Monthly Archives: July 2014

ENO Twilights LED Camp Lights

ENO Twilights LED Camp Lights

 

These are awesome! We’ve talked about these lights before in a previous post about bicycle touring luxury items, but i no longer consider these a “luxury” item; they are now considered as one of our daily usage and necessity items. We’ve used these lights daily as the primary source of light in our tent.

They’re bright enough for reading with. We use them in place of a lantern most nights. However, they’re not too bright, like a lantern would be; instead, they provide a nice warm, ambient glow in the tent, much like that of a favorite coffee house reading nook.

They’re LED, so they don’t require much energy usage. Three AA batteries gives you over 300 hours of continuous burn time. In fact, we use these nightly (when camping) and only needed to replace the batteries last week; that’s approximately 2 months of usage for 30 mins or longer per night. When the batteries do start to die, they go into a dim function and change colors less often, but can still be used for quite a while before they completely die.

They are pretty durable. We keep them wrapped around the top, inside pocket of our tent and roll them up with the tent everyday. I don’t take any special care or precautions when rolling them up in the tent; I just roll the tent up just like i would if they were’nt in there. I’ve done this every day since the beginning of our tour and we haven’t had any issues…the lights are as good as new.

They’re super light weight; only 4.5 oz without the batteries. They basically weigh only slightly more than the weight of the batteries needed to operate them.

They’re fun! Besides providing good reading light. They also change colors, making our tent kinda disco’y (yes, thats a word i just created), but not too annoying like sleeping next a window that faces the Vegas strip.

 

Shoe of the day #5

It’s been a while since we served up some shoe of the day to you. We haven’t had as much luck spotting shoes on the country back roads we’ve been taking lately. It seems that shoes are mostly lost on interstates and busier highways. I’ll also admit that I’ve passed up a lot of shoes because I’ve been cycling at a great pace and didn’t want to stop to get a picture…sorry!

Today the universe provided us with a bountiful gift to make up for our laziness and to reward your patience with us. I give to you the extremely rare, roadside shoe tree.

 

 

 

Riding Bikes in Minnesota is Great! A Six Day MN Recap

After our fast-track tour through North Dakota Dustin and I got back in the saddle in Fargo and headed toward Moorhead to start exploring the land of 10,000 lakes.

…And, in the six days it took to ride across Minnesota, I think we truly saw at least 6,421 lakes, indeed. And only about 100 mosquitoes! Minnesota is amazing!

While traveling across Minnesota we stayed in Pelican Rapids; Dalton; Sauk Centre; Ramey and Dalbo.

Since we we are using the North Lakes maps to enter the U.P of Michigan, we took the Trails Alternate in Northern Tier map number 5 (a detail that will only matter to other cyclists traveling the Northern Tier).

While we were (and are still currently) bummed about missing Bemidji and nothern Minnesota (we’ve made plans the visit northern Wisconsin for a future holiday), the Trails Alternate was great; lots of bike paths (!) and no lack of scenery. Here’s a MN day by day break down.

Pelican Rapids, MN

From Fargo, ND we headed south then east through Downer, MN (yes, a real place) and Cormorant before finally landing in Pelican Rapids to camp in a downtown city park.

Pros of Pelican Rapics and the city park camping experience:

  • The camp site — despite being, literally, a city park in the middle of the “city” — was actually really pretty and right on the Pelican River (I thought at the time this was a lake, but looking at the map now, it’s clear it’s a river). The grass was green, there were park benches, and generally we felt safe.
  • The camp site was right next to Pelican Rapid’s river suspension bridge; a bridge they are very proud of for right reason (it’s pretty cool).
  • The camp site was right next to a city pool that was really warm, not full of poo, and cheap (only $2 to swim) so we got to take a dip with some city kids, and that was fun.
  • We camped right by the Pelican Rapids giant pelican!
  • There were flush toilets and showers (ok, a single shower) in the camp group. No quarters required.
  • On the way into Pelican Rapids, Dustin saved this turtle from near road-side death:

If you’re reading, the turtle heroism was for you, Virginia Nussey!

Cons of Pelican Rapids:

  • Apparently the men’s bathroom was much funkier than the women’s and Dustin dropped his pants in some water….. that turned out to be poop based on the way it was drying. So, we spent a while at the Pelican Rapids laundry mat (which, by the way, if you’re cycling through, I don’t recommend. The laundry mat was overpriced and I saw a man washing some large canvas thing that potently smelled like gasline even after he was done washing it. Yikes. There are no pictures of this laundry mat because it was forgettable.)

