Record-setting bike ride
my Fargo-Winnipeg ride I haven’t been sitting on my bike for 3 weeks. For the
week of July 4th I visited the family in
Which way is the wind
going to blow on Sunday? 15-25 mph SSW! And only slight WNW on Saturday. I decide to go “all-out”
down South on Saturday, with hopes of “sailing” the tailwind back home on
Sunday. I ponder the map and declare
Rule number 1: If you want to go far, you have to
start early. Ok, maybe not in the dark of the night, but at I sit in the saddle and hit the road.
After rain-showers yesterday and a clear night it dawns cool and moist with
only 56 F (13 C). I need a long-sleeved sweater to get going. After a few
warmup km I cross the bridge across the Red River into
The fog disappears quickly and it gets warm enough to ride without the sweater. I retrace the route of 6 weeks ago. Except this time I am much earlier in the day. Plus I don’t have a flat tire in Wolverton like the last time, so that I “gain” another 45 minutes or so. The first 2 hours pass by without anything noteworthy. Then I see a “road closed” sign up ahead! The traffic is routed in a detour due to a bridge closed up ahead. Since I don’t intend to go for some extra miles, I decide to give it a try and head for the closed bridge. There isn’t really any river or creek worth mentioning, so I figure I can always carry the bike around the closure through the corn fields.
I get to the construction site just North of Wahpeton. They dug up the entire road to apparently lay a new foundation for some drainage canal. Definitely no riding here! So I shoulder my bike – good thing it only weighs in at just below 20 pounds – and head for the fields. But boy: Due to the rain I instantly have 2 inch of mud sticking to my boots, everything is wet and the mosquitoes – just unbelievable! I look at my right arm holding the bike on the shoulder and see it covered with maybe 20 of these bloodsuckers! I hurry to get to the other side of the construction zone. By the time I covered the 200 meters or so I have bug bites everywhere – and I mean everywhere! I try to clean the now 2 pounds heavy shoes at least enough to get back into my click pedals – not an easy feat. I roll down another km or so and stop at a family restaurant for breakfast. First I clean my shoes some more and then walk in my socks still wet, my skin covered with bug bites from top to bottom. When I wash my face in the restroom, blood-caked mosquitoes stick to my face from under the straps of the helmet. Maybe a detour of a few km would have been the better choice?
I order some pancake, eggs and hashbrown breakfast
– let the feast begin! For the next two days it will be a constant rhythm of
riding and stopping to eat and drink. After a quick phone call I get back out
on the road. I reach the 100km mark at. The sun is getting stronger now, and there are some 3/8
textbook cumulus clouds due to the moisture everywhere. Thankfully there is
very little wind. I reach the little town of
Notice the matching color of biker jersey and
table J After this refreshing stop I continue to pedal along
I try sitting down in the grass and just taking in
the views, but there is not enough wind to keep the bugs away. So I give up and
hop on the bike again to continue. I pass under Interstate 29 near the little
This picture shows the typical amount of traffic – barely any! It is getting really hot now. Since I didn’t bring any sunscreen my arms start turning red and burning in the hot afternoon sun. Up ahead there is an underpass of my road and the Interstate. I stop and seek the shade under the bridge. I take off my shoes and feel the cool asphalt under my bare feet. I sit down in the middle of the road – “don’t try this at home” - to cool off and decide to sit there until the next vehicle comes.
I wait a full 15 minutes and watch the swallows
and pidgeons flying around the bridges. Finally a car is coming and I get up
from my cool ground floor “seat”. It would be nice just to keep sitting here,
but I need to keep going. I climb another long hill and reach a little town
with the fitting name
The time of day is approaching. Going South, I have a steady
compagnion to my left from the
Finally I get to
It takes a bit of searching around since the first
two hotels are full and they tell me that many others are, too. Then I find a
motel with restaurant and they still have one last room. It is a smoking room
and very noisy, but better than nothing. I order a Prime Rib Steak and a Merlot
to drink a toast to this first day of the weekend. I feel quite sore and don’t
necessarily look forward to a second super-long bike day in a row. But I guess
I have no choice now, short of taking another Greyhound Bus back home to
I get up for breakfast and hit the road around. Not quite as early as
yesterday. But I expect the wind to increase in strength throughout the day,
plus I figure I can reach
Luckily the weather report was right and the flag
shows some moderate wind from the South already! This will help me in the next
couple of hours J After about 20km I turn straight North towards
the little town of
In Waubay I have my first (but certainly not last) stop to refuel and have a second breakfast. Aah, those two muffins and coffee and nut-&-fruit trail mix really taste good! Not to mention the cool bottled water and gatorade… I chat with some locals. They usually shake their heads in disbelief when I tell them where I’m coming from and heading to. One elderly man seems quite interested in the price and technology of the bike. I roll in the bike – by now the talk of the entire fisherman shop – and let the old man lift it. He utters some unintelligable, non-quotable words –surely a sign of appreciation.
