Cormorant, Minnesota to Fargo, North Dakota: (72kms)
We awoke this morning to steady rain. Everything was wet, the tent, the grass, the dripping trees. It was one of those mornings you’d rather just roll over and go back to sleep. There was no chance of staying however, the wind would be favourable and most of the ride today was steadily downhill to the Red River valley that separated Minnesota from North Dakota.
No-one enjoys riding in the rain, least of all us, but you just have to steel yourself and just get wet. We’d only had to ride twice in the rain so far, so we figured we were due anyway.
Becky had been up for a while and had made coffee and pancakes, she’s a champion, just what we needed. With Dan already up as well, and mostly packed, we hung out in the garage drying our tents and waiting for a break in the rain. After about an hour, it didn’t look like letting up. Becky gave us directions for getting back on the highway without having to go back through Cormorant and we said a bittersweet goodbye and reluctantly pushed our bikes up to the top of the hill. Dan headed off first, making his way to Fergus Falls today, and we made our way around Lake Ida to join back up with the 4.
Yesterday had been a blast and we had had a great time, but none more so than Becky. She revelled in having new people to entertain and interact with, complete strangers on a mission and very appreciative of her hospitality and spirit. We’ll remain in contact, I’m pretty sure of that.
Highway 4 straightened up after Middle Cormorant Lake and as we came down off a ridge we could see the arrow-straight road trail off into the rain-sodden distance. The rain stayed constant and the road had formed some rather large puddles that now showered all over us every time a truck passed. The spray that exploded into our faces from their wheels temporarily blinded us until they were up the road a bit. Not only were we now completely soaked, but it was also getting a bit scary too.
The worst thing about getting wet on the ride, is getting cold. Every time we stopped, we could feel our body temperatures falling, not a good sign. As it was essentially a downhill run without a headwind for a change, we decided to just keep cycling for as far as we could without a break, so that we wouldn’t get too cold. Our usual breaks are at about every 8kms, but this time we kept pushing and pushing, lifting our butts off the seats on the downhill runs and rolling as much as we could. Eventually, we rode 22kms to reach the small siding of Downer, just a crossroads junction really. We stopped, cold and a bit hungry, but decided to keep going and not cool down.
After crossing the Interstate, the road flattened out and we lost our downhill momentum. The road surface also deteriorated and the ride into Fargo would become a bit of a slog. We crossed into the tiny town of Sabin and stopped at the C-Store. The town was partially flooded and mud and water covered the streets. I went into the store, dripping water and tracking mud everywhere. The woman in the store gave me a nasty look when I apologised, but there were no mats to wipe my feet, she just ushered me in and scowled. Inside it was warm, I could’ve stayed there all day as my body began to thaw out. We got some hot coffee to warm us up and went outside to drink them. The cold enveloped us once more. Sharyn checked out the map on Google and we made a plan to get into Fargo, avoiding the busier roads.
As we headed out of Sabin, the wind turned on us and was now in our faces. I guess we’d been lucky to have had such a long downhill run, so now it was back to reality. The ACA route bypasses Fargo to the south, but we needed to plan a route into the city as we’d decided to take a few days off before attempting the notorious North Dakota plains.
The twin cities of Fargo and Moorhead straddle the Red River, Moorhead is part of Minnesota and Fargo is in North Dakota. It was the southern suburbs of Moorhead that we hit first. We followed a series of smaller streets, bike paths and footpaths as Google led us through a park, across a small pedestrian bridge and into North Dakota. From there we headed directly west to the Super 8 hotel on the edge of town next to the Interstate in Westgate.
Getting a room proved difficult as we hadn’t booked through Wyndham (we became members a while ago), but Sharyn got it sorted out, without much help from the young girl at the desk. In the meantime, I minded the bikes, still dripping wet and beginning to shiver – a bad sign.
One of the good things about Super 8 is that they allow you to keep your bikes in the room, even though they were dripping wet as well. Our room would certainly smell pretty bad by the time we left!
As mentioned, we booked three nights here and it was a good chance to take a break, look around and get our bikes serviced before tackling the windswept plains of North Dakota and Eastern Montana. Once we were cleaned up and rested, we headed over to the Crooked Pint Alehouse, a ten minute walk away. A few craft beers (of which they had many on tap) and something to eat, and somehow, we felt like real people again.
It’s not easy to ride a full day in the rain, knowing you can’t stop till you get to your destination. It takes you well out of your comfort zone and is more of a mental exercise in strength than anything else. Pushing the cold and wet out of your mind is no easy task, you have to convince yourself that it’s just another day, another ride, another place along the way. Now, sitting here drinking craft beers and joking with the bar staff, it seems like a long time ago, a vague memory of something endured. Maybe you have to be like goldfish to do this, soon forgetting what lies behind you and constantly moving forward. All I know is we endured, and we were pretty happy with ourselves, but we’d need to keep enduring because there’d be more days like this ahead of us.
Fargo was a nice place, it had a city fair happening over two days and the innermost streets were closed to traffic. All kinds of arts and crafts were for sale and the food stalls were roaring. I tried a corn dog, a cornmeal battered hotdog, that in truth, I can’t recommend!
We managed to get our bikes serviced at the Great Northern Bicycle shop, a place worth a visit for any cyclist. It has moved into and converted the old railway station, certainly a sight to see in Fargo. They fixed our bikes, Sharyn got new brake pads and I got new peddles. We were worried about the spokes after the condition of many of the roads we had ridden, but the guy checked them out and said they were fine. So now, we were ready to tackle North Dakota.