Miles Today: 97
Miles to Date: 3,145
States to Date: 14
Today’s the day! I am now on officially on my longest bike trip to date. In 2011 I cycled 3,050 miles from Denver to Boston in 42 days (blog links). I averaged over 72 miles a day. This trip, due to its length and my question, my objective is 50 miles per day; though so far, due to my good weather, I’m ahead of that target.
The 3,050-mile milestone is a good point to consider how bicycle travel has changed for me in the past four years. There are many similarities. Cafes serve uniformly solid food. My hunger is often more persistent than my interest in food; sometimes I just can’t bother eating more. I still manage to never pay more than $100 a might for a motel room, and I like the $50 rooms better. Cows still like me; every head of every herd turns to watch me pass. And Murphy’s Law of Wind still applies – the wind is always in my face.
But there are significant differences. The biggest is technology. Four years ago I carried a camera, a flip phone and a parcel of paper maps. My iPhone 5S replaces all that. Last trip I rolled into a town and hoped for a motel, now I have reservations. Considering my question, I spend much more time on logistics than last trip. I contact warmshowers hosts and organizations to interview three to five days in advance. It’s a constant stream of inquiry, scheduling, and thank you’s; all impossible without handy Internet access.
Indians named Patel have cemented their lock on the independent motel market, and moved into the low-end chains. Outside of the Upper Mid-west, Patel’s rule my lodging world, and have done a lot to ramp up the typical Super 8. Why aren’t they in North Dakota, where there are so many jobs? Four years ago I managed to stay in independent places over 90% of the time. Now, there are many fewer left; about half my motel time is in chains. However, half my nights aren’t in motels at all – thanks to warmshowers. Although the site has been around over twenty years ago, I learned about it just before my trip and meeting so many gracious, incredible people has rocketed my personal experience and deepened the discussions of my question. Warmshowers takes the ‘economy’ out the ‘sharing economy’. It’s just about sharing. I’m warmshowers biggest fan.
The changes are significant, but the fundamental truths of cycle touring are intact. More motorists are nice than not. The two-wheel view of the country is amazing, and I meet people at their best.
Despite the banner mileage, my day progressed with the challenges and rewards North Dakota offers. The Ridge Motel in Mandan didn’t even offer coffee, so I stopped at the adjacent convenience store. Amazing to see the diet of oil workers: a fistful of 20 ounces Mountain Dews, a pack of Marlboro’s and a bag of chips. I am such a lightweight with my trial mix and Diet Coke.
My proposed route of vintage highways that paralleled I-94 went bust after three stints on gravel. Beyond New Salem (with name painted on hillside in typical Western fashion) I buckled under and rode the Interstate forty miles. No services anywhere, not a lick of shade, not much fun. I took a break under a highway overpass. How lame.
Since there was no place to stop, I made good time. But I needed a real break and the afternoon sky threatened, so I exited at Richardton where Google cited a cafe. No cafe, but something much better: a newish grocery store with a prepared food section, seating and free Wi-Fi. If Whole Foods entered the rural market, this is what it would look like, though they’d probably modify the special of the day: two fried chicken breasts, mashed potatoes with gravy, fried rice, whole wheat roll and fruit chunks for dessert. $7.49. The food lady told me, “There are vegetables in the fried rice.” Maybe three peas and two diced carrots.
I stayed at Springfield Market three hours while storms swirled all around but never quite hit. When the western sky looked as good as it was going to get, I tackled the last 24 miles. This was great riding, on a rural road with a nice breeze and an incredible sky. For ten miles my poker straight path headed right to the clear spot between two storms. As I approached, the northern storm crept into my path and I got rained on for a few miles. Then all cleared and I was dry when I arrived in Dickinson.
I will be here two nights, and was pleasantly surprised when my motel on the unpromising main drag turned out to be the BEST of the trip! Dual access room, for easy bike entry, cookies in the evening, nice dining room and full breakfast tomorrow. There’s an architectural rendering of the motel from the 1960’s in the lobby, when it must have been considered the height of style. The proprietress was very nice, though she dodged my question. Most people in North Dakota do. They acknowledge when I ask it, but act like I can’t possibly be directing it to them.