Dalton, MN

From Pelican Rapids, we took CR3 and the Otter Trail Scenic Byway southward through Edwards and Fergus Falls, then hopped onto the Central Lakes State Trail — the first of many bike trails we would take through Minnesota. We planned to ride all the way to Alexandria on MN day two, but instead ended up sleeping in a city park off the bike trail in Dalton because of some super heavy suprise rain fall.

Dalton — the city, the people who live there, and the park — were all great. There is actually a giant sign ini the park that says “no overnight camping,” despite the ACA map saying that camping is available. So, we called the city clerk, and, after offering to let us sleep in her front yard (amazing), she said that even though they recently discontinued camping in the park it was fine for us to sleep there. And if anyone said anything to us about it, to tell them that Sandra [names changed to protect the innocent] at City Hall said it was ok.

One highlight of the Dalton city park was definitly the bored teenager grafiti scrawled in the covered picinic area including, a personal favorite: “Cheyanne and her new boyfriend are gay.” Hilarious.

A Sidebar about Minnesota’s Amazing Bike Trails

Apparently, Minnesota is amazing. I mean, if being bike friendly is a criteria you use for judging amazingness (as it should be). Using the Central Lakes Trail, the Lake Wobegon Trail and the Soo Line, you can ride Rails to Trails bike paths all the way across Minnesota — and then in the winter, you can ride snowmobiles on the bike paths (if you’re into that).

I love the Rails to Trails program, and I loved the number of people I saw cycling all over the state because of the convenience the paths provide. From moms with kids and grocery bags, to walkers, you could tell the bike trails were really inspiring people to get out and get active. I love it.

Some bike path pictures that prove Minnesota is the shit for bike riding:

(In my personal and humble opinion that is.)

Sauk Centre, MN

From Dalton we were back on the bike trail headed toward the Wobegon bike trail and Sauk Centre. Along the way we stopped at the Kensington Runestone Museum in Alexandria and stood witness to (supposed) evidence that the vikings were in the United States long before mister Columbus landed here. This museum was also a Native American + natural history museum, so we saw many interesting non-viking artifacts as well — oh, and a gigantic 40 year old statue of a viking named “Big Ol” (the museum had kind of a lot going on).

After the viking/Native American museum, we ended up camping at the Sinclair Lewis Campground, which was pleasant. Actually, it was very pleasant and I would highly recommend it if you’re trekking the Northern Tier. The shower was really clean and hot; we were right next to a beautiful lake; the grass in the tent camping area was green; mosquitoes weren’t bad; and we were about a five-minute walk from the “downtown” area where you can find a coffee shop, a grocery store, a movie theatre and some other schtuff.

One of my favorite parts of our stay in Sauk Centre was meeting Dick and Joyce Stock, a couple of lovely snow birds who rode bikes “before it was cool.” They invited us down to their campsite to share a campfire and a sunset by the lake and we had a great time. Dustin and I shared stories about our trip, and they told us about ther travels, and we all watched the lake as ducks and white pelicans swam around in the mirror-calm water and the sunset changed colors in the distance. In the morning they invited us over for toast and coffee (two of my favorite things!) but we had to politely decline since we had a long day of riding ahead of us.

Although I dropped the ball again and didn’t get a picture with Dick and Joyce, we will definitly keep in touch with them via snail mail.

After realizing that Minnesota was much shorter length-wise then Montana, and that, accordingly, we were almost done with the lake of 10,000 lakes and we hadn’t yet taken any time to hang out on the lake (!), Dustin and I decided to take a day off in the Centre of the Sauk. During this time, worth mentioning, I was able to cook up my day-by-day tour plan to get Dust and I to KT and Justin’s White Lake, MI wedding on time. Can’t believe it’s almost wedding + Michigan + KT time!!

Off-Roadin’ On the Way to The Ramey-Ish Rum Shack

Leaving Sauk Centre, we hopped back on the Woebegon Trail toward the Soo Line. After asking for some bikepath help in Holdingford (heads up, the “Wobegon Spur” isn’t labeled and may or may not be a real thing; we had to take the 3 to get to the Soo Line Trail), we we found the Soo Line, took that to Nature road.

