29 July 2009

Tour de Valli : Stage 5 to Jamestown

This is a section of the continuing saga of the Tour de Valli, a solo journey on 2 wheels in North Dakota that was taken in early July 2009. Stage 5 begins in Valley City.

I am unsurprised to learn that the previous evening I slept on a railroad bed. This certainly explains the difficulty in trying to stack out the tent. However, for $7 I am not arguing since it included a decent shower.
Valley City is noted for its bridges and so after grabbing a bite to eat at the grocery store I set out exploring on foot. Of the 8 bridges (pdf file) I saw about half. The photo above is the bridge unto the Valley City State University campus (Alma mater of The Champ.) I poked around the empty campus and then pack through the city park.
Later in the morning I packed up and discovered another grocery store (Lever's) which was closer than the other. Then looked through the library to find a North Dakota map gazetteer. The overwhelmed library did not.
At noon I decided to take lunch at the Pizza Hit. The buffet was great deal at $4.99. I ate my fill of pasta and pizza and salad and returned downtown to stop by a thrift store and the county museum. It displaced the typical historic artifacts including German Army items from World War I, an exhibit on the missile silos which were once common in the region, and a model railroad with a scale model of the high line bridge. I think it was around 2Pm that I decided I needed to get going.
I had one problem with starting out to Jamestown, I could not find the connecting road. I biked to edge of town and the Interstate cut off any routes. I looked to my Nuvi to help me and it did not fail. However, I would need to scale the valley to connect with the road.
After exerting much effort getting to the top of the valley, I biked west believing this would now be a trouble free stage. I thought wrong.
The only known paved road for miles (not counting 94) that connected Valley City to Jamestown had barricades for road closure. I decided to press through because the detour would be major.
Traveling down this stretch of Old 10 I saw nothing unusual to suggest a need to close the road. Then I saw another set a barricades and there ahead the road was covered with water! It was about the length of a football field but juse beyond was the end of this stretch of road. I investigated the water by wading out halfway. The pool was about 2" to 3" at the deepest point (see photo below.) I begin a portage of my panniers then followed by my bike. I couldn't ride it through these depths so I had to walk it.
I reloaded my bike and progressed to crossing the road when I saw another road block ahead. I ignored it and went on. A low lying section ahead had flooded as well but a crew was out with a large tanker truck clearing the road of water with pumps. Relieved I waved to the crew as I passed.

Little of importance happened as I cruised over this sometimes well worn road to Jamestown. I did take note that there were plenty of lake-like places in North Dakota. As I recall, these are chiefly water fowl production areas. And boy there was a lot of fowl. Besides the mallards I kept seeing this odd white headed ducks.
I entered Jamestown on the northside and coasted down the hill into the main section of town. This was a big town. Bigger than I expected.

Art of the Deal 7

Well what do we got here? Hmm. 2 finger puppets (free), a backpack (0.50), a book of Western stories by Brett Harte (not the wrestler, 0.75), a CD map collection of the BWCA, the Twin Cites and Lake Superior (0.99), a pair of Hind nylon pants (? I forgot but it was less than$2).

I am most appreciative of the CD of the BWCA. I love those maps and at 99 cents it was a steal. The Hind pants I may take with me on this year's trip for rain gear.

28 July 2009

Wise cat predicted economic woes

Sweetie the economist cat wasn't written about by feline poet T.S. Eliot. Eliot should have thought twice before nixing his poem, Sweetie the Depression Predicting Cat.
Anyways this cat's stares say it all- "I told you the economy was going to fall out! But no, you didn't listen to me!"
Joe Biden quickly responded by suggesting he believed the economy was an entirely different animal.

The night Drew Carey came over

Drew smiles for a last minute photo op before he leaves.

