My Route

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Day 45: Wednesday, 15th August. Destination: Spirit Water Inn, Minnewaukan, North Dakota

Before I set off on this trip, folks at work warned me to look out for creepy ‘Deliverance’-style rednecks. So far so good, but on this pleasant jaunt through the byways of rural North America, it’s worth remembering that it only takes one wrong turn…

So there I am, setting off on a bright sunny day heading towards the not-at-all ominous sounding Devils Lake. After 22 miles I see on my map there’s a little town called Warwick coming up with both café & store symbols on it – just time for a mid-morning snack! – but the town wasn’t there, just a red dirt road heading across a field to a patch of trees with perhaps some farm-type dwellings beyond. I took the dirt road, wondering if there could possibly be a café & store in such an unpromising place. It took a sharp turn behind some trees and there I was amidst a weather-beaten cluster of buildings. I pulled up outside the only possibly habitable place, a tin shed claiming to be a bar, which had no windows and a metal plate for a door with a kind of porthole in it showing nothing but darkness beyond. It had to be closed, but as this was the only place in town the least I could do was check it out. To my surprise the door opened and I stepped into a dimly-lit saloon. The bartender was a skinny young man dressed as a cowboy and chewing tobacco. A couple were sitting at the bar. As my eyes became adjusted to the gloom, I saw that the walls were covered with one dollar bills, most of them marked in red ink with initials. I took a seat at the bar and ordered a sprite and a snickers bar. I settled in and was left alone to soak up the atmosphere and let my mind wander…

…Back outside in the sunshine, a beer truck had pulled up. A cheerful delivery guy gave me the breakdown on just how many cans of beer this small place puts away each week - I don’t recall the amount but it was impressive. I realised that what had seemed strange and sinister half an hour ago had become workaday and familiar. So, no ‘Deliverance’ plot twist, but a nice shudder up the spine to remind me that, when you stop to think about it, I’m a long way from home.

But there’s more to talk about today. A road that took me into the middle of Devils Lake before coming to an abrupt halt at a T-junction. Yes, a T-junction in the middle of a lake; an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch at the Spirit Lake Casino. I hate Indian Reservation Casinos: they’re so depressing. But the doormen were really friendly and enthusiastic about my cycle trip – and let’s face it, the buffet was great; a half-submerged white painted timber house; 25 miles of flat, featureless land which left me a little dispirited; and finally the Spirit Water Inn, a place made up of a row of just-a-little-too-functional-to-be-cute self-catering chalets, all with groovy 70s lighting and timber beam pitched roofs. The good folks of Minnewauken cheered me up at the local bar’n’grill: Walleye (perch) for supper, with beers bought by local character, Mike Duty.