Days 38-40: Fargo Part I

Thursday, July 16 – Saturday, July 18th, 2009

Fargo Part I with Stephen and Sarah

That last day of wind was enough for us. I threw the idea out there, and Amy came around to it, that Fargo might be a good place to stop biking and continue our journey via other means of transportation. So here it is, the end of the biking road for us, Fargo, North Dakota! We added up our mileage, and we biked over 1000 miles this summer!! We feel great about our accomplishment.

We really enjoyed our time with Stephen and Sarah, who hosted us at their lovely home for our first three nights in Fargo. We cooked food and ate together, ran errands together, and talked and laughed together. Sarah took us to her favorite coffee shop, Babs’, and across town to buy some camping supplies. They were very generous with their time and space, as their house was Couchsurfing central for awhile – us, the couple from Madison who greeted us when we first got there, and another Nathan, a friend of a friend who was in town to play some shows and promote his film company, and who also was very helpful with taking us around when we needed it.

Stephen and Sarah are cat people, like ourselves, and we had fun being in a house with cats again. Kim and Boots are Siamese cats, mother and daughter, and stay inside, while Harvey goes in and out and likes terrorizing baby bunnies and bringing them to the doorstep.

For the first few days we had our bikes, and biked around town, running some errands, sampling the local cafes, and getting our bearings in Fargo, which has some beautiful neighborhoods and a really cool downtown. We made many trips to Scheels, a local chain of stores with camping and sports type clothing and equipment, as we thought about what we needed for the rest of our trip. For instance, we realized that we each only had one non-bike-clothing outfit, and we were also a little short on warm clothing, and it was getting cold… down to the low 50s overnight.

We also spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to get our bikes and excess gear home, and get ourselves to Banff. We really wanted to ride a train, but the train doesn’t go to Banff, or even to Calgary; it goes to Edmonton, which would necessitate another long bus ride after getting off the train. Eventually we settled on Greyhound from Fargo to Winnipeg, plane from Winnipeg to Calgary, and shuttle or bus from Calgary to Banff.

Stephen took us around one day to run some errands, including looking for bike boxes to ship the bikes home. We could have paid one of the local bike shops to pack and ship our bikes, but I decided to do it myself for a few reasons… 1) I figured we had the time and could save some money, 2) we had some miscellaneous gear (e.g. racks) that I would have to take off anyway, and 3) I like learning how to do things.

So, as we explored Fargo and got to know our hosts, a lot of time was spent refactoring for the rest of our journey. I definitely felt some restlessness and withdrawal as we transitioned from the pattern of biking all day and camping in a different spot every night, to an extended stay in Fargo. Our patient hosts helped a lot, and there was stuff to do in the city, including a big street fair with kettle corn, arts and crafts, and some live performances.

Of course, packing the bikes ended up taking more time than I expected, so we only had one bike packed by the time we transitioned from Steve and Sarah’s house to our second CS host in Fargo. It also took awhile to figure out what we wanted to keep with us of other gear, and what we’d have to ship home or give away that might be an issue getting on the plane. Nate the musician/filmmaker helped us out Saturday evening, tossing all our stuff in the back of his truck and taking us to the apartment where we stayed in Fargo, Part II…

Day 37: Rothsay, MN to Fargo, ND

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rothsay, MN to Fargo, ND (43 miles into the wind)

The inn at Rothsay was a lifesaver, as nearly everything was dry by the time we woke up. It took awhile to pack everything back up, as it was strewn all over the room, but we managed to do it, going over our checkout time by a little bit (no problem with the innkeeper, just an opportunity to jest with us once more).

Normally, we start out the day swapping the lead every 5 miles. Today, the nice strong breeze (25-30 miles per hour) that had blown away the storms and blown in the nice weather was right in our faces, so we started out swapping the lead every 2 miles. We had about 40 to go, so you can imagine that it was slightly demoralizing to go just 2 out of 40 miles and be tired enough to have to swap.

Unfortunately, swapping every 2 wasn’t good enough, and we quickly cut it down to 1 mile. Every single mile was grueling, as we averaged between 6 and 7 miles per hour. As we neared Moorhead, the city in Minnesota right across the Red River from Fargo, North Dakota, the terrain completely flattened out and opened up into prairie (the Eastern ND / Western MN version of prarie that has been developed into farmland). This essentially meant no hills, trees, or other structures to break up the wind for the vast majority of the time. I’m sure if I were the wind I would love the prairie, with nothing to stop me from gaining and maintaining strength and speed.

We made many stops and eventually made it into Moorhead, exhausted. We made a mistaken turn and ended up heading back south for a mile or so; we were just fried and navigating took too much brainpower. Eventually we figured out where to cross the river, and connected with our Couchsurfing hosts over the phone, who gave us directions to their house. We made it there without too much trouble, and were greeted by another Couchsurfing couple Zsusy and Casey, who were staying there as well, and who gave us the tour since Steve and Sarah were at work. The house was beautiful and we felt welcomed and right at home, with our own room and an air mattress, and three cats, Boots, Kim, and Harvey.

Steve had made some taboule and had some hummus for us to eat, which we did (first dinner), then after recharging for a bit and unloading the bikes, I went back out to the grocery store to pick up some supplies for pesto pasta (second dinner) and a bottle of wine, which we all enjoyed sharing when Stephen and eventually Sarah got home, sharing stories and getting to know one another.

More to come on our time with Steve and Sarah, Fargo part 1.

Day 35: Nelson, MN to Fergus Falls, MN

Monday, July 13, 2009

Nelson, MN to Fergus Falls, MN

We rode on the trail for a long time and came across other bikers who encouraged us on our way.

