Okay, let’s see, so, we got super soaked last Tuesday and some nice folks at the bar took us home for the night… wait, that doesn’t sounds right.
Anyways, we woke up in the morning, feeling great, having slept on full size air-mattresses rather than our dinky little camping mats. Our gracious host, Rita, got a hold of a lady she knew at the newspaper and soon enough, we were all gathered around the kitchen table, talkin’ tour like we do.
I’ve been more on the ball as far as arranging interviews as of late, so we’ve been a bit busier spreading the word about Watsi. It also helps that we’re passing though tons of small towns, and news of a two-wheeled excursion though the whole wide United State travels fast. Add a rat in there and you’ve got yourself a story.
So, we chatted, had our photos taken (though we’re still super awkward when it comes to this; I seem to look everywhere but at the camera and close my eyes 80% of the time), thanked our host, and climbed aboard the bikes. In contrast to the day before, the sun was shining, and we did NOT have a brazen head-wind to struggle through.
Soon enough, we found ourselves in Wahpeton, North Dakota, where we knew that just on the other side of the Red River would lie our 9th state, Minnesota! We spent a good deal of time loitering in the McDonald’s, with Stink putting the finishing touches on the last post, and me doing who knows what. Probably eating.
There was table-side service at that fine establishment, and the gal kept coming around asking if I wanted a refill of my coffee… Why, yes… I would love another refill ma’am. I think I guzzled my body weight in liquid caffeine while we took over a booth for hours.
Finally, we actually left the zone of free wifi and coffee refills, and set out to find a North Dakota postcard before heading over the river. Stopping at two different gas stations, we found that they had none in stock (turns out Wahpeton, ND isn’t much of a tourist destination). We rode on a few more blocks, went over a small bridge, and much to our surprise/horror, we had accidentally crossed into Minnesota! A quick U-ie and we were back over the non-descript bridge and into North Dakota again. There hadn’t even been a “Welcome to Minnesota!” sign for us to pose awkwardly in front of! There nerve of them!
We back tracked through Wahpeton to one last convenience store to check for postcards (Stink is under strict requirements to send a postcard from each state and no man, woman, or unmarked state border is going to stop her from completing this task). Lo and behold, the cashier lady at the gas station was able to find, underneath a basket of tacky key chains, a small stack of North Dakota post cards. A quick purchase later, and we were out the door, when we spotted an Econo Foods grocery store just across the road. Now, that’s two words I like to see together, so I of course zipped over there to check out the dumpster situation, and to browse the aisles of delicious foods.
The dumpster was compactor style, so defeated, I walked into the actual entrance of the store, where what sight might have greeted mine eyes? JJ’s Bakery boxed pies; all flavors present, and at the low, low price of 3 for $2! So, I grabbed some pies and began my browsing. We picked up a bag of cold, plain bagels for 99 cents and Stink found a bag of chocolate chips for 50 cents. We asked the gal at the cash register if the other bridge in town that crossed into Minnesota had a welcome sign or if we were out of luck. She couldn’t remember if it had the sign or not, but was able to tell us there’d be a gigantic catfish statue… Needless to say, we we’re intrigued and headed that way.
One quickly scarfed pie later, and we were heading across town towards the other bridge. Right before we got there, we spotted the giant catfish sculpture. It was… a giant catfish sculpture. I think Stink took a picture in the falling dusk.
Across the bridge and much to our pleasure was a Minnesota sign. We wheeled around the barrier and Stink stood in the grass below while I went & set up the camera. As expected, a cloud of mosquitoes started swarming around us, determined to make this process as miserable as possible. We swatted away while the picture snapped, then quickly hopped back on the bikes to high-tail it outta there.
We stopped a mile or so into Breckenridge, Minnesota and set up camp in a church parking lot. I let Beef run rampant in the area while we cooked dinner and called home. At one point, he started heading towards our little camp stove so I ran his way to try to snatch him up before he singed his little whiskers, and, probably because of the crazy giant stomping right towards him, he headed straight to the wind shield sitting around the flame and, of course, singed his little whiskers.
