Day 51: The day we Kamped

Day 51, 8/1, Bay City, MI to Wadhams, MI: 118.7 miles, 2,008 ft elevation gain, 12.8 mph average speed.
Trip totals: 3,230.5 miles (73.4 mile daily average), 129,114 ft elevation gain, 12.5 mph overall average speed.

One day behind schedule.

When you’re bike touring, hotels and motels are fantastic in the evening but less great in the morning. In the evening you’re spoiled by electricity, showers, TV, internet, a refrigerator, and sometimes even an indoor pool! But then these luxuries keep you up way later than your 10:00p bedtime and then the alarm goes off way too early in the morning.

We woke up, reluctantly, around 5:45 this morning. We laid around for a while before we pulled ourselves out of bed, and then we went straight to the hotel’s breakfast, which was surprisingly delicious, especially because Dani has taken to toting her favorite salsa around with her everywhere she goes. After breakfast we threw all of our bags on our bikes and headed out the door. Sounds simple, but somehow close to two hours passed between waking up and starting the day’s ride.

We then promptly got lost navigating our way back to the ACA route. It was my fault. I’m just not used to cities with multiple bike paths. I figured that any green line I saw on my Google maps app was the one we were supposed to be on. It wasn’t.

In any case, we didn’t really get lost as much as took the scenic route through the industrial part of the city before we managed to find the route again. The first half of the morning was mostly southerly with a few short jaunts east. The ACA route/US Bike Route 20 was a little wacky again today, taking us southeast for a while, northeast for a while, and then back southeast again before finally turning primarily eastward.

  

I think the reason for that detour southwards was that the powers that be wanted us to visit Frankenmuth. Frankenmuth is a lovely little Bavarian-themed tourist town that looks like it was plucked straight out of Germany (says a guy who’s never actually been to Germany). We stopped at the Frankenmuth Kaffee Haus on the main street for second breakfast and a mid-morning pick-me-up. I had coffee and a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, and Dani had a cinnamon roll and an amazing drink called the “Reese’s Revenge,” which included espresso, whole milk, peanut butter, Giardelli chocolate syrup, and whipped cream. The people working here were incredibly friendly, and came over to chat with us about our trip and New York, and to offer Dani a fresh round of whipped cream for her drink.

   

  

  

  

  
 
After Frankenmuth, we headed back northeast, enjoying a direct tailwind and speeding through Vassar and to Otter Lake, where we met Dan and Tom, two gentlemen who were touring around Michigan for a few days. Tom was a tour leader for Bike Centennial, the cross-country trip in 1976 that begot the Adventure Cycling Association, and when he retired at 65, he biked a loop around the U.S., then up through Canada to Alaska. This man’s got at least 39 years of bike touring under his belt, and he told us that he won’t let his age get him down. 

We keep meeting people in their 40s and 50s who say things like, “if only I were younger, then I’d do a trip like you guys, but I’m too old now.” Dan and Tom, and all of the other 65+ folks we’ve met on this trip (which is the majority of other bike tourists we’ve met, by the way), go to show that this perception isn’t necessarily accurate. Cycling is a low-impact activity with tremendous health benefits. You don’t have to be young or particularly fit to do it; it keeps you young and gets you fit. 

  
All along the trip today, we saw broken branches and other debris strewn along and next to the road. We also learned that the power went out in all of the small towns surrounding Bay City and saw lots of utility trucks working on power lines. We didn’t really need any convincing that staying in a hotel last night was the right decision, but it did make us grateful that we made the right decision.

From Otter Lake, we pedaled to North Branch, where we bought cold drinks at a gas station next to the library and then sat on a bench outside the library to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on pretzel buns. The library was closed due to power issues (from the storm), and a veritable parade of people drove up and started walking toward the door only to stop short in surprise and walk confusedly away. It was nice to see that the public library in this small town gets such regular use.

The wind was on our side after lunch and we cruised down the road, averaging 18-19 mph for an hour and a half until it was time to turn south again, and head toward Yale. A few miles away from Yale, we were sprinkled on for less than 10 minutes. I feel almost sinful for how fortunate we’ve been with weather this trip. Our luck is bound to change eventually, but this was the second time in 52 days that we’ve felt raindrops while riding our bikes. And both times have been light sprinkles for just a few minutes.

  
By the time we made it to Yale, the drizzle had stopped completely. We quickly ran into the grocery store to pick up canned soup for dinner (it was a long day, and we didn’t have energy for anything more complicated), orange juice, and some clearance-priced chocolate milk, which turned out to be above average.

Then we packed up the groceries and pushed on. We were feeling pretty good after 95 miles, but we still had 20 more miles to make it to our campground. Round about mile 108, our energy levels tanked. It was also around this time that we realized that the first campground on the map didn’t accept tent campers, and we had an extra three miles to bike. Three miles has never seemed like such an insurmountable task. And why would a campground not allow tent campers? Is there really that much money in seasonal RV campers that you can turn your nose up at a few bucks every now and again at a tent? I guess so.

Anyway, we pushed through our jelly legs to make it to the campground that would let us sleep there. Oh. Excuse me. Kampground. That’s right. We spent the night at a KOA. And not just any KOA, but a KOA resort. That means there was a pool, sports courts, an exercise room, a big inflated rubber jumpy thing for kids, and several different levels of fanciness for RV campsites. What it meant for us is that they wanted us to pay $34 to sleep on the ground in a big, treeless field next to some mosquito breeding grounds wetlands on the outskirts of the resort. At least we were able to talk them into giving us a $5 discount.

  
We set up our tent and showered, and then it was time to heat up our soup and eat. But holy moly those mosquitoes. They weren’t at all bothered by our bug spray or our long-sleeve shirts. They kept on snacking away. We eventually put on our rain coats and pants, and that kept them mostly at bay. A few of the more persistent buggers kept trying to bite Dani in the eyeball, though.

We gulped down our soup, washed up, brushed teeth, and fled to the sanctuary of our tent as soon as possible. Tomorrow’s another long day, but it’s the day we finally become international touring cyclists! Canada!

Day 49: The day of the eagle

Day 49, 8/1, Traverse City, MI to Sunrise Lake State Forest Campground, LeRoy, MI: 90.8 miles, 3,376 ft elevation gain, 12.6 mph average speed.
Trip totals: 3,022.9 miles (72 mile daily average), 125,686 ft elevation gain, 12.5 mph overall average speed.

One day behind schedule.

