I was expecting the roads in Minnesota to be better than in North Dakota but they got noticeably worse. Lauren’s theory is that we are on more minor roads in MN whereas we were on the major (only) roads in ND. But it just seems to be lack of maintenance. And you cannot blame it on the cold and weather. All of the states we have been through have cold weather and they seem to be able to provide relatively smooth black top. The upside is that Wisconsin roads, where we are headed tomorrow, are supposed to be worse.
Anyway, we are chilling today, doing laundry, cleaning water bottles (there is something black growing in the bottom of one of mine….), doing some bike maintenance and eating at restaurants that do not have burgers on the menu or ‘grill’ in the name. Last night we had Vietnamese (VERY good) and tonight it may be Mexican or Italian.
I mentioned in other blogs that I would tell you about the people that we have met along the way and helped us. We have met some great people, usually by chance. The logo on our shirts usually starts a conversation in a restaurant, gas station, truck stop or grocery store.
- A funny story is when we were coming down the pass into Tiger, WA. There was construction on the road and the crew would not let us ride our bikes through (something to do with liability). Larry the Crew Chief put the bikes in the back of his truck and I rode in the front with him, while Lauren went in the pilot van with Cheryl. They drove us through a couple of miles of construction and Lauren emerged from the van with enough sugar to last a week. Cheryl had all the snacks for the entire crew!
- When my luggage rack broke the first time (in the middle of Montana), Lauren was ahead on the road and had all the tools. So, I flagged down a truck to ask her to come back. The first truck went past, slowed and then turned around, then gave me a ride to catch her up. Two guys, both called Jake, took me a mile down the road and flagged Lauren down. Easy to do and saved us a ton of aggravation.
- We also met several riders going west. All ask the same questions: where did you start? where did you stay last night? where are you going? We have met riders who started in Bangor, Maine; Queens, NY; Philadelphia, PA; and Baltimore, MD. After a while, these conversations start to seem as normal as commenting that you have just been to the grocery store.
- Between Jordan and Circle, MT, the road had literally been torn up for the last three years; about 14 miles was dirt and another 20 miles was corrugated. Adventure Cycling (who provide the routes) advised riders to hitch a ride. After about 15 minutes at a gas station in Jordan on a Sunday morning, we got a ride from Dave who was on his way to Williston, ND (he works in the oil fields) and had just come back from a rodeo. He was a professional rodeo rider for about 15 years and told us all about his injuries; it was faster to name the bones he had not broken!
- We also met eight-year-old Cooper and his mom when we stopped at their house for water on the road. (We have done this a few times; there are some long stretches between towns out west). We got iced water and he was very excited to show us his buckle he had won at a rodeo (they start ‘em young out here) roping dummy calves. In their living room, there were four championship saddles his father had won. Cooper wanted to see the bikes and I think if his mom had let him, he would have started riding with us.
- We also met 21-month-old Oakley and her parents when we knocked on their door for water. Her dad insisted we come in the house to cool off and then filled our bottles with ice and water using the filtered water from the fridge. “Oh, you are getting the good stuff!” Oakley’s mom told us with a smile – no mere tap water for us! If this sounds like we are always short of water, not true. But when it is hot, it is Sunday afternoon (and everything is closed and the towns are 30+ miles apart), we like to fill up before we get too low.
- At a campsite in Nelson, MN, Jeff, one of the RV residents came over to introduce himself and see what we were doing. He asked if we drank coffee and said he was an early riser and always had a pot on. The next morning, he left a large Thermos of coffee on our camp table before we even got up. I had the whole pot to myself. :-)
- We had a long, hot ride one day from Grass Range to Sand Springs, MT. There was one small town between the two, rolling hills and continual sun. I was wiped out. There is a small convenience store and post office in Sand Spring (where we could camp) managed by Kimberley. She had traveled the world but came back to help her aging parents who still lived on the family ranch across the road from the store (the family originally settled the land in the late 1890s). It was so hot outside that Kimberley let us sleep in the store overnight with the AC on; we literally slept in a post office!
- We have also had three people buy us lunch after they hear what we are doing and the fact we are raising money for charity. And one elderly couple said a prayer for our ride, hoping for us to be safe, for cool weather and favourable winds.
But the prize for most helpful and going beyond has to go to Lisa, the manager of The Knickerbocker Liquor Locker in Hickson, ND, just about the only place open for lunch on a Sunday afternoon. One of our party (not me…) managed to take her iPhone but leave the charger in the wall when we left; this was our main charger for iPhones and Macbook. Five miles down the road, we realized she had left it, and we called the bar. Lisa had the owner of the bar drive it out to us to save us having to bike back. Granted, five miles in a truck at 60 miles an hour is a bit different from five miles on a loaded bike in the wind. But this really was above and beyond.
At the end of the day, a ride like this shows you that people are fundamentally nice and kind and helpful and it really does not matter who you vote for, where you live, how much money you have, or if you think Ford or Chevy builds a better truck. Going into a trip like this you have to have the attitude that people are good and will provide help if needed – and they are and they will.