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WEEK 3

DAY 15: Tuesday July 2, 1996
Glasgow, MT to Poplar, MT (73 miles)

Another day of headwinds and temperatures over 100 degrees. We were hoping to sail quickly across the plains and are quite disappointed. Of course, my first thought is that we'll never get to Ocean City in time to vacation with the family. It's hard to keep enough liquids in us; just like in Colorado last Summer. I can't stand to drink warm or hot water, so I have begun buying bottled water when we stop and forcing myself to drink it while it's cold. Many towns have water that tastes horrible!

We stopped in Wolf Point to get spare tires and to remove the drumbrake. Dave will add more about that later. While he was working on the bike, I laid in the backyard and enjoyed the clouds, wind chimes, songbirds, and even a rainbow when there wasn't a drop of moisture anywhere. Lots of hymns come to mind.."This Is My Father's World.." We planned to stay in Poplar because Colbertson was too far, but along the way two people told us it wasn't a very safe place, that it is known as "Stab City" due to the violence. But they said if we didn't camp or go to the bars we'd be okay. The people we met in Poplar were the same friendly type we've become accustomed to. We conversed over dinner with the ex-mayor and a farmer. They helped us get motel reservations for the next two nights.

AL'S BIKE SHOP TURNED OUT TO BE A FRIENDLY RETIRED MAN RUNNING A ONE ROOM SHOP IN HIS BASEMENT. HE'S BEEN DOING THIS FOR 60 YEARS..HE HAD TO ORDER IN TO KEEP HIS TEN CHILDREN PROVIDED WITH BICYCLES. HE SOLD US TWO TIRES FOR $7 EACH AND ALSO HELPED ME TAKE OFF THE DRUM BRAKE. SINCE WE DIDN'T HAVE THE SPECIAL TOOL, WE HAD TO JURY RIG A TOOL..SOMETHING I THINK HE HAS DONE MANY TIMES BEFORE. AL WAS MARRIED FOR MORE THAN 50 YEARS, BUT HIS WIFE DIED 11 YEARS AGO AFTER RECEIVING A HEART TRANSPLANT IN 1982. I THINK AL TAKES CARE OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD KIDS' BIKES AND THE NEIGHBORS TAKE CARE OF HIM. ONE LADY STOPPED TO CHECK ON WHAT HE HAD FOR SUPPER.

ONE BANK THERMOMETER READ 102 DEGREES WHILE THE ONE ACROSS THE STREET READ 112. I THINK THE 112 WAS THE ACCURATE ONE.

DAY 16: Wednesday July 3, 1996
Poplar, MT to Williston, ND (79 miles)

See yesterday, except worse (because in addition to 100 degree temperatures and head/crosswinds all day, we had many hills and bad roads). It took every ounce of determination for me to keep going. I kept telling myself, "I can do this; it doesn't have to be fun." Of course, what alternative is there? Sit down on the side of the road in the Montana/North Dakota desert in the blazing sun and refuse to go on?

I did today on three hours sleep; must have been the caffeine from yesterday's 6 p.m. Coca Cola. We lost an hour upon entering North Dakota, moving into the Central Time Zone. My knees are really hurting, just general pain, and I have some very sunburned sections of leg and back. Coming down one hill, I saw an enormous bison standing alone on a far hillside; there were no others in sight anywhere. Took a picture for Kelly, of course. Had a wonderful fresh fruit plate--luscious strawberries, delicious cantaloupe.

DAY 17: Thursday July 4, 1996
Williston, ND to Parshall, ND (93 miles)

Shall I describe a day in hell? Even worse winds than yesterday, hill after hill after hill, another ruined tire, and a 50-mile stretch with absolutely no services, not even a bush to go behind! However, since I've decided to focus only on the positive aspects of this journey, we were blessed with cloud cover the entire day, no bugs, and a very kindly farm lady who let us fill our water bottles from her well. The woman acted like it was an everyday occurrence. Even her "guard" dog rolled over for a belly scratch on the front porch. She seemed like an angel to us. I doubt that Dave could have gone much further without water. Also, we had a wonderful lunch at a marina...homemade vegetable soup and Saskatoon berry/rhubarb pie! Mmmm. Made me think of Mom.