It’s August! Only two weeks before the tour ends! I can’t believe we’re this close to being done, but every time I think about being almost done, I remember that we still have close to (or just over) 1,000 miles left to ride. But just for fun, here are a few facts about July: We rode on 25 out of 31 days in July, including 25 out of the last 26. We climbed 67,310 ft (according to Ride with GPS, so less than that in real life), and rode 2,041 miles for an average of 81.6 miles per day. Our longest day was 129.2 miles, and our shortest day was 46.6 miles.

Back to today. So, a beer here or there to relax after a long day of riding is well and good, but from here on out, I think we’ll keep it to one. I can’t drink like I have nothing going on the next day and then get up and ride 100 miles. I groggily slapped at my phone when the alarm went off at 7:30, and sleepily started putting all of our stuff together. Pauly made us promise to wake him up before we left so we could all go to breakfast together, so we did. But when we went outside to put our bags back on our bikes I realized that a) I didn’t know where my wallet was and b) I had yet another flat rear tire. Dani quickly found my wallet for me, but I still had to change the tire.

I took the tire off the rim to try to figure out why my tire is going flat every couple of days. I noticed that one of the tire boots I used to cover the gash that I picked up on I-94 way back in North Dakota was chewed through.  It seems like the pressure of riding somehow causes the gash to expand and contract, chewing through whatever is in it’s way, be it tire boot or inner tube. I think that it might be time for me to get a new rear tire, but we’re so close to home. I decided to try a trick that I learned yesterday from the guys at the bike shop. They told me that if you folded a dollar bill over twice, you could put it in your tire and it would be as strong or stronger than a tire boot. Apparently Uncle Sam makes his money to last. I’m trying it out, and we’ll see how long it lasts!

After I got the tire inflated again, we headed out to breakfast. Pauly took us to an amazing little cafe called The Blue Heron. Oh my.  This was probably the best restaurant breakfast we’ve had this trip. We both got chorizo bowls, which came with homemade chorizo, black beans, peppers, sharp white cheddar, two eggs, and amazing homemade bread. Holy freaking moly. What a meal!

   
    By the time we were finishing up breakfast, bike shops were starting to open around town, and I stepped outside to try to find a replacement tire. It turns out that not all bike shops are as well stocked as Dakota Cyclery in Medora. No one had the tires I need. I guess I’m going to be relying on the power of the dollar for the last two weeks of the trip.

We got on the road a little after 9:30, which is the latest we’ve started in a while. We still hoped to pull a 115-mile day, but that was only going to be possible with a little luck and a lot of determination. We started the morning riding through Interlochen (our planned destination yesterday), and it was beautiful.  There were giant trees lining the road, lending a sort of enchanted storybook forest feel to the ride.There’s a renowned arts academy there, and everything was pristinely maintained. It was a wonderfully pleasant way to start the day. The riding was easy, the roads were smooth and had wide shoulders, and the shade from those giant fairyland trees kept us cool and happy.

Around 30 miles into the day, we had ridden away from those wonderful shady trees and into corn fields. We pulled into a BP station in Mesick, MI, and were excited to see another touring cyclist at the gas station getting ready to pull out. His name was Richard, and he was touring alone on a road bike with a stuff sack on a low-capacity rear rack and a rucksack, as he called it, on his back. We heard a lot about Richard from Steph and Tom, and he’s quite the interesting guy. We ran into him again, but he left pretty soon after we showed up in Mesick.

   

      

The other event of note from this break was my invention of one of the most delicious snacks I’ve ever had. A piece of fudge (I think peanut butter is ideal, but all flavors work) sandwiched between a couple of salt and vinegar potato chips. You should double up on the potato chips to get the right ratio of salty to sweet. TOBIFAS for short, Ted Olds’ Brilliant Idea for a Snack is the perfect midday energy boost on a tour. Interested sponsors should email me. Ha!

As we were pulling out, we noticed this homemade dog carrier with five hunting dogs’ heads comically hanging out of the windows on all sides of the contraption. 

 After our break, we turned south onto State Route 37. It sucked. Lots of traffic, a small shoulder, and that persistent southwestern wind. Grumble grumble. The lone bright spot of this stretch was seeing an eagle soaring over the roadway. It swooped down in a half-dive right over our heads before pulling up and flying back into the trees.

Sixty miles into the day, the heavens opened, the sun shone down, angels sang, and we turned east. The first three of those events may have been entirely in my head, but boy was I excited. From here until Canada, we’ll be following US Bike Route 20, and we’ll be going east. As we rode down the semi-decent road, I savoured the lack of wind in my face and the ease with which I spun my pedals in the top half of my gearing.

  

Shortly after we turned east, we were passed (politely) by an older pickup truck. We rode on for a minute or two and then noticed that the truck had stopped in the middle of the road a few hundred yards ahead of us. We exchanged looks and slowly continued forward, wondering what was happening. As we got close, the occupants started gesturing vigorously toward a tree on the side of the road. It was another eagle! This one was perched majestically near the top of a pine tree, staring down at us without a concern in the world. We stayed and watched him until he flew away.

   
 A few easy miles (I love it when I can use that adjective) later we rolled into Luther, where we stopped at a park near the beginning of town and ate tuna, cheese, and triscuits; fruit; and oreos for lunch. Then we continued on to LeRoy, and except for a brief stint heading south again, the miles just fell away.

After a cold drink pit stop (incidentally, Arctic  Cherry Gatorade is not very good), we headed out of town, the wrong way, which we discovered after we climbed a hill. We turned around and headed back to the route, and we heard a shout as we were passing the town restaurant. It was Richard! We swung in to say hi, and he told us that he was staying at the state forest campground a few miles down the road. We were planning on trying to go about twenty miles further, but then we discovered that those campsites were charging upwards of $30, so we decided to stay at the $13 dollar state forest campground as well.

We made it to the campground and set up camp, then Richard arrived about 10 minutes later and accepted our offer to share our site with us. Sunrise Lake State Forest has a truly primitive campground. The only amenities are pit toilets and a water pump. But who needs a shower with a lovely lake across the road? We walked down to the lake, sat down in the shallows, and washed up the best we could. I might have been on the receiving end of a few looks as I was scrubbing underneath my shorts, with soap suds coming through the fabric, but the end justified the means.

Back at camp we started to get to know Richard, who was in some ways the third and most memorable eagle of the day. I’ve been avoiding describing him up until now because I don’t really know how. He is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. He is an older gentleman in his late-60s and decided to do this tour “on a whim.” He is earnest and friendly, a man you immediately trust. He is retired military, and although we never learned exactly what he did, some things he said (like “I just did what my elected officials told me to do”) make us think he held a pretty high rank. When we asked him about the places he toured in the military, he listed a half dozen countries in Africa, several more in Asia, pretty much all the European countries, and “you name it, I’ve been there” in South and Central America. So pretty much the entire world. It was the closest Dani has ever come to wanting to join the military. 

