Published: October 1st 2012October 1st 2012
An otherworldly place
Fred and my dad resumed riding in Bismarck. Many might say, “but didn’t they stop at the Montana border – how can they have ‘resumed riding in Bismarck?'”
I explain. It is true that the capital of North Dakota is not anywhere near the Montana border. In fact, Bismarck lies roughly 200 miles from where Fred and my dad ended the Montana leg of their quest. Did they cover 200 miles in one day? They did. On I-94. In their respective Chevy trucks.
I asked my dad if he felt any guilt about taking the easy way out. He didn’t give a direct answer.
“There are just too many big trucks. It would be mayhem.”
The riders received their reward for playing it safe.
They started out from Bismarck earlier than ever – dawn was just breaking by the time Fred plugged in his Ipod, affixed the mirror to his sunglasses, put on his helmet, and rode off in pursuit of glory, my dad, and Pollock, South Dakota. The well-maintained biking trail paralleling Highway 1804 appeared as an added bonus. And so they set off on that well-maintained bike trail in the cool, fall morning eager
End of the Line
The Bed (we got coffee, no breakfast) was Pollock's train depot in more prosperous times. It stands among the grain bins.
to test their legs, fresh after a day of truck-assisted rest, and leave North Dakota in Fred’s sunglasses-mounted rear-view mirror.
I was instructed to meet the riders at 5-mile intervals. At the first break they told me that well-maintained biking path had disappeared. When they stopped after 10 miles, a biker zoomed past. No one gave chase. By the third interval what had been slight breeze had become a wind. It came from the southeast and went right into the riders’ faces. Before noon, gusts hidden within that wind, blasted the exhausted riders backwards. And the hills, Montana-like in proportion, rolled on into the horizon. We agreed after lunch that I would stop at three, and in one instance, two-mile intervals.
Before yesterday, when I sat in the sag truck waiting for the riders I could always identify Fred approaching before I ever saw him. His bike’s distinctive clicking noise clued me in that the riders were near. Yesterday, I didn’t hear that clicking. Fred made his approach known by panting.
Riding into the teeth of a 20 mile per hour wind, they looked beaten – physically and spiritually.
My dad later told me, every time
Moon over North Dakota
Just before the ride near the North and South Dakota border
he wobbled in for sag truck relief, that he had noticed me smiling, and not a friendly-like. Maybe I was smiling so. Or maybe it was my dad’s guilty conscience. Lewis and Clark did not enjoy heated seats.
But in the end the riders’ completed their self-imposed 60-mile quota. It took seven hours and killed their legs, but they did it. A penance, perhaps.
We arrived in Pollock by driving the next 20 miles. Getting to Pollock required crossing a causeway between two massive, but dried up lakes – one a mess of cattails and the other soon to be. With its rocket-like grain elevators, relentless and dusty wind, depopulated center, pale blue sky, and dying lakes -- Pollock was a lost civilization; straight out of the Martian Chronicles.
We arrived looking for the End of the Line Bed and Breakfast. Fred had been told it could be found between the grain bins. And so it was. Duane, our host, gave us the best news of the day. He had cable. He had the Cornhusker game.
On the very first play, the Nebraska quarterback fumbled the snap.
“They’re going to lose. This is a joke.
Thus proclaimed my dad. He continued in this line as the Cornhuskers fumbled their way to 17-point deficit. But in the third quarter, the tide turned. And my dad? He brushed his teeth. In the fourth quarter Nebraska kicked the winning field goal. My dad slept. Yeah, he rode 60 miles into the wind. But still.
Today, progress came easier. The riders got out before dawn. The wind kicked up but this time from the northwest. The riders finished 60 miles to Mobridge, South Dakota before 1 o'clock. After a gravy-drowned lunch at the House of Hong Kong, they rested, gathered strength, and then feasted on broasted chicken and beers at the Mobridge supper club.
The campaign continues to Gettysburg tomorrow.