Very fatiguing day; now I know what Mom was referring to when she talked about the "prairie wind". We saw lots of prairie roses today. Dave reminded me of a quote (he thinks from Winston Churchill) yesterday that I had to keep repeating today: "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." We saw another buffalo in a farmyard---buffalo burgers. Parshall is the prettiest prairie town we've seen so far-green trees! North Dakota is not as desolate as eastern Montana, many more farms along the route. Undulating hills of the Drift Prairie.

THE HEADWINDS WERE BRUTAL TODAY, 25-35 MPH. THE TANDEM WAS HARD TO HANDLE WHEN THE WINDS WOULD SHIFT AND CATCH THE PANNIERS. WE WERE FREQUENTLY FORCED TO PUSH THE BIKE AS WE BECAME MORE FATIGUED. RHONA WAS SOMETIMES UNABLE TO PUSH THE BIKE BY HERSELF BECAUSE OF THE STRONG WINDS. AT ONE POINT WHILE FOLLOWING HER UP THE ROAD I NOTICED THE REAR TIRE (PERFORMANCE GT-K) TIRE HAD WORN A HOLE THROUGH AND THE KEVLAR FIBERS WERE PUSHING OUT OF THE TREAD. I WAS SHOCKED BY PREMATURE FAILURE SINCE THE TIRE HAD ONLY ABOUT 300 MILES ON IT. WE HAD TO CHANGE THE TIRE ALONG THE ROAD, NEAR THE TOP OF A HILL, WHILE A THUNDERSTORM APPROACHED. IT WAS A VERY DISCOURAGING DAY. OUR RESPONSE WAS TO JUST KEEP GOING, EVEN IF GOING MEANT WALKING AT 3 MPH.

DAY 18: Friday July 5, 1996
Parshall, ND to Minot, ND (64 miles)

It's amazing the things stokers will do to prevent boredom! I've invented license plate games which are too embarrassing to describe, I can recite the alphabet as quickly backwards as forwards, and I rewrote the lyrics to "This Land is Your Land."
      As we were biking that hilly byway,
      I saw above me the windy skyway;
      I saw before me that endless highway,
      This land is going to kill us both.

Yesterday a man in a decrepit car inched along the highway with us an serenaded us with a "Bicycle Built for Two" through the passenger side front window!

The wind teased us by blowing in our direction for 15 miles then abruptly changed and became a head/cross wind for most of the day. We had another flat tire just outside Minot, where we were going to a bike shop to purchase two new tires. So we spent a boring hour and a half hour in a bike shop (reminded me of my childhood in fabric stores). WE SPENT A QUICK FASCINATING HOUR AND A HALF IN A BIKE SHOP WHILE THEY REPLACED THE FRONT DERAILLEUR (REMINDED ME OF MY CHILDHOOD IN TOY STORES).

I've decided there are four categories of pain of the rear end. First is the bone pain, where the actual pelvic bones hurt. Then you have the soft tissue pain, which is self-explanatory. Next there is nerve pain, when you're sitting on a nerve that shoots pain up through your lower back and it extends down to your knee. Finally there is the "sitting-on-a-saddle sore (pimple)" pain, also self-explanatory. Oh, yes, I forgot the regular old pain-in-the a __ which is how you view the captain when you're flying down hill too fast or swerving in and out of traffic!

I'm not too happy with today's progress. I see my beach vacation slipping away. I haven't talked to Daughter Kelly since her birthday. There's so much I'd like to share with her but I got her answering machine when I called her.