Some keg pigs outside Osakis, MN

Adding to the adventure we found ourselves faced with a road closed ahead detour sign…. which we decided to ignore. Sometimes these detours will take you 25 miles around in circles that work just fine for cars, but add hours of riding to a bike tour. So we decided to chance it and found ourselves faced with a gigantor whole in the ground about 10 miles in. So, naturally…….. we walked aroud the giant hole and the construction through the tall grass on the sides. Ah, the magic of bike touring. On the other side of the giant hole the road was business as usual. (I must say, that tall grass adventure was a real bitch, though. It was like dragging 40 pounds through a thick forest with four-foot pokey grass. Dust and I felt like real off-road bad-asses when we made it out alive on the other side.

After our off-roadin’ adventure, we were about 20 miles from the days final destination: a tiny bar named the Rum Shack at the corner of CR 22 and CR 7 (which is why I call it the “Ramey-ish” Rum Shack; it’s not really in Ramey, it’s more or less in between towns) . This is where we met John and Ted, a couple of touring dudes we would lend up inadvertantly trailing for a few days, and where we experienced our first raging Minnesota lightening storm. Oh — and where I ate half of the world’s largest most delicious pizza ever and the most amazing Billy’Os-esque-salty-free bar popcorn.

The owner of the Rum Shack was ridiculously nice and, aside from allowing us to sleep behind his bar for free, actually invited us to sleep inside his house in the basement if the storm got too bad. A combination of laziness and fear kept us in our tent, but the offer really warmed our hearts (even more than the pizza. And that pizza made us pretty darn warm and happy).

Dalbo, MN

From the Rum Shack we continued on to the most magical place on Earth…. Don Olson’s Adventure Cyclist Bunkhouse. That place was so magical it deserves it’s own post. Here’s a teaser picture to hold you over:

 

 

To be continued….

 

 

Sleeping Pads

I’ll admit, when it comes to sleeping pads i’ve been really picky. Chelsea doesn’t seem to care as much, but for me picking the right sleeping pad is essential. It’s already hard enough sleeping somewhere other than your own soft bed, but sometimes the wrong sleeping pad can be worse than just sleeping directly on the ground. Finding the right sleeping pad for me meant trial and error. I felt a little like goldilocks;this one’s too small, this one’s too high, short, puffy, warm, etc.

 

The first pad i tried was the Big Agnes Q-Core SL Sleeping Pad.

I selected this pad because it had very high ratings/reviews and it’s super ligt weight. It’s a pretty expensive pad, but we used some clever REI discounts and sales and got a great deal on it (Chelsea is an amazing bargain shopper). After a few trial runs on this pad i decided it wasn’t for me. I loved the super light weight feature, but i felt like the pad was too high off the ground and way too narrow. I felt like i was sleeping on a 2 x 4 all night and would roll off the side at any given minute. This made for a very uncomfortable sleep. I think part of the reason it’s so narrow is that the pad is made to fit inside a pocket on the bottom of Big Agnes sleeping bags, in a way that prevents the bag and pad from moving when you turn during your sleep.I actually had a big agnes sleeping bag and used them in conjunction, but i still had that “sleeping on the edge of a cliff” feeling, and would wake up jammed in the crack between the edge of the pad and the sleeping bag…anyone who has slept on a waterbed before knows this feeling. So this pad was out…too narrow for me.

 

The next pad a tried was a heavy, yacht sized REI pad, the REI Camp Bed 3.5 Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad.

This pad was extra wide and truly comfortable. I had found my perfect pad; or so i thought. Turns out the pad is so wide that it doesn’t fit into our tent with Chelsea’s pad, or pretty much any other pad. Our tent is a fairly small backpacking tent, so there’s not a lot of floor space for my deluxe yacht sleeping pad. This REI pad also had an issue of weight and size. I doesn’t roll up very compact and weighs about 5x’s that of the Big Agnes pad. I was willing to carry the size and weight in exchange for the comfort, but the fact that it meant Chelsea would have to sleep outside of the tent was a deal breaker 😉 So for that reason, the REI pad was out.

 

After a little more searching around for the perfect pad we discovered (remembered) that we actually already own some good sleeping pads and had forgotten that they were packed away in the garage; Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout Sleeping Pad.

