My Route

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Day 43: Monday, 13th August. Destination: Cyclists Lodging, Page, North Dakota

Heading out of Fargo on my first day’s cycling in North Dakota and if the first day’s anything to go by it’s going to be flat, straight and long, with a return of the land parcel system marking a giant 1 square mile grid over the countryside. Virtually all turnings are right-angles, with tarmac side-roads only occasionally taking the place of gravel and wheat fields reaching to the horizon. On that horizon, to the SW, a rather intense-looking cloud formation was gathering, with lightening sparking the sky. The wind, coming from the SE, seemed to be blowing it my way and I started to get a little concerned because there was absolutely no shelter, anywhere.

I paused by a row of giant golden hay bails at one of those perpendicular gravel off-roads and – after a quiet moment of empty space - watched a pickup truck drive from the very horizon, past junction after junction, to eventually slow down, turn onto the off-road and stop beside me. I thought, what were the odds of that? Should I be concerned? It all felt a little like that scene in North By Northwest when Cary Grant is watching a crop-duster plane slowly approach the field where he’s waiting, in the moment before he realises that he’s the target… As it turned out, the pickup belonged to a nice young couple who, simply by coincidence, lived in a ranch down the track, and had stopped just to check that I was OK. They told me there was an official storm warning, with possible hail (!) and if caught out I should take shelter in the storm drains that run under each road crossing. I kept thinking: yes, but what about my bike?!

The only town between Fargo and Page, called Arthur, was a little over half way. There was nothing really for it but to plough on and hope to beat the storm. And that, I’m glad to say, is what happened. I got comfy in a friendly little café as the sky darkened and the rain started to pour. The TV was on the weather channel showing threatening T-storm graphics and so I decided to settle in till the all-clear. By chance, the café was part of a small indoor market which had a 2nd hand bookshop. Excellent timing, as I’d just finished the only book I’d brought with me (The Coronation of Haile Selassie by Evelyn Waugh). Trouble was, 95% of all the books were romance novels, and the remaining 4% about war. It took a while to hunt down the elusive 1% “others” and, in the end, selected The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, which had a cover that made it look like a trashy 70s sexcapade.

Well, the rains moved on and the sun came out and it was all steam ahead to Page, a tiny place at a junction of a highway and two railways. Accommodation in what seemed like the back office of a local real estate business. No window, but nice and clean with a big bed and a good shower. All this being the 2nd (and last) official cyclist’s lodging of the journey. A woman met me at the pub (this was organised by phone in Fargo), let me in and left me to it. I dined at the town’s diner – another nice (if half empty) family place, strolled down to the railway crossing, then off to bed early to got started on my new book.