The earplugs worked great. I sort of heard the train whistles last night but wasn’t bothered at all by them. Randy mentioned that they were pretty bad.
Many of the cyclists camping around us were up very early and bustling about, packing up tents and getting ready for the road. Randy and I were much more leisurely, and started simply by boiling up some water and making some tea, oatmeal, and Cream of Wheat, and kicking back. I found my instant Cream of Wheat not bad, but sort of gruel-like, even with sugar added. Needed butter, salt, something to make it more savory.
Around 7am, Tom Wild came over and stated a wish that his riding group were a little more laid back. Instead they preferred to get out on the road very early, and thus get the riding over early in the day. A consensus seemed to have been reached at least.
There was an RV park across the street south of us, and it included a bathroom and shower. I walked down there and took advantage of it – and it felt good. Once again, my camping inexperience showed, in that I forgot to take shower shoes with me. Hope I don’t get athlete’s foot or anything.
I fussed with my gear but was already starting to get better at packing up. The other cyclists told me I would quickly get accustomed to it. Ready a bit before Randy, I rode north about a half mile to examine the riding condition of old US2. No good, no shoulder there. We considered heading south on ND8 today, but it also appeared to have very little shoulder, some traffic, and it promised to go right back into the middle of oil boom mania. Might as well stay on US2 – the riding there was quite good yesterday.
Winds were from the SSW, helping us again. The shoulder came and went, but it was really a nice roll. As I rode, I noticed that occasionally I would be accosted by some kind of bird who would squawk and hover above me and divebomb me while I rode. I learned later that these are called kingbirds around here (some kind of flycatcher) and were protecting nearby nesting grounds. They sure acted pissed off, which always seemed to increase my adrenaline and therefore my speed by 1-2 mph.
At Berthold, ND we vectored off US2 and rolled through the small town. At the Tumbleweed Café, we met up with Tom and several other cyclists just finishing their lunch and rolling out. Amazing how you can meet up with fellow touring cyclists like that. Tom and his group were likely heading through Minot today and continuing to follow the ACA Northern Tier route, so we said our goodbyes to them (again).
Incidentally: Be sure to check out Tom’s cross country blog at http://www.crazyguyonabike.com
Lunch at the café was not too bad – cheeseburger, fries, and lemonade. After lunch, I decided to mail my Specialized riding shoes back home. I had shipped them with my bike prior to purchasing the Keen SPD shoes (which I had been wearing), and had finally proclaimed the Keen shoes OK and the Specialized shoes ballast. I also decided to send back 2 cotton tee shirts, which were relatively heavy and not very functional. The postmaster in Berthold was extremely friendly, selecting out a USPS box for me, then taping it up himself for me. About $10.
Randy and I decided to see what county road 10 looked like in to Minot (I think the AC Northern Tier maps suggest it), but soon found that it had been recently chip-sealed. Not a good option. While we considered it, though, I caught sight of a nearby golf course that had bare raked dirt for greens. Or browns. Wow! I took a picture of one because I knew Linda would really enjoy seeing that.
Back on US2, we rolled eastward. More beautiful canola fields, flax fields, and brilliant green wheat fields – I just loved it. Everything seemed so vibrant, so green, so alive. As we approached Minot, Randy and I both noticed a pronounced change in the landscape, characterized by more hills and more trees, particularly pine trees.
We entered Minot from the south up hilly business route 83. We rode for quite a while and stopped at a convenience store to get a couple of Cokes and some bearings on the map. My first stop in town was Val’s Cyclery, a shop we’d noted advertised on a billboard outside of town. I needed some rear derailleur tuning, and I also had an annoying squeak in the front end of my frame. Seems like I got the squeak with every pedal stroke, but it wasn’t related to my crank or pedals, because I could actually make the bike squeak simply by leaning sideways on it. My hunch was one of my “tribal African wife” rings went missing during re-assembly.
Unfortunately, the shop told me they were swamped and couldn’t look at it for 2 hours, even though they expressed a real desire to serve touring cyclists as a first priority. I decided to wait it out in the shop. Wes came by, and he and Randy soon took off to explore camping options. Martin also came by for some minor repairs.
