Week Four: Crossing North Dakota on Electric Bicycle

Week 4: September 13th – Sept 19th

Medora, North Dakota to Fargo, North Dakota

Total Pedaled This Week: 350

Total Miles to Date: 1,144

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Summary of route:

Week four found us pedaling along (or on)  I-94 straight east, and it took us a week to cover the entire state of North Dakota. After a few hard pedaling days trying to take side roads that followed the freeway in the previous week, Tomas decided he preferred to ride his e-bike on the freeway shoulder rather than lose time and tires dealing with muddy or dusty gravel roads or unsafe side roads. Though this may seem dangerous, in this case it was actually safer because highway 94 through North Dakota has a nice wide shoulder with grooves between the right lane and the shoulder to alert drivers if they begin to drift. In contrast, the side roads and surface streets often have no shoulder and drivers tend to pass very close to cyclists.

Bicycle status:

The electric bicycle was still functioning adequately four weeks in to our world record ride.  Aside the flat tire Tomas changed the previous week, the frame, motor, and batteries were still holding up well.

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Tomas stops to change batteries and look for deer

Don’t Miss Seeing the World’s Largest ___ in North Dakota!

Our route through North Dakota took us through areas of rocky buttes and scenic farmland where sunflowers were the dominant crop. It felt like a dream at times, seeing thousands of  yellow blossoms stretch for miles into the distance. One curiosity we discovered during our time in the “Peace Garden” state was the abundance of outdoor sculptures just off the highways, like mini-tourist traps sans the trappings. In New Salem, North Dakota we visited Salem Sue, the world’s largest Holstein cow statue, while in Jamestown we happened upon the world’s largest Buffalo statue. Later we found out about the Enchanted Highway, which we missed completely – it’s a 32-mile stretch of highway to the south of the I-94 where you can see a large collection of the world’s largest scrap metal sculptures. The roadside attractions are not only fun and beautiful – they are a revitalizing the small, dying towns in which they are commissioned. Many of these towns –  such as my family’s hometown of Drake, North Dakota – are slowly turning into ghost towns due to the decline in farming profits and the absence of the once important railroad.

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The world’s largest buffalo statue in Jamestown, North Dakota

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Signs clearly mark your way to the statue

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Salem Sue overlooks New Salem, North Dakota – and is the world’s largest Holstein cow statue!

Free Camping = Happy Camping

The weather smiled on us, and Tomas was a able to cover the farthest distance in one week since he started. We took the opportunity to camp whenever we could, as we found that staying in cheap hotels was leaving us bored and depressed. The children love when their living room is the outdoors! Our favorite camp spot this week was the free (donations accepted) camping area provided by the community of New Salem. Amenities included electrical hookups, an immaculate port-a-potty and hand washing station, a huge playground, and picnic tables. There was even a nicely paved bike lane through the town that passed right by the camping area. If it weren’t for the massive clouds of mosquitos, we may have stayed an extra day here to rest and recover.

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Our campsite in North Park, New Salem – a public free (donations accepted) camping area

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Apple picking at our campsite in Tower City

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Fresh delicious apples – right in our campground!

Have you Ever Seen a Tractor Parade?

Our favorite random adventure: after leaving Dickinson on 36th Street (which runs parallel to the I-94 for about 15 miles) we hit a closed road in a tiny town called Taylor, with detour signs leading us around the downtown. Peeking past the barrier, I noticed what looked like a street fair and saw a couple dozen shiny and sleek classic cars on display. Thinking it might be fun for the kids to stretch their legs and get a bite to eat at one of the food vendors, we decided to stop. Tomas wasn’t far behind us, so we waited for him and locked the e-bike up while we explored.

By luck we had happened upon a festival of some kind, and had arrived just in time to see a parade of vintage tractors circle through town! As anyone with a little boy might imagine, this is pretty much the coolest possible parade a kid could see. There were tractors of all shapes and sizes, some that looked like they went back a long time, and others that looked sparklingly new. Even I enjoyed watching them sputter by, and I generally get zero enjoyment from all things combustion-engine-related.

Even better was the people-watching as we chowed down on delicious pulled-pork sandwiches. One woman was dressed in an 1800’s-era button-down dress and hat and was leading activities for kids at the historic one-room schoolhouse. Our little ones had a blast sitting in the tiny antique school desks and learning about what school was like for children of that bygone era. Tomas spent untold moments pondering the meaning of the large, spinning sculpture made of mini-tractors and kid’s bikes before hopping back on his own odd contraption to make the miles to the next town.

Week four of our world record electric bicycle ride was smooth sailing for us as we checked one more state off the list. North Dakota was a pleasant surprise despite the ever present clouds of mosquitos! Next stop on this crazy family adventure: Minnesota!

Watch our video of the antique tractor parade below:

 

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Heritage Hill in Taylor, North Dakota is the site of the community’s various festivals. The site holds the old schoolhouse, the big red barn, and the tractor sculpture.

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One of the many cool antique tractors on display at the festival – this one is a Hart Parr tractor.

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This tractor doubles as a taxi!

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The town’s (in)famous tractor/bicycle sculpture which spins in the wind.

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Our kids join the town children for a lesson in the old schoolhouse.

Detail Summary of Week 4:

Day 22: September 13th

Total Miles: 37

Start: Medora, ND

End: Dickinson, ND

Lodging: Nodak Motel

 

Day 23: September 14th

Total Miles: 74

Start: Dickinson, ND

End: New Salem, ND

Lodging: Free camping in public park behind football field (just past Salem Sue turnoff)

 

Day 24: September 15th

Total Miles: 37

Start: New Salem, ND

End: Bismarck, ND

Lodging: Bismarck KOA

 

Day 25: September 16th

Total Miles: 43

Start: Bismarck, ND

End: Steele, ND

Lodging: OK Motel

 

Day 26: September 17th

Total Miles: 60

Start: Steele, ND

End: Jamestown, ND

Lodging: Frontier Fort Campground & RV Park

 

Day 27: September 18th

Total Miles: 53

Start: Jamestown, ND

End: Tower City, ND

Lodging: Tower Motel & Camping

 

Day 28: September 19th

Total Miles: 46

Start: Tower City, ND

End: Fargo, ND

Lodging: Vista Inn & Suites

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