Day 29 – June 29th – Jamestown, ND to Fargo, ND – 116 miles

After sleeping on an air mattress in the back of a Chevy truck last night, I was greeted by this:

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A full rainbow never fails to impress.

I slept pretty well, despite the fireworks. People were likely getting ready for the upcoming holiday.

Due to it’s proximity, McDonalds provided breakfast. Hotcakes, eggs, sausage, and a biscuit are pretty cheap here and there are plenty of calories which is exactly what a cyclist needs.

Around 8:00 a.m., I departed “The Buffalo City” and also the birthplace of the novelist and short story writer Louis L’Amour (for more info on either check out the links here: http://www.jamestownnd.org/ and http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_L%27Amour )

The weather was favorable and my time was good, making for a good morning ride. I decided that Valley City would be a good place to have lunch.

Valley City, a college town, was aptly named. I approached the city from the west going downhill, able to see the uphill climb on the other side of town, but I decided to worry about that after lunch.

Roby’s treated me well with a quality burger and fries, but the reason I chose this place, from reading the online google reviews, was the free ice cream bar with every visit. The well-deserved (at least I thought well deserved) ice cream made me happy before I continued back on my way.

The gradual climb out of town wasn’t bad. After awhile, I noticed a cemetery/memorial just off the upcoming freeway exit; it would be a good place for a break.

And it was. The trees offered good shade. I looked at some of the grave markers, watched some of the traffic go by on the interstate, and moved on after taking a picture or two:

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Fargo had a couple possibilities as far as hosts were concerned. I called one individual in West Fargo, but he was in the process of moving and had to be up early in the morning.

I messaged the other prospective host, but she was out of town and unable to help. One other message that I sent went unanswered all day.

There still remained one option however. A bike shop in downtown Fargo along with a community partnership of cyclists had a hosting description for cyclists. The phone call there went unanswered, but the description said to just stop by, even on weekends. So I figured I would do that.

Hunger pushed me along the West Fargo bypass to another Pizza Ranch. It was busy, but the food was fresh and once again did not fail to impress.

Ahead of me, I had what I knew would be one of the busiest areas of traffic volume on the entire tour. Rambow led me back along I-94 heading east, through the road construction (Which is much easier to go through on bike than by car. Biking past cars provides one of the most gratifying feelings while on the road). I-94 interchanges with I-29; I took that north until taking the exit to head into downtown Fargo.

After about 40 blocks, I found the bike shop. But, much to my dismay, I found the bike shop empty and locked.

A new predicament arose.

Because the bike shop was my last resort, the hopes of finding an arranged place to spend the night were growing dim along with the daylight.

After attempts at contacting 3 of the local hotels and motels, only to find them fully occupied (this was a Saturday night after all), my attention turned to campgrounds. Lindenwood Campground looked to be one of the only ones, so the trek began another 30 blocks or so south.

Two stops for directions and many views of the Red River later, Lindenwood Campground, and the line of campers waiting to find a camping spot in the campground was in sight.
Because of the location right on the river, and due to the healthy rainfall in the last month, many of the campsites here at Lindenwood surrendered to the unusually high waters of the Red River, unfortunate timing for the campground because of the peak camping season and ideal weather conditions.

Stealth camping immediately entered my mind as there were no camping spots left, with the exception of a single site but it contained a reservation slip on it. “No camping” signs dotted the areas and trails leading out of camping area “A”, the only area high enough to avoid the floodwater, giving me reservations on doing that however.

The darkness began to cast itself; I decided to ride along the river and consider my options.

Scouring the areas for good stealth camping spots, I pedaled Rambow around a picnic shelter. Abruptly, a man, coincidentally wearing the same Minnesota Wild hockey shirt I was (it was the only time I wore a t-shirt on my bike the entire trip because I figured it would be a short jaunt after the Pizza Ranch), stepped out from the picnic area.

I stopped.

He seemed a little surprised to see someone, let alone a touring cyclist. After some time, and finding him to be a fellow Minnesotan here for a hockey tournament with his daughter’s team, we continued a good conversation. Before telling him about my predicament, he asked me if I needed a place to stay.

