Day One Hundred Eighty-six, Date Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Time in Saddle: 10:23
Distance for the Day: 102.38 miles From Pitt To NW Angle, MN
Accumulated Trip Distance: 9229.2 miles
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 942’/915’, Highest: 975’ Accumulated: 449’
Speeds: Avg: 9.8 mph, Max: 18.9 mph
Woke up at 5:40am and got up at 5:45am. It was early enough, there was just an orange glow on the horizon with bright Venus in the blue-black sky. I broke down and was ready to roll by 6:26am – still before sunrise. At about 7:45am, after rolling along for a while, and the sun had risen, I witnessed one train passing another that was stopped on a side track. Both trains were so long you couldn’t see the full length of either train, fully. When the moving train finally passed by, the waiting train started up, and I could hear the linkages clanking and cracking as they tightened up. I got a sense that the whole train was stretching over its length, as the minute spaces of the standing cars got pulled out and then began to pick up speed to get on its way. Kind of amazing to see, if you’ve never seen it, before. I waved at the engineer and he waved back.
I hit the town of Warroad at 9:40am, and stopped to get breakfast and supplies at the mini mart ($9). It wasn’t long after that that I approached the US Canadian border, and entered Canada at 11:05am. They asked if I had any weapons, and I said ‘no,’ but then the guy said do you have mace or pepper spray, and I did have pepper spray. They took it as they considered it a weapon, and gave me a receipt for it so I could get it back when I came back into the US. I hit the tiny town of Sprague at 12:41pm, and began heading north now on Hwy 308 towards Moose Lake and my ultimate goal: the NW Angle. I stopped for lunch and to dry out my tent fly from 3:05pm – 3:42pm on a side road in the shade of some trees. A few hours later, I arrived at the NW Angle, and “Jim’s Corner,” at 5:30pm, where you have to call the US Customs people to let them know you have entered the United States. (The Northwest Angle is really weird – the only way to get to it by land is through Canada.) There’s a white booth with two video telephones, each with a US button, and a Canada button. When you *enter* the NW Angle, you have to push the US button that connects you to US Customs, who ask you who you are and why you’re there, etc. If you leave the NW Angle, you have to push the Canada button, which connects you to Canadian Customs who do the same thing. If you don’t do either of these actions at the appropriate time, it’s a $5000 fine from Canada, and a $1000 fine from the US! I made the call, but was never approached by the two Border Patrol trucks I saw during my short time, there.
Using my Street Atlas 2009, I was able to find the little spur of Birch Rd. at 6:15pm that was the furthest north point in the contiguous 48 United States. I made it! There was no marker to make it official – just a few houses, so I took a few pictures, and started heading back. I went to the “northernmost bar,” called North Point to get something to drink, and started chatting with Amber, the barkeep, there. She not only gave me my soda for free, she gave me valuable info on how to get from the Angle to my next major destination (Yellowstone), and even called her mom (who drives trucks with her husband and knows the country really well), to verify some of the info with her. I also showed her some of my photos from my notebook, and taught her how to view my 3D pictures using the cross-eye technique. She was amazed and delighted! I gave her some tips on how to do them, herself, and she said she would be doing a lot of them from now on. I was amazed she picked up the technique so quickly. Way to go, Amber! I then found the local convenience store and bought a soda and food items ($6C), and went back to Jim’s Corner to call Canadian Customs, to let them know I was coming back into Canada, again. I guess they don’t get many cyclists up there, because the gal didn’t quite know what to do when I told her I didn’t have a car license plate number – I bicycled there. I just gave her my home address, and she let it go at that.
It was just about 8pm when I left that crazy white booth to start back down south, and with it as late as it was I would have to do some night riding before I could get to any decent stealth camp sites. (I took note of possible sites on the way up.) Even with the light of an almost full moon to help navigate the road, it was low in the sky, and I could barely see the details of the road when it got dark. A few times, I had to turn on my front blinker light when I could see cars coming from the opposite direction (I could see their headlights on the trees before they could see me). One item of interest: while I’d been on that dirt road, which started at Moose Lake and went to the NW Angle (about 21 miles), I didn’t see one motorcycle – maybe they don’t like dirt roads so much. I found one of the good stealth camps at 9pm – a large, football field sized area where a little hill of road gravel was stored (N49 17.267’ W95 9.336’), and set up tent by 9:30pm. Again, I fully expected mosquitoes, so didn’t wait after stopping, and just implemented the full measures – didn’t get a single hit. I read my book, drank my soda, and munched on trailmix until 10:36pm, and went to sleep.