Friday, September 11, 2009

Day One Hundred Ninety, 090906 - Webster, ND

Day One Hundred Ninety, Date Sunday, September 6, 2009
Time in Saddle: 9:43
Distance for the Day: 79.47 miles From Grafton To Webster, ND
Accumulated Trip Distance: 9482.2 miles
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 676’/1279’, Highest: 1331’ Accumulated: 1142’
Speeds: Avg: 8.1 mph, Max: 13.6 mph
Weather: 58°
Expenditures: $19

Woke up at 5:50am this morning, got up at 6:18am, and was ready to roll by 6:51am. The nearly full but waning gibbous Moon hung high in the southwest, and that bright, beautiful Venus was visible. The wind kept the mosquitoes at bay, and also kept everything dry; no slugs or spiders, either. Watched the red ball of the Sun at 6:55am rise between a couple of railroad train cars and roughly calculated that the days right now are approx 12 hours and 55 minutes – still ‘long’ – which will shorten as we move toward the Autumnal Equinox. I stopped at mini mart from 7:45-8:30am for a breakfast of Danish, muffin, and hot cocoa, plus a I got a soda for later ($7). I made Park River at 10:28am; the wind was gentle, and the clear, sunny (inverted) skies were perfect for cycling. Around 2:48pm, I noticed that I’d passed a lot of marshland and small ponds or lakes that harbored all kinds of wildlife: terns, ducks, birds of prey, and I even heard coyotes yipping, once. The endless farmland as far as the eye could see never failed to amaze me. The breeze was starting to pick up some, all still out of the south, and the altitude above sea level was very slowly rising, from about 700’ ASL (just after Park River), to around 1300’ ASL after going only 30 or 40 miles further west; I was wondering if this was the beginning of the incline which culminates in the mountains around the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, still so far to the west. I stopped at 3:15pm in the tiny town of Edmore to stock up supplies, but everything was closed (it being Labor Day weekend). I stopped to talk with a couple of locals to see if I was missing anything, and one of them happened to be the friendly owner of the town’s grocery store, and was happy to open his store for me (how nice!) We went over to it, and I got food and drink items ($12). After stocking up, I continued west on SR17 at 3:54pm.

This was a travel day. Just plugged away through these vast tracts of farmland. Wheat, sunflowers, corn, and always: hay. Lots of grasshoppers and dragonflies, hawks and swifts. Oh, and can’t forget the tiny little gnats that get inside my goggles that I have to get out of there. The wind today wasn’t too bad, and was out of the south, so it kept me from sweating even though it was a little warm, but it still slowed me down. The terrain was pretty much flat, with very gradual climbs and descents, but mostly climbs. I was very careful to not overstress my knees or muscles, keeping my pedal strokes even and keeping the gearing on the light side. On occasion, especially on ascents, my knees would still start to hurt. The good news: I could get rid of the pain by just resting a few minutes, and be good to go for an hour or two before they’d start to hurt, again. As evening approached, I wasn’t seeing much except for the ubiquitous fields of crops, with occasional spots where I *could* set up a tent, but pretty close to the road. The traffic on this Sunday evening of a three-day holiday weekend was almost non-existent, so it could be done, but it still would not have been great. I wanted to check my computer to make sure of where I was, but to my horror, it wouldn’t start! Was it broken, or was the battery just dead? I fully recharged it in Grafton, and hadn’t used it since then, so it should have still been in the 90% range of charge. I knew the town of Webster was part of my route, and I found a sign that indicated, “this way to Webster – 10 miles,” so I pushed on, hoping to find services where I could plug in to verify if I needed a new notebook or not. I got there about 20 minutes after sunset (~8pm), but to my disappointment, the “town” was nothing more than a small collection of houses and closed businesses with no services at all. I turned south on Rte 20 but faced about another 10 more miles of nothing before the next town. I would be riding in the black of night, long before I got there, and did not want to do that. I did notice a large garage with a light on inside, so I thought, ‘what the hell,’ and went there to ask about camping possibilities. There was a guy inside next to a nice looking tractor trailer truck (one of the ones with a small sleeping cabin behind the driver) painting a wooden box. I approached, and he stood up to greet me. His name was Lonnie, and I asked if he could recommend any spot nearby I could put up my tent. He said I could put it in behind his garage, where there was a large lawn and some trees (N48 16.868’ W98 52.676’). Great! He even let me plug my notebook into an outlet, and to my very great relief, it worked just fine. I don’t know why the battery discharged while stored in my pannier, but it was working, now. Maybe I somehow it accidentally got turned on, though I don’t know how it could do that; with its lid closed, it should go into sleep mode. I hoped it wouldn’t start doing that on a regular basis. We talked while he continued painting his ‘boot box,’ and he said the slow economy was still very tough for truckers. An occasional small toad would hop by as we also talked about the weather and farming. I asked him why farmers couldn’t harvest the wheat at night: it’s because the wheat has to be dry when it’s cut and thrashed. If it’s moist or wet, it becomes “tough,” or fibrous, and the wheat kernels don’t separate from the head, well. I never knew that. I knew that when a crop ripens, they have to get it while the getting’s good, but there are conditions that keep them from doing it any old time. It got to be about 10pm, my notebook was up to 90% charged, so I just left it to finish up overnight. Lonnie left the back door unlocked, so I could get to it in the early morning. We said our farewells, as he would not be up quite as early as me, and I went out to battle the mosquitoes (I’d already gotten several hits just while talking) before going to bed. It was fairly temperate, only slightly cool, and there was a light breeze; great conditions to keep most of the skeeters off me while I slipped into my hammock at 10:08pm. There was almost no traffic, and I was behind a large garage which blocked most of what little traffic noise there was, so I had a very nice sleep that night, gently swaying in the breeze, the stars and a large waning gibbous Moon shining above.


Goossens Bas said...

Hello Don, I ( Bas) am reading your America tour . It is giving me à lot of pleasure, reading your adventurers.I am impressed by what you have accomplished..
I am a proud owner of an Ice Adventure myself, since a few weeks and am training a lot now.
I learned about your blog from and am really impressed.

But I would like to ask you about your knees. Have you damaged them by riding so many miles?

Greetings from Amsterdam.


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