WE BOUGHT THREE SPECIALIZED ARMADILLO TIRES TO TRY TO END OUR PROBLEMS WITH THE TIRE FAILURES. THE BIKE SHOP OWNER CRAMMED OUR BIKE IN FOR WORK EVEN THOUGH THE SHOP WAS VERY BUSY AND IT WAS LATE IN THE AFTERNOON. BICYCLE PEOPLE CONSISTENTLY BEND OVER BACKWARDS TO HELP US WHENEVER THEY CAN ON THIS TRIP.

DAY 19: Saturday July 6, 1996
Minot, ND to Carrington, ND (132 miles)

A new personal best! Our 19th day was a breeze, both literally and figuratively. We got started at 6:30 a.m. in order to beat the heat and to get lots of miles in to make up for yesterday. But we had lots of cloud cover all day and finally the wind was headed in approximately our direction! We rode 40 miles before 9 a.m. The terrain has really changed; western North Dakota was dry and very hilly, even though we skirted north of the Badlands. Eastern ND is level, fertile farmland. It's strange but there are virtually no mosquitoes here in North Dakota; we've decided that the east to west winds blew them all back to Montana (Saco especially, since they claim to be the mosquito capital of the world!)

Yesterday and today we felt as though we were in a Hitchcock movie. Birds all but attacked us, swooping and diving as we rode past their nests in the wetlands along the road. We're glad to be wearing helmets! I think I have some sun poisoning-itchy bumps where I burned.

Before Dave writes his comments and I'm accused of violence, let me state that I smacked Captain Dave on the rear when he made two quick "U" turns then almost wrecked (with traffic coming), just to get a Mento candy he dropped!

STOKER RHONA'S SUN POISONING SEEMS TO HAVE AFFECTED HER VISUAL PERCEPTION AND MADE HER EMOTIONALLY VOLATILE! TODAY, SHE DROPPED A HANDFUL OF MENTO CANDY. THE RESULTING CLATTER STARTLED ME CAUSING AN ALMOST IMPERCEPTIBLE SWERVE OF THE BICYCLE. FORTUNATELY, THERE WERE NO MOTOR VEHICLES IN THE SURROUNDING THREE COUNTY AREA. MY SOOTHING VOICE CALMED HER AND SHE RESPONDED WITH A LOVE TAP ON THE BACK.

DAY 20: Sunday July 7, 1996
Carrington, ND to Page, ND (90 miles)

Total Mileage to Date: 1,666.6

I finally got hold of Daughter Kelly; It was great to talk to her!

WE MET TWO WESTWARD BOUND CYCLISTS, TEACHERS FROM COLORADO AND HAD A REFRESHING CONVERSATION. THEY ARE ON THEIR SECOND TRANS-AMERICA TOUR. THEY DIDN'T WANT TO HEAR HOW WE RODE 132 MILES WITH A TAILWIND YESTERDAY.

THEY USE EARPLUGS TO SHUT OUT THE WIND NOISE. WE HATED LEAVING THEM. AT LUNCH WE MET TWO OTHER CYCLE TOURISTS, ONE OF THEM GOING WEST. RON RODE WITH US FOR A WHILE. HE IS A FREIGHT TRAIN ENGINEER FROM BISMARK. HE HAD JUST MET HIS FIANCE FOR A SHORT LUNCH AND HAD GREAT DIFFICULTY LEAVING HER. EARLIER IN THE DAY WE WAVED AT A CROP DUSTER FLYING OVERHEAD WHO WAS LOOKING AT OUR BIKE. HE GAVE A SHORT PUFF OF INSECTICIDE IN GREETING.

