Dead Straight and Seriously Shadeless
Fargo to Enderlin, North Dakota: (95kms)
Our stay in Fargo has allowed us to recharge our batteries and have our bikes checked for the long haul over to the Rockies. These rests we allow ourselves also freshen us up mentally, and it was with a feeling of renewed enthusiasm that we departed this morning, heading south down a bike path adjacent to University Drive and out across the Wild Rice River.
A south-east wind kept us honest but that all changed when we reached 100th Avenue South and it blew in our favour. The going was easy enough, as we passed below Horace and headed west.
We turned south once more onto 165th Avenue and found the wind in our faces again. Some unfinished roadworks meant we had to negotiate a two-mile section of deeply rutted dirt track that had the dust from passing cars blown all over us. It was slow going!
We reached Kindred, our destination for the day before lunch and found a roadhouse and called in for something to eat. It was Sunday and there were plenty of locals who had obviously just got out of church and were enjoying a bite to eat together. Curious, they quickly engaged the two new strangers and wanted to know all about us.
Having not had too many helpful winds lately, we decided to forgo Kindred and make the most of it. Just a mile out of the tiny town, the road turns west again, and, helped along with a healthy tailwind we motored off down the road towards Enderlin, which we originally thought would be too far for us in one day.
Highway 46 is a dead-straight stretch of tarmac which stretches 200kms across North Dakota, making it the longest stretch of straight road in North America! Fortunately, it’s not a busy road because the shoulder varies from small to non-existent!
As promised though, 46 is flat as a tack, and although the laser-like road was fast becoming a bit monotonous, the area saw some of the usual corn and soy fields give way to sunflowers. This meant some nice photo opportunities along the way, with the vast blue sky sitting perfectly above the expanse of yellow fields.
By the time we finally reached Enderlin, we had cycled 95kms, our longest day yet on this trip. We were more shattered than elated though as we tried to find something cold to drink and the community park to spend the night. Enderlin, like so many other small towns along our way, has succumbed to hard times, and many of its small shops and businesses have closed down.
After riding around for a while finding nothing open (as I mentioned, it was Sunday), we stumbled across a gas station. The ladies in the Shop-N-Fuel were very nice and we hung around there for a while in the shade. It was too early to set up the tent, besides, there were a number of young guys in hotted-up cars making a lot of noise and probably looking for some trouble to entertain them on a slow weekend in the Boondocks. We figured it would be far safer for us to set up the tent at dusk, hopefully these boys would be bored by then and gone home.
We hung around for a couple of hours, getting something for dinner and chatting with one of the local policemen, who we informed we’d be in the park tonight. He didn’t seem too bothered and said he’d let the night duty officer know we’d be there.
Like many of the ones we’d stayed in, Baxter Park was a small affair and acted as a place to erect a Veteran’s Memorial. It would be the focus of events in town over the year. Unfortunately, Enderlin is situated around a row of massive grain silos and the railway yards that help to empty them. Baxter Park sits right next to the train line and we are at the beginning of the harvest season. That means, as in Lowden, Ohio, the trains would run all night, blowing their whistles (which are more like air raid sirens) constantly. For us, that meant next to no sleep whatsoever. We were camped in the shelter shed and slept on the tables as we had been doing. It was way too hot to get in the tent tonight. When the trains weren’t running, the local hotted-up car fraternity revved their engines and laid rubber all up and down the streets. One guy in particular took delight in roaring up and down the dirt track about 20m away alongside the tracks and spinning out in the dust. With the mosquitoes from the nearby creek settling in, it was going to be a long, long, long night!!!
Enderlin to Marion, North Dakota: (63kms)
Indeed, it was a long night! We decamped, both with little sleep, still shattered from yesterday’s ride. Today would be a challenge.
As the next place on the ACA route was over 130kms away, Sharyn had done some Googling and rang the local bar in a tiny place called Marion. It was about halfway to Gackle and about 8kms off the route. They had told her they had a small park and we were welcome to come and stay. The barmaid sounded as though she was acting with some authority, but I suspect that in a small town like that, the barmaid does hold a fair bit of sway! They always did where we come from!!
On our way out of town, we stopped at City View Fuel for a coffee and something to eat. We’d need plenty of fuel for our bodies as the wind today had turned around and was blowing typically north-west. Today also marked the end of the so-called flat roads of North Dakota. With our lack of sleep from last night, the effort of pushing up the numerous hills was taking its toll earlier than usual.
Before now, the wind would be occasionally negated by trees or buildings, but out here on the plains, there was nothing to break it up and we found ourselves pushing all the way. Pushing without rolling means your bum is on the seat constantly and gets sorer faster. This is not what you want when you have all day to spend in the saddle, and staying in it was becoming more and more painful.
About halfway to Marion, we passed into a large valley. A long, steep downhill was nice for a change, but we both knew what came next. We rolled all the way to the bottom, past Little Yellowstone Campground and began our ascent of the other side. The wind roaring through the valley floor was fierce and right into our faces as the road curved around. It was a tough push, but once we got to the foot of the climb, the valley wall blocked the worst of it and we were thankful for the shelter it gave us. We ground our way to the top and back into the wind we went.
Around lunchtime, we came to the junction of the 46 and North Dakota Highway 1. At the corner was another City View Fuel, not so well named as it was the only building in sight, and we could see for miles in every direction! It was a welcome sight though and we stopped and rested for an hour. Cold drinks and hot meals on a day like today are priceless. Going back out onto the highway would be hard, we watched the flag outside flapping madly in the westerly wind, if anything, it seemed to be getting stronger. In the end, we didn’t want to stop here tonight and pitch the tent at the back of the gas station, the wind would cause us grief all night. We finished our drinks, bought some snacks, saddled up and got back on the job.
By the time we reached the turn-off for Marion, we were both pretty much spent. We could see the town in the distance and it was downhill and with the wind at our backs for a change. We took our time, relishing the assistance the wind gave us, a rarity nowadays, we barely pedalled at all.
After about 7 or 8kms, we turned into town and its small main street. We passed by the community park and the Marion Community Cafe and pulled up alongside the Duck Inn Lounge, a beer was in order! We tied off the bikes and went in. There were only about 3 people inside at the small bar. We pulled up a stool each and introduced ourselves to the barmaid who we’d talked to last night. This triggered a conversation with the rest of the patrons in the bar. The two older men sitting next to us were really intrigued by our trip and wanted to know everything. So, not needing to pitch the tent yet, we sat and talked with them. Both Veterans, they were soon buying us beers, one of them even went home and got us some freshly made beef jerky that he has specially done by the butcher in a town miles away!
Once again, the hospitality of smalltown America had made us forget about the day’s hardships and reminded us of why we’re out here doing this. With some food in our stomachs and a couple of beers to take away, we retired to the park and set up the tent. That familiar sound of lawnmowers prevented an early night’s sleep and the mozzies were out in force, but nothing would stop us drifting into a sound sleep tonight.