His rules of retirement are that he refuses to wear a watch, answer a phone, or work on a computer. He relishes physical challenges. In addition to riding across the country on a whim, he has hiked the entirety of the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and a handful of other national scenic trails.

And he does it all without any sort of electronics, other than a device called a Spot that he uses to send a nightly GPS signal to his wife so she knows where he is, a device that arrived under the Christmas tree one year, much to his chagrin, and that he described as a compromise with his wife.

And he is kind and earnest. I know I already used that word, but I think it’s rare to meet someone for whom it is appropriate. He carries no hint of agenda or dissembling. He believes in the decency of people, and after traveling the world decided to live in South Dakota because he thinks that people treat each other right there.

He is also taking an orderly and disciplined approach to this bike tour that seems, at once, strict and relaxed. Richard wakes up naturally when the birds start chirping every day (no electronics means no alarm clock, but he doesn’t need one), packs up, eats a granola bar, and rides to the closest town down the road for “morning chow.” He takes a good break, 30-40 minutes, every 15-20 miles. He memorizes the next section of the map during each break (this man has an incredible memory), sticks the map in his pocket, and just rides. Richard is relying on restaurants for every meal because he did not bring a stove, so he looks for a restaurant before getting to camp for supper. He gets to camp, washes up in whatever source of water is available, does some bike maintenance, and goes to sleep early. He takes a “zero day” every 500 miles or so to keep himself fresh. Richard does absolutely nothing on zero days–all he will allow himself to do is read a book to allow for total physical and mental rest–so he makes the day before a zero day a short day to allow time to run errands. Systematic, yet he seems much less high-strung than we often do. We have so much to learn from this guy. 

He is a complex and fascinating dude. I wish I had the opportunity to get to know him better.

But it was time to go to sleep, and so we did.

Day 47: The day of the cyclists’ Disneyland

Day 47, 7/30, St. Ignace, MI to Mackinac Island, MI to Petoskey State Park, MI: 63.3 miles, 2,000 ft elevation gain, 12.4 mph average speed.
Trip totals: 2,838.9 miles (71 mile daily average), 117,931 ft elevation gain, 12.5 mph overall average speed.

Two days behind schedule.

Fair warning: there are a lot of pictures in this post. We thought about trying to cull some out, but we decided a day like this deserves a lot of pictures. So, they’re there. Anyway….

The second best part of waking up this morning was that there were surprisingly few mosquitos around to bother us. The third best part was that we were only going a mile to get on a ferry, not trying to make it 30 miles before breakfast.

The best part? Well for me, the best part was packing up camp and hearing Dani singing a song and making sound effects in the tent as she was packing her sleeping pad. Turns out her dream last night involved an incredibly detailed, original Caribbean-style song, and it was stuck in her head. Things like this are my favorite part of marriage. We sang her song all morning.

We left camp and rode for 10 minutes to the ferry dock. After a quick snack of PB&Banana we boarded the ferry and enjoyed the sunny, half-hour ride to Disneyland Mackinac Island.

  

The old-school bike tourist we meet last night described the island as a “bike Disneyland,” and we can’t think of a more apt description. We got off the boat and the main little town area was just full of bikes passing both directions, some people sightseeing, some people towing boxes of supplies to local businesses. It was a glimpse into how much fun the world could be if everyone only rode bikes (and everything was really clean), and it just kept getting better.

  

  

Our first stop on the island was JL Beanery, a cute little coffee shop we found on Yelp that’s right on the harbor. We sat in wicker rocking chairs and drank coffee, ate stellar breakfast sandwiches, and looked out at the gorgeous view. We could also hear the water splashing up against the dock as we sat. So peaceful! It was an amazing place to spend an hour or so.

 

We did have to deal with a lady who got all huffy when Dani decided to sit down in a wicker chair that happened to be next to her. Apparently some people around here struggle with how a cutesy coffee shop doesn’t allow for the massive amount of personal space they expect in their lives. Or maybe she just doesn’t like other people. Who knows? In any case, she left and we stayed, so it worked out for us!

It was so cozy that we left with somewhat heavy hearts, even though we knew that the rest of the island was going to be amazing as well. And boy oh boy…

Cycling paradise! Especially early in the morning when there weren’t as many other people on the road. It was still great when it got more crowded, but not everyone that was riding was, well, absolutely competent on a bike. Lots of unexpected swerving and stopping.

Anyway, the ride was spectacular. The island sits right between Lakes Michigan and Huron, and the road hugs the coast for the eight-mile circumference. Gorgeous water, gorgeous views, gorgeous lack of cars. The first stop on our ride was a 207-stair climb to Arch Rock, an arch created when wave action and high lake levels disintegrated soft rock in the center of some harder rock. Then we pedaled around to the north side of the island, enjoying the views of Lake Huron. The water was unbelievably blue. It was hard to believe we were on a lake and not in the Bahamas.

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A little over halfway around, we turned and rode up into the interior of the island. There were a couple of battles fought here during the War of 1812, and there is significant Native American history here as well. And there’s also a golf course, because what’s an amazing natural and historical gem without one of those.

We also got to see some of the houses inhabited by the handful of lucky folks who get to live in this magical place.

When we finished the loop, we went back to JL Beanery for smoothies and cookies, and then headed into town to walk along the main street. Each and every building was stately and beautiful, but this place sure gets crowded. I’m happy we caught the first ferry over so we could see things when it was a little more quiet.

We’ve been seeing signs for Mackinac Island fudge for the past few days, so we wanted to make sure we tried some. A pound and a half seemed like a good amount: rocky road, peanut butter and chocolate almond. Then it was 1:00p, and it was time for us to get back on the ferry and ride over to Mackinaw City. Goodbye Disneyland.

We disembarked on the mitt of Michigan. Mackinac Island was amazing, but I have to say that on the whole, we were a little disappointed by the UP. I’ve heard so much about it that it had taken on almost mythic properties in my mind, so I guess it was inevitable that I was let down. Also, we didn’t really have the time to really explore anything off route, and I don’t think anyone would recommend driving down Rt. 2 as the best way to see the UP. I think if we had time to explore up around Lake Superior, we would have enjoyed the experience much more.

Anyway, we got on our bikes in lower Michigan and started to ride. But I want to explain something before I go further. A few weeks ago when I was talking to my parents, my dad said something to the effect of, “you guys sound like you’re having a lot of fun, at least when you’re not on your bikes.”

