Day 56 – Hazelton, ND to Bismarck, ND – 44 miles
Happy 4th of July! We enjoyed an instant oatmeal and banana wrap breakfast at camp, then packed up for our ride to Bismarck. A 43 mile day now seems like a walk in the park for us now, but if we were back home , contemplating a 43 mile ride to say Muskegon (about the same distance) it would be a bigger endeavor. Our perspectives are changing!!
We had a stair step map pattern going north and west and there was a nice strong wind out of the south east. It looked like the wind gods were looking favorably upon us today. Our first leg was a 14 mile straight shot, at times slightly downhill, and we a blast hovering around 28mph for this quick go. We were in the “big-big” as we like to say, for much of the first 14 miles. (Biggest gear in the front and biggest gear in the back). If only all mornings started out that way!!
We made out first turn to the west and encountered a chip seal road that was “rougher than a cob”, as Jim’s dad would say. No Michigan potholes (those seem to have left us, um, er, around Michigan!) but just a very rough chip-seal surface that slowed us down and put a quick damper on our fun! We were also riding into some dark skies ahead. Nothing that looked extremely threatening, but we knew some weather was out there. For 5 or 10 miles we played the “is-that-rain-ahead” game. Being able to see so far in North Dakota is a good thing, but it only increases your storm worrying time! The other factor at play was the lack of barns or houses to take shelter. They are few and far between to say the least!!
When we started noticing lightening ahead of us in the distance, we knew we would need to find shelter. There wasn’t much to be seen. More lightening, Shawn’s keen ears heard thunder & we knew we had to do something. We noticed a barn in the distance(!) and decided we would pull off there. It seemed like it took us about 30 minutes to get there, although it was probably 5 (did we say you can see along way in ND?) but we finally turned into a quiet homestead, with the first few raindrops hitting us on the face. We parked the bike under a large garage overhang, we were pretty confident this would keep us safe. We knocked on doors and made our presence known, but no one was home. It felt good to be protected, although being in a storm can be unnerving. This was the first time on the trip we’ve had to duck out of the weather.
Huddled under the garage overhang, we had a snack and watched the weather pass. We noticed one more cell on the radar, but it looked like we would outrun with our northward route, so we headed out. A few rain drops but blue skies were also in our path. Back to riding!!
As we made our way toward Bismarck we could see the Missouri River in the distance. As we were approaching a nice long downhill, we noticed a couple touring bicyclists coming toward us, so we pulled over & crossed the road to greet them. They were Claudia & Laura, from Indiana and were traveling from Anacortes, WA to Fargo, ND – which is approximately the first half of the Northern Tier route. We all talked about the storm (they took shelter at a farm and were invited inside), talked about the road ahead and then when they said they were headed to Hazelton, we told them about the nice camping at the city park. It started sprinkling again, so we said our goodbyes & moved on. We quickly rode out of those sprinkles – I hope they did too, especially since they were riding against the winds and had quite a ways to go still.
Pretty soon, we were seeing more signs of civilization – more traffic, more houses closer together. We had a few more up hills and downhills before rolling down a long downhill into Bismarck. Shawn’s cousin, Ronnie & his wife, Bella live in Bismarck and we had arranged to stay with them over for the holiday weekend. We’ve seen them many times in Bemidji, but had never been to their place in Bismarck. We arrived shortly after noon & Ronnie saw us coming down the street, as he was outside in the front with his grandson, Spencer & daughter, Kari who have been visiting this week. He greeted us with an awesome hug, just like his mom, Shawn’s aunt Mavis gives. 🙂 We always love seeing Ronnie & Bella and haven’t seen Kari since she was little and had never met Spencer, so it’s been a great visit!
It’s the 4th of July, so after dinner, we all went to the lawn of the capitol building to watch the fireworks. It was great! The symphony orchestra plays before & during the fireworks! Oh, and Ronnie pointed out North Dakota’s lone representative from the House of Representatives, who was enjoying the fireworks with friends & family on a spot of lawn nearby. The state is growing in population and they think they’ll have a second representative in 2020.
It was a certainly a very special 4th of July celebration for us. We were with loved ones & enjoying fireworks that celebrated a country that we have seen from a whole new perspective this summer!