June 23, 2015 – Blue skies, 80 degrees
Miles Today: 67
Miles to Date: 2,974
States to Date: 14
North Dakota is a big land but a small world. I met the same woman in two cafes a day apart. Then yesterday, while taking a break at a country church, I watched big trucks haul hay to a nearby clearing, where a huge funnel machine accepted the load and forced it into giant white plastic tubes, over one hundred feet long, that were clipped into protected bales. This morning, at motel breakfast, a guy approaches me, “Are you the guy on the bike at the church yesterday?” Lyle Orth and his two hands, from South Africa, had seen me while hauling hay. Lyle owns the baling equipment and contracts from farm to farm. Farmers get three or four hay crops a year, which they cut in the field. Lyle and his crew do the rest.
I was on the road by 7:30. Sixty-five miles straight down North Dakota Route 200 to McClusky sounds so easy, but wind foils that notion. Still, I didn’t suffer any of yesterday’s frustration. I had all day and gave it over to pedaling slow and steady. Google told me there were towns with services at 14 and 28 miles out, though I was prepared to go the distance. One of the odd things about North Dakota geography is that highways don’t go through towns; they go near them. A highway in Ohio or Wisconsin almost always turns into Main Street. A North Dakota town might edge on a highway, or even be a mile off. I bypassed the 14 miles town; too soon to need a break, and did the same at 28 miles when Bowdon was a mile off Route 200. When I’m working this hard, I need a good reason to lengthen my route.
The other geographic challenge is that the scale of North Dakota is huge. A water tower in Minnesota signals a town three miles away. That town might be five, even seven miles off in North Dakota. Landscape features hang in front of me for a long time. By mile 40 I was seeking shade, just to sit down, eat a bar, and have water. I saw a shape on the horizon that looked like a church. As I pedaled near I realized it was just a configuration of trees around a town too small to even have a water tower. But better than a church or a water tower, Hurdston has Dairy King, where I had a burger basket, Diet Coke, ice cream cone, and a cool break.
I resumed before three and got to McClusky by six. The land got more varied, more Western, with many shallow lakes (marshes?) along the road, full of fowl. The motel is out of town, so I stopped by the three-aisle grocery and got cereal and milk. I always crave crunchy on the road, and this will do for dinner and breakfast.