My poor little boy. He got much treats and cuddles for his actions, and will probably attempt to do it again in the future. After dinner, we hopped into the tent (the presence of approximately 10 million mosquitoes in Minnesota requires that we set the tent up each night), and zonked out.
We woke in the morning and rushed to pack up and find a gas station to go pee at. Once there and bladders safely deflated, I got ahold of the Wahpeton/Breckenridge newspaper, and they sent a fella from the sports department our way. We sat at a little both inside the convenience store and stuffed our faces with breakfast while he conducted the interview. By now, we know what sorts of things people want to know, and can rattle off the stats in our sleep. Two gals, one rat, 48 states, 10,000 miles, and seven jars of peanut butter. You get the idea.
We ended up talking with a few different people while we were outside the store packing up as well. Something about a couple of kids cramming water bottles and jackets and who knows what else into the already bulging bags on their bikes strikes up people’s curiosity. We talked with some folks who make custom engraved rings and necklaces and later got an email from them asking if we’d like something to commemorate the trip. We thought about it, then decided, sure, why not? Stink was pretty set on getting “home to home” on a necklace, when I suggested “there and back again” to better appeal to her Tolkien roots. It was a winner. After spending much cycling time trying to think of something stupid involving farts or something for my quote, I gave up and decided to get “just.ride” stamped on mine. Anyways, you can check out there site here: www.namerings.com
After finally leaving the gas station, we rode on to Fergus Falls, MN. Now, I have to admit here that I have no idea what we did in Fergus Falls…. I am a bad person and did not journal at all last week, because I am dumb/lazy. Anything could have happened. We could have accidentally rode out into the middle of a parade. We could have gone to get haircuts only for them to end up comically horrible. We could have adopted a stray puppy from the roadside and named him Porkchop. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it and neglect your journaling duties for a week.
Actually, looking at a map now, I don’t even think we went to Fergus Falls… That’s relieving, because I seriously didn’t remember anything about it. What we actually did was cruise out to Elbow Lake and eat lunch in the convenience store parking lot. While preparing our bbpb&jb’s (banana bagels with peanut butter and jelly and sliced bananas on top), we found that we were nearly out of the most crucial of ingredients; peanut butter! I despondently sat on the curb and used the official PBTS (peanut butter transfer spoon, for transferring the last of the peanut butter into the next jar. Works best when you actually have a next jar already on hand to transfer in to… The PBTS is a small, plastic, white soup-spoon that I filched from some deli condiment station states ago. Stink tried to convert us to a Dairy Queen spoon, but it wasn’t tough enough to handle the job and promptly snapped in half upon first attempt) to scrape the remnants onto my waiting bagel. A man who had stopped to chat must have thought me pitiful as I scrapped and scrapped and scrapped. He ended up insisting I take some monies so that we could go get drinks in Hoffman, our destination for the evening. Thanks man!
After lunch, we headed to the newspaper office just down the road and did a quick interview with the editor of the Grant County Herald, Kris. He even took us out back and showed us his ol’ bike that he scoots around town on assignments with. What a life! After that, we went to the grocery store and got more peanut butter. We couldn’t stand to be without it any longer. We also stopped in a thrift store because we like to torture ourselves by finding great deals on cool things and not having any room on our bikes to bring them along. Buuuut, we did end up getting a couple books because we couldn’t say no, and Stink had already read the free one we picked up in Portland (Blink by Malcolm Gladwell) and wasn’t into the book I’d brought along from home (The Winds Twelve Quarters by Ursula Le Guin). She ended up purchasing a book about Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand and I got John Muir’s memoir ‘The Story of My Boyhood and Youth’. With the right terrain and traffic, you can read while cycling and be entertained for miles upon miles (Note: this activity is not approved for beginning cyclists!)
