70 miles - Total: 1805 miles
The sky was my compass today. My trusted Northern Star, guiding me home. After yesterday's faux pas, today I regrouped and made sure that I was well fed and ready to get to Bismark, rain or no rain, wind or no wind.
I don't sleep soundly in the room above the tavern but whatever I get into my tank will do for now. At least I am dry, until I put on my socks and shoes that is! I get dressed and wear my socks, which are still damp from last night's wash. The shoes are wet too but the shorts are dry. I leave the sleepy town of Napoleon with a slight drizzle which produces a dull sound when it hits the tin roof shack houses and unattractive short buildings. There is a gray November sky and the temperature is 59F. So I am warmly dressed, three jerseys and the rain proof jacket and I am back on the road, highway 34, then 83 and then 1804 (this one is for you Mike Duggan!)
I am churning out the miles determined to outsmart the weather. The sky as my compass to guide me through the empty highways, I begin to enjoy the cold weather and appreciate the good things about it. Thsi was never meant to be a tour around the park. I did not leave Washington DC 18 days ago to go a cycling tour in Beverly Hills. I rode out of the Embassy because I am on a mission from God! Alone, self-contained, light and fast as a hound, averaging 100 miles a day and I am ill, I have a life-threatening disease and I can still be myself. Simple as that. That's why I am here. So the rain or cold weather come out and I what? Get pissed? Ridiculous. I am out here to give the bad stuff meaning, to make sense of something that does not make sense at all and if I cannot find a reason then as sure as hell I went out swinging. The sky becomes the introduction, the intermission and the conclusion of my ride: from cloudy and dark through overcast and white to blue and sunny skies. The sky is the first thing I look when I get up in the morning and last thing I think about when I end my ride. This is the kind of day when people way stronger than me and more faithful to their religion would thank God. I feel I must also give thanks for being where I am, halfway through my bike ride. North Dakota is providing a lot of good questions and some answers. Yes it is tough going, yes it is tougher than two years ago, yes things are completely different from two years ago but I am still loving it. North Dakota might mean nothing to a lot of people and its apparent grim and monotonous beauty will most likely keep many people away. However, when you are out there alone and you listen to the air and the wind, you watch the sky above so immense and clear for some incomrpehensible reasons things seem to make a little more sense. Whatever that means...
During my ride I see a few antelopes that quietly graze among the fields. It is one of those moments that you can't share with anyone because it is a fleeting magical silent moment between you and the animals staring at each other in the open in complete and utter silence, both of us frozen unsure about what to do next. It lasts a few seconds and then when I taint the magic moment by taking the camera out the animals start hopping away, gone. This happens with about 40 miles in amongst the lakes, the ponds and the sloughs of the Drift Prairie of North Dakota. This area forms a transitional zone between the semi-humid lowlands of the Midwest and the semi-arid Great Plains that lie west of the Missouri river. As I was told by the people in the bar last night this area is a country of extremes, with temperatures that vary from 60 below to 120 above. To survive in this hot, dry land both plants and animals have adopted special techniques. The antelope for instance can endure long period without drinking water. Lucky them!
After about 15 miles the sky turns whiter and almost blue and sunshine begins to power through the thinning clouds. The wet and cold weather that has dominated my last 100 miles or so seems to be staying where it is while I move farther West. I toyed with the miles today, I coudl have gone for a longer day, I was almost disappointed that the ride was so short, I left at 9.30am and by 3pm I was done. I did not push, I kept plenty in the tank. In fact, I feel fine and I will not take a day off yet. I will press on West tomorrow and will allow myself the luxury of visiting the Theodore Roosevelt National Park on Tuesday. After that I will make my way North to highway 2 and cross into Montana. Sounds tasty...
I enter Bismark with a smile on my face. Bismark is a fairly decent-size town of 6000 people which appears extremely quite on this early Sunday afternoon. I ride through town and I go straight to the "Broken Spoke" bike shop, which is more of a workshop in a family-owned garage than a proper store. They welcome me like a friend. My memory fails me now and so I forgot the name of the kind gentleman that checks my bike, cleans my chain and offers me maps, all of this free of charge. If you are ever in town and need some bike repair go see them. They are very kind people. After the quick tune-up I ride to the North end of the town where most hotels are located and I check in at a Hampton Inn, catch up on my journal and plan my next two or three days.
By the way, I thank you all for your comments. Apologies if I don't reply but I do read all of them! Stay close.
Off I go and it is still cold and wet out there
Old houses in the "potholes" of North Dakota
Wintry conditions and I am all alone on the road
The perfect lines of sky and earth meet directly in front of me
This tornado must be at least 10 miles off and luckily does not come my way
Scenery from the morning ride
Another abandoned barn
Antelopes. They stop and turn and stare at me. I do likewise.
The empty road ahead
Cattle in the ND prairie
North Dakota sky
This is Phyllis from Georgia. She started out in Washington state and heads to Maine. (Phyllis, if you are reading this give me a shout)
And that is me, started out in Washington DC and heading to Vancouver, BC
I am fine, can you see me??
Entering Bismark, capital of North Dakota