That’s really not the impression that I want to give. We really are enjoying most of this tour, on the bikes and off. That being said, I still want to complain a bit. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow we have ridden/will ride with some of the strongest, most consistent west southwest winds of the trip. The only problem with that is that these are the three days we’re riding south and southwest. It’s driving me bonkers. We’re trying to pull big mileage days to make up time, and we’re fighting the winds that we would hope and wish and pray for on 47 of the 55 riding days on our trip. Just not these three days. If the wind changes when we turn east on Saturday, I might sabotage my bike in some dramatic way so we have to rent a car. I’m kidding, or at least mostly kidding.

Oh shoot. I’m not done complaining yet. I know Dani mentioned that the roads were bad here, but they are really really bad. Today we were often forced to ride along the center line of county roads because that was the only part of the road that wasn’t reminiscent of the surface of the moon. And we were often on roads that were obviously half, or a third, repaired. I guess part of the road got so bad that Michigan was forced to do something, so they put a few miles of new pavement down, but just on a narrow strip of the road. The rest of the road was still a disaster.

So 48 miles with a 15-18 mph head or crosswind on terrible roads (to be fair, there was an 11-mile stretch on a good road with a reasonable shoulder) doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, and it wasn’t. But we still managed to enjoy the scenery. There were fields upon fields of little pink wildflowers interspersed with blades of grain, and times when we road through beautiful old forests.

  

After about four and a half hours, we made it to Harbor Springs, MI, where we bought groceries for dinner and then road through town and alongside the marina. This was one of most universally pretentious and pompous places we’ve ever seen. Big mansions on the water. Yachts upon yachts. People looking at us with surprise, disgust, fear, or some combination of the three.

It did have a nice road though. That strip down the marina was probably the smoothest road we’ve ridden on in the state.

A few miles past the marina is the Petoskey State Park. We pulled in, signed up for a campsite (a very expensive campsite; maybe the same people who decide how to fund infrastructure also decide how much to subsidize state parks), and rushed to the beach to dive into Lake Michigan and watch the sunset.

After the sunset we headed back up to the campsite and ate dinner. Dani has been very complimentary of me in her recent blog posts, talking about how I get up and get things packed while she sleeps. She makes me sound so good, and I hate to contradict someone who is complimenting me, but she isn’t telling the whole story.

I like camping. I really enjoy cooking. I also don’t mind cleaning up after dinner. But I detest cooking and cleaning while camping. I just can’t stand it. So we have a system. Dani is in charge of the evening, doing the lion’s share of setting up camp and cooking and cleaning, and I am in charge of the morning, when she wants to sleep a little more than me. Everybody wins. Yay teamwork!

Anyway, tonight she made shells and cheese with green beans, tuna, cream of mushroom soup, and salsa. It was divine. While she cooked, I cleaned the bikes and built a small fire. It was nice to eat fireside. It was the first fire we’ve built on this trip.

After dinner we waited in line to shower, and then headed back to the tent and went to bed!

Tomorrow we have a long day planned, probably fighting winds that I want for every single day AFTER tomorrow. We’ll see how that works!

Day 45: The day of camping on the beach

Day 45, 7/28, Escanaba, MI to Indian Lake, MI: 53 miles, 1,064 ft elevation gain, 13.1 mph average speed.
Trip totals: 2,678.8 miles (70.5 mile daily average), 114,079 ft elevation gain, 12.5 mph overall average speed.

Two days behind schedule.

We woke from a deep deep sleep this morning at 6:00. We slept well, but just not long enough. After packing up our stuff and saying goodbye to Al, we started our ride at 6:55a–earlier than we’ve been managing lately but still nowhere close to that stretch of days when we were riding by 5:30. 

We decided to make today a short day. The plan was to ride 50 miles, get to a campground early, and get lots and lots of sleep tonight. We are very sleep deprived right now and it’s making us grumpy. 

  
The ride started out with less than two miles on town roads before we got on US 2, our old friend, as busy as ever. Outside Escanaba, US 2 is a separated, four-lane highway, reminiscent of I-94.  At least there was a wide, smooth shoulder. Well, except for one terrifying moment where it disappeared completely as US 2 passed underneath a bridge.

Our first stint on US 2 was only four or five miles long, and then we exited to follow the lakeshore through Gladstone. Shortly after leaving the highway, our plans for efficiency were thwarted by McDonald’s, which continually has enough gal to build restaurants exactly where we are at breakfast time.

A couple sausage, egg, and cheese McGriddles, a few conversations about our tour with disbelieving elderly gentlemen during their weekly breakfast club, and an hour later, and we were back on the road… for a mile. Then we stopped again at a grocery store. This was a good stop though. In part because it hasn’t been as available, we’ve gotten away from snacking on fruit and moved toward peanut butter oreos. And we’ve started to get sick of junk food, so we wanted to stock up on some good stuff. And Gushers. Good stuff and Gushers.

After a few more miles, we were back on US 2, this time for 27 miles. It was a put-your-head-down-and-pedal sort of ride. The traffic was a little lighter this time around, but still worse than anything we’ve seen since we were on I-94.

We stopped to buy cold drinks after 23 miles on US 2, and then rode another mile to eat lunch at a rest stop off the highway. We reminisced about the days we would ride 50 miles before 9:30a, and there we were with 37 miles at 11:30a.

This break lasted a little long, as is the trend. Dani tried to take a nap on the bench after eating, but when I let her know we were only 15 miles from our campground, she popped right up and got ready to go. Apparently she thought we were still 25 miles away, which seemed long enough in her mind to justify a nap. As I said, we’re sleep deprived. 

  
We rode on country roads for the rest of the day, which was a refreshing, if slightly hillier, change of pace. We stopped at a grocery store to pick up a few more things for dinner, then continued to the campground. About a mile before we reached our campground, we came across a private campground that was cheaper than the state park at which we planned to camp, so we stayed there. Plus, this place is not so popular because of its primitive facilities, so we were able to snag a beachfront spot!

   
     

 

We quickly set up camp, then went swimming, washing our selves and clothes (with biodegradable soap, of course) in the lake. The lake is very shallow, so we didn’t swim so much as sit. It was refreshing, though; the perfect end to a day of riding. We also got to see many different types of sky during the seven hours of daylight we had there, hence the multiple pictures of the same view above and below. We sat next to the lake and caught up on blog posts, made dinner around 5:30p, watched the sun set, and were in the tent by 9p. 

   
   Here’s to a restful night in preparation for a long day tomorrow!

Day 44: The day of boring riding

Day 44, 7/27, east of Gaastra, MI to Escanaba, MI: 89.1 miles+4.6 (recorded) miles around town, 2,803 ft elevation gain, 12.8 mph average speed.
Trip totals: 2,625.8 miles (71 mile daily average), 113,015 ft elevation gain, 12.5 mph overall average speed.