After strapping on the additional weight, we left for Hoffman and the miles flew by indeed. When we got there, we scoped out a convenience store/restaurant for coffee in the morning, and then a park to camp at that night. Then we headed to the bar for those drinks! Except that Stink doesn’t drink, so she ended up deciding to go chill at the park for some peace and quiet and some friggen’ alone time for once. So, I took it upon myself to do the drinking for two, and got a couple beers and some fries with the bar money provided by Elbow Lake dude. I hung out by myself, doodled a bit, and then, as I was getting ready to go “home” for the night, ended up chatting with a couple folks who were sitting around the table outside. This ended up being the owner, Frog (whose real name is Jeremiah, and had named the bar, Bullfrogs, and you can probably see where he got his nickname from), Barb, who has worked with him at the bar for years, and Mark, just a cool gay dude who had moved to the area from Minneapolis to take care of his mother. I entertained with stories from the road and let Beef meet some other patrons who came outside for smoke breaks. (Beef proved to be great at getting drunk straight dudes to stop coming onto me). Frog kept the drinks coming, and brought out a container of strawberries for me to snack on. We ended up chatting late into the night and, eventually, with many a yawn from me, and a promise to call Barb in the morning before we left to shower and eat breakfast (if it wasn’t too early), we all headed out.
I rode the three blocks to our home for the night, a park gazebo, and sleepily climbed into bed. In the morning, I looked out the front door of the tent and saw a big paper bag with a note on it from Mark. He had snuck by at some point and left us a bag of goodies; grapes, bananas, cookies, and so on, that were greatly appreciated and soon eaten. It was too early to go to Barb’s, so we just went to the convenience store and cooked some oatmeal and added leftover strawberries and fruits from Mark. Once again, we proved to be a curiosity and ended up talking with quite a few people. The owner of the station brought out some cookies and energy bars and even offered to have us eat at the restaurant free of charge (but since we were already halfway through making our oats, regretfully declined). I am not quite sure exactly why people want to feed us all the time, but I’m certainly not complaining!
Soon, we headed out, aiming to get to Paynesville that day. Once again, I admit that I did not jounal during the week, so I am leaving this day up to your imaginations. Go nuts.
We got to Paynesville, and parked our bums on the curb outside the Casey’s convenience store. We could hear really loud off key singing coming from somewhere nearby, and curiosity drove us to find the source. We scooted around town till we found a Relay for Life event with some sort of karaoke set up as entertainment for the walkers. Good for them. We quickly moved on.
We found a grocery mart, where I browsed every single aisle, till Stink finally dragged me outta there, hungry and half asleep as I was. We had seen a minor league baseball game going on on our way to the mart, so we were determined to go sit and watch as we cooked and ate our dinner. Just as we arrived to the park, we saw a player catch a fly ball, an out was called, and the game was over. People started streaming out past us, and once again, we had to answer the age old question; “What is in the mailbox??” We chatted with folks about our trip and about Watsi, and soon one of the ladies (who ran the concession stand) came back with half a pepperoni pizza and two hamburgers piled up for the two of us. I smiled graciously and said my thanks, then had to watch Stink eat it right in front of me as we chatted with the other gals in the concession stand. When we found a moment to break free, we ran off to a dark area where I could sneakily cook up my vegan dinner and finally abate my hunger.
That night, a storm was scheduled to roll in, so the folks at the park told us about the storm shelter located right there. We rolled the bikes in and made ourselves at home for the night, thankful to not have to worry about mosquitoes for once. Around two in the morning, we both woke up, and peeked outside at the storm. It wasn’t raining yet, but you could see the sky lighting up with flashes of lightening and hear the roaring booms of thunder. We went and sat on the swings nearby and watched in silent awe for some time. Soon it began to sprinkle, then outright rain and we ran for cover under the grandstand. I was all sticky from the cumulative layers of sunscreen and bug spray, and grime from life on the road and the rain felt so nice & clean! I decided I was going to take a little rain shower, so went back to the shelter, stripped down to my birthday suit and stood buck naked outside at three in the morning in a strange town. Life is weird, but it sure is nice to get clean sometimes. Stink ended up taking a sponge bath in the shelter bathroom and soon we were back to bed.