As it turned out, he and his family ended up switching campsites with another family. Due to some unforeseen circumstance, they were unable to show up and the campsite (the one with the reservation slip I immediately concluded) was vacant.

This man told me he would consult his family and see if they still had the campsite, if so he would let me have it for the night.  If not, they would let me camp on their site.

Relief poured inside of me, flooding me like a campsite along the river.

Minutes later, I found myself as the center of attention, surrounded by the family and a few members of the girls hockey team. The openhanded generosity continued after a donation and a campsite reservation slip that they refused to take payment for.

Someone was watching over me again this evening.

While setting up my tent, an older couple in an RV next to me offered something to drink. They wouldn’t let me refuse, so I enjoyed a nice Coke while preparing camp. But, before the tent was set, an RV pulled up and a guy, who looked to be in his younger 30’s and slightly stressed, understandably, opened his window and asked if he could park his RV on the concrete pad.

I felt bad only using the grass portion of the campsite, so I willingly agreed.

He, and his family, were grateful, and they even offered to make me breakfast in the morning.

The day ended with a shower and a few mosquitoes in the tent, but it was alright; I had a place to stay :)

Day 28 – June 28th – Bismarck, ND to Jamestown, ND – 104 miles

I started the day off right with breakfast at Denny’s, about 10 blocks from where I stayed the night. My eyes remained fixed on Rambow while I ate inside the busy establishment. After the great breakfast, when paying at the cash register, I was surprised when I heard the hostess processing the payment make the remark “Oh! You donate too?”

“Yes I do!” Remembering that there is a Biolife Plasma donation center in Bismarck after she looked at my Biolife debit card, I put the pieces together. We talked briefly, including why I was wearing a cycling jersey, before I departed. The conversation, though brief, added another element reminding me of the decreasing distance to home.
Hwy. 10 paved the way for a wonderfully peaceful morning ride in rural North Dakota. This route, once again suggested by locals, not only offered a better view of nature’s beauty, but it also featured the low traffic volume I had forgotten after the last few hundred miles on interstate highways.

Backroads are the best way to tour (as long as the shoulder is decent). I would have missed all of these trees on the interstate:

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As the day progressed, crosswinds became a huge factor. By the time I stopped in Steele at a gas station to purchase overpriced gas station food, the wind was blowing a solid 25 to 30 mph at an almost perpendicular direction to me. It was still slightly at my back, but more of a crosswind nonetheless.

While sitting on a chair at table outside the gas station eating the food I overpaid for, a guy walked out of the gas station with a student council shirt on. Given my passion for this student group in high school (a member of the high school council for 3 years, attending 3 state conventions and 2 national conferences, and being elected president of our state association), I couldn’t let him just walk by without asking.
I stopped him and asked about his involvement. He turned out to be a senior at the local high school. Pressing farther, I asked him if he had attended any national conferences, only to be shocked when he said he was in St. Louis in 2011 at the STAR conference, the same one I was at with a delegation from MN. Here is a montage video of the conference: http://www.schooltube.com/video/cd630a66fdfa60a2da24/2011%20Star%20Leaders%20National%20Conference.

I continued on after a short rest break at the gas station.

The ride to Jamestown proved to be peaceful:

The stiff crosswind shown by the flag here at the rest area.

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This area flooded with water looked Like a few locations along the route today.

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Birds make their homes in these trees, probably knowing they won’t need to deal with as many carnivores or pestering squirrels.

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In Jamestown, I met up with the guy my hosts from last night put me in contact with.

The Pizza Ranch, located just blocks from where I was starting the night, offered a wonderful dinner for me after a windswept day on my bike.

Day 27 – June 27th – Richardton, ND to Bismarck, ND – 80 miles

My hosts provided food for breakfast and some to bring along with me, of which I was very grateful.

The first stop of the day was a few blocks away at the Assumption Abbey church. When riding to Richardton yesterday, the twin spires were visible from miles away. Up close they did not fail to impress:

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Some pictures of inside the church:

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I visited with one of the monks there. He explained the history of the Richardton area and the monastery there. As it turns out, during the Great Depression, the monastery here closed. Later on, the pope ordered some monks to go to Richardton to start the monastery back up again. And, to do that, he sent monks from none other than St. John’s Abbey, just a stone’s throw from my backyard back home.

