Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4, Stanley, North Dakota, 7:30 p.m.

The sun bears down on us - slipping between the Stanley water tower and the domed Mountrail County courthouse as it slowly sets over this flat land. To my right, a gravel road with mud puddles to either side and stretching to its right, ten or so camp trailers - none newer than 1980, if I had to guess. We’re seated at a picnic table, our tents pitched against the scrub trees and bushes that provide the boundary for this city park. A small tin-sided lean-to is nearby that has within it, against all odds, a usable toilet and shower. Across the street beside the courthouse, trustees in orange wash the sheriff cars and to our left, our old friend since Whitefish Mountain, the BNSF railway, rattles and roars.

This was a no-choice campsite and not so bad for it. The town celebrated the 4th today. An old car show - main street blocked off. A bikini contest (we found out too late about it to go) and a cook-off in the city park. Later, there will be karaoke at the Draft Horse Pub which I will attend.

We rode in from our campsite west of Raymond where we had taken refuge against the wind yesterday. Had a headwind out of the northwest today, so had a little assist. Our night camped on the prairie was memorable. I was hoping for stars but instead got storm. Towards 7 p.m. clouds accumulated to the east and north - thickened, then blackened, then layered up - looking ultimately as if everything in the neighborhood was to be eaten. I thought of those TV shows in which people chase storms and then when it gets close, they run away to safety in their cars. We had no cars. I thought about that, too. So we got in our tents, pushing the pegs deeper and hoping they would hold if and when whatever was, struck. Well, it was a big Was. Sort of like having artillery called in on your position. Three hours of thunder and lightening, driving rain and gusting winds. Our tents shook, rattled, bent, shuddered and held. Quite a show, really! Out there in the big open besieged by the worst of weather. Beat life in the motel watching TV. My tent that David had characterized as untested passed, earning his stamp of approval. We did learn the next morning in Ray - at breakfast - that a tornado was sighted to the east a bit and that two inches of snow had fallen just west of us. Another routine night camping on this dogged contemplative crawl. I can’t drop the “dogged” until the wind stops dogging us.
There was opportunity for a bocce ball frisbee chase game. Dave did not win this one. Dave did not get a point in this one. I report this in my role as sports editor. As such I have no investment in who won or lost.

Tomorrow, Minot

Questions: What’s the capitol of North Dakota?
Clue: It is not Toronto.

How many congressmen does North Dakota have?

Pat Sewell

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