At seven in the morning, someone came to check in on the shelter, so we woke up and packed up all our gear. We rode out to the McDonald’s and of course loitered for hours, drinking coffee and working on Within Biking Distance stuff. Out the door we eventually went, annnnnd yet again, I’m drawing a big blank on the activities of that day. It’s okay though, because I take forever to tell you about the things I do remember anyways.
Seriously, like, we went garage saling at some point? Man, my memory is whack.
…So we rolled into Hutchinson. It was wonderful. There were trees, and shade (what I do remember of the ride that day was that it was sunny and HOT), and nice wide streets to bike through. We got to the downtown main street area, locked the bikes up, and walked to Dairy Queen where Stink got a gigantic blizzard (her eyes were bigger than her belly though, and she has since decided that the large is way, way too large). We strolled around town while she ate and soon came across a Mexican restaurant. We’ve kind of realized that this is the perfect place for us if we want to eat out for dinner. They usually have vegetarian/vegan options, taste great, and most importantly, offer free chips and salsa. There was half a basket of chips and salsa left out on one of the outdoor tables, so I nabbed some chips and stuffed them in my pocket to munch on as we continued our walk and debated going out to eat that night. Waste not, want not. Also, they were good chips.
While walking, we found a cool old movie theater that reminded us of the 3rd Street Pizza theater at home, and combined with nostalgia, the low price of $3.50 per ticket definitely put that on the radar for the evening activities. We eventually decided to just do it all, and walked our bikes over to the Mexican restraunt for dinner, which was faaaaantastic, and then to the movies where we saw Tomorrowland, which was… pretty cool. It had some really creative ideas and inventions, and cool props, costumes, and effects. After the movie, we rolled to a park, set up the house, and zonked.
That morning was Sunday, so Stink wanted to go to church, but not before we ran to Wal-Mart to get something for breakfast. At Walmart, I will admit that I bought an entire discount full-size blueberry pie… I had been keeping an eye out for one ever since finding out they were vegan back at the Whittecar’s house in Nebraska. We quickly breakfasted and scooted to the church, where we found out the service didn’t actually start for another hour. So we breakfasted some more… and I ate like half that pie. By myself. Stink wouldn’t take more than one bite. I was okay with all of this.
When service was about to start we went inside and talked with folks, then took our seats. To my credit, I didn’t immediately fall asleep, but soon enough the comfy chairs, warm environment, and even voices had me lolling off. At one point, Stink woke me up and told me it was time to leave. Apparently the pastor had been getting a bit too political in his sermon and she was worried where he might be going. We rolled out and hit up the WalMart again for more necessary items like vitamins and such. We also stopped at a different grocery store (for fun and variety!) where we found discounted 40 cent cans of chili beans and took the risk on a few of them. Once more, I know that we did ride all day, it’s just that I don’t remember much of what happened while we rode. Use that lovely imagination of yours!
We stayed that night in New Prague, in a nice city park. We cooked up some of that chili with rice, and a bag of frozen veggies and it was bomb. As in good. Bomb is really hip lingo for yummy. We set up the tent behind the library and zonked (it was late). At one point in the night, we heard a cop’s walkie-talkie not many feet off from us, but they must have realised we were no threat, as no blinding lights we’re shown into the tent to wake us up. We rose at six the next morning, to the sound of thunder. Again. We saw lightening as we packed up, and got the first few drops of rain as we searched out a mart to hole up in for a bit. We found a McDonald’s (also, again) and got coffees and prepared to wait out the storm. We could see it was a big one, looking at radar maps on our phone, and sure enough, there was soon a torrential downpour going on outside. I had to run out there to batten down the hatches on Beef’s mailbox as the intense wind was getting everything wet, under cover or not. We wrote, and drew, and drank coffees, and stealthily made oatmeals and PB&J’s till 10, when it had finally blown over.
