by: Louie Winslow
Ron, Don, and I decided to do the CANDISC ride in 2001. We had ridden RAGBRAI (ride across Iowa) last year and decided to take another but different ride this year. I found the CANDISC ride described on the internet and it sounded interesting. I contacted Don and told him to call up the website. He did and agreed that it sounded like an appealing ride. He contacted Ron and we put in our applications. We are all 59 years old and soon will turn 60. Ron’s birthday is in October and Don’s and mine are in November. Both Don and I had retired from 3M on June 1st and Ron has been retired from teaching for three years. Don lives in Lake Elmo, Minn., Ron lives in Chanhassen, Minn. and I live in Stillwater, Minn. We all live within shouting distance of the Twin Cities.
The bikes we rode are all different. Ron rides a Specialized hybrid and I ride a Specialized Rock Hopper MB with fenders and road tires. Last year Don rode a Mongoose folding mountain bike but this year he joined the recumbent crowd. His bike is a Rans with a short wheel base, twenty inch wheels and upright handle bars. He had purchased the bike in April from Calhoun cycling in Minneapolis where he was told that they were the largest recumbent dealership in the world.
We left the Twin Cities on August 4th for Fort Stevenson State Park where the ride was to begin. I drove my 1993 Sable wagon. For transporting the bikes I had built a bike carrier out of 2 X 4s which my son Miles dubbed the tower. It does have two 3 ½ foot 2 X 4s that stick straight up in the air. A connecting rod made from ½ inch electrical conduit runs between the two up right studs. The up right studs are attached to two horizontal studs with bolts fastened with wing nuts. I attach the rack to Thule bars with airplane clamps and use Velcro straps to hold the bikes on the rack. When I picked up Don he was somewhat skeptical of this carrier. We put my bike and Don’s on the carrier and when we picked up Ron in Chanhassen we took the wheels off his bike and threw it in on top of the packs. Don insisted on running a string between the two upright studs to help prevent the bikes from being thrown off. The carrier does wobble a little bit but is designed so as not to collapse. I told Don not to worry, the only way the bikes would come off the top of the car is if we lost the whole thing.
We drove to Bismark on I-94 and then turned north toward Garrison on 83. All across ND the vegetation was green and the potholes were over flowing with water. There was a strong south wind blowing and the day was quite hot. When we got to Bismark and were gassing up an old guy told us that the temperature had reached 100 and the heat index 103. Since we would be traveling south the next day on our bikes we all hoped that the wind direction would change.
The first night we camped in Fort Stevenson State Park which is three miles south of Garrison, ND. The CANDISC people (CANDISC stands for Cycling Around North Dakota in Sakakawea Country) were well organized and had our packets waiting for us. In each packet they had a neat tee shirt with a map of our route on the back, a Sakakawea dollar, and a century patch. The second day of the ride we did 98 miles so everyone on the ride automatically qualified for a patch. We got our packets and headed over for the western edge of the campground to set up our tents. After setting up our tents we headed back to the area where we had gotten our packets. There was a shelter with picnic tables and they were offering a taco feed for $5.00. Since we were late arriving and some of the taco fixings were gone Ron talked them into accepting $3.00. After eating we had orientation. A part of the orientation was the annual name the port-a-potties contest. This year they had thirteen entries which caused the judges some consternation. The first year of CANDISC they only had two (CANDISC is nine years old) so the judging was easy then. The entries were somewhat interesting and mildly funny. However, one draw back was that we had to listen to most of them. Most were poems about the upcoming ride. I can’t remember what they decided to call the mobile bathrooms. During the orientation they introduced the oldest rider, an 82 year old former surgeon. We also learned that 450 riders were riding this year. The ride is limited to 500 and last year they had filled up. During most of CANDISC the ride has been limited to 250 riders.
After orientation Don decided to take a shower but Ron and I decided to wait till the next day. We all had our own tents so showering was optional. After Don got back we walked down to the lake. It was very pretty with clay banks that looked like white cliffs from a distance. Garrison dam forms lake Sakakawea, a huge impoundment of water. The mosquitoes became quite bad so we headed back to our tents. We crawled in and lay sweating on top of our sleeping bags. Don had bought his extra warm bag anticipating ND’s cold summer weather.
We had decided to get up at 5:30 so when we did it was still dark because we were on the western edge of the time zone. Venus and Jupiter were quite close together in the eastern sky and were very bright. The moon was shining in the western sky making for a very pretty predawn sky. There was a heavy dew (unusual for central ND at this time of year) so we had to pack up our tents wet. The previous evening Dick Messerly promised that the wind would switch to the NW. His prediction was accurate and the cycling gods smiled on us. We ate breakfast in Garrison and had a buffet for $4.00 which consisted of scrambled eggs, link sausages, fruit, orange juice, and coffee. When we were eating a woman came up to our table and asked if she could join us. We said sure so she sat down. Her name was Ellen and she was from Maryland. Apparently she was alone and was looking for someone to ride with. In a discussion while eating our food she told us that she had been married to a banker and had spent four years in Saudi Arabia. She was divorced and had returned to the US since Saudi was quite restrictive towards women. While there she was unable to drive a car and was limited to associating socially only with other women. She currently works for Black and Decker whose home office is in Baltimore. She had done touring in Maryland and Virginia but this was her first time in ND. When we went outside she apparently decided not to ride with us when she saw our bikes. She mounted her road bike and pedaled off. We wished her a good ride and didn’t see her again until the campground in Center.
