Miles Today: 83
Miles to Date: 3,235
States to Date: 14
A great day of bicycle touring. Breakfast at the Oasis Motel doesn’t start until seven, so I slept in and woke ravenous. I started with two hard-boiled eggs and a bowl of cottage cheese with pineapple and plums, then a toasted blueberry bagel with peanut butter and jelly, two biscuits with sausage gravy, and two bowls of frosted flakes for dessert, plus two cups of coffee and three glasses of orange juice. I was ready for distance!
I said goodbye to my warmshowers motel guest, I am Tomorrow. Zach headed west toward Montana, while I finally peeled away from paralleling I-94, which I’ve done since Detroit, and headed toward South Dakota. There was a light wind from the northwest, so rolling south was easy. For miles, I lived in Sting’s Fields of Gold. The undulating yellow flowers were as bright as my shirt. I took a break at the community grocery in New England (back on home turf) and learned the yellow plants are canola. It was almost noon and quite hot, so 32 ounces of PowerAde and a Diet Coke went down smooth.
North Dakota is rich in community run operations. An unnamed native (who warned, “you can’t quote me on this in your blog”) said, “North Dakota is the reddest of states yet it has all kinds of socialist traditions: electric co-ops, a state bank, community groceries and cafes.” I continue to encounter tight, trusting communities on my journey, yet I’m observing limits of community boundaries. When the last grocery store in town closed, the citizens of New England came together and created a community grocery. There’s a display up front with a scrapbook of renovation pictures and flyers that itemize the annual budget. It’s a worthy community effort. But when I suggested North Dakotans really took care of each other, someone said, “True, though I wouldn’t include people from Fargo.”
And certainly not people from the Twin Cities or Washington, D.C. I am already numb to the statement, “People from (name your state) are the nicest people in the world.” I hear it in every state. Actually, the rotten eggs are pretty evenly distributed and everyone else is nice everywhere. Our tribal chest beating and fear of the next clan, so necessary to hunters and gatherers, is a detrimental trait in a global economy.
Still, nobody doesn’t like a guy on a bike, so I said goodbye to sweet New England and kept pedaling south. Actually, I was supposed to turn west at New England, but the road markings were unclear and I was several miles away before I realized my mistake. Besides, I was enjoying going south too much to want to change my direction. Thirty more miles through Fields of Gold until I hit the next paved road, U.S. 12, and turned west.
I wound up adding seven miles to my route but also managed to land in Reeder for Reeder Days, which included a kiddie train (a small John Deere tractor pulling painted oil barrels with wheels that were cut out for kids to sit in) and a 50th high school reunion. Although the population of North Dakota has never been higher, the recent boom has favored the cities (those suspicious folks in Fargo). Small towns are still hemorrhaging. The school gym was packed with people who didn’t mind me taking a break in the air-conditioned corridor and buying a Diet Coke from the pop machine, though there might have been more people attending that reunion than live in the town today.
Fueled with cool air and caffeine, the last 24 miles to Bowman were easy, despite a variable headwind. Far from the oil patch, the rail sidings are still full of pipeline equipment rather than grain, and every industrial operation is looking for workers. North Dakota’s boom touches every corner of this state.
Bowman proved to be a lost less than I imagined. It’s where Teddy Roosevelt based his Western explorations in the late 1800’s, and is now the entry to Teddy Roosevelt National Park. There are half dozen sleepy motels on U.S. 12 but not one restaurant open on a Saturday night. I had a pizza and double scoop ice cream cone at the 24-hour travel stop. When the sun finally set, near ten, I heard a ruckus and wandered through town toward the noise. A pretty cool fireworks display!