(sorry, this is going to be a long one!)
Well, we’re in North Dakota. It is raining. It is chilly. But it’s another state! After our interview in Pierre (which is pronounced Pier in these parts), we rode out to the local bike shop to get some advice concerning Lizzy’s freewheel—a long explanation is needed here so I’ll just say its about time to replace it and we have to wait to Minneapolis to do so. And finally, after the bike shop. . . we rode to the Post Office! It was a silly experience as the newspaper wanted a photographer to be there when we got our eagerly anticipated maps/goodie boxes from mom and a surprise box from Lizzy’s aunt Mary and co. in Oklahoma. I can only guess what the photographer was thinking when we opened up boxes of granola and jelly, but we were in a state of complete joy. Momma made us the BEST granola I have ever had, and Lizzy’s fam sent us cookies, crackers, and even hand sanitizer. It was like they’d been on tour themselves. We rode to a nearby park to further inspect our goodies, and unpack everything that we have in order to sort out what winter gear we wanted to send back home.
It was stunning to step back and see the massive pile of junk that we’d been carrying with us—and over the mountains. We happened to be next door to the Pierre American Legion, and since we were quite a spectacle, ended up drawing a small crowd of onlookers. One by one they’d look at us, look at the massive heap we were sorting through, and shake their heads. “How far are you going?” “Is that a rat?” “What’s the point of this?” We answered their questions and were reciprocated with Snickers bars and Cajon peanut/Chex mix. Shortly after we finally managed to pack everything away, Bruce, our host for the night, and his friend Jim stopped by with the pickup to drive us home. There was a feast waiting for us, along with dogs to play with, chickens to chase, horse to treat, and the cutest set of ginger piglets I have ever seen to pet. Bruce happens to work for the South Dakota Highway Department at some capacity, so we had a lengthy chat about the route ahead, and to my joy, former president Eisenhower came up (as he was responsible for America’s fantastic highway system). The next morning we rode into town to finally mail off our winter gear. As we walked into the Post Office we were somewhat startled to see ourselves on the front page of the newspaper kiosk. I guess news travels fast in South Dakota. While we were looking at ourselves in the paper, not one but two people came up to us, recognizing us as the crazy biker gals from Orygone. We corrected some facts, and then continued about our business. One woman was kind enough to buy us a copy of the newspaper and give us money for “steak dinner and pie” once we get to Wahpeton. Many thanks Pierre! We then rode to Wal-Mart to restock on bananas and bagels when we happened to run into Bruce. It was fairly late in the evening by that time. When he saw us he shook his head laughing and offered us another night at the Hunt home, but we assured him we would actually leave town within the hour.
We did however make a quick stop at the Good Will, which in our defense was on the way out of town. I remember once talking to a friend who did a lot of international travel. She said that whenever she was feeling homesick she would head to a Pizza Hut because that is where all the other homesick American expats go to eat dinner in Europe. To us—Goodwill is our Pizza Hut. I might add, the Pierre Goodwill has very reasonable prices. Unfortunately, Lizzy found a large bag of cookies marked “broken discount” and “sugar free”. Oddly, the second listed ingredient was sugar. Never one to pass up a bargain, she bought them. And then ate them. I will put it this way: don’t buy Goodwill brand cookies. We each ate a handful trying to decide whether they were good or not, and then another handful to decide if we were hungry or not. Flatulence ensued. Though we were aware of the adverse side effects, we just aren’t at a place in life where throwing away purchased food is morally justifiable. Needless to say, they are gone now—but they are ever instilled in our memories. That evening we rode out to Onida, SD, and for the first time experienced true flatness. And I mean flat. We are in a part of the world where it is possible to see the next town from 15 miles away, and then have the wonderful experience of riding toward that town in a headwind, water tower in view, for a full hour. I took to listening to NPR and reading my book while riding. No cars, no turns. It’s pretty great.
We finally started seeing trees again near Gettysburg, “Where the Battle Didn’t Happen” and where I purchased a world class nutty cinnamon roll. Town after town we rode, until we landed in Aberdeen. We were shocked by the number of people in town and even had the gumption to ask the gal running the deli at the local grocery store if there were a vegan or vegetarian restaurant. She said “not in Aberdeen, but we do have a gluten free isle.” Not quite the same, but helpful nonetheless. We decided that we should celebrate the existence of so many humans in one place by eating Mexican food. We happened upon a great little burrito restaurant near the Wal-Mart and left with full bellies and happy faces. Free chips and salsa! I wanted to skype my family that night as it was my big sister’s graduation and I happened to know her boyfriend was going to propose to her, but everything in Aberdeen except the Wal-Mart closes after 9:00 PM (7:00 home time). So, to the Wal-Mart we went in order to skype home. Congrats Heather, I’m so proud. Also, good choice Cody! While we were at the store, Lizzy ran into a couple that were real USPS mail people! That was fun. They noticed the mailbox on the bikes and were intrigued. We slept in a really great, but also really sticky muddy camp spot behind Wal-Mart that night, and in the morning I decided to splurge and get myself a good cup of coffee at the St. Arbucks. It’s no Coffee Cottage, but will do in a pinch. I plugged my phone in to charge while we were there, and then rode off to Groton, a town about 20 miles away, before I realized it. The phone number we got for the St. Arbucks was not working, so I didn’t know if my phone was even there or not any more. We deliberated. Would it be better to ride back 20 miles into the wind, and then back to Groton 20 miles for a phone that might not even be there any more? Or should I try to find a ride to town and back? Sorry mom–I decided to hitch. I took Lizzy’s phone and left her with the bikes and hit