My very first night camping in a very long time was actually quite nice. The Thermarest pad held tight and I was surprisingly comfortable on it. If there was any undue noise in the park at night, my ear plugs wiped them out properly. I had started out the night on top of my Marmot sleeping bag, but temperatures dropped to something around 50F, and I crawled inside the bag to find it really comfy and warm.
A very brief rain hit us in the middle of the night, which woke me up. After securing the rain flaps, I sort of enjoyed the patter of droplets on the tent before falling back to sleep. The Nemo tent stayed 100% dry – nice. By morning it had sweated inside a little bit but not too bad.
Tiny things you decide early on. I decided that I placed my sleeping bag on the wrong side of the tent last night, because its zipper opened up into the near wall, not the center. Need to fix that for tomorrow night.
Randy seemed to take a while to get up, but then I realized I was probably overly itching to get going. He fired up his gas burner on a picnic table and fixed some tea. We again studied both the Adventure Cycling maps of the Lewis & Clark Trail and the North Dakota state roadmap, working up a destination for today.
AC advisories, plus all the discussion we’d heard from other riders, had warned us that the AC Lewis & Clark Trail on ND1804 between Williston and Parshall had become extremely dangerous for cyclists. The road itself had a thin shoulder. But the real danger had arisen from the frantic oil drilling business in this area of the state, and correspondingly from the paid-by-the-mile semi-pro (semi-amateur) truck drivers that constantly ran parts and oil to/from the rigs. Word had it that several cyclists had already been killed on this stretch, and that other cyclists simply felt lucky to have gotten through it.
We prudently set our course northward from Williston, planning on a route in the direction of Minot, and planning on finding a route south as the roads might permit. Finally it was time to pack up our stuff. The most difficult task was rolling and stuffing my sleeping bag into its tiny compression sack. Talk about 10 lbs of shit in a 5lb bag…
As we rolled away from the park, Randy called out, “You’re now officially a touring cyclist.” For less than a mile anyway. We rolled in and parked at nearby Grandma Sharon’s Family Restaurant for a tasty breakfast. Randy’s omelet was served with a smiley face made out of ham strips. I ordered scrambled eggs, ham, and pancakes, in an effort to recreate my IHOP favorite 2x2x2. The pancakes came out HUGE.
Approximately 10:05am, we finally got officially on the road. No big deal because the days are so long here. You’ve got hours and hours to ride if you want to. We took US85 north out of town, which gave us a full wide shoulder right of the rumble strip. Winds were around 10mph out of the NW and felt only to be a minor factor. We were immediately presented with long rolling hills. Much better than that, we were also presented with gorgeous prairie views that went on for miles. The 50 feet right of the shoulder was full of dense flowering weeds, purple, maroon, and lavender clovers, Queen Anne’s lace. The miles and miles of views had me grinning right away.
After 14 miles, we turned due east onto US2, and the winds were now noticeably helping us. Here I started to see sporadic fields of stunning yellow canola framed by other bright green fields. Although I was looking for them, I saw surprisingly few oil rigs up here, although there was a fair amount of related truck traffic rumbling by in both directions. I believe there are plans to build lots of rigs, however.
The riding here on US2 was an immediate challenge to me. The car lane had a white stripe on its right. To the right of that was a rumble strip, then about 8 to 12 inches of pavement, and then a drop off onto soft gravel. For about 20 miles, from US85 all the way to the town of Ray, it took a whole lot of my attention to stay centered on this narrow strip. A bit hairy, took too much concentration, and I couldn’t really watch the scenery. Randy did not seem to have much trouble with it. We both occasionally steered out into the car lane when traffic permitted.
The wake from close truck passes pushed me into the gravel at least a half dozen times, which amused Randy. The gravel really was not bad to ride in, although the rolling resistance was greatly increased.
We pulled over in Ray at a convenience store, and I grabbed a Gatorade, plus a bag of nuts and a water bottle top-off. Randy stocked up on candy bars, which he said were good for a boost in the afternoon if you were dragging.
Rolling east on US2, I continued to find the riding quite easy with the tailwind, plus a much-improved shoulder. Ten miles past Ray, we considered ducking north for a few miles to Tioga, a possible spot for the evening, but with these tailwinds, we decided to continue on to Stanley. About 10 miles out of town, a weird dragonfly-sort-of-bug perched onto the top tube of my front rack and hitched a ride with me for at least 5 more miles. I couldn’t believe he clung there with me doing 20 mph.
We arrived in Stanley around 3:40pm, and soon found the city park. To our contentment, we found probably 80% of the riders from the Williston park already in camp and set up. Before doing anything, though, Randy and I crossed the street and grabbed an arrival beer at the Two Way Bar. The bar was empty and the beer sort of expensive, but it sure tasted good going down.
Conversations with many of the riders in the park followed. Two of the guys, one from CA and one from Czechoslovakia, played soccer and then some Frisbee. Randy’s and my legs preferred to take a rest I think, so we just set up our tents and watched them for a while. A group of us then took a walk to the supermarket for dinner. I found 4 pre-made ham & cheese sandwiches, a tub of lump crabmeat with homemade cocktail sauce, ½ lb of Thompson seedless grapes, and a liter of water.
Randy, Tom Wild, Wes (from Bakersfield), Martin (from Czechoslovakia) and I all had a very nice dinner together, sharing stories and sharing food items. I sure did like all this easy camaraderie. I learned that Wes is an English professor at a university in Bakersfield. He told a really funny story about a bar in Alaska that has a guy in there that will make you a drink with a real human toe in it, a SourToe Cocktail. I bet his English classes were fun to be in. I also learned that Martin was one of the top translators in the nation able to translate classic books from English to Czech. One of his many achievements was Zen and the Art…!
After dinner, there were still hours of light left, so I took a stroll around the area. The Stanley golf course looked pretty nice, and I noticed several sets of players just starting out at 8pm or so (presumably for 9 holes). The Stanley courthouse was an impressive building, and the sheriff’s impound yard was just across the lane from it.
Randy and I then sat down to play a trial hand of cribbage. He hadn’t played in a very long time, and after our trial hand decided he didn’t really care for the game very much. I offered to play gin rummy or “Go Fish” but Randy told me that cards weren’t really to his liking.
The sun finally set around 10pm – still just amazing to me – and the sky remained bright until about 10:30pm. In all my walking around here, I ran into a fair number of mosquitoes, and got bit, but I decided that they really weren’t very aggressive, and the bites did not seem to itch for very long. As I finally lay down, I noted that the Amtrak train runs adjacent to the park, along with long drawn out train whistles. Back in go the earplugs.
- Miles ridden today: 74
- Cumulative miles this tour: 81