These pads seemed perfect, and guess what, my picky self had already gotten the long/wide version, so no sleeping “on the edge” feeling for me. It was decided, these were the sleeping pads we would take on the trip with us…and we did! After a few nights using the pads on our trip we noticed that we were both waking up sweaty in the middle of the night and sticking to our sleeping bag. At first we thought it was just really warm weather, after all we were camping in the Summer season. We also thought this heat could be from our sleeping bag, it’s rated at 30 degrees. However, after laying on just the pads by themselves it was decided that our sleeping pads were holding in way too much heat and this was the cause of our waking up feeling like we slept in a sauna. We stuck it out with these pads for about a month until we came across the next mega-sized sporting goods store in Fargo, ND. at which point we swapped our pads out for a lighter insulation rated Therm-a-rest pad

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture WV sleeping pad.

imageThis is the pad we’re still using at this point in our trip and i’m happy to say that we are sleeping much more comfortably, and don’t wke up sweaty and hot every night. We sent our old pads home, as these are still great pads and will definitely get some use when camping in colder climates/seasons. We’re constantly learning new things on this trip and are so grateful for this opportunity and lessons. For more information about these pads, click the links within the post and go to the “specs” tabs on the REI website. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more product updates.

 

Let Go and Let God: Some Thoughts With 1,800 Down and 1,800 To Go

Today I took about an hour in the post office. See, I’ve had this growing hobo-santa-esque grocery bag of hobo-esque goods intended for the post office tied precariously to my back rack for about a week now and I’ve tried to go to the post office several times but irregular small town hours and bad planning have had me just missing the office hours for a few weeks now. So, today when I was at the post office…. let’s just say I had a lot to do.

Why does this matter?

Because after I was done taking an absurdly long time in the post office, I came outside to meet Dustin — who had been waiting (baking) patiently in the sun for me outside with the bikes — and we were just about to ride away when a gentleman was walking into the post office just as we were rolling our bikes toward the next 10 miles. He asked where we were going and where we had been and where we were planning too stay tonight. We told him about our there’s and our then’s and our plans for the night: to stay in the Hayward KOA and go tubing/canoeing on the river. Then he told us that we were welcomed to stay at the KOA… or — for free — we could just stay at his house on the river right behind the KOA in one of his four extra rooms.

It was like the sky parted and magic rained down upon us. A bed in a real house? With a warm shower? And tubing on the river? Right down the street? For free?

It was an amazing let go and let God moment for me.

See, the only reason Dustin and I are even in Hayward, WI — a town about 25 miles off the ACA route — is because we tried to go canoeing in Interstate State Park three days ago and got rained out, then we tried to go swimming in a lake in Cumberland, WI and arrived too late in the evening, and then we tried to go swimming at the lake in Edgewater (the next 200ish-person town over) and that lake was so green with ectoplasm-colored……who knows what…. we couldn’t bear to slim ourselves with it, so, having been canoe/lake swimming-foiled THREE TIMES we decided that we needed a lake day and the Hayward KOA was just the answer. So we travelled 25 miles out of our way to stay at the KOA. Which lead us right to Kris and his warm bed, magic filled house behind the KOA.

And now, here I am, sitting in an incredibly beautiful — incredibly inspiring — house. All because we got lake foiled three really frustrating times; and all because I took at least an hour trying to figure out which overpriced USPS bubble mailer to send my Afrian Porcupine quills home in (yes, I have those), and all because Kris — the nicest politican you’ll ever meet — happened to be wandering into the post office at exactly the time that I was happening to almost be rolling away.

It’s just one of those everything fits together just as it should moments. A let go and let God moment, as I’ve taken to calling them.

That bad frustraing stuff? Yeah… it’s frustrating and bad. But if the post office wasn’t closed three times, you wouldn’t ever be at the fourth post office where the magic is going to happen! It’s like a magic eye. You can’t see the big picture when you’re in it; when it’s happening; when you’re at the third post office getting rejected by an awkward 7-1:37pm open hours sign; when you’re too close. It’s when you relax your eyes and stop trying and slowly step back from it all that that big beautiful pirate ship I like to call grateful clarity and perspective really pops out at ya. Or, God’s plan if you prefer to go that route — which, these days, I do. (You can choose what you call the pirate ship; just make sure your eyes are open or you’ll miss it.)

The point is that I just feel really grateful.

Greateful to be here. Greateful for all the hospitality — for all the humanity — I’ve seen from total strangers on this route.