the road. A really wonderful farmer lady picked me up and drove me back to Aberdeen. Though she wasn’t planning on driving back to Groton that day, she said that after her errands were done she’d see if I’d been picked up and if I was on the road, she’d drive me back to Groton. My phone was in the St. Arbucks, exactly where I had left it, completely untouched! That was a miracle in itself. That morning I had left it with my coffee cup on a table in the middle of the store, and when I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth, I just walked right past it. I was excited to have my phone back, and also excited at the prospect of the farmer lady driving me back to Groton, but I didn’t know when her errands would be done, and since I had my phone and Lizzy’s phone and no way to contact Lizzy, I decided to start walking. As I walked, I halfheartedly thumbed for a ride and prayed that God would send just the right people to pick me up. About 10 minutes later a gigantic Expedition type vehicle pulled over. I ran up to it, and a woman hopped out “OK, What’s your story and are you carrying any weapons?” I explained my situation and she opened up the back saying she could drop me off at Groton if I didn’t mind riding along as she dropped off kids. She also said that she hadn’t wanted to pick me up as she was on a tight schedule, but she felt God had asked her to stop. Lo and behold—God answered my prayer via a homeschool bus! Now, it may seem strange, but few things are more comforting to me than being surrounded by a gigantic homeschool family and doing menial errands–so I eagerly hopped in the back seat. It felt amazing to be in a car. We dropped of kiddos, and then drove back to Groton where Louise offered to treat Lizz and me to Dairy Queen. I’ve never said no to a Blizzard! But even more than that, I just really wanted to hang around these people for a little while longer. So, I found Lizzy and we rode across the street to the DQ for fries and ice cream. I really was blessed by the kindness and generosity of that wonderful family. The kiddos also received a lesson in rat ownership thanks to Lizzy.
By the time we left it was 3:00 and we had nearly 50 miles to go with a headwind. Many hours, much gravel, four sore knees, and two achy rears later we rolled into Britton, SD. Quick research showed a park in town, but upon our arrival a monsoon of mosquitoes swirled up from who knows where and attacked us—so we went to the elementary school to make a meager dinner of beans, rice, onions and potatoes. I must interject here: we do eat well. It is fun to write about all of the treats and goodies we get along the way, but that really just compliments our normal fare of bananas, beans and bagels. To those who have written us concerned: we really do eat a lot of veggies! At this point, we were accosted by a local BMX club. That is—a small gang of local children biked up to where we were trying to prepare our meal and bombarded us with questions. . . about everything. To our concern, they were quite eager to know exactly how much money we had on us, where we were planning to sleep that night, and if we’d ever been robbed. . . They proved to be quite harmless. I’m certain now that they wanted us to take them out to Kreemees, a local ice cream and hamburger shop. They really like Kreemees. After a long conversation that ranged everything from how often we shower, could they come with us, and what we eat—two of the kiddos called their mom. “Mom, we met some hobos and they need to shower. Come to the park!” I felt bad for this poor mother because that is a phone call no mom wants to hear! Their mom Karista, who is a really cool lady, did come and she did let us come home to shower. We tried to patch the kiddo’s bicycle inner tubes (since they all rolled up with near flat tires), but one tube proved unfixable. So, around 11:00 yesterday night we left their home and popped up the tent at the school, exhausted and laughing. What an improbable day. We really, really love South Dakota, and really enjoyed hangin around with inquisitive kids–so fun! This morning, we rode out to the Britton Cennex gas station for coffee and bathrooms and met a whole new host of wonderful people. A lady at the station gave me two (yes two!) of the BEST brownie-whatever-they-are bars and I ate them with gusto. We also got an interview with the local paper and advice on the weather. After hearing our situation, one old farmer smiled at us and said, “An idiot is born every minute, maybe two.” He meant it well, and we all had a good chuckle. We then took off to North Dakota quoting all the Chris Farley sketches I could think of. And so, here we are, at a great little library in Forman, ND, sipping complementary coffee and waiting out the rain. Only 40 states to go!
Not so fast!
I finished writing that bit and the library closed. It takes a really long time to write and put pictures on these things so we decided that we would finish when we got to Wahpeton. So it was that Lizzy, Beef, and I hit the road at 5 pm with a strong headwind and a driving rain. I was not pleased. Well, truthfully I had a really bad attitude about it. An agonizing 21 miles later we rolled into Milnor completely soaked and with no place to stay. A nice lady in a car told us that we could find a gazebo down the street. We parked the bikes there and looked for a business that might be open so that we could change our clothes. The only open indoors was a bar and grill called Ode’s (I might have spelled it right). It’s is a jolly good place I’ll tell you! We ordered dinner and got in some conversation with the locals. The bar owner Michelle said our dinners were on the house. We met a great couple, Rita and Charlie, and their friends. They entertained us with stories about horses, leafy spurge, and fencing, and together put up 39 dollars for Watsi. We also met a woman named Rachael who gave 20 dollars to Watsi. We were moved by the overwhelming generosity and kindness we experienced in Milnor, and will never forget it. I really wish I had taken pictures of everyone. That night, Rita and Charlie took us home and let us dry our clothes (thank God!), drink some Tang, and sleep in real beds!!!! There are many great places in America, and Milnor, North Dakota is one of them. Thank you everyone.
Rachael’s donation was put toward Phyllis, a mother from Kenya who needs $740 for a mastectomy to stop the spread of breast cancer.
Rita, Charlie, Jessie, Jerry and Rich’s donation we put toward Neath, a man from Cambodia who needs treatment for a broken leg.