Anyway, I need to get going again. I also buy some sunscreen to protect my skin on the way back today. It is going to be scorching hot today with highs in the mid 90’s (35C) and no escaping the sun all day.
The next 12 km I have to go East passing Ortley to connect with the next good (i.e. paved) road going North. Riding sideways to the wind is much more work; however I am happy that it is blowing harder now, as this will push me nicely again soon. There are waves with a few white crests on the lakes, I would say the wind is around 30km/h. Not expecting much of the road to come, I am pleasantly surprised about this next stretch, which is as close to bike heaven as I have ever seen it: New, perfectly smooth surface, practically no traffic whatsoever, scenic rolling hills with plenty of lakes left and right, and a strong tailwind pushing me beyond 45 km/h. How awesome: The “Which way is the wind going to blow on Sunday?” rule worked perfectly again! On the downhill slopes I coast without pedaling to often more than 50 km/h, shifting up & down frequently due to the rolling hills. With the wind I can often still pull the big ring in the front going uphill! What a rush.
The 100km mark rolls around at. I stop at a large tree, sit in the shade right by the road, look out towards the horizon and nibble away at a nut-&-fruit mix with my cold water. How wonderful when you can enjoy the simple pleasures of life: Just laying in the grass, barefoot, listening to the wind swaying the branches of the big tree, the breeze both refreshing and keeping the bugs away.
Just ahead is the top of the ridge and there are scenic views towards the East overlooking the valley with the Interstate where I rode yesterday.
The next 8 km are downhill with tailwind – it
doesn’t get much better than this! The bike handles smooth as I shoot down with
speeds up to 63km/h. For someone used to ride in flat
The next 2 hours or so I spend hopping from one
little town to the next, always trying to escape the brutal heat in the luxury
of an air-conditioned store or coffee shop. In
Short of the next little town, Lidgerwood, I see
something I haven’t seen in 2000km of riding in
Paul has the proverbial kitchen sink on his bike, he even has a cooler on his back. He says the entire bike weighs in at around 200 pounds (!) – about 8-10 times as much as mine! Consequently he travels very slow, but he can stop wherever he pleases and pitch his tent. It turns out he just started his day in the next little town, and it is almost! We certainly represent two different ends of the spectrum of long distance bike riding, but we both share the road and the love of the outdoors and adventure! We chat for 10 minutes, exchange email addresses and vow to stay in touch.
I stop in the same gas-station where Paul just left 15 minutes ago. So the tenants continue to talk about bike riding… One more hop brings me to Wyndmere, where I refuel again and enjoy a fresh homemade apple pie with coffee. I buy an extra bottle of lemonade and stow it in my back-pack. With a total of three full bottles I start for the next long leg to Kindred. There will be no service for the next 50km. In this heat you have to have plenty of fluids…
First there is a 40km straight-away, along which the 200km mark gets passed at. Then I have to turn East again to connect with the next roads. These next 13km are the absolut worst of my entire trip: I am tired, the wind is blowing hard from the side, reducing my speed to around 25km/h – a far cry from the the effortless 40+km/h I have gotten used to – and there is lots of traffic including big trucks. At one time a flat-bed truck passes with a movable home as his oversize load. And there is no shoulder for me to give way… Not good. I pedal hard to get off this stretch, and feel close to overheating and really fatigued now. I head straight for the next gas-station after 50km and walk inside, covered in sweat all over my body.
I just sit there for 10 minutes, resting, cooling and looking at the map for the umpteenth time today. I finally get up to order and then scoop down a huge cone of soft-serve icecream and some cold pink lemonade. Together with the sweat and the cold air-condition, all this helps to reduce my body temperature back down from the overheating. However, after ½ hour my leg muscles have contracted so I can hardly walk out the door!
It takes a while and lots of spinning in low gear
to get the legs warm and working again. Maybe this hot and cold is not the best
after all – certainly not for the legs. However, I am quite excited, as I am
now within about 40km from home, so I won’t need another rest stop. Some more
legs sideways to the wind bring me back towards the Interstate and into
familiar territory. I pass 270km after 7hrs 42mins of riding for an average
speed of 35.07 km/h thanks to the good South wind. At I reach home, take my shoes off for the
last time and relax in the grass outside of my apartment. In the end, I rode
275km on Saturday and 280km on Sunday. Less than 38 hours after I left the
apartment I had seen a total of 555km
on roads in
I take a shower washing off layers of sweat,
sunscreen and blood-smeared mosquitoes. Hungry? You bet! I head on over to the
Outback Steakhouse. Rarely has the steak tasted any better! I bring the PC and
camera, so I load the pictures and start typing this report. They pull up the
chairs already when I leave the restaurant as the last guest. Rain drops start
to fall just as I drive home. The storms forecast for the Western Dakotas
finally seem to have reached