Day 9 route: Williston, ND to Fairview, Montana
Saya’s (age 6) quotes:
- As we cycled out of Williston, Saya (who rides a bicycle with me regularly in Manhattan) observed, “Daddy, it feels strange without any taxis around.”
- Mid-way through today’s ride: “I’m doing okay, but my butt’s not feeling well.”
- “I love rain. It’s like swimming, except the water is dropping on you, and you can’t really swim.”
Welcome to Phase 2 of our Lewis & Clark adventure! Today, we began the cycling portion of our trip, and the change was immediate and remarkable. I had been uncharacteristically agitated and anxious recently, feeling stressed out about things that don’t typically get to me. Maybe it was from spending so much time sitting behind the wheel of a car. Maybe it was fear of cycling through the relentless truck traffic in Williston. Whatever the cause, a day of cycling with my kids cured the malady.
Sho, Saya and I spent the morning doing final preparation, then finally loaded gear onto the bikes and got underway around 11:15 a.m. Because we had scouted out the best route out of Williston yesterday, we were able to avoid most of the heavily trafficked roads. But it was impossible to completely escape the mess. The oil boom has generated a constant flow of trucks on every road into and out of town. We stayed safe by riding deep into the road’s shoulder to the right of the rumble strips, which gave plenty of room for passing vehicles. At times, the shoulder ended or was covered with debris, requiring us to ride briefly along the edge of the traffic lane. We stayed safe by waiting to ride until there was a lull in traffic. Saya’s job was to keep looking over her shoulder to spot any oncoming vehicles. When they got close, we pulled over and waited for the trucks to pass before continuing. It was slow going but ensured that we were perfectly safe.
As trucks thundered past, rushing to make money, I felt the tug of our economy. There’s so much money to be made! It’s right under your feet! A trucker blew his horn for 5 seconds as he passed, as if to say, “What the hell are you doing out here? You do not belong.” My kids and I pedaled along slowly, looking for Red-winged Blackbirds and stopping frequently to take pictures of interesting plants and beautiful vistas. We recorded 13 dead animals along the road and sent photos to Professor Fraser Shilling at UC Davis to support his roadkill project (http://wildlifecrossing.net/California).
I felt small in relation to the passing trucks and the billions of dollars being made here. But I felt even smaller when the sky ahead turned black. And when a lightening show began, I knew it was time to get off the road. We had planned to ride to Sidney, Montana today, but were still 10 miles away in a small Montana town named Fairfield.
On each of the previous three cycling adventures with my kids (Japan, Iceland and Europe), I have been awed by the kindness of strangers. And the pattern continued today. As we were cycling, a woman pulled over her truck ahead and waited to ask if we would be okay on a section of the road without a shoulder. In Fairview, we met Jennifer Larkin, her husband and son. When I asked them for a food recommendation, they pointed me to the only open café in town, but warned that it would close soon. Jennifer walked ahead to ensure that the place was open and on the way, said, “If it’s closed, my husband will get some food for you from his bar.”
And when the lightening storm was moving in, a young man (whose name I later learned was Anthony Lebsock) in a truck flagged us down and offered us shelter in his dad’s car wash. As the storm intensified, his father offered to let us sleep in a luxurious camper on their lawn. I had planned to sleep in a tent under whatever shelter I could find, and this royal treatment was unexpected and remarkably kind. We stowed our bikes and gear in their shed, then hung out with the Lebsock family. Their 22-year-old daughter Andrea regaled us with stories of her amazing travels over the past year and a half to 14 countries. Meeting kind people like this is the best part of these trips.
Here are some pics:
At the start of our first day of cycling
Saya beside one of the dead birds we recorded for the roadkill project
Sho riding ahead on the outskirts of Williston, ND
A common site around Williston
Sho and Saya with Jennifer Larkin and her son Sean
Anthony Lebsock, cool guy who helped us in Fairview, MT
Sho and Saya with Mr. and Mrs. Lebsock, the kind family who sheltered us from a