Two days behind schedule.

The riding today just wasn’t fun. When you’re riding across the country, there’s bound to be a few stretches that are just unenjoyable for one reason or another, but this one was unenjoyable for several reasons.

The roads were generally poorly maintained, busy, lacking a shoulder, or some combination of the three. The towns we passed were more run down than cute, the terrain was not particularly attractive, and the convenience stores had dismal selections of cold drinks. The weather was hot and headwind-y and hot. Everyone we passed told us it was too hot of a day for a “pedal bike ride,” as if we woke up and decided to ride bikes with luggage on them for fun today. Yeah, we know it’s too hot to be doing what we’re doing, and you pointing it out doesn’t make it any easier.


  We stopped about 15 miles from our final destination and took shelter in a cool, dark bar with one patron. The patron wanted to talk to us nonstop about our trip, and I’m afraid we weren’t the best bike touring ambassadors at the time. We very unconvincingly said that bike touring was the best way to travel, that we usually had fun, blah blah. But all either of us wanted to do was sit in silence drinking Gatorade poured over ice because regular refrigerated Gatorade wasn’t cold enough for us (we are such wimps these days). And this guy was a talker.

They also reminded us that we would enter eastern time in a few miles, which meant we would arrive to Escanaba an hour later than we expected. Which meant tonight would be another night without enough sleep.


   We pushed through 89 miles of this hot monotony, determined, but perhaps not without complaint. Luckily, no one could hear us complain. We couldn’t even hear each other. We mostly just heard the wind.


 Anyways, after (finally) making it into Escanaba, we stopped at Culver’s to reward ourselves with ice cream treats. Dani had a chocolate concrete, which she said was heads and tails better than the DQ Blizzard she had a few days ago, and I had a mango smoothie. We’ll have to keep our eyes open for Culver’s; any store that sells ice cream and butters both sides of their hamburger buns is OK with me.

Once our core temperature cooled down a bit, we headed over to meet our warm showers host for the evening. Al was the bright spot on this otherwise dreary day. He grew up near Escanaba and then spent 20 years in the military before coming back. He is a chef, bike commutes year round (winter in the UP!!?!), and was instrumental in getting a lakeside disc golf course constructed in Escanaba.

As we were visiting with him, his daughter and her boyfriend came by to say hi. Just lovely people all around.

Al took us on a six or so mile tour around town. He was an excellent guide, pointing out historic buildings and telling us their stories. We saw Al Capone’s old house (pictured below), the beautiful park on Lake Michigan, and several stately old buildings. We also learned that there was a tunnel leading from the House of Ludington to Al Capone’s hideout, so he could go to his favorite place to hang out without being seen. The buildings were probably a half mile away from one another. After the tour, we visited Al’s (Al, our host, not Al Capone) restaurant, which also happen to be the first brew pub on the UP, and had a round of great beer. Then we headed back to his house, grabbing a barbecue chicken pizza and some breadsticks on the way.


            We were both exhausted after our draining ride, so we headed to bed almost immediately after we finished eating. I think we’re going to make tomorrow a short day.

Day 42: The day of New Glarus

Day 42, 7/25, East of Hayward, WI to Manitowish Waters, WI: 87.7 miles, 3,952 ft elevation gain, 13.4 mph average speed.
Trip totals: 2,448.6 miles (70 mile daily average), 106,333 ft elevation gain, 12.41 overall average speed.

Two days behind schedule.

***a note on stats: It has come to our attention that the elevation numbers from the Ride with GPS app can be wildly inaccurate. When I upload the rides to Strava (a different ride-tracking app), I often get much lower numbers. I’ll keep including them for the sake of comparison, but take them with several grains of salt.***

I woke up at 5:45a to start getting our stuff together. I headed downstairs to start loading up the bikes around 6:00a and there was Gerry, already up and making breakfast for all of us. A hearty breakfast of eggs, sausage, today, and orange juice was ready fifteen minutes later, and we eagerly chowed down.

Gerry and Mary decided to ride with us for the first 11 miles of our day, and after breakfast we all busied ourselves getting ready to go. After a few false starts, the five of us caravanned off. This was the biggest group we’ve ridden in since Logan Pass, and I really enjoy riding as part of a pack. I marvel at the people who are doing this trip alone. I think I would break down doing all of this riding without company.

  
The 11 miles we rode with Gerry and Mary brought us to state route 77, which as a two-lane, low-traffic highway was much busier than the quiet county roads we’ve ridden on the last few days. However, it was newly resurfaced, which made riding on it feel like riding on air compared to some of those same county roads.

We said goodbye to Gerry and Mary, and Dani, Meng, and I jumped on 77 and headed east. We stopped at a gas station in Clam Lake to stretch, snack, and try to diagnose a creaking noise that Dani’s bike started making with every other pedal stroke when she hit a big pothole earlier on. We adjusted the rear hub cones and repositioned the fender and the noise went away.

  
   

  

We continued on the beautifully smooth 77 for another 17 miles to Glidden, which was Meng’s final destination for the day. After saying goodbye, we carried on for nine more miles (on a good, but less smooth road) to Butternut. We were excited to get to Butternut a) because it’s a fun name for a town and b) because the couple we meet yesterday in Edgewater recommended Jumbo’s Diner in Butternut to us, using words no bike tourist can resist, “They serve huge portions of good food for really cheap prices.”

They were right. Jumbo’s is a great little diner set back from the road a little bit. The locals eating there didn’t seem to know what to make of us, and so they all just stared at us for 10 or so minutes after we sat down. We unknowingly made it in just a half hour before they closed, thank goodness. I had a chicken quesadilla and Dani had a chili cheese omelet. I also grabbed a big $0.60 cookie for later.

  

After Jumbo’s, we were back on county roads for the next 30 miles. Our route took us through some gorgeous lake country and past the Turtle Flambeau Flowage. 

It was beautiful, but hot, and we were excited to make it into Mercer to grab a cold drink and buy some groceries for dinner before the final push into Manitowish Waters. As we were standing around the gas station drinking Gatorade, Carol from Connecticut rolled up. She is on a tour from Vancouver back to her home, by way of Jasper and Banff national parks. She stayed at the same place as us, and is a remarkable woman. She is survived a multiple-year battle with cancer, and promised herself that if she made it through she was going to really live. Her enthusiasm and optimism was infectious, and she was a delight to be around.

