Last night as I registered ($28 for the smallest and crudest room of my tour) the clerk told me that I should not do the AC route south of Devils Lake. He said some of the roads had been damaged by flooding and suggested another route south and east to Fargo. He also gave me a ND map and the phone numbers of motels in a town 100 miles away on that route. Good service, and he got me thinking about alternate routes.
When I came out of my room in the morning I found strong winds from the west. Highway 2 going due east looked much more attractive than the route(s) going south. At breakfast I met a man and his 14 year old son who were headed east on 2. They were doing a week of riding in North Dakota, visiting relatives. He told me that highway 2 had good shoulders all the way to the North Dakota border. That did it. After breakfast I rode east on 2 with a 20 mph tail wind!
Good shoulders, good weather, gentle rolling hills, and a 20 mph tail wind make for a great day of bicycling. I averaged (all day) over 20 mph while I was on the bike. I did my fastest century <grin> and my longest single days ride that day. I stopped at the intersection of 2 and 281 for a second breakfast and in Devils Lake for lunch. riding out of devils lake I heard something from the back of my bike, but when I checked everything seemed to be OK. A few blocks later some guys in a truck told me that they had seen something by the road and asked if it might have fallen off my bike. I asked what it looked like and they said "a white bag". I didn't have any white bags, so I thanked them and rode on for another mile or two before I figured out that the white bag was probably my light blue GorTex parka.
After the rain the day before, I had folded my damp parka loosely and placed it under the bungee cords on my rear rack. I didn't normally keep it there, but I wanted it to dry out before I paced it back in my pannier. It was gone and had probably fallen off when I hear that noise. Oh dear. I cranked back west into that wind at 8 mph. After several miles I made it back to the place where I heard and, thankfully, my parka was still on the side of the road. I lost several things off my bike on this tour including my pack towel, my headband, and a visor, but none of them was a big deal. The parka would have been a big deal. I thank those guys for their help and I kick myself for not realizing sooner that I had lost my parka.
From Devils Lake to Grand Forks is about 80 miles. There are few to no services in most of those miles. I saw a sign for a Cenex gas/store stop in (I think) Michigan ND, so I rode into town. As I headed for the Cenex store, I passed a cafe attached to a car dealership. Strange, but it looked good so I stopped. It is called Kite Cafe (?) and turned out to be a quite nice place to stop. Very clean, very friendly. I had a good desert and an interesting visit with some local ranchers. One of them invited me back to his ranch for a beer, but I begged off, because I wanted to take advantage of the great riding conditions. I had done 100 miles in about 6 hours, but I still had 50 more to go.
North Dakota got prettier as I neared the Minnesota border. About 30 miles from Grand Forks I stopped at a nice rest area for a final snack and to make a phone call. There was a sign nearby claiming that that county (Larimore was the nearest town) had more tree row windbreaks than any other county. There was really nice one by the rest area and I sat in its wind and sun shadow and watched swallows eating while I ate and rested. Two swallows would swoop low along the length of the windbreak and then swirl up and around for another pass. Their flight is quite marvelous.
Approaching Grand Forks the traffic got bad, but the shoulder widened so it was still safe to ride. The shoulder went away in Grand Forks, but the road continued to have 4 lanes so, even with fairly heavy traffic riding condition were not too bad. Since Grand Forks is a university town, drivers are used to bicyclists. I decided to continue on across the river into Minnesota and, as I approached the bridge, I saw a sign saying that it was under construction and bicycles were not allowed on it. I rode over it anyway.
In Grand Forks Minnesota I discovered that it was Canada Day weekend and all of the motels had lots of Canadians filling their rooms. I managed to get the last room in town. It was relatively expensive ($35 - my standards have changed) and on the second floor (still hurt my collarbone). I had to ride back into the wind (ugh) for a mile or so to that motel and I did not want to ride back across the river.
I went out to explore and to stock up for supper and the next days ride. I got a map of the town from the motel and then the clerk at a convenience store gave me a valuable suggestion about how I should ride south the next day. The clerk and I talked about bicycling touring and she said she didn't have the patience for it. I didn't have had the patience for it when I was younger either. Perhaps that is part of the reason that most tourists out here are middle aged or older. We have lived long enough to develop the patience required to ride across the plains! Back in my motel room I figured out how to get out of town heading south along the river.
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