Some comments about the bikers on the CANDISC ride. They tend to be older with quite a number of people in their sixties. For the most part they are experienced, seasoned bikers who have been on many previous tours. Most had left the campground before we did and by the end of the day we were at the back of the pack.
As previously indicated the wind was from the NW and the first day turned out to be a biker’s dream. The roads were smooth with a limited number of hills and we had the tailing wind. Even the hills we encountered this first day were only moderately long with gradual inclines. The only complaint was that by afternoon it became quite warm. We were riding down the western side of lake Sakakawea and would return on the eastern side completing a loop, crossing the Missouri at Mobridge, SD. We rode across a bay of Lake Sakakawea on 83 and later rode across Garrison dam. On the western side of the dam I stopped to ask a fisherman who was waiting with his trailed boat at the top of the road to the tail race how fishing was. He said that it was excellent and that in the tail race you could catch cutthroat, rainbows, and brown trout, Chinook salmon, and walleyes. He had personally caught a seven pound cutthroat and some thirty pound salmon. Later Don and I talked about retuning here to fish sometime. Pick City was only about a mile from the dam and we stopped to eat snacks and drink pop or sport drinks. We went into a Conoco station and the man behind the counter had many pictures of salmon and trout that he had caught off the face of the dam. Don and I had been kidding each other about walleyes (I think the only good thing about a walleye is that they taste good) and Don informed him that I was a bass fisherman. The guy said that there were a lot of smallmouth bass but that nobody really fished for them since they were pretty much a throw away fish. We left Pick City headed for the Knife Indian village historical site.
The country we traveled through after leaving Pick City was quite pretty. It was gently rolling with dry land farming fields bordering the road. This is the land of long vistas and big sky. In the morning we watched a rain storm coming in from the west. The falling rain always reminds me of curtains whose bottoms are being blown about by the wind. The shower split in two just before it got to us. One biker commented that we were surrounded by rain. We ended up getting only a few drops and we could see that some of the rain curtains were evaporating before they reached the ground. It’s possible to watch rain showers for hours in this prairie country shifting and reforming as they approach. At about 11:00 we stopped for food and beverage at a rest stop run by a group of ladies. There was a field just behind where the women had set up shop that was covered with an unfamiliar crop. The crop proved to be canola and the ladies had picked a seed head which they had laying on one of their tables. The head was covered with multiple pods that came off a central stalk at about a thirty degree angle. The pods were about three to four inches long and were shaped like miniature banana peppers. One of the ladies shucked a pod for us. The canola seeds were small, black spheres. When held in the palm they rolled around like tiny marbles.
We arrived at the Knife Indian village about noon. This proved to be quite interesting. The Mandan’s, Hidatsa, and Arikaras had maintained a village at this site for an estimated 11,000 years. They traded with other tribes from all over North America. The flint from the Knife River is a superior stone which can easily be fashioned into sharp arrow heads and knifes. The people in this village had shells from both the east and west coasts and pipe stone from Minnesota. The park service has constructed an earthen lodge which is quite large. An estimated ten to twenty people lived in these summer lodges. These lodges were located on the bluffs high above the river. When winter came the Indians moved down closer to the river bottom and constructed smaller and cruder lodges in the trees for shelter. The summer lodges lasted for about ten years but the winter ones were lived in for only one or two seasons. The summer lodges are lined with timbers and covered with earth. It was hot when we were there but the inside of the lodge was cool. It took the Park Service six months to build this lodge; the Indians did it in six or seven days with the women doing most of the work. The men cut the logs and set the large timbers. They were hunting buffalo a lot, again letting the women do the skinning and meat packing. They chased the buffalo herds for miles up the river and would float the meat back to the village in bull boats. These are hemispherical in shape with a wooden frame to which buffalo skins were attached. They could hold about 1000 lbs of meat. In 1837 small pox broke out decimating the population. The Indians then moved up river to a place called The Fish Hook. They maintained a village there until the early 1900s.
We ate lunch in Stanton which was about a mile south of the Knife River site. We ate in a restaurant that had excellent ice cream and hamburgers. However, there was only one woman behind the counter and she was doing everything, dishing up the ice cream, frying the burgers, waiting on tables, and cashing the checks. (And she wasn’t even a Mandan.) Fortunately, there weren’t too many people when we were there. My impression of ND people is that they are very friendly, industrious, and eager to please us.
In the afternoon we entered a moderately hilly section. The country was quite rolling with long down hills and naturally accompanying up hills. We arrived in Center about 3:30. The last few miles I rode ahead of Ron and Don. Right before entering Center there was a long down hill which made for a good ending for the first day. We camped in a pleasant park on the outskirts of town. There was a lot of shade and level ground covered with grass for pitching our tents. We quickly set up our tents to dry them out and hung our wet clothes and sleeping bags on a chain link fence that enclosed a ball field. There was a woman setting up her tent next to ours who was a North Dakota native from Plaza, a small town just north of Garrison. She had done CANDISC five times. While we were setting up our tents she joined in the male bantering that was going on between us. She was quite funny, cynical, and witty.
After setting up camp we caught the shuttle to the free showers. After showering we rode down town on a horse drawn wagon. The driver owned a local bar named the Western Aire. We ate there eschewing the featured spaghetti dinner. During dinner we drank a couple of brews, ate the food which was set up on a table with a donation box, and then returned to camp. The co owner of the bar gave us a ride back to camp in her Cadillac. ND nice is even better than Minnesota nice and seems more genuine. I soon retired after writing in this journal.
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