Anyways, from the gas station we swung by the grocery store to shop for dinner and New Glarus beer. Beer from the New Glarus Brewery is as famous as it is rare (for those of us that don’t live in Wisconsin, at least). They only distribute here and I was determined to try some before we head into Michigan tomorrow. First I had to decide between mixing a six pack of their standard beers or going for a bomber of their specialty stuff. After a while, I decided to go the specialty route, but then I had to pick from the three that were available.

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Oops. Oh well, good beer is worth carrying.

After the grocery store, it was a fast 10 miles to the North Lakeland Discovery Center, a lakeside lodge and education center on an undeveloped lake that allows touring cyclists to stay for free when rooms are available. It’s a fantastic place. We had our own room, and access to free showers, laundry, and use of their kitchen. We showered and called our parents before heading to the kitchen to make a stew-y sort of meal with rice, beans, potato, zucchini, green pepper, and tomato. And lots of spice (because Dani cooked and that’s just what happens).

  
  

After dinner we drank a New Glarus beer while watching the sun set over the lake.    

The mosquitoes came out in full force after the sunset, so we headed back to our room where we tried to catch up on the blog, but quickly succumbed to exhaustion. One day we’ll catch up.

Day 40: The day we almost decided to move to Minneapolis

Day 40, 7/23, Minnetonka, MN to Cumberland, WI: 112.3 miles, 4,441 ft elevation gain, 13.2 mph average speed.
Trip Totals: 2,228.1 miles (69.3 mile daily average), 98,927 ft elevation gain, 12.3 mph overall average speed.

Two days behind schedule.

I should have known better. We spent the better part of a week in Glacier National Park, after all. I wondered at those majestic mountains and read all those signs explaining how glacial movements shape the land. They leave hills. Lots of hills.

Anyways, I’m jumping ahead of myself. The day started when we reluctantly pulled ourselves out of the ridiculously comfortable bed we’ve slept in the past two nights and stumbled out into the main room to find Pat cooking us yet another meal. Yep. Still spoiled.

We got all packed up and left the warm hospitality of the Cummings clan around 7:15a. On the way out of their neighborhood, we stopped to chat with a group of ladies out for their morning walk. They had a few disbelieving questions about our trip, and we talked for around five minutes. They turned out to be perhaps the most fortunate minutes of our trip though, because we were making the turn out of the neighborhood a few minutes later when we heard a car honking behind us. We looked back, and there was Pat rolling up behind us to give Dani her cell phone which somehow didn’t make it into her bag. Phew. Disastor averted.


    


Minnetonka is a southwest suburb of the Twin Cities, and our route picked back up on the northeast side of St. Paul, about 22 miles away. Of those 22 miles, I think maybe four were spent on a road that we shared with cars. Everything else was dedicated bike routes. We’ve heard lots about the great bike infrastructure of the Twin Cities and of Minnesota in general, but we weren’t prepared for this awesomeness. I think those 22 miles were the most pleasant urban riding I’ve ever done. It almost makes me want to move to Minnesota just for the pleasant bike commute.

And to top it off, we met up with the official ACA North Lakes Route at the Gateway State Trail: 17 more miles of traffic-free trail riding.



We savored our time away from car traffic a little too much, and we missed our turn off the trail. Oops. Instead of backtracking a couple of miles, which is something we’d almost never do (probably to get a forgotten phone, but not much else), we googled a new route to the St. Croix River crossing that would take us into Wisconsin. Our new route took us up the west side of the river on state route 95 for about 14 miles. It was OK, but it wasn’t the best road we’ve ridden on.

While we were chugging along up a hill, a guy in a SUV slowed down next to us and asked us about our trip, etc. About five miles later, we were cruising down a different hill toward a small town, trying to decide if it was too early for a cold drink stop As we approached the turnoff, we saw the same guy, sandwich in hand, flagging us down to tell us that the general store in town was a great place to get lunch. We couldn’t argue with a guy who made such an effort to recommend the place to us, so we stopped.

According to our new friend, Marine on St. Croix, MN is one of the oldest logging towns along the St. Croix, and the general store has been in the same place in the same building for over 100 years. It was an adorable old store, with a wide selection of groceries and a little deli in the back. I had a roast beef sandwich, and Dani had gumbo, an apple, and a cream filled donut. But the highlight of the meal was the chocolate milk. Fresh from a local farm, non-homogenized whole chocolate milk. Best of the trip, by far. I enjoyed it so much that I drank way more than my fair share, which only became a problem when I went to buy another bottle and they were out. Dani was fairly sad, but I promised that we would find more at a grocery store in Osceola, 12 miles away.

We began passing several historic buildings that were beautifully maintained. This area seems to take more pride in its architectural history than most of the places we’ve gone through, which is probably just a prohibitively expensive undertaking for most small towns.

  
Route 95 was a bit sketchy for a couple of miles before the turn toward Osceola, which is probably why ACA tried to take us off the trail early, but we made it through and shot down to the bottom of the river valley, across the spectacular river, and into Wisconsin, where we promptly had to climb back out of said river valley.


Osceola is at the top of the (first) hill, and it was a cute little town that I wish we could have explored more thorougly. We were making slow progress, so we didn’t have time to explore, but I had a promise to keep, so visited the grocery store in search of chocolate milk.

Then came the decision. We (unevenly) split a quart with lunch, so we considered getting another quart and giving most of it to Dani, but that didn’t sound like fun to me. But the only other option was to get a half gallon, and we didn’t really have time to relax as we drank the whole thing.


I guess this was the obvious answer. It was produced right there in Osceola, and we figured the distribution was extremely limited, so we wanted all we could handle. A half gallon was, incidentally, ALL we could handle. There were two inches of cream on top, after all. We left Osceola with full, sloshy tummies, and started one of the more grueling afternoons of the trip.

We had ridden almost 60 miles at that point, but it was another 56 to Cumberland, where Michele’s family was waiting for us. The day was hot, the road was hilly, and the wind was strong across. We left Osceola around 12:30p, arrived at our destination at 7:05p, and I don’t care to dwell to much on the time in between. I will say that if you are reading this because you’re planning on biking the North Lakes Route, you can cut off six or so completely extraneous miles by skipping Amery.


      Anyway, what we found waiting for us more than made up for those six and a half hours. We were welcomed with (literal) open arms by Bob, Jeannie, Heather, Bill, and Matthew, Michele’s parents, sister, sister’s partner, and sister’s partner’s brother. We quickly showered, and then joined back up with our hosts. Bob and Jeannie have created an absolute wonder of a home right on idyllic Beaver Dam Lake. We sat by the lake and snacked on a cheese and meat plate before being called up to one of my favorite meals of the trip. Chicken parmesan with homemade marinara, paired with beets and green beans right out of Bob’s garden and a fresh fruit salad. Finally, we found a little extra room for vanilla ice cream topped with Jeannie’s oh-my-goodness-this-is-so-delicious homemade chocolate sauce.