The following is an entirely fictional account of meeting a celebrity and providing food and shelter for him over a weekend.
On Friday I was ambling about town, enjoying the sites and sounds of downtown, when I noticed a familiar face outside the Hotel Donaldson. No it wasn't Jay Leno, even though he was performing at the nearby Shooting Star Casino. And it wasn't Dave Matthews, who would be playing a music festival in the lakes area the next evening. Neither was it Ira Glass or Johnny Lang or Peter Schickele.
My stares began to perturb him. Until I blurted out- "You're not from around here, you're from TV."
He looked around and shook his head affirmatively.
"Yep, I'm from TV. That little box 90 million people turn on in the late morning, I'm on that 5 times a week! Not to mention my show still runs in syndication!" he retorted sarcastically. "Too bad the clerks inside don't know that. Too bad they don't know I'm Drew [explicative] Carey!"
He goes on to explain he flew into town by mistake. He had fallen asleep on a plane in Las Vegas which eventually flew on to Hector Field.
"They didn't even wake me!" he exclaimed. "I'm never flying that carrier again. I'll take a taxi."
The frustrated comedian and game show host continued to expound on his foibles until I stopped him.
"Why don't I show you around town?" I offered.
He obliged and I took him on a stroll through downtown showing him all the noteworthy sites including the cafe where Bob Dylan worked, the new library, and the Main Avenue Bridge. Later Drew and went to a convenience store for a snack. He commented on the flood we had a few months ago as we sat on bench overlooking the Red River. He seemed pretty impressed by the flood fight the city had put up.
As it was getting late, I was about to leave Drew and head home until he spoke up.

"Hey, you wouldn't mind if I crash at your place? You know with the economy and stuff, it would probably make sense." Drew asked sheepishly. "I can't get a hold of my agent to jet out of here tonight."
The futon on which Drew slept.I thought the request was a joke so I agreed and we walked to my place. Fortunately, my room mate was on vacation since he didn't like the Drew Carey Show.

I unfolded the futon and found a pillow. We chatted for a few more minutes and then I went to bed.

The next morning I made him breakfast of eggs, sausage, and toast. Afterward Drew used the Internet and then called his agent. I was surprised he didn't write about about this event on his blog.
"I'm out of here at 3." he said. "Thanks for the bed and breakfast."
After he showered, he sat around reading Wired magazine until noon and wondered why I didn't have cable so he could catch MLS highlights. I offered him a beer and he laughed.
"Beer covers over everthing." he quipped as he chugged a Leinies.
At 3 he patted me on the back and said if I'm ever out in Burbank to stop by the show. I walked him out the door and into an airport shuttle. He saluted me as the shuttle rolled away.

22 July 2009

Street Fair 2009

Before I left for the summer home, I helped out at the street with some kids crafts and face painting.
Unfortunately, we were not on the main thoroughfare, which you can see in the picture, but down the street and around the corner.
Still, we had a good number of participants stop in, get a face painted, do a craft, have a refreshment, and view some art from our collection.
I'm not really a big fan of the street fair but definitely like the fact that it draw people downtown. The street fair is typical cookie cutter year in and year out. I guess it makes it easier to plan and execute. I think I mentioned in another post what I would do to "liven up" street fair. I think there needs to be some aspect where people anticipate what's new this year. But then again I may not be the street fair demographic- which I think is mostly female, married, and older. Perhaps this demographic thrives on stability.
Feel free to chime in any ideas you'd like to see implemented at the street fair. Canine fashion show? Gourmet food demonstrations? Celebrity appearances? Games?

Art of the bargain 6

This one is a bit out of order but I decided to leapfrog the others to get this fantastic deal out there.
I shop thrift stores a lot. I think its a genetically acquired trait. There are quite a few in the Go. I found this deal (practically a steal) at a shop that was under my for years. St. Vincent de Paul's shop is off the beaten path in a light industrial section of town near my domicile.
As I child growing up in the city of St. Paul, my mother would shop a St. Vincent's store on 7th, a block from a former family residence. I remember it being a bit creepy. I seem to recall a life size statue of Vincent in the store someplace. Another thrift shop just a few steps from the old house was Worn a Bit. It too was creepy. However, I remember mom getting better deals there. Worn a Bit is long gone but St. Vincent's is still there.
But here's what I got for only a buck. A Descente cycling jersey normally worth about $65.
It was misplaced in the children's section. I knew what it was so I happily snatched it up minutes before closing. I wore it yesterday while cycling on the Paul Bunyan Trail.
More deals next time.

