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Day 13: Jamestown, ND to Fargo, ND

Well, the important stuff first: KFYR aired my story last night! You can find the video and text here. I do wish they could have come up with a better headline though.

As for today, I had noticed it not cooling down as much last night and getting a bit more humid, so it shouldn’t have been a total surprise when I woke up to 100% humidity this morning. It had also rained overnight, and with that level of humidity the ground wasn’t going to dry any time soon.

While I had dutifully set my alarm for 6 in an effort to get an early start, somehow I once again didn’t hit the road until 7:30. At least it beats yesterday’s start by a lot.

It only took 2 or 3 miles to cross Jamestown, and then I was back in farm country on Old US-10. A few miles later, I went by Cavendish Farms headquarters. Never knew they were outside of Jamestown, ND, but now I’ll never forget it. Even on a Saturday they seemed to have a few trucks going in and out too.

A few miles farther along, the land reverted to the same wetlands scenery that I saw between Sterling and Steele yesterday. There were a ton of birds of all kinds, but they proved nearly impossible to photograph. In the time it would take me to stop my bike, get out my phone, and zoom the camera, they’d fly or swim away. This was the best I managed to do:

Also, the ponds themselves looked much bigger than the ones I saw yesterday. And they were generally trisected by two causeways, one from the road I was on and one from the railroad a bit to the north.

So there was probably about a 12-mile stretch where I would descend to a pond, cross it on a causeway, climb the next small rise, rinse and repeat. On one of the causeways, I noticed I was only about a foot above the water level. Apparently the road flooded out a couple of weeks ago and was impassible, so I’m really glad I did this ride when the road was above water!

Another curious fact about the terrain is that one of these small rises between causeways happened to be the Northern Divide. It wasn’t signed or anything, though I’m told it’s somewhere at the western end of Barnes County. In any case, the upshot is the first few ponds I saw drain to the Missouri River and from there to the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. The last few ponds I saw, which were visually indistinguishable from the first, drain to the Sheyenne River and from there to the Red River of the North, Lake Winnipeg, and eventually Hudson Bay. An impressive difference for how the water travels from some nondescript ponds in North Dakota!

About 37 miles in, I came to Valley City. I had been afraid that Old US-10 would become unpaved along the way and I’d have to divert to I-94, but the pavement held.

The aforementioned Sheyenne River flows through Valley City (thus creating the valley for which the city is named), and there’s a cool footbridge across it in downtown which connects to City Park.

I also discovered a pizza place called Pizza Corner, which has an incredible lunch deal: For $5 including tax, you get a 6″ pizza with up to 3 toppings, a fountain drink, and an ice cream bar. Considering I’ve been having difficulty eating enough calories this was perfect for me. And the pizza wasn’t half bad either.

Coming out of Valley City, I had one of the few substantial climbs of the day, in order to get out of the aforementioned valley. And then there was another section where Old US-10 was unpaved, so I wound up on good old I-94 for 13 miles.

After that stretch, I exited at Tower City. Checking the map, it looked like I could go 6 miles east from Tower City on pavement but then I’d have to choose between a dirt road and going back to I-94, and going back on I-94 would involve 17 more miles on the Interstate as well as an additional 2 miles each way getting to and from the Interstate. So I went into resourceful mode and asked some locals in a convenience store. The first person told me that the dirt road was suitable for bikes the last time he was on it, but he hadn’t been on it for a few months and conditions can change. The second person told me that it wouldn’t have been suitable for bikes a couple of weeks ago (presumably because the rains that flooded the causeway also turned the road to mud), but that I should be fine biking it today. And indeed I was. There was some gravel on the road, but enough cars travel on it that their tires left hard dirt grooves that I could bike in. It was somewhat bumpy, but I was able to maintain about the same speed as I do on pavement.

Incidentally, about a mile off this dirt road, on a side dirt road, was a winery. But I just couldn’t bring myself to take the detour to try North Dakota wines. I felt like they’d be down there with New Hampshire wines. If anyone has any personal knowledge of ND wines, let me know whether they’re decent or not.

After 8 miles I regained pavement, and then I continued another 8 miles to the town of Casselton. This seemed like a good time to check in with my friend Josh, who’s putting me up for the next few nights along with his boyfriend Jesse, so I called him and he told me he was going with his parents to the Red River Valley Fair at 6 in West Fargo. Well, that changed my itinerary a bit, because I had originally planned to visit this brewery on the north side of Fargo that’s only open Wed-Sat. (And if I’m still in Fargo next Wednesday afternoon, it means something will have gone very wrong.) So I guess that brewery will have to wait for my next visit to Fargo.

Instead I decided I still had time to hit the one brewery in Mapleton, which is about 10 miles east of Casselton and 6 miles west of West Fargo. Only when I got there, despite the fact that it had signs up and the hours posted clearly on the door, the door was locked. I Googled their phone number and called them, and it turned out they had recently moved to downtown Fargo but hadn’t bothered to, y’know, put a sign at the old location saying they’d moved. I guess I’ll check them out tomorrow.

So I wound up at a convenience store, because one way or another I needed to refill my water. It was at this point that I discovered that my interview had aired, and one thing led to another and I wound up in a whole long conversation with the store clerks about many things. In a remark that restored my faith in Americans being able to have nuanced opinions in these divided times, one of the clerks remarked that it’s unfortunate that there’s no middle ground between all-powerful unions and all-powerful corporations. Why can’t people have more reasonable discussions like this?

At this point, I was worried it was getting too close to 6, so I headed over to the West Fargo fairgrounds. Wound up getting there before 6, so I decided, since the plan was for Josh to give me and my bike a ride back to his place after the fair, that I’d bike to the Fargo city limits just so I could say I properly biked to Fargo.

Notice the population? It’s the first city I’ve been in with more than 100,000 people since Bellevue, WA, which is just across the lake from Seattle. Over two weeks without seeing a city of 100k people!

After I got back from that excursion, I met up with Josh at the fair. You know, it’s been great meeting so many new people on this ride, but sometimes there’s no substitute for family and longtime friends, and it was incredibly relieving to see a familiar face for the first time in nearly 2 weeks since I said goodbye to Ben in Richland.

As for the fair itself, I took advantage of the beer garden to order a Kenny’s Lemonade from Fargo Brewing in keeping with the radler theme. It was good but nowhere near as good as the radlers I had in Bismarck. After that, we went to see the live entertainment, which goes well into the night.

I liked the opener, but the main act really didn’t do it for me and my eyelids were drooping by 10pm because of the long day. By this time though, Jesse had biked over to the fair and joined us, and he agreed to bike back to their place with me. So I guess I didn’t have to make that detour to the city limits after all. By the time I finally got to Josh and Jesse’s place, I was well over a century for the day.

Thankfully, I can now take two full days of rest. I’m taking my bike into a shop tomorrow for a tune-up, since Fargo is the halfway point across the country, so it’s a good time for a chain replacement, tire rotation, gear adjustment, etc. Other than that, I’ll see which Fargo breweries I want to visit. It’s going to be tough because there’s also a really good meadery and a really good distillery here and I definitely want to hit both of those as well. [Ed. note: The distillery is only open Thu-Sat, so I guess I won’t be going there.]

Next update is probably coming on Monday, since I don’t need to bore you with how late I sleep in on an off day, and I can just condense my brewery reviews into one post.

Total distance: 104.9 miles
Average speed: 13.6 mph (though it was 13.9 before the ride home from the fair)

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  1. Unemployed man bikes across country with his meager belongings. Won’t you help him? LOL Excellent helmet & glove tan lines. The stigmata of the endurance cyclist.


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