First we met two Canadians who had been bike touring together for decades. One was from British Columbia, the other from Ontario, and they were on a tour from the west coast to the east coast. They really looked like they knew what they were doing, which made their encouragement and praise of us all the more impactful! They said we looked like we were seasoned and experienced, and did a great job of packing light. They liked our modified back racks (thanks, Mr. Reeves!) and were very encouraging (did I say that already?).

We also met this really cool biker family traveling from Spokane. Imagine traveling with two teenage girls. Right, but these girls rock. We had some funny conversations about killer grouse and whose trip had been harder into the wind and up hill. They’ve done about 1500 miles so far and are heading to Maine and will take the train back. We were very impressed with this family and their spirit of adventure!

The girls are blogging about their trip on kellyannerinbikestheusa.com and posted a picture of us on their site.

As the clouds continued to gather, the SSW wind continued to blow us toward the end of the Central Lakes Trail. As we found out later, and you already read about, wind from the S or SW might be a good thing if you’re traveling NW in Minnesota or North Dakota, but it also means that bad weather is coming! We made it to the end of the trail after passing a very stinky processing facility / wildlife management area (I didn’t really understand how those things went together) and then the trail just ended. No clear road or path or “welcome to Fergus Falls” at the end; it just ended. We were looking for a park at the end that was supposed to be relatively cheap and good to tent camp at, and it wasn’t there. We figured it must be the park we had passed a little over a mile back, so we turned around, back into the wind and backtracked a mile or so to DeLagoon Park.

The park was really beautiful, with a lake, wide open grassy areas, lots of trees, pavilions, etc, and hardly anyone was camping there. We said hi to a family as we picked a site, dumped our stuff, and refueled and planned for the evening and the coming rain. Pretty soon our neighbor came over and offered us some cold pop, knowing that we wouldn’t have ice or a cooler on our bikes! We set aside the soda for later and took a little exploratory walk over to the pavilion. It started to sprinkle a little bit, so we decided to go back to the campsite, pitch our tent, and move our bikes and the rest of our stuff under the pavilion, where we also planned to cook and eat dinner.

Amy bumped into the family again by the bathrooms, and asked them if they had change (we needed some to pay for the campsite in the drop box). They did, and so when we headed back to our campsite we walked back with them, and chatted about our trip and theirs. They quickly invited us over to their spot to share some drinks, snacks, and hang out, which we gladly accepted, and ended up hanging out and talking with them for a few hours. I can’t remember their names right now… maybe Amy will later, but if you guys are reading this, thank you so much for your hospitality and the good conversations! [Amy remembers their last name was Samcoff, strangely similar to Selikoff! The mom’s name was Crystal, and one of the two young boys’ names was Christian].

It didn’t rain overnight, though the radar showed green all over us (thus leading us to mistrust the radar, leading to poor decision making the following day). A great day full of new relationships with fellow travelers!

Day 34: St. Joseph, MN to Nelson, MN

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

St. Joseph, MN to Nelson, MN (58 mi)

We got up pretty early and packed up our quiet camp and left. We quickly got up on the Lake Wobegon trail and headed west. It was soooo nice to be on a paved trail again… we can ride next to each other, don’t have to worry about looking behind us all the time, etc. There were a lot of crossings in certain parts of the trail, but those are much preferable to being on the road.

I’m writing this a week removed and things are starting to meld together. I think we had tailwinds today for the first time in awhile. There were a lot of little towns along the trail with places to stop for breakfast, lunch, second lunch, etc.

I’m pretty sure this was the day we met up with what we joked were our “back to the future” selves. We saw them ahead of us on the trail, heading in the same direction as us. We joked that they were trying to see us (“them”) in this day and age without actually letting us see them (“us”). If that makes any sense at all 🙂 It took us forever to catch up with them… we know we’re slow with all our gear! Eventually we caught up with them at a stop and chatted. They were from South Dakota, I think, and we swapped some stories, and they offered to share some of their maps with us when we got to where they were parked, a few miles down the trail.

We passed some interesting sites on the way along the trail, as you can see from the pictures below… a little touristy “railroad town” called Memoryville, some beautiful churches, and a very large viking.

Oh yeah… I remember a hallmark of this day. We decided we were going to try and save some money today by starting out with a “European” breakfast of bread, meat, and cheese from a grocery store, and having the leftovers for lunch. So we did that, but didn’t get great bread, only some “sandwich thins”. It was fine for breakfast, ok for lunch, and by the time we ate the last of it for dinner, we were SO tired of it.

We weren’t quite sure where we were going to stay as the day wore on, and we stopped at a bar and grill for some nachos and beer. We talked with some of the folks about the campsites and “resorts” that were close by, then started calling places. A bunch of the “resorts” don’t allow overnight/tent camping, and one of them was promising, based on what people said, but didn’t pick up the phone. We had called twice with no answer and just decided to head there – it wasn’t that far off the trail. We got there and the office was empty (it was Sunday, after all) but there was a phone number for the campsite manager. We called the number but didn’t get a response, so decided to just put our stuff out that needed to dry in the last of the sun and wait for a bit. No callback, so we pitched our tent and tried to make ourselves as compact as possible, just so we wouldn’t be in the way. It was a really beautiful location, on a lake, and I enjoyed hearing loons for the first time in a long time.

July 18

This isn’t a ‘tweet’ but it might read that way. We’re in Fargo and in a bar downtown called the Old Broadway. We’re at least half a decade older than any one here. We feel old. There is a bachelorette party going on and lady screaming every now and then. We let our hair down and I’ve joined in their calls of the wild. We hope to meet up with a few couch surfers. It is loud and we are out of place and younger hipper people keep taking our seats. It is fun.