I met a guy (Donn Olson) in Dalbo, MN who turned his 100-year-old barn (and a wheat silo!) into a bunkhouse for travelling bicyclists. He turned his whole barn (and a wheat silo!) into a bunkhouse! Just so cyclists could have a place to sleep for the night.Don Olson doesn’t cycle; he just really appreciates the adventure and is happy to offer a haven for weary bums in the middle of nowhere. He stocks the bunkhouse with eggs and bread and homemade jam (homemade) and offers it as a free gift. He has a coffee maker and a toaster and he built a shower and an outhouse that he cleans himself, just because he knows you — a total stranger on a bike — need a break.

Moving slowly seeing the country on County roads named only with letters, seeing unjaded animals as interested in us as we are in them, and meeting people like Don Olson, and Kris, and Chuck (a fellow who gave us a bed and a shower in Whitefish, MT), and Scott (an excellent cohert who offered us a futon and a shower in Twisp, WA) — people who have opened their homes to us, cooked us meals, and trusted us alone with their laptops and their irreplaceable relics — it becomes hard not to feel an overwhelming gratitude to a power greater than yourself every day.

My friend Amanda says her parents go for a run every Sunday morning and call it church. She says they take that time to connect with the universe; to be grateful for the day; to coalesce with their higher power as they understand Him. I like that a lot.

That is how I feel on this bike ride.

Every day I try my best to be open; to be connected; to tackle what I face (and who knows what I’ll face) the best I can; and to remember that no matter how bad it is it can’t be worse than the mosquitoes in Eastern Montana, that this too will pass, and that whatever craptastic failblog of a canoe-day disaster is happening, it’s all part God’s big-picture plan.

Some God Pics:

 

 

Cooking with gas: a review of camp stoves we’ve used

 

Earlier in this blog we mentioned our stove, the MSR Dragonfly. This was and still is a great stove. However, we decided to send this stove home and replace it with a new, smaller, and more simpler stove, the MSR Pocket Rocket. This decision was based on a few factors which I’ll expand on in a moment. First let me give you the pros and cons of each of these stoves.

Dragonfly pros:

Uses camp fuel (white gas) which is available anywhere in the U.S.; has a large sturdy base, perfect for large pots/pans and cooking on uneven ground; folds up compact; separate adjustments for fuel and flame make this stove perfect for the campground gourmet (which I am not) to cook full blast torch or slow simmer.

Dragonfly cons:

Separate bulky fuel bottle needed, which adds substantially to overall camp-kitchen weight/size in panniers; white gas spills a lot causing everything in panniers to smell of gas, and even ruined some silicon kitchen utensils; stove needs priming before each use, and is SUPER FINICKY and FRUSTRATING; Sound, this thing sounds like a helicopter taking off, loud is an understatement, not camp friendly for boiling water early in the morning.

 

Pocket Rocket pros:

Uses Isobutane fuel canisters, no priming needed, just turn on and light; compact size, can literally fit in your pants pocket; adjustable flame valve from simmer to full boil.

Pocket Rocket cons:

Uses Isobutane fuel canisters, which I’ve heard can be hard to come by, especially on the Eastern side of the U.S., so far I’ve seen them in every sporting goods store in every state since we left Washington (we’re in Minnesota now); fore mentioned fuel canisters take up room in Panniers; stove is very unstable, even on flat ground, balancing pots/pans while actively cooking is truly an art to master.

 

 

 

Conclusion:

We decided to send our Dragon Fly stove home because of it’s size, sound, and mostly because it always seemed like a hassle to take out, put together, and prime. Some times we avoided making a meal because we were just to tired to go through the production of coking with this stove. Also, there were times when the stove would go out during the priming process and we had to wait 15-20mins for it to cool down enough to prime again and potentially go out again. For that reason alone I was just over using this stove. The Pocket Rocket has been so much easier to use so far, and while it doesn’t have a wind guard (it still performs pretty well in high winds) and is extremely unstable, it’s still far less frustrating and far less hassle then the Dragonfly. Also, I really like the extra space I’ve gained in my pannier with the smaller stove. I still plan to keep my Dragon Fly stove and believe it’s a great stove, it’s just not the best stove for bicycle touring IMO. It’s only been about a week since swapping the stoves out, I’ll update this post after using the Pocket Rocket more and let you know if I still believe that we made the right choice.