16 July 2009

Music in the Downtown

I saw this group playing old time music in downtown last week. It was really cool. You might never see this a the street fair which disappoints me. The guardians of the street fair would whisk them away. A shame, especially if they had purchased the appropriate license.
Although the street fair is a popular even and draws many to downtown, I have found it rather pedestrian and banal in recent years. Probably from what I stated above. Tents on the street with wares just reminds me of outdoor mall. Something should make this event stand out more.
Last year they added some street performers - jugglers I think. A step in right direction.
My idea would be for multiple venues for performance up Broadway. Look for community involvement to create these "mini-worlds" much like Fargo residents do for the rest stations in the marathon. That would give it some class.

15 July 2009

Tour de Valli: Stage 4 - To Valley City

Casselton Oil Can pile next to Water Tower

This stage turned out to be the longest and hotest. Due to not being a direct paved route from Mapleton to Valley City, I needed to head north to get on a western route. It did not prove to be easy as you will see.

Got up early. About 7ish. No problems in Mapleton. I suppose the train traffic could be thought as being a problem as it was about 300 yards from my tent. However I have found that to be a sound of security. Still, train traffic was plenty high the course of the night.

I found the actual city park on the other side of town. It was tucked in the middle of a residential development.

Soon, I met up with the first sign of route problems. The road heading north out of town was closed for construction. And it was impassable. I searched for another road north to no avail. Reluctantly, I headed south to the Interstate in hopes of finding a westbound road. Providentially, there was a paved frontage road on the south side of the Interstate which I took all the way to Casselton. I stopped and ate a bit before moving on but not before staring at the glory of the Largest Can Pile in the World.

Took State Route 18 North to 25th St SE in order to go west on pavement. Stopped for nourishment outside of Ayr, then hopped on State Route 38 going south. Took a break in Buffalo to nap and get out of the midday sun.

Followed 34th St SE to Tower City and stopped at an unusual and lonely historic marker. It marked the spot where General Sibley returned after driving a bunch of Native Americans across the Missouri River during a stage of the Dakota Conflict of 1862. Later on the tour I would overnight in Sibley, ND named after him. Hastings, MN, my hometown, is another Sibley namesake.

Some odd sculptures outside of OriskaAccording to one of my maps, I could take a 33rd St SE for about a mile on gravel then the rest of the road would be pavement. Totally false. The road was also recently re-graveled and difficult to ride on. I had to ride the harder sections on the shoulders. After Oriska the road got better but then totally disappeared at an intersection with a road that looked like a cow path. I followed this "road" north until it reached a larger gravel road, apparently 32nd St SE. At State Route 25 I headed south and picked up 33rd St again. The rest was downhill on the gravel into the north side of Valley City. They don't call it Valley City for nothing. It was quite a change in topography compared to the flat rolling land I saw most of the day.
Hi-Line Bridge in Valley City
The first thing in town I noted was High-Line railroad bridge. This bridge was built to carry the Great Northern over the valley. It dominates the skyline on the north side. Numerous other bridges dot the town which I later would visit. But first I needed a place to stay. I found a spot to camp at the tourist campground. It was cheap, not very scenic but in town and had a shower. I was the only tent amongst a glut of motor homes. I pitched my tent on the old railroad grade (because that was the tenting area.)

The rest of the evening I acquired a little more nourishment and then checked in for the night and went off to sleep while listening to some old time radio on the MP3 player.

10 July 2009

Tour de Valli: Stage 3 - To Mapleton

Leaving work a little later than I anticipated and not having nearly everything packed, I started much later than I desired. Fortunately the days are long and I had adequate night illuminations on the bike. I also did not get any supper. Still, I strove on west on US-10/94 Bus to West Fargo. I then proceeded north and missed the turn to go towards Mapleton. Fortunately it was not by much.
I had never been out this way before but it was some good biking. The weather was perfect and the moon was almost full. Mapleton is a short jaunt from the start but provided an excellent stopping off point for the evening. I doubt could have hustled 40 miles to Arthur or even Tower City.
According to my research there was primitive camping at Mapleton City Park. However, I had no clue which of the 3 "parks" they were referring. I set up camp beyond a ball field in some trees and retired for the night.
The picture is of the Mapleton School, just a few blocks from my campsite.

