Friday, August 29, 2014

DAY 31--OK, it's flat

I take back what I said earlier about North Dakota not being flat. Today was about as flat as you can get, and on a single road that was straight as an arrow. It was overcast and drizzly when we took off, and rained some in the afternoon, but eventually it let up and we dried off before we rolled in to camp.
We rode about a mile off the road to get to the one town on the 65-mile route, and stopped at their little cafe for carrot cake (they didn't have pie).
We were soon out of the pothole area and back into grasslands and farmlands, with wide open vistas. Our campground by the Sheyenne River was billed as "primitive", but ended up being a lovely place with water and electricity.
Lonna has noticed that no matter what little road we are on, the UPS guy drives by. Today, as we were standing at a driveway in the middle of nowhere eating our snack, the UPS guy actually turned into that driveway. Lonna is getting suspicious.

 There goes the UPS guy!

DAY 30--Potholes of North Dakota

Had an excellent biking day--SE winds, sunny, rolling hills through farmlands. Started off with massive sunflower fields, as far as you could see, brilliant yellow in the sun. We had one town along the route, Napoleon, where we stopped for a breakfast burrito and doughnuts.
After Napoleon, the landscape changed to open fields with ponds and lakes. These areas are referred to as the potholes of North Dakota. Some of the ponds are permanent, some occasionally dry up, depending on the weather.
We saw many different waterfowl--ducks, egrets, herons, coots, cormorants, pelicans, gulls, and grebes. Also possibly some loons, but we couldn't verify these. There were also many goldfinches in the flowers along the side of the road, and numerous hawks.
We also saw a collection of threshing machines, titled "Dinosaurs on the Hill."
We stayed in a small private campground in Gackle, which was free for cyclists!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

DAY 29--Another first

Chilly again this morning, but the wind was calm and we had a bit of sunshine. About two miles down the bike trail back to town Lonna had a flat tire-- our first in almost 1500 miles of riding. She pulled a very small sliver of metal from the tire--probably picked up along the interstate with all the shards of tires.
Back on the road, we stopped soon for muffins and espresso. Then we stopped again at a little shop where Lonna picked up a sweatshirt.
Time to get moving!
Riding out of town, we crossed the Missouri River and bade goodbye to Lewis and Clark. Along the way, we managed to miss one turn, but we were still on a bike trail and there happened to be a map right on the corner, so we quickly got back on track.
So far, North Dakota gets the gold star for bike trails--lots of them, and most in pretty good shape. We were able to follow a bike trail for almost half of our 56 miles today. Don't let anyone tell you North Dakota is flat. We enjoyed many miles of rolling hills.
We had heard there was a 10% chance of showers briefly in the afternoon. This was wrong. We spent the entire afternoon in showers. There were no real towns to stop in on our route today, so again we
spent our time enjoying the (wet) scenery. At one point we found ourselves on the Lawrence Welk Highway!
We camped in the city park in Hazelton. Steve again secured a shelter for us so we could be a bit more out of the rain.

DAY 28--The Great Plains

Had a chilly start to the day--45 degrees when we got up--but still a tailwind as we rode, so that helped. Went through a lot of gently rolling farmland with nice muted colors of greens, golds, and browns. Many immense fields of sunflowers. The towns are again few and far between, so most of the day is spent just riding and enjoying the scenery. Saw a statue billed as the world's largest holstein.
When we came into Mandan (just across the river from Bismarck) we stopped at the library, and at a gift shop that had beautiful handmade crafts and jewelry from 5 local Native American tribes. We then headed 4 miles out of town to the Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. Had a great bike trail all the way out to the park. We stopped at the visitor center which told a lot about the Mandan Indians that had lived in this area in earth lodges in the 1500s-1700s. It also told the history of the fort that was later built, and its eventual demise.
The park is situated at the confluence of the Heart and Missouri Rivers. The campground was down at riverside, and we took a nice walk along the river bank in the evening. 

DAY 27--Short and sweet

The day started out still heavily overcast and drizzly. We took the 30-mile scenic loop drive through Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Some of the views were a little obscured, but it was still very nice--lots of "badlands" formations. We came across a herd of wild horses, and two herds of bison.
After the drive, we set off on our bikes.
We had been warned from at least four independent sources to stay away from the Williston area, where the oil and gas operations are in full swing, so we took a more southern route. We had also heard that Dickinson is getting to be a nasty place, and maybe we could ride through there but don't stop. In the end, we decided the best option was for Steve to drive us to the west side of Dickinson, where we picked up a county highway. From there it was a short 35 miles to our campground, with a tailwind, so we made great time. We were quickly out of the badlands area and into the National Grasslands. Lots of wide open views, lots of farm fields.

We stayed in the city park in Hebron, setting up camp in a shelter. We decided to look around town a bit. We rode over to the brick factory, which Hebron seems to be noted for. Although the business was closed, the brickyard was open so we went in and cruised around.

After that we went to see historic Fort Sauerkraut, set on a hill outside of town. The "fort" is basically a fancy sod house, created in the late 1800s when the town had a mass panic from rumors of an imminent Indian attack. They thought all the townspeople would be able to hole up there for a few days until the soldiers came to their rescue. In fact, there was no Indian attack. One of the men who had helped build the fort, a Mr. Krauth, said "Die Arbeit ist sauer"--literally the work is sour. It's not clear if he meant working on the fort or the work that had been done. After that the people of the town decided to call the place Fort Sauerkraut.

After our typical dinner of sandwiches, we amused ourselves with some music--Paula and Lonna on recorders and Steve providing the rhythm section.