WE PULLED INTO PAGE, NORTH DAKOTA EXPECTING THERE TO BE A HOTEL OR MOTEL, BUT WERE DISAPPOINTED THAT IT SEEMED TO HAVE CLOSED. WE WERE DIRECTED TO KEVIN P.'S HOME. HE WAS THE OWNER OF A LOCAL GROCERY STORE AND HAD ACCEPTED THE RESPONSIBILITY (AS A TOWN FATHER) OF RUNNING THE HOTEL. THE HOTEL IS OLD FASHIONED WITH ONE TOILET AND INDIVIDUAL ROOMS WITH A COMMON LOUNGE AREA. THE UPSTAIRS IS NOW CLOSED BY THE STATE AND THE ENTIRE COMPLEX WILL PROBABLY CLOSE NEXT YEAR. THE HOTEL COULD BETTER BE DESCRIBED AS A "ROOMING/BOARDING HOUSE" CIRCA 1930, 40'S. THE CAF CLOSED AT 1:00, SO KEVIN INVITED US TO DINNER AT HIS HOME. WE HAD AN ENJOYABLE TIME UNTIL HE HAD TO LEAVE. HE WAS THE VOLUNTEER JAYCEE PROJECTIONIST (THE PAID PROJECTIONIST COMMITTED SUICIDE) AT THE TOWN'S THEATER. HE GAVE ME A TOUR OF THE PROJECTION EQUIPMENT THEY ARE PRESENTLY USING AND THEN SHOWED ME THE OLD PROJECTION ROOM UPSTAIRS. THE OLD CARBON-ARC PROJECTION UNITS WERE STILL THERE. THE ROOM ITSELF WAS STEEL ENCASED IN THE EVENT OF A FIRE. THE OLD FILM HAD NITRATE (NITRITE?) COMPOSITION AND WAS FLAMMABLE/EXPLOSIVE. IN THE EVENT OF A FIRE FROM THE PROJECTION EQUIPMENT, METAL PLATES WOULD AUTOMATICALLY CLAMP SHUT, CONTAINING THE FIRE, BUT PRESUMABLY DOOMING THE POOR PROJECTIONIST. THERE WAS A LOT OF OLD JUNK UPSTAIRS, INCLUDING A CHILD'S COFFIN (EMPTY) AND A WALT DISNEY FILM POSTER FROM 1943.

THE SPECIALIZED ARMADILLOS SEEM TO BE EXACTLY WHAT IS NEEDED AND THE NEW FRONT DERAILLEUR WORKS GREAT. I FINALLY TALKED TO MY PARENTS BY PHONE. MY DAD HOPES TO RECORD OUR PHONE CALLS FOR HISTORICAL PURPOSES.

The theater shows a movie each weekend and luckily for me it was Disney's "James and the Giant Peach." It goes without saying that Dave skipped the movie! Page is the quaintest town with a family feeling. About five miles west of Page we passed a small concrete building with an American flag, fence, spotlights; reminded us of a prison but much too small and the fence not high enough. Dave wanted to stop and check it out. Later Kevin told us it was a missile launch command center for the missile silos in the area and if we had approached we'd have been met by men with guns.

DAY 21: Monday July 8, 1996
Page, ND to Hawley, MN (79 miles)

Cool day and winds heading our way! Met Ron again and he directed us to a good Chinese restaurant in Fargo where a newspaper photographer took a keen interest in us. Ron also showed us a more direct route to Hawley. It was a safe but busy noisy highway. Dave called the radio station this morning, but the AM is not working, so he got up out of bed for nothing.

In Montana and on the reservations, there is a bar/lounge/casino in every hamlet. In North Dakota there is a gas station. In both, the people are so interested in talking to us. I think that will change as we get into more populated areas. In Erie, population 80, there was a dog sleeping in the middle of the road and we were befriended by the "town dog,, a docile yellow pedigreed Lab born with a deformed tail, and so not as valuable. A fox ran along in front of us on the roadside before cutting into a cornfield.

Consistent with the Dave F./George W. theory that warning signs do not apply to us, we did not follow detour signs today and ended up at a small bridge under construction. There was no way under or over the bridge so we went around by going on the railroad bridge tracks. Those also went over the stream with no space beside the tracks. Luckily, it was a short bridge and no train came!

3-Week Total: 1,746 Miles

The tail of this tandem tale will be spun in our Winter '98 Edition Features. Don't miss Dave and Rhona's adventures back East.

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