June 24, 2015 – Overcast, 75 degrees
Miles Today: 74
Miles to Date: 2,948
States to Date: 14
Passing storms through the night left a calm quiet morning. I pedaled west, and then south to Bismarck with great ease. The ponds on the side of the road were like glass, the fowl floating on the surface like they’re on vacation.
I cycled past Center Line Road; I am halfway through North Dakota. It looks more and more like the west, wide swales and more arid land. I came upon a Bureau of Reclamation project and know I am truly in the West. After seeing one, I realized how much engineering there is in this seemingly wild land: not only the straight roads and long power lines, but also the ponds along the road, usually at intersections. They’ve developed tall grass and a natural look, but they’re not natural.
38 miles in I stopped for a late breakfast at Wilton. The County Line cafe was quiet mid morning. As I ate my bacon and eggs a solid guy walked in, landed at a table and ordered with a sigh. The waitress sat down and drew him out. His wife of 56 years is in the hospital with cancer. “I walk into the house and the quiet hits me. I know it hasn’t really hit me yet, but it will.” Kelly told him to come anytime he feels alone and suggested she and her children would come visit him. It was an intimate scene for a public place, but touching. I was too close to pretend I didn’t hear, so I introduced myself to the man and expressed sympathy. I didn’t ask him about tomorrow.
When I came out the weather had shifted. The wind picked up, clouds gathered, and light ran fell on my twenty miles to Bismarck. By the time I arrived at the North Dakota Heritage Center the weather lifted. I spent the afternoon interviewing Beth Campbell, Visitor Coordinator, viewing the exhibits and visiting the State Capital Building, surely the most unique in the land. Built in the 1930’s after the original capital burned, the Deco structure has no dome and isn’t even symmetrical. Imagine Rockefeller Center transported to the Prairie and used for government offices. I ran into James McPherson, AP Reporter, who gave me more background on this boom. “You have to see it to believe it. There’s nothing else like it anywhere in the country. Of course, booms, by their nature, go bust.”
I pedalede through downtown Bismarck, followed the bike trail along the Missouri River, and crossed over to Mandan. For dinner I tried Fleischkeuchle, a seasoned hamburger in a puff pastry. Once is an experience; I don’t need to order it again.