 

UHaulin’ Across North Dakota

So… we might or might not have rented a UHaul truck and drove 480 miles across North Dakota. Ok. We did. And I don’t regret it.

Here’s the deal: My best friend is getting married in Michigan in early August and, knowing this, we’ve been planning to ride as far as we can and then, if necessary, rent a car or hitch a ride to make it to her big day on time. So, having been pushed back a few days because of the glorious rain storm we experienced back in Libby, MT, we decided that if we have to skip some terrain to make it to the wedding on time, we’d rather skip North Dakota than Wisconsin or Michigan (my home state).

Besides….those plains were getting just about one million blades of grass too long and, come Wolf Point, MT, it was getting clear that there was no chance that I was actually going to be seeing any buffalo roam where the buffalo were supposed to be roaming. (In fact, all I was seeing was dead prairie dogs; lots and lots of dead prairie dogs.)

So, in Wolf Point when we met Matt — a fellow bike tourer travelling lone wolf — who was interested in splitting the cost of a UHaul to UHaul-ass across the last 400 miles of the plains, it was pretty much on.

Here are some highlights from the UHaul extravaganza:

  • Originally we had planned to pick up the UHaul in DIckinson, ND, but to save four days of riding (it would have taken us four days to bike ride from Wolf Point to Dickinson), and because our new UHaul split-mate was ready to go meow, we decided to try to get the UHaul July 3rd from Wolf Point.
  • We made a reservation to pick up a 10′ UHaul truck from Wolf Point. At this time we learned that the reservations you make on the UHaul website are all entirely theoretical. See, you tell UHaul what they want, they guarentee they will have it for you, then a nice (?) woman named Annie calls you and tells you the 10-foot truck you want, is actually a 26-foot truck — unless, of course, you want to wait four days to pick your truck up. So….
  • We drove a 26-foot truck — the biggest truck UHaul makes (!!) — from Wolf Point, MT, to DIcksinson, ND. This was entirely hilarious. The world’s most giant truck completely empty except for three touring bikes and three scrawny bike tourers strapped in the front seat.
  • The 26-foot truck ate gas as fast as I have been eating Pop-Tarts on this tour (re: relentlessly and really, really fast without regret), so that was a real pain. Dustin might or might not have scraped the back bumper pulling out of a gas station once.
  • After long haul truckin’ that 26-footer to Dickinson we threw Matt and his bike out the back and told him to meet us down the street at a gas station where we would come and retrieve him in our new 10-foot truck. (See, there’s only two seats in the 10-foot truck so we were going to have to do something bojjanketey to get all three of us and our bikes transported in this truck and we thought UHaul would prefer to relieve themselves of allliability with the ignorance is bliss policy.)
  • With our new significantly more fuel-efficient 10-foot truck in posession, we drove down the street to pick up Matt. We ended up putting a camp chair in the middle of the pilot and co-pilot seats in the cab of the truck. It worked surprisingly well, and I’d consider it yet another selliing-point #win for the REI backacking chair with back support (as aforementioned in my 10 Luxury Items I’m Glad I Brough On Tour post). Matt sat in the bojjankety middle seat on day one and I sat in it on day two. Having sat in both the real co-pilot chair and the bojankety middle seat I can say the middle seat is hands-down more fun; infinitely more dangerous and precarious — but also infinitly more fun.
  • Good news: WE ALL SURVIVED!!!! No one got catapulted out the bojankety middle seat.
  • Some pictures:

Some Thoughts on Bismark, ND

We ended up living in UHaul trucks for two days. The first night we camped in Bismark, ND. Dustin and I slept in the UHaul like a glorified double wide, and Matt slept in his hammock outside (Oh, did I mention that Matt sleeps in a hammock with a mosquitoe net rather than a tent?)

Bismarck was…… lackluster. The ride to Bismark was pretty alright (we saw some really amazing canyons; if I were to do it all over again I would ride my bike to Dickinson and then take the UHaul across from there), but Bismark itself (which I have been calling Bizmarkie) was kind of a bust.

If you are in Bismark, don’t eat at Peacock Alley. I am only mentioning the name of the restraunt here because the food was that bad. The prices weren’t low and my salad looked like clearance-rack bag lettuce and the burgers came out cold and plated with about nine french fries. It was the most dissapoiting meal I’ve ever over-paid for.