We chatted for a while after dinner, but we were exhausted, and we soon headed down to bed.

If every tough day ended like this one, I think we’d push ourselves a lot harder.

Day 37: The day we made it east

Day 37, 7/20, Albany, MN to Dalbo, MN: 79.1 miles, 1,795 ft elevation gain, 15.6 mph average speed.

Trip totals: 2,117.3 miles (68.3 daily average), 92,354 ft elevation gain, 12.3 mph overall average speed.

Three days behind schedule.

Today was a lovely day. One of those days when you when you feel lucky to be spending your summer riding your bike across the country. A day of sunshine and tailwinds and lots of good food.

The foundation for the day was laid last night by the kindness and hospitality of the Haynes family. It refreshed and refueled us after that miserable night at Delagoon Park. We fell asleep immediately upon entering the tent, and slept the sleep of the dead.

We woke up this morning to another round of generosity and cheer…and breakfast. Tea, coffee, and a build-your-own oatmeal bar with granola, nuts, peanut butter, Nutella, raisins, and more.

After breakfast, we loaded up the bikes, said goodbye to the Hayneses, and headed on our way.

            

We spent the first 17 miles today on the Lake Woebegon Spur trail, which was more idyllic, traffic-free riding through forests and around lakes. Some sections of the trail (today and toward the end of yesterday) were newly repaved, and I can’t express in words how wonderful it is to ride on a newly-paved surface without any worry of car traffic. It’s bike touring heaven.

   
  

But all good things must come to an end, and after 17 miles we finished our time on the trails. And we were really excited about it. Why? Because our time on the trail ended right at Jordies Trailside Cafe, a highly-recommended, eccentric little diner. We stopped in for second breakfast. Dani’s biscuits and gravy was unfortunately just so-so, but my breakfast (and Steph’s and Tom’s) was delicious.

    

After second breakfast, we turned east. The roads so far in Minnesota have all been well-maintained with wide shoulders; ideal roads for riding. After a few short miles, we cruised down a hill and over the Mississippi!

I understand that we’ll be crossing the Mississippi a few more times in the coming days, but it still felt like a huge milestone. In my mind, the Mississippi divides the country into east and west halves, and now that we’re on the other side, I feel like I can officially say that we are in the second half of our trip.

We continued east, riding on generally pleasant roads with a generally helpful wind. It was great to be riding with Steph and Tom; they kept us riding at a slightly faster pace than we typically average and it’s nice to ride as part of a larger group. We haven’t ridden with anyone since crossing Logan Pass with Dan, Gina, and Clive, and riding with other people seems to lend a bit of legitimacy to this crazy vacation idea of ours.

    

We ran into Dina and Brian, another couple on a tandem that rode from their home in Fort Collins, CO to Austin, TX, then over to Louisiana, up to Ohio, and are looping back down to Fort Collins. They’ve been out since March. I can’t imagine doing a bike tour in Colorado in March – it can be 70 degrees and sunny or it can snow 10 inches. You never know! 

We stopped in several small towns for cold drinks and bathroom breaks, but we kept our breaks short. We were headed to a cyclists’-only bunkhouse near the tiny town of Dalbo, MN, and we were eager to get there. We stopped in Milaca, MN to pick up some groceries and some booze for the evening. Also, Dani finally got a Blizzard at Dairy Queen. We’ve been passing DQs at inconvenient times for the past few weeks, so her Blizzard craving has gone unfulfilled. This time, however, she stood up for herself and declared that she was getting a Blizzard even if we left without her and she had to catch up. Luckily, we took a long time picking out beer and wine, and such extreme measures weren’t necessary.

The last 18 miles from Milaca to Dalbo were grueling. Not because they were particularly hard, but because we had told ourselves we were “almost there” when we stopped in Milaca, and 18 miles is a little too long to be almost. I was checking the distance ridden on my phone like a third grader checking the clock during the last period of school: “I’m sure we’ve gone five miles since the last time I looked. OK, maybe three. I’ll guess two just to be safe… Seven tenths of a mile!!?! Crap!”

Eventually, we saw the “Adventure Bicyclists Bunkhouse” sign on the side of the road that let us know we had finally made it. And what a destination.

             

Don grew up on this farm, which was a dairy farm at the time. He retired from the military after 30 (I think? Maybe more) years and came back to the farm. Then back in 2006 he was outside when two touring cyclists came up to him and asked if they could camp in his yard to escape from a storm.

After he realized how many cyclists passed by his house looking for a place to stay, he took it upon himself to completely renovate his barn to be a cyclist bunkhouse. It has three private rooms and another room with several cots. He also put a couple of cots in an old grain silo.

Then he added WiFi, couches, a flatscreen TV, a kitchenette, and cupboards and a few refrigerators full of supplies at “Walmart prices.”

  

What a haven. What a wonderful thing for a person to do for no other reason than the desire to show kindness to complete strangers.

Tomorrow we’re off to Minnetonka for a day off and fun with Dani’s family!

Day 35: The day of bougie coffee in the big city

Day 35, 7/18, Fargo, ND to Fergus Falls, MN: 64 miles, 1,297 ft elevation gain, 15.3 mph average speed.

Trip totals: 1,949 miles (67.2 daily average), 87,750 ft elevation gain, 12.1 mph overall average.

Three days behind schedule.

Two things occurred to us as we were planning our day today. First, we thought it might be good to give ourselves at least a bit of a break after our big day yesterday, and second, Fargo is the biggest city we’ve been in since Seattle it might be fun to explore. We’ve been striving to make up time ever since leaving Glacier, but the actual biking is only half of the experience of this trip, and we want to be sure that we take enough time to see the country we’re biking through.

So we decided to take the morning off and explore Fargo. It helped that Lindsey was eager to show us around her city. She’s actually only lived here for two months, but she was as good of an ambassador as Fargo could hope for.

Lindsey started off her day at the gym, which meant that we started off our day sleeping in and then relaxing in her amazing sunroom. Sidenote: it’s been a struggle for us to remember why we think it’s worth it to pay what we do for our apartment in New York City. Every apartment we visit is bigger, nicer, and much cheaper than ours. We’ll see if New York wins back our love when we get home.

Anyway, Lindsey has a lovely sunroom to go with her big kitchen and two bedroom apartment, and it was a great place to start our day.

