Friday, July 3, 2009

July 3, Friday, Williston, North Dakota, 7:30 a.m.

A gap in the journal - filled with headwind and effort that emptied me of all but superficial considerations like for instance, survival. The wind beats you down, an unrelenting force unresponsive to any plea or promise. It’s exam week on the bike. You can run but you can’t hide, and nobody is coming for you. If you wish to move forward, you just grind and grind. And there is no top as with a mountain pass. You have to wait on the whims of the weather. No time out of the toilet bowl for the rat. There is analogy here, but I will let you make it.

We’re in Williston, North Dakota now - and at the moment, under a shelter in Harmony Park waiting out rain. We’re enjoying free coffee and donuts from the filling station across the street. “It’s on us, you guys have got a tough day.” Last night we were in this same park for a brass band concert by the city band. Free hamburgers then. Friendly people everywhere. Virgil Sypherson directed the band, was easily 80, the performance center they played under to a crowd on the green lawn named after him. John Phillip Sousa, an American medley, rousing patriotic music, flags flown of North Dakota, the US and Canada, a close neighbor here, just 40 miles north. Hamburgers by the Lions Club with grilled onions. Virgil, incidentally, was the band director at the local high school for over 40 years.

We camped in Davidson Park next to the ball park where we watched this year’s state champ, Williston High - now playing in the American Legion League whup up good on a hapless team from Fargo -- this after the band concert.

Bill Temple of camped with us as did Fred Lomas. ( We had met Bill in Glasgow and overlapped briefly with him until this visit. He has been riding since the mid 70’s and is unique in many ways to those we have encountered. Sleeps on the ground - no tent, no pad. Wanders a bit, says not clear which way will be going. Rides a bike he paid $60 for years ago, no clips, minimal useful gears, calls self “slowest guy on the road.” Friendly, open, self-effacing, white hair, white beard, smiles a lot. Calls himself an “odd duck” but we found him charming. “I love the open spaces, the prairie, the rural roads; I just go, then one day I say, ‘I’ve had enough’ and I quit - don’t really know why.” Loves the camaraderie he feels with people he meets and believes North Dakota is one of the friendliest places he’s been - loves going to the little towns and seeing what’s going on. “Pops up” in the morning - ready to roll within five minutes, and I saw this happen this morning.

Fred is semi-retired insurance person who rides “to get the cobwebs out” - calls riding a “mental enema - empties things out.” He’s headed west after starting on May 16. Loves the little towns and will stay here for the 4th of July festivals. Check both of these guys on the web and send them a “hello” from “Pat and Dave.”

Many impressions, many contrasts to assimilate. This is a rich soup - which we sip, sometimes thin but with little nuggets that can be fished out - that are intensely flavorful and nurturing.

We are abandoning the Northern Tier route and going with Hwy 2 - all the way to Duluth. It’s four-lanes with a shoulder - safer, hopefully quieter, fewer blasts by passing trucks. Everything subject to change, however, at anytime.

Pat Sewell

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