Fargo

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We left behind Fargo, North Dakota today, and with it the last major city we expect to encounter for several thousand miles. We’re heading for Whitefish, Montana now, which lies nestled in the Rockies, roughly one thousand miles west of us. We’ll break 2,000 miles tomorrow.

We stopped for a swim in the Sheyenne river earlier today. As we we’reĀ  jumping off the bridge, slathering ourselves in mud, etc., a man named Chuck struck up a conversation with us.

He has a house right on the river, and he offered to cook us all burgers. We, being ever-hungry young men accepted, and we rode up to his house.

As we were barbequing, eating, and talking, a large storm started rearing in the western skies. It was more than fifty miles to the next town, and the sun was nearly setting, so chuck kindly offered his three upstairs rooms to us for the night. We happily accepted, and we’ve now turned in, each to his own room after hours of conversation about WWII, Chucks days in the army, and a great many other things.

As we head further and further west, into the vast expanses of Prairie, farmland, and the Bakken oil country, it’s nice to find such hospitality.

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Sunset in Asanti

We rode through a ferocious storm, and on the other end found a vibrant sunset waiting for us as we rode into Asanti County, Minnesota.

At present, we were near Little Falls, Minnesota. Today we set a new mileage record – 96 miles. This breaks our previous record of 89 miles, set a few days ago.

We’ve ridden just shy of 1,700 miles altogether.

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Lake house

We crossed into Wisconsin earlier today.

Tonight, we are not camped in a forest, plagued by mosquitos (they are truly a menace in these parts). Rather, we are sleeping in a lakeside cabin, on North Twin Lake’s northern shore.

We dined at a lovely restaurant called Grape’s Twin Haven. The co-owner, Mary, and later Karen (our host) were intrigued by our trip. Everyone in the restaurant offered advice on where we might find a secluded forest where we might camp. We were planning on doing another ten miles after dinner.

After our delicious meal, I said “it’s great that you guys have so many lakes in this area – we’re in need of a shower. We can grab our soap and jump in” as I was paying the bill.

Karen, who owns the cabin we slept in, generously offered to let us shower and spend the night.

A warm shower, and a lakeside cottage all to ourselves for a night. Better than we could have hopedĀ for.

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Hiawatha

We were camped in a forest near Iron Mountain, Michigan. With any luck, we’ll cross into Wisconsin tomorrow afternoon and continue westward. We crossed from EST into CST earlier today (which are the east coast and central american time zones).

I want to share a brief story from yesterday.

The sun had been beating down on us for hours as we rode west through the vast Hiawatha State Forest, hugging the northern shore of Lake Michigan. We spotted a small island not far off shore. It appeared to be uninhabited. I thought it’d be fun to swim out and explore the island.

We pulled off and laid our bikes behind a sandy dune, stripped down, and waded in toward the island. The sound of seagulls engulfed us as we neared the island’s shore. We clambered up onto the island and immediately saw what all the racket was about – we had just landed in a seagull colony, or a breeding ground.

We could see adorable baby seagulls sitting in their nests under bushes and behind rocks. We steered clear of the babies, so we wouldn’t infuriate their parents. We turned a corner onto the southern shore of the island and came upon the chief source of the raucous sound.

Hundreds upon hundreds of seagulls were gathered together. When they spotted us a few dozen took to the air, and they all started making even more of a racket than before. Clearly we were unwanted guests.

It wasn’t until they started diving at us from above that we were fully aware of how upset they were that we were in their island. When we would look one way, they would dive at us from behind, screeching, nearly grazing the tops of our heads with their feet, then veering off.

We huddled together back to back, and worked our way back to the beach we’d landed on. We pushed off into Michigan’s frigid waters and made our way to the dune where we’d stowed our bikes.

P.S. We saw a different kind of road kill earlier this evening – a giant diamondback rattlesnake. Another creature we must look out for now.

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(The island in the background is the one we visited)

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Sand Trap

We’re camped out in a Christmas tree farm field near Gaylord, MI.

We’ve been riding NNW for the past few days, moving from place to place by rail-trails and roads, working our way to the top of Lake Michigan. Tomorrow we’ll arrive in Mackinaw City – after which we turn West – for a while. Tomorrow is also an exciting day because we’ll break our first thousand miles. Our odometers stand at 964 tonight; maddeningly close.

I thought I’d share a particularly challenging scenario we found ourselves in today.

Google maps is usually reliable – it’s how we get everywhere we go on this trip. However, the bicycle routing feature is still in beta. Today it led us astray.

A rail trail is a former railroad that is usually paved or covered with stone dust, and used by cyclists and runners.

This rail trail however was three miles of deep, sandy single-track. Our relatively thin road tires sliced through the sand like a knife through soft butter. We rode, we fell, and we walked.

We couldn’t turn back, because doing so would mean backtracking for miles. So, we committed to the three miles of sand.

Gradually, we worked our way out of this sandy mess. Through a series of dirt roads, we found the refreshingly obliging pavement again, and continued on.

Raphael at work:

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Tarmac, at last.

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P.S.
At dinner tonight, we came to the consensus that we’re now entering bear country, and we have to adjust our camping habits accordingly. Tonight marks the first night we’re hanging our food, snacks, and toothpaste up in a nearby tree. We’ll be ordering our bear spray soon too.