Very interesting.

From Richardton I continued east across the expansive, monotonous territory I have come to know as North Dakota. Early afternoon gave sighting of the largest holstein cow in the world, Salem Sue.

I ate at the café next to the motel. It proved to be great food. As I was eating, the waitress starting talking about another biker who came through a couple weeks prior. He was going from New York to Oregon. I took a shot in the dark and asked if his name was Stephen. Strikingly enough, they nodded in disbelief as I explained to them that he stayed at my place overnight in Minnesota.
After the conversation of disbelief, I snapped a picture of Salem Sue from my booth and took off:

My destination for today would be the capital, Bismarck. I contacted Broken Spoke bike shop from my list of places to stay there, and they agreed.

I made it to Mandan (bordering the west side of Bismarck) in the late afternoon. This picture was taken at a wayside overlook of Mandan/Bismarck:

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After getting a quick bite to eat, the time arrived to bike through the heaviest traffic North Dakota had to offer and find Broken Spoke. Broken Spoke bike shop, located in a residential area of Bismarck, is run out of a garage by a son and his family as a hobby and a business. Interestingly, and thankfully for me, they also host cyclists in a camper they have right next to the shop. Many of the cyclists they host need bike work done when they stay; I was no different.

Back in Sandpoint, ID, and again in Livingston, MT, I checked the chain stretch of my chain to find that it would need to be replaced right around the eastern Montana to western North Dakota area. If one doesn’t replace their chain, the cogs on the cassette of the bicycle start to wear down and causes problems when trying to shift gears, resulting in a much more serious problem when out on the road, and an expensive fix.

Broken Spoke put a new chain on for me at a very reasonable price. After taking a shower, placing my things in the camper trailer, and paying for the chain, this wonderful family lit up the charcoal and proceeded to grill burgers, of which I was fully welcome to. I joined them for a grillout in what seemed like a backyard back in Minnesota. It really started to feel like I am closer to home today.

After the delicious burgers and watermelon, I headed back to the camper, wrote in the cyclist log book for Broken Spoke guests, and prepared for bed, ready for another long day tomorrow.

Day 26 – June 26 – Glendive, MT to Richardton, ND – 124 miles – Another great century ride

I departed from the campground early, along with some other oil workers.

Rambow continued to roll on despite the worsening rear wheel. Multiple spokes were loose now. At the final Montana rest area, in Wibaux, I discovered that a bike shop existed in Medora, ND, just 34 miles from the rest area.

After the rest area, I saw my final two Pronghorn, and entered a new state:

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Medora really surprised me. After Dakota Cyclery bike shop took care of my bike, I looked around North Dakota‘s biggest tourist trap. This “Old West” town, bordering Theodore Roosevelt National Park, is an interesting stop for anyone passing by on I-94. I took a few pictures here, but didn’t stop for long as my sights were set on Richardton, ND for the night where I had options of a monastery, host family, and camping for the night.

I contacted some hosts in Richardton around 3:00 in the afternoon. They were very willing to host me for the night.

The outlets outside the gas station off the Richardton exit gave me a quick cell phone charge to tell my hosts I’d arrived, and gather info as to the location of their dwelling place.
Passing through town, I spotted other touring cyclists. The couple from France started in Canada and were riding the Trans-America trail to South America. I love meeting other cyclists like this. Everytime I talk to some, I can’t help but think that it will likely be me in another country on my bike at some point in my life.

My hosts, once again, were wonderful. When I arrived, they offered food, a shower, and gave me the extra bedroom in the basement. The hospitality never ends.

The husband of the family and I found ourselves talking late into the evening about or mutual interest of baseball and the baseball card collections we have.

The terrain may be rather boring out here in North Dakota, but the generosity of people and the interesting conversations that happen make up for it.

I was told this evening to check out the Abbey church just a few blocks away in the morning. From experience, I’ve learned to listen to the locals. And, by lack of other things to do or see in this state, I had nothing to lose.