While packing up the bikes, we talked with this guy, Mark St. de Hubert, who had had 48 strokes since one of his horses had trampled him “to death”. I think he might have been serious about that part too. He was really interesting, and we chatted for awhile about all sorts of stuff. When I asked for his name, he took a moment to remember his last name, and couldn’t spell it for me (I thought he had said Saindy Cuber or something like that), but all the same he pulled a credit card out of his wallet so I could read it. Cool dude; we’re lucky to meet interesting folks like him.
That day we rode. Obviously. One of these mystery days we were along a train track, and I kept getting the conductors to honk for us with the universal sign language for “HONK HONK”. I redubbed trains as “moving murals” because checking out all the graffiti as they pass also proves quite entertaining. We stopped in Faribault (pronounced Fairbull) for lunch, and to do an interview with the paper there. We met at the library, and went through the ropes, surprising the guy at the end of interview when we remembered to tell him we had brought a pet rat along. When we were finished, we noticed that the community center next door was a YMCA, and went inside to inquire about the cost of a shower. They looked it up and said it was $2, and as we headed back to the bikes to deliberate, they offered to just let us shower for free. Was it generosity for us, or for the rest of the world so that no one would have to put up with our stench any longer? Either way, we scrambled at the opportunity.
One quick shower later and we were ready to put on sunscreen and get sweaty and dirty again. Off we went to West Concord, which was the tiny town that was our destination for the evening. We pulled into town and were met by the smells of a delicious looking little local burger joint. I called up the paper and went off to order fries. Can’t be helped. The editor came and we sat around and had a pleasant chat while I stuffed fries and three full containers of condiments (BBQ, ketchup, and mustard) down my gullet.
We had her direct us to the town park, but were also warned that there had been vandalism issues lately, and also for Beef to watch out for stray cats. I guess the stray cats were a sore issue for the town council. While feasting on a really amazingly delicious dinner of chili beans, rice, refried beans, discount buns, and a variety of condiment packets (it was like some sort of heavenly sloppy joe- beanie- burger), the town’s two cops stopped to have a chat with us. They didn’t often have people brazenly setting up tents in the pavilion, and had come to tell us that camping wasn’t allowed there, and that the park closed at ten. But they were friendly fellas, and as Beef was running around the bench and on my lap, they asked if he was a ferret (for not the last time, no, he is not a ferret), and gave him some nice scritches. They directed us to an empty lot by the baseball park that we could camp at for the night, and said their goodbyes.
We finished up dinner, packed the tent back up, and relocated. In fifteen more minutes, we were cozy in bed and falling asleep. In the morning, we headed out to do just 25 or so miles to Rochester, MN. We’ve been aiming for here for ages, as we needed to hit up a bike shop in town for a new freewheel for my bike and new chains for the both of us. When we got into town (er, city, I should say. This place has a population of 106,000! Biggest place we’ve been to since we left Portland) we stopped at a gas station, and a lady from the local TV gave me a call back and wanted to do an interview. She drove out, set up the camera and mics, and interviewed us about the trip so far. This was a lot of fun as she was real easy to talk to, even though we were on camera. She even wanted to hold Beefy afterwards, him being the first rat she’d ever met. She filmed as we rode off into the city, where we eventually found our way to the bike shop, Honest Bikes. One of the dudes working there, Mike, hooked us up good, and even gave up a couple of popsicles to munch on while he worked on my bike. We used money given to us by family/friends/strangers to pay for the new equipment, so thanks everyone! The bikes are now up for doing another 8,000 miles!
After that, it was just two short blocks to the public library, where I parked my butt and began writing this gigantic rambling tale many hours ago. (Big shout out to the Rochester Public Library for renewing my computer time fifty zillion times while I worked on this!)
Hope you’ve all enjoyed. Much love from all of us,