Spending the Fourth (and Beyond) in Fargo

After our night in Bismark we long-haul-trucked our ass on to Fargo, then onto West Fargo and a magical place called Bonanzaville. (Ok, we didn’t actually go into the Bonanzaville, but we did camp in the fairgrounds right next to it.)

Fargo was good. We’ve been wondering where we were going to be for the Fourth of July for a month now and Fargo was the lucky (and unexpected!) winner. With about an hour of summer thunderstorm rain (complete with thunder and lightning) followed by two full hours of fireworks, Fargo’s Fourth celebration did not let me down.

Dustin and Matt were also able to (finally!) buy some of their own fireworks from a roadside stand (aptly named “Joe Blow Fireworks”) and I lit a sparkler.

That night Dustin and I slept in the UHaul double wide again and Matt, again, slept in his hammock house slung between the UHaul door and a tree.

When we woke up on July 5th in Fargo, it was time for Matt to ramble onward toward Minneapolis, so we said our goodbyes and Dust and I rambled on to the local laundry mat to clean our well overdue for a cleaning clothes.

We also made a stop at the Scheels — which, if you’ve never heard of it before — is apparently the world’s largest “all sport” shop, complete with a ferris wheel inside. I bought a new pair of socks because one pair of the two pairs of socks that I brought had acquired a funk that wouldn’t leave, even fresh from the washer (mailed those babys home to be dealt with later). We also acquired from summer sleep mats with a 1.8 R rating (the mats we were previously sleeping on had a 3.8 R rating and they were making us way too hot at night).

After proverbially emptying my wallet at Scheels, we went to the post office to mail home our old mats and to return our UHaul home.

Lucky for us, this also happened to be what I can only assume to be the hottest most humid day Fargo, ND, has ever seen. Seriously. It was like moving in slow motion through an air wall made of hot butter. Fortunatly we only had to ride 4 miles from the UHaul drop-off location to our city park campground home for the night.

 

Here are three highlights from that night in the city campground worth mentioning:

  • This campsite had showers (yay!) but was also ragingly infested with mosquitos that only come out after the sun sets like little vampire demons.
  • We met a guy who”s been travelling for two years (!) with his dog. He says he just wanders around walking and hitching rides. He used to be in the Coast Guard, he’s from Hawaii and he sells jewelry made out of (real) pearls to make money. Meeting him was a pretty solid high-point of this campsite.
  • There was an incredible lightening storm happening somewhere in the distance that night, so as we laid on the lawn (soaked in deet) chatting, we could see the sky lighting up every minute or so with huge, brilliant streaks of lightening. It was pretty incredible.

After Fargo…

After Fargo we’re back on bikes full time scooting through Minnesota. More on that, Pelican Rapids, Dalton and the Central Lakes bike trail in the next entry……

 

213 Miles of Mosquito Hell: Havre, MT to Wolfpoint, MT

Today as we rolled into Wolfpoint, MT Dustin and I thought of a new slogan we’re going to submit to the Eastern Montana Chamber of Commerce: “Eastern Montana: Where wheat grass, casinos, and Mosquitos the size of pickup trucks are with you every step of the way.

Since our last post we’ve traveled through Chinook, Harlem, Dodson, Malta, Saco, Glasgow, Oswego and Wolfpoint, MT (where I am currently writing this blog post). Here are some highlights.

Havre to Dodson

Leaving Havre we had a crazy 30mph tailwind which had us moving in our manliest cogs at around 18-20mph. We originally planned to camp in Harlem after Havre, but — after stopping in Harlem for lunch and in Hindsight missing a very poignant Harlem Shake opportunity — we decided to pushed onward to Dodson to make it a 73-mile day.

In Dodson we paid $5 to camp at the “Stagecoach B&B” — aka — a woman’s backyard in a town of 124 (Dodson, MT). The Mosquitoes were very hungry in said backyard and that 30mph tailwind was now just a 30mph all over everything everywhere cluster-eff wind so we double staked the tent and hid inside eating road snacks and sandwiches for dinner. Then…….. we fell asleep at like 7pm. And slept all night. For like 13 hours. It was amazing.

On a mostquito hell scale of 1-5, with 1 being a standard day in Michigan, 3 being a swarm of skeeters around your head Pig Pen-style and 5 being a rabid relentless attack of Mosquitos that bite you through your clothes and refuse to die Bebe’s Kid’s style, our night in Dodson was probably a 2.5.