While I waited and roamed around the shop, the mechanic would occasionally come out and talk at length, at first proclaiming how busy they were, and then talking about everything else possible, life in Minot, politics, you name it. A very friendly guy. I wasn’t sure whether to engage him in banter, or tell him to get on to looking at my bike (please). In the end, it was a lot of fun to talk with him, and I eventually realized he was waiting on a colleague to work on my bike. He mentioned that a nearby city park was really nice but they prohibited camping, BUT that small groups of touring cyclists very often discretely camp over there anyway without issue.
His older colleague finally returned, adjusted the derailleur, and then also fixed the front-end squeak. My hunch had been correct – one ring had been omitted from the re-assembly and the bearings were not being properly compressed. I took the bike for a trial ride up the street, and the mechanic came outside to attend to me. The bike rode and shifted great, no squeak. He said, “You know, it sure is a joy to work on your Surly. It’s like a carpenter who works in pine all the time suddenly being handed a piece of oak.”
While paying the invoice, I asked the first mechanic whether the bar across and down the street, named TJ’s, would be good for a cold beer, even if I went in there dressed in bicycle clothes. He said, with a stammer, “Well, no, um…it’s not really that kind of place.” My eyes questioned him and he finally blurted out, “Man, it’s homosexual in there!” He and I and several other customers got quite a laugh out of his bluntness.
Randy returned. He and Wes had found a place across town to camp, but it sounded like it was a crowded RV park and they wanted $10 for it. We decided we’d go check out the nearby park, but after dinner.
On the way to the bike shop we’d passed a cool-looking Irish pub called Ebeneezer’s Eatery and Irish Pub. Inside we found great atmosphere, sort of surly waitress service, and a nice corner table from which to keep an eye on our bikes leaned up outside. My 2 Newcastle Brown Ales plus a shared plate of fried gizzards was a wonderful appetizer, and Randy and I really enjoyed the post-ride repose. For dinner, I had a delicious slice of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and corn, along with a rich brown gravy. Comfort food all the way for a growing appetite.
About a half mile away we found the sign for Roosevelt Park and Zoo, entered, then spun around the paths checking out the place. It is a very beautiful and well kept park with a large bridge that arcs its way across a river to the zoo. We eventually found a secluded wooded area, albeit a low one out of all the breezes, parked our bikes, and then just sat out on the picnic tables for ½ hour waiting to see if anyone was going to boot us out. I wondered if this was going to qualify as ‘stealth camping.’
Soon, a park employee rolled by on a mountain bike and stopped. He proceeded to talk to us at length, maybe another ½ hour. This very friendly fellow didn’t seem to have a long attention span and he flitted from topic to topic quickly. He finally asked if we were planning to camp, and I cautiously replied, “Well, maybe.” He replied, “Sure, no problem. A group of cyclists just stayed here last week, but they stayed over there (pointing) where the breezes are a lot better.” He pointed to an open area of the park with pavilions, and mentioned that unfortunately the restrooms would get locked at 6pm.
Great! Randy and I moved our bikes and gear over to the pavilion, then decided to wait still another couple hours before setting up. The breezes and evening weather here were just excellent. Randy had picked up a copy of Zen and the Art and was already diving into it. I tried reading some as well, but eventually started roaming around the park. A nice gaggle of Canadian geese was patrolling the area and I worked up a few photos of them. Evening sounds from the zoo were enchanting, dominated by howler monkeys, which immediately brought back fond memories of both Belize and Thailand. I found a very nice floating deck out over the river and spent 20 minutes there just meditating and reading.
We finally set up by 9pm right next to one of the pavilions. Randy at first suggested that we might set up on the concrete floor of the pavilion itself, for a solid shelter from potential rain, but that didn’t sound very comfortable to me – and where would the tent stakes go? We both locked our bikes up there, however.
At dusk, around 10:15pm, Wes and Martin showed up with a can of burner gas they’d purchased for Randy. I think they were planning to check out the park for possible camping, too. Not a minute after I explained that we’d received permission from a ranger, a different ranger showed up. Randy had spoken to this guy earlier in the evening and so he too already knew that we were planning to camp. But despite that, and despite our letting him know of the earlier ranger’s permission, he informed us in an official tone that camping was not permitted in this park. Still, I guess he had some compassion for us lying there in our sleeping bags in the dark, and told us that, “since your tents are already set up, it’s OK to spend the night and move out first thing tomorrow morning.” Cool. That’s all we want to do.
Later, Randy decided that some citizen had likely nitpicked about our camping, and the ranger felt compelled to take action.
- Miles ridden today: 62
- Cumulative miles this tour: 143