After Lindsey came home, we got dressed and walked 10 minutes to downtown Fargo, where we visited Twenty Below, the first hip/bougie coffee shop we’ve seen since Washington. Dani and I split a large Chemex (that’s how bougie this place was) of amazing coffee and a gluten-free but still-delicious cornmeal and berry waffle. I also loved my mug here, which the shop commissioned from a local ceramics artist, Brooke Stewart. The cheerful, friendly employees cheerfully resisted my entreaties to buy it, steal it, or pretend to break it and accidentally leave money on the table. Honest people there at Twenty Below.

It just so happened that this weekend was the Fargo Street Fair, and we walked past several blocks of artist booths and fair food before we came to the Great Northern Bicycle Co., an awesome bicycle shop that occupies an old train station.

We restocked on bike tubes and spent a few minutes chatting with a shop employee who gave us a few ideas for how to alleviate the hand pain we’ve been dealing with.

He then encouraged us to check out the five-person tandom bike he was building/working on. Holy moly! I can’t even imagine trying to navigate that thing.

We then headed back toward Lindsey’s apartment, passing through more of downtown, stopping at a small farmer’s market to buy some veggies for tomorrow’s dinner, and walking through the car show that was happening in Fargo’s version of Central Park, Island Park, near her apartment.


It was great to relax in town, but we did have some biking to do today, so once we got back to Lindsey’s we suited up and hit the road.

We left Fargo on a lovely bike path that traced the Red River. We crossed the river after a few miles, leaving North Dakota behind and entering Minnesota!



Lindsey told us that the ACA maps took us out of the way for no apparent reason, and suggested we ignore the maps for today to take a more direct route to Fergus Falls along old highway 52. It was excellent advice, and we’re glad we took it.

About 13 miles down the road we stopped at an old general store/soda fountain with lots of nostalgic sodas. We ate tuna, triscuits, and cheese for lunch at an outdoor table and then washed it down with a root beer float.

We jumped back on the bikes with luck on our side. We were headed southeast, and the wind was coming from the west at 25-30mph. It varied between being directly behind us and being more of a crosswind, but it was always helping us. We flew down the road, averaging between 17-23 mph.

Ten or so miles after lunch we were dismayed to see “road closed” signs blocking our route. We stopped to figure out what to do, and while we were weighing our options, two cars drove around the signs and sped down the road. That was all the permission we needed, and we enjoyed 10 miles of beautiful new road surface without any traffic at all.

  

Shortly after that stretch, the shoulder completely disappeared, but the traffic was so minimal we hardly noticed. And the few cars that did pass us, without exception, moved fully into the other lane to do so.

Forty miles in, we stopped at a truck stop for a cold drink, and we found some great chocolate milk. Cass-Clay may not be on the same level as Darigold Old Fashioned, but it’s much better than anything we’ve tried since we left Darigold country.

After the pit stop it was 18 quick miles to Fergus Falls, where we stopped at Union Pizza and Brewing, another recommendation from Lindsey. They had a great selection of local beers, which we paired with a yummy Greek salad and a ham and garlicky kale pizza.

  

After dinner, we swung by the grocery store to pick up some essentials (you know, peanut butter Oreos, s’mores pop tarts, etc.) and rode the last four miles to Delagoon Park campground, where we unfortunately chose a campground next to a group of loud, very drunk, middle-aged folks who–while friendly–just weren’t the tent neighbors we were hoping for.

Tomorrow we start riding on the Central Lakes Trail, 100+ miles of paved bike trail along an abandoned railroad bed.

Day 32: The day we made the papes!

Hey guys! We made the paper!

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Anyway, back to the regularly scheduled program.

Day 32, 7/15, Bismarck, ND to Hazelton, ND: 46.6 miles, 1,861 ft elevation gain, 10.6 mph average speed.

Trip totals: 1,689.8 miles (65 mile daily average), 82,335 ft elevation gain, 11.8 mph overall average.

Four days behind schedule.

Last night over pizza, we decided that getting five to six hours of sleep a night and then riding 100+ miles just wasn’t sustainable. Since we were already paying for a motel room, it made sense to make today an easier day. We slept in, ate a bunch of food at the continental breakfast, and took our time packing up the room. We actually contemplated taking a rest day and then riding 100 miles on Thursday, but the wind forecast was full of intimidating headwinds, so we decided to ride 46 miles to Hazelton, ND.

The day was short, but it was anything but easy. The wind was blowing in from the southeast all day, and Hazelton is, you guessed it, southeast of Bismarck.

  
The first eight or so miles of the ride was on a separated bike path that went south of the city. The ride was lovely, aside from the wind. However, we did discover six miles in that I apparently had a slow leak in my patched tube, so we had to make yet another change. I’ve had the rear wheel off of one of our bikes four times in the last three days. Yeesh.

  
There was a giant hill right outside of town, and we rode through upward rolling hills for much of the day. This, after everyone we spoke with described the terrain east of Bismarck to be as flat as a board. I think people in cars just have a different understanding of the word “flat” than people on bikes.

Today we moved away from the I-94 corridor into real rural North Dakota. The only town we passed between Bismarck and Hazelton was Moffit, a tiny town with no services except for a post office.

  
Our route rolled along through farms and ranchland. Once we made it about 15 miles south of Bismarck, there was barely any traffic until we turned south onto highway 83. We struggled through the wind for 13 miles between Moffit and Hazelton, gazing enviously at the cows who were huddled in the leeward side of hills.

   
 Wind notwithstanding, it’s pretty enjoyable to ride on empty country roads. We can ride next to each other and have an actual conversation. You can see passing traffic with plenty of time to move over, and the few cars that did pass us when we had a small or no shoulder gave us plenty of space.

After four and a half hours of hard riding, we made it to Hazelton, or more precisely, to the convenience store at the junction right before Hazelton.

  
I ended up really liking Hazelton. It leapt up my list of favorite small towns through a series of happy surprises.

1) The water tab on the Coke machine at the convenience store gave us seltzer water, which we love and which has been nearly impossible to find for the past few weeks.

2) The convenience store had an impressive array of food options, but we were immediately drawn to the soup of the day: chili. It was delicious, and a steal at $2.50 a bowl. Two bowls each was enough to sate even our bike tour hunger, and $10 for dinner for two ain’t too shabby.

3) Hazelton has a great city park for camping. It’s not free, but it’s cheap ($12), and the park has pavilions, horseshoe courts, and showers. The shower was amazing. It had great pressure out of a huge waterfall showerhead. Setting aside the fact that it was in a dark corner of a dull grey cinderblock building, it might have been one of the nicer showers I’ve ever experienced.

We showered, played a game of horseshoes, and set up our tent underneath one of the pavilions.

  
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That turned out to be a great decision, but I’ll let Dani tell you all about that in the next post.