wind picked up, and soon I was working hard just to maintain 8 or 9 miles per hour. With the wind in my face, North Dakota feels like Pennsylvania – without any downhill coasting. But when I picked my head out of my troubles, the landscape was huge. I’m always frustrated by the magnificence of my surroundings and how puny it appears in my 5S viewfinder. So I took a series; perhaps they will give a better perspective. Otherwise, the only way to experience the vastness is to cycle out here.
By the time I arrived in Page, the wind was fierce and I was bushed. I knew Page had a grocery and a cafe, but I didn’t know whether either would be open on Sunday. Worst case, the town would have a shade tree where I could sit and eat food from my pannier. Lucky me, the cafe was open, so I settled into a long break. I arrived at the end of the after-church rush, talked with folks, and then ordered the Sunday buffet – a collection of salads long on mayonnaise and pasta, with enough veggies, tuna, and chicken to make them both filling and healthy.
Within thirty minutes I was the only customer, but the place was open all afternoon, so I stayed over two hours. When I paid, the waitress explained that the Cafe is community-owned. “No one could make a living running this place, but the town wants a cafe.” That probably explains why I saw waitresses sitting with customers and people wandering in and out of the kitchen.
As I rode out of town I noticed that half of the main street storefronts were now community enterprises – a senior center, an auditorium. What Page lacks in commercial enterprise it replaces with community services.
The wind died down as the mercury rose. It was 94 degrees when I reached Hope around 5 p.m. I spotted a gas station off the highway and hoped for a cold drink, only to find everything shuttered and one vending machine humming in the shade. Seventy-five cents for a can of soda. I had a single quarter – a mangled thing I picked off the pavement when I locked my bike in Becker MN – and a five-dollar bill. I was debating whether a cold soda was worth five bucks, when I noticed two quarters sitting in the change tray. So, I got a Coke Zero thanks to a two guys too busy to collect their change and a quarter picked off the ground: the benefit of being a slow moving, observant, touring cyclist.
I sat on the concrete in the shade of the gas station, enjoyed my drink and appreciated Hope’s happy water tower.
Back on the road, I ground out the last 25 miles. The risk of taking a long lunch break is that the afternoon thunderclouds will catch me in a storm. Fortunately, I ducked them all and arrived at Cooperstown around 7:30 p.m., tired but content. The motel office isn’t open on Sundays, but the staff left my key in the door. Despite being the center of our Cold War nuclear missiles, security’s not too tight here. My housemate Paul wanted to know that kind of room $46 a night buys in North Dakota: clean but not fancy.
I took a short walk around town, cycling always leaves me needing to stretch my legs, and had a long Father’s day chat with Andy. My daughter is in Cambodia, my son on the Hamptons, and I’m in North Dakota: a pretty diverse family. When the sun finally set, the thunder exploded and the sky poured rain, I was safe and asleep.