09 July 2009

Tour de Valli : Stage 2 - the route

This year the tour's goal was to head West. Some may have suspected Medora to be the grand terminus but alas it ended up being someplace else.
From the start, finding a western route was difficult. Outside the metropolis, paved roads heading west were rare or took one too far north or south to be of any value on a 5 day tour. With numerous maps I pored over possible routes.
The Interstate was out of the question although bikes are allowed on the shoulder. To me that would be boring. Eventually I found a route that took me through Mapleton to Casselton and unto Valley City and then to Jamestown.
I printed some reference maps and packed my Nuvi.
July 15- Added the map and now realize I could have called the tour "The Hammer" but refrained from wearing the baggy pants.

Tour de Valli: Stage 1 - Gear

The gear is the unsung hero on the self supported bike tour. It does its job and that is that. It never gets the plaudits like bike- until now. (Of course let's hope this jump starts manufacturer sponsorship points.)
The indispensible gear
Ortlieb Pannier-
That's right, singular. I only have one Ortlieb I picked up at REI scratch and dent sale years ago. I had another pannier on this our, a Deuter, but I was able to resurrect the Ortlieb after finding the missing part online I had lost years ago. Back in those dark days Ortlieb didn't respond to my cries for the part. I really should get another one because the size and durablity are incredible. Did I mention it is waterproof?
Bontrager Bar Ends-
I added these to the bike because on the previous tour I must have placed too much pressure on my Ulnar nerve and had 2 tingling fingers for over a month afterward. The bar ends provided a few more hand positions to avoid this. I also got better gloves.
Euro Team Cycling Cap-
I picked it up on Nashbar and although it didn't have a sweat band it worked good. It fit under the helmet and made me look the part.
Inflatable Neck Rest-
I used it to elevate my pillow. It allowed me to get much better rest than using a pillow alone.
Camelbak Mule-
Thanks to my brother in law I got an awesome military issue reservoir. I then found just the MULE pack on ebay. Together they make a mean combination. It holds 3L of water and a respectible amount of space for things I want handy. I ditched a full size Trek hydration backpack and it certainly makes a difference.
Gatorade mix pouches-
Ok. Its not gear but food. I found the mixes to be an exceptional value to buying ready made. Although I hear that low fat chocolate milk may be a better sport drink.
Trangia Mini Stove-
I purchased this small alcohol burning stove for a song. It replaces the Esbit which I had little success. The Trangia is small and compact, puts out a good amount of heat, and came with a pot. I found that it burns Heet much better than Iso-Alcohol.
Folding Origami Cup-
It packed flat and was easy to clean. I bought it at REI for around $2 in fall.
Useful gear
Garmin Nuvi-
I did not use this extensively but it did come in handy when I questioned my position out in the sticks.
REI Quarterdome UL-
A spacious and lightweight tent. Easy to pitch. I used a smaller one in the past but found the ventilation to be lacking. I have not tried a true bivy yet but I do appreciate the room the Quarterdome offers.
Military Folding Canvas Sink-
I got this for cheap and only used it as a back up. However, on tour space matters and this little guy took up very little space and performed well. I think it might be from Belgium.
Gear I could have gone without on this tour
Rain pants- not a drop of precipitation while riding. I would still keep the rain coat.
Extra pouches and ditty bag- These just held personal stuff I didn't use. I did not need shaving cream or extra bug repellent.
Extra clothes- I used 3 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of pants and 4 shirts the whole tour. I did not need the extra shirts or socks. I regret that I never needed the bug repellant shirt but I brought it because of previous experiences.
Extra Bungies and ropes- 2 bungies would be enough to double for keeping stuff on the rack and stacking out the tent. Never needed the rope but a small strand would have sufficed for emergencies.
Windbreaker- This one is more questionable. I had a long sleeve jersey that did the trick. If it were another time of year (i.e. fall) I would take it.