Dodson to Saco

In the am we packed up from the che le backyard and headed toward Saco, MT. Still chugging along on the highline (US2), we rode most of this day alongside the Milk River (which, fun fact, was named such by Meriwether Lewis who said it had the color of tea with milk in it) and the freight train (which, actually, is always beside you in a Eastern Montana on the highline, I think…). We saw some dive bars and some casinos. There were some cows. There was a lot of grass. And there were Mosquitos. About 1,000 of them that bit every last inch of my ass through my shorts, actually.

On the 1-5 mosquito hell scale (see scale reference above) I’d give this ride a misery rating of 4.

Our night in Saco (population 197) was pretty alright. We slept in a city park for free. I imagine it was free because our tent was literally about…7.5 feet from the railroad tracks, where every 2 hours or so a freight train rambled by blaring its freight train horn (which they have to do when they pass through towns). It was kind of funny. It actually shook the ground we were sleeping on it was so close. But! It didn’t rain. And our tent didn’t get blown over by 30mph winds. And I read about 100 pages of my book. So the night was overall successful.

Saco to Glasgow

This day. Sigh. This day was the worse day ever. Seriously the worst day — in my opinion — that we’ve had this whole trip. On the 1-5 mosquito hell scale this day was a 7. They were riding on our pannier by the dozens; they were on my face; they were eating me non-stop. If you smacked two off, three more appeared. I felt like that messed up wildebeest you see on the Discovery channel with Mosquitos covering it’s eyes and swarming him like a giant steak dinner. We had to stop on the side of the road to reapply Off repellant twice. They bit me through my gloves (!!) and my shoulders look ridiculous. I tried riding on the roadside rumble strip to try to machine gun bounce them off my pannier Rambo-style but it was no use. Apparently Mosquitos in eastern Montana actually have the ability to RIDE ON YOU and bite you. If it didn’t suck so bad it would be amazing.

I’ve never been so happy to see the end of a day. When we arrived in Glasgow I bought more Off and some doughnuts and we ate crap for dinner because it was too mosquito-ey to cook. On the plus side: we camped in an RV Park where we got to take long warm showers in the pm and the am.

Glasgow to Wolfpoint

From Glasgow we rode 54 miles to Wolfpoint, where — as previously mentioned — I am right now. On the 1-5 mosquito hell scale the ride here was only about a 2, but the campsite we’re in is easily a 4. I can see those buggers swarming around inside the vestibule of my tent looking hungry. Luckily, I am safe inside the tent. Another eastbound cycle traveler pulled up to camp next to us. It looks like he’s sleeping in a hammock, which seems entirely crazy to me, but he seems alright.

Today the weather was hot and I managed to get myself a dandy shoulder sunburn (sorry mom!) But! On the plus side, I also managed to eat some yogurt that wasn’t refrigerated all night and not get massive food poisoning, so bonus for me! I’ve really been testing the limits of consumption on this trip. I ate some day-old cheese in Glacier, I eat jelly that hasn’t been refrigerated in weeks every day, and today- old yogurt. All successfully. Possum stomach isn’t letting me down yet!

On that note….come to think of it, cycle touring really tends to expand all of your boundaries regarding what it ok and what isn’t. I’ve actually been wearing the same shirt for about a week now. It doesn’t smell so I just keep wearing it. I’ll go a week without showering when I have to (thank you baby wipes!) I’m sleeping in a tent the size of a twin bed with a full-size man (only one person can sit cross legged in the tent at a time). Sometimes I pay $60 to sleep in a no-tell Motel (with an m) and it’s the greatest thing ever. (Eeeevvveeerrrrrrr.) I eat a lot of Pop Tarts (which totally should not be considered reasonable “breakfast food” by any measure).

Oh, and I ride my bike 50-80 miles a day every day. Even when it’s pouring down rain or there’s a swarm of rabid relentless mosquitoes.

So life on the road is interesting and really can only be described as an adventure.

 

I sure will be happy to get out of these plains, though. If you’re planning a tour, you might consider riding from Anacortes to the Continental Divide and then teleporting to Minnesota. 😉 Unless you’re really into dive bars, wheat grass, casinos and mosquitoes that is. If you love those things, you’ll love Eastern Montana.

Tomorrow…. On to Circle where I hear the townsfolk may be….. extra shitty. I’ll let you know if this rumor ends up being true. After Circle, Glendive! Then onward to North Dakota.

 

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