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Day 12: Bismarck, ND to Jamestown, ND

Big news! I’ve now spent over 1000 miles in the saddle since leaving Seattle! (If you sum the total distances it won’t quite add up, because it also includes me biking around Missoula to visit breweries and biking to the airport in Great Falls to pick up the rental car.)

And the not so great news: I was completely beat last night. Combine that with the timezone change, and I slept until 8:30 this morning and was still feeling worn down. Took my sweet time getting ready, and around 10 I went to Bearscat Bakehouse, which is a really awesome donut shop about a mile from my AirBnB. And unlike the gourmet donut shops in and around Boston, which charge $3-4/donut depending on toppings and fillings, these guys charge $1-2/donut and are just as good.

The rationale for donuts is that my AirBnB had a scale in the bathroom, and I weighed myself to discover that I’ve lost 12 pounds in the last 3 weeks and am now the lightest I’ve been in my adult life. That’s good, but I probably shouldn’t get much thinner, so I’m now going to make a concerted effort to load up on calories. All told, 2 donuts and a chocolate cruller is probably not the best thing for me to eat on a normal morning before biking because they take a while to digest. Since I still had to do some filming for the news report though, that gave me some time to digest before I started riding in earnest.

Which leads me to the rest of my morning: filming the news report (which should air sometime this weekend, at which point I will post it here and on Facebook). The reporter met me in front of the donut shop and I did some loops around the parking lot and onto the street. Then I suggested it would be nice to get some shots along a bike path, since I was planning to use this bike path to get out of town. Unfortunately, there was no parking right near the path and she didn’t want to drag her heavy equipment, so we drove to a different bike path in the city, just because it had better parking. The one we filmed on actually looked like a pretty nice path, it just didn’t happen to be going in the direction I needed to be going.

When we finally wrapped the filming, it was noon and I had biked about 3 miles on the day. And oh yes, it was sunny and 82. So I got to start my real ride for the day in the heat of the day. At least I was able to go down the path I had originally intended, which runs alongside a creek, and I could take a photo from the one bit of shade on the path.

As you can see, the path itself could use some work but the scenery is nice.

Once off the path though, I was once again fully exposed on Old US-10. At least it was well paved and reasonably flat. And there was a light cooling breeze coming from the north, which even if it didn’t give me a tailwind, it at least cooled me down a bit. I also made a conscious effort to bike slower than usual, since I was already worn down. And so it was for the next 2 hours, until I reached the Sterling Truck Stop on US-83. It was so nice to be in an air conditioned environment that I relaxed at the counter there for an hour and a half. I also saw enough pickup trucks go by that I realized I could probably hitch a ride if I wanted to. But I had promised myself I’d at least make it to Steele under my own power.

Steele is another 18 miles past Sterling. Along the way, I went along a massive number of marshes, ponds, and other wetlands. You probably don’t associate North Dakota with wetlands, but when you think about it it makes sense: The land is so flat that water has nowhere to drain from any local depression, so it just accumulates there. As a result, a huge number of birds are attracted to the area, making South-Central North Dakota one of the best places in the country for birding. The wetlands also attract a huge number of mosquitos, but that’s another matter. And here are some wetland photos for your enjoyment:

The waterfowl in the first photo, which are alas too grainy to actually make out, reminded me of this great exchange from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night:

Fool: What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning wildfowl?
Malvolio: That the soul of our grandam might haply inhabit a bird.
Fool: What thinkest thou of his opinion?
Malvolio: I think nobly of the soul, and no way approve his opinion.
Fool: Fare thee well. Remain thou still in darkness. Thou shalt hold the opinion of Pythagoras ere I will allow of thy wits, and fear to kill a woodcock lest thou dispossess the soul of thy grandam. Fare thee well.

Bet you weren’t expecting to see Shakespeare in a blog about cycling and beers!

Back to North Dakota, after pedaling through wetlands for 18 miles and dealing with the warm, steamy air that is wont to come up from marshes, I got to the town of Steele. There are a couple of noteworthy things about Steele. First, it’s home to the largest sandhill crane in the world.

Second, it’s the limit of how far they’ve paved Old US-10 heading east from Bismarck. Any further eastward travel requires going on either a dirt road or I-94. (The designated bike route from Bismarck actually goes 20 miles south to find another paved road, then goes 20 miles back north at the end of the state to get to Fargo. I didn’t want to add an extra 40 miles that way.)

So here I was, exhausted and certainly not wanting to spend 30 or so miles on I-94, regardless of whether I did it tonight or first thing in the morning. So this time I went to the nearby truck stop and really did try to hitch a ride. It took some time (had to find people whose vehicles were large enough and empty enough) but I eventually found a family who were going home to an Indiana suburb of Chicago from a vacation in Montana. They very nicely gave me a ride to Jamestown and saved me a ton of interstate biking. It also puts me within 100 miles of Fargo, where I’ll be able to have full rest days on Sunday and Monday if I get there tomorrow! Finally I’ll be at the beginning of the nearly continuous development that extends from the edge of the prairie to the east coast!

That’s a wrap for today. Goal for tomorrow is to get as early a start as possible in order to take advantage of the cooler weather as long as possible on my way to Fargo. And don’t stop for any woodchippers.

Total distance: 47.0 miles (excluding filming)
Average speed: 13.6 mph

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