Day 46: Gackle, North Dakota to Little Yellowstone Park, North Dakota.

Today was a strange day. I started out very late, almost noon time. It was so nice at the Honey Hut, I just couldn’t get going. Coner and Aidan left about an hour before I. On the way out, I noticed the local Tastee Freez was open so I opted for brunch. The only thing that resembled a lunch, other than the usual burgers, was fish and chips. What could go wrong with that? It would transport me back through time to all those wonderful times in London.

The order came with two things, the fish, that resembled fried mozzarella sticks and the fried potatoes were somewhere between potato chips and french fries. Everything was swimming in grease. Needless to say, I wasn’t transported very far, certainly not to my next destination, Enderlin, ND. I stopped at the Coop on the way out and picked up Gatorade. I’m starting to have blood levels measured in Gatorade percentages.

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It was another sunny, hot day and I immediately removed all my warm clothing. The road today would prove long, flat and boring. This section to Fargo is truly flat, almost like the ocean. There are a few places that drop to rivers, but that’s it.

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You can see the rumble strip on the forever flat road. In this photo, there is a semi tractor-trailer coming from the other direction. I’m guessing it was traveling about 70 MPH and took close to five minutes to reach me, that is over four miles away.

There is a choice of riding on the shoulder of the road, but it is narrow, is loaded with debris and one had to avoid getting on the ever-present rumble strip. With so little traffic I would just ride on the road and watch my mirror. That worked out well.

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I spent most of the day racing a thunderstorm. It was off to my left, way behind me. Gradually, it was gaining on me, but I was doing a good job of staying ahead of it. It was also going to cross the road at a point that I could almost predict accurately. If I kept my pace, I would be ahead of it and it would cross behind me.

Feeling smug and in control of my situation I spent a good part of the afternoon racing the storm. Today, I passed 2000 miles (3300 km) on my total trip miles.

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2001 miles.

Then, without warning, the back of my bicycle felt like it was riding on marshmallows. At 2005 miles, I had my first flat tire. With the storm gaining on me, I moved the bike off the road to a spot next to a vacant construction site. I figured the metal building would be a good lightning rod and I could hide in the Porta-potty. Not the best plan, but at least I would be dry.

With a loaded touring bike, it is difficult to work on a flat without removing everything. Once everything was off the bicycle, I flipped the bike upside-down to easily remove the wheel. I had to put the tent under the handlebars to prevent damage to odometer and bell.

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A flat tire fix in process.

The rear tire is wearing much quicker than the front tire and I was planning on replacing both in Fargo, I was only a few miles off on my estimate. Often, when cars blow a tire at high speed, they shred the steel belted wire into a million pieces. My bicycle tire had ingested a shard of this stainless steel wire.

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The biggest difficulty one faces repairing a bicycle flat in the field is determining exactly what caused the flat. Without finding the cause, putting a new tube will most like result in another flat in a few miles. Fortunately, I found this wire easily.

I’m carrying three spare tubes. I quickly put in a new tube and put everything back together. I could have patched the tube, but that is just a band-aide fix and they don’t always take well.

I still had to deal with the approaching thunderstorm. It had really gained on me and the race was on. I had about 28 miles to reach Enderlin and it wasn’t looking hopeful. I was certain the storm would now cross the road ahead of me. If it did, I would just stop and wait for it to pass. In my original plan, this was fine, but I had lost considerable time repairing the tire, I now faced running out of time before nightfall. I raced forward.

It looked as if the storm would cross about two miles ahead of me, I wasn’t going to beat it. I flew down a hill at the Sheyenne river. I took note of the Little Yellowstone Park campground on my right. If I didn’t beat the storm I could come back and camp there for the night. I climbed the hill up from the river and as I reached the top I could see a huge downpour and lightning up ahead.

I contemplated waiting until it had passed but then that might have me riding on dark roads with just my bicycle lights and 80 MPH traffic. My bicycle lights are actually quite good, but I just didn’t want to take the chance.

It only took two minutes to roll back down the 1.5-mile- (2-km-) hill I had just climbed. In the park, I asked a man about where to pay for a campsite and he wasn’t certain. I also asked if there was a chance of a convenience store, knowing that probably wouldn’t be the case.

He said, “No, no camp store.” He introduced himself as Mike and invited me to his family’s yearly gathering. I readily accepted. All I had was a half of a roast beef sandwich that was soggy and some trail mix.

After putting up the tent, I put on some hiking clothes to look half decent and then went up to their party. There was a spread that I’m certain left me bug-eyed. Roast pork, tomatoes, cucumbers, macaroni, baked beans and so on. I was in heaven. These folks were so generous and made me, once again, appreciate the country I live in. Thanks, gang.

I returned to my tent and passed out for the night. It had been an interesting day.

Author: Dennis Blanchard

Dennis Blanchard was born in Bristol, Connecticut. He and his wife Jane moved to New Hampshire in 1980 where he has climbed thirty 4000-foot mountains, biked the trails and enjoyed the wilderness. Never living very far from the Appalachian Trail, Dennis was always aware of the seductive siren’s call to hike it. Dennis is an electronics engineer who has freelanced for amateur radio, technical and motorcycle adventure magazines. He now lives in Sarasota, Florida.

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