Leaving Fargo, Oak and I prepared ourselves for an easy 50 mile day. We rode about 5 before fate changed all that. On a little side road with hardly any traffic, we pedal on. To our left is a trainline. Sure enough, about 10minutes down the path, a freight comes ricketing past. I’m watching it glassy eyed as it rolls on, as I always do, and mentally checking possible riding spots. There are two cars on it that could fit both our bikes and our gear. Towards the end of the train and a nice big well. Ridiculous though, hopping a freight with not one, but two fully loaded touring bikes? I don’t think so!
Well, she pulls up right along side of us, and that well-car is just about parrallel. It’s with a quick glance at eachother that we’ve made a decision. Pushing our bikes through the tall grass, hoping no cars drive past on this stretch. Oak jumps in, and I start madly handing him bundles. I fear our gear will ride off without us if we don’t hurry. It’s all in and over in a little under 5 minutes. I jump in and the steel starts to rumble on. Ahhhh riding the rails, it’s been a while!
We jump out at Grand Forks, and happy to have made 80miles progress without too much muscle effort. Waiting around for another heading West, pretty soon we give up on that and decide to just pedal on. Bikes are fun too! The next morning we wake early and hit the road. We met another cyclist R.C on the road, heading from Minneapolis to Seattle. Rode with him for the day. Got to our planned destination, 80 miles away, and realised we still had energy for more. First though, a jump in Devil’s Lake. I asked a guy sitting on his porch if we could take a dip in, and he said “oh, with an accent like that, of course!”
Jay from Devil’s Lake and his family turned out to be heroes. We swam, and then were invited into their cabin with a huge buffet dinner spread out on the table. More than I could eat of the most delicious home cooked food, seconds, thirds, they told us to eat up and we shared stories. Jay gave us a bunch of cool history on the area – like the place we were heading “Church’s Ferry” was called so because an old guy ‘Church’ used to ferry people across the lake (before the bridge). Now the lake has risen a lot very quickly, and the town is more or less dead and dying.
Great little place though… a tiny shack of a wooden building with an old worn down sign that read “public school”. Slept in the grand lawn in the middle of town and didn’t see a soul. Couldn’t have made the 110 mile day without Jay’s hospitality – the lake, the food, the family warmth… it powered us both on.
The next day we decided to push out another 110, for Minot, North Dakota. Long stretches of nothing out here, 20 miles between water stops, and even then it’s an old ghost town with one place open called “The Branding Iron Saloon”. A waft of cigarette smoke comes out the door as you pull it open, but the woman behind the bar fills our bottles with icy cold water, and the two guys drinking have the classic ‘farmers tan’, with a sunglass line on the side of their face. Nice friendly people, and I’m humbled again by this honest, open, middle America.
Sometime that afternoon we hit “Rugby – Geographical Centre of North America”. I rode up to it thinking of it as just some crappy tourist attraction – but found myself, and Juno, standing under it and feeling a little emotional. I pedaled more than half the distance I’ll be riding a while ago, but to have something so tangible, so there and obvious… made me proud and amazed that I have made it this far.
And we sure are powering through the miles. 220 miles, or 350 kms in two days. Woh! We have been so lucky with the wind – hardly any and mostly from the south – so are pushing on when we can, while we can. A nights rest in Minot with some CouchSurfers, Kate and Lisa, has re-charged us and we’re ready to ride on. It’s the statefair here and apparently kind of a big deal – KISS played last night!? Time to pedal out!