63.91 Miles / 1602.82 Total Miles
1654 Ft. Elevation Gain / 67,979 Ft. Total Elevation Gain
We were expecting rain, last night, so I moved my tent under one of the park ramadas and slept in my tent on the concrete pad. In the course of all the shuffling of gear, I lost my toothpaste and lip balm. There won’t be toothpaste available anywhere for two more days, when we get to Fargo. Don’t tell my dentist.
We had to clear out of the park by 7 AM, so a group of people could set up for an event, so the pressure was on to button up the gear and get going early. Sue rode out at 6:20, and Ed and I departed at 6:50. Maybe I can blame all the rushing involved in pulling that off for my toothpaste and bag balm disappearing.
It was a chilly 65 degrees with overcast skies, and a light breeze, when we started riding, and I was cold. The clouds and breeze hung around most of the morning, which kept the temperatures down, which made the cycling much more enjoyable. Todays landscape was endless rolling hills, covered with crops and cattle, with hundreds of lakes and ponds interspersed all over the place.
Where is Temple Grandin when. you need her? We passed two herds of cows, with one lone cow standing off by itself at the fence line, today. The first was a female and the second a male. Cows are herd animals, so what would make one want to be off by itself like that? These are the kinds of thoughts that occupy an idle mind on a long bike ride. I talked to Ed and Sue about it later, and both had noticed and wondered about both cows, just as I had. Are we all losing it? Or are we just becoming more sensitive to the feelings of other creatures?
Here’s another thing that got us talking. Many of the farmers have piles of surface select boulders, here and there, in their fields. Why don’t they just consolidate them somewhere out of the way, so they can do their farming, without having to work around boulder piles? This afternoon, I came across a field where the boulders have not been piled up, and it was not useful for anything but grazing cattle. And that’s where I hatched my theory on the piles. They probably result from the rounding up of boulders so a field can be farmed, and it’s such a big project, that once they have a pile, that’s good enough for them, and they call the job done. Again, another topic to mull over, as we ride along. I may have a different theory tomorrow.
As we travelled further down Highway 34, something odd was taking shape on the horizon. As we drew closer, we could see a sign and flag, and pulled in to get a closer look. A procession of retired threshing machines, belonging to the late John “Custer” Grenz, wound its way along Custer Ridge on the north side of the road–34 of them, to be exact. What a sight. Back in the day, threshers were a major agricultural breakthrough, mechanising removing grain from its stalk and husk, which previously had been a tedious manual process. When combines came on the scene, threshers became obsolete, and that’s when John Grenz started collecting them.
A few more miles down the road, we came across three westbound Northern Tier cyclists, who started their ride in Bar Harbor, ME. Nadia, Mia and Erica are three super sharp and enthusiastic young ladies in their 20s, with promising futures. One is about to begin a Phd program, another works for a non profit, and the third just finished college and is getting ready for the next step in her life. They found each other on the Companions Wanted section of the Adventure Cycling website, met in Virginia, and are still hanging together, after riding about 2500 miles together. Super impressive! We exchanged stories and tips, then they had to get moving, because they still had 39 miles left to ride.
I don’t want to sound like I obsess over silly things like rumble strips, but North Dakota really takes them to another level, which puts them on my radar–daily. On rural roads, they have a full lane width set of rumble strips that runs perpendicular to and between the center line rumble strip and the fog line rumble strip, which means there is no way to avoid having your brain rattled by these pain givers. These strips are placed at intervals on the approaches to stop signs, to get the attention of sleepy or inattentive drivers and prevent accidents, which is a noble cause. But bicyclists also use the road, and these things are pure torture for us. And there is no way to get around them. My brain was severely rattled by several sets of these, today and yesterday, and I’m worried that I might be getting shaken baby syndrome.
I mentioned earlier that the winds were mild, this morning, but that all changed after our last turn of the day. We had 10 solid miles of steep rollers, while facing a 10 mph headwind. When we finally arrived in Gackle we were wiped out.
We headed straight for The Honey Hub bike hostel, got settled, showered, did laundry and other chores, then headed out to the one and only food establishment in town–tastee freeze. The place was packed with diners. It was only 4:45 PM, and even though we were there for a treat, we decided to also get dinner, so we wouldn’t have to venture out and wait in line again.
The Honey Hub hostel is operated by a young family with a huge beekeeping operation. They furnished a room in their house that has a separate entrance and added a bathroom and laundry center to it, so they could host cyclists who are riding through Gackle on routes like the Northern Tier. They sometimes have 20 cyclists here at one time, which means there are tents set up in the yard, because there’s only room for 3 people to sleep inside. Fortunately, we were the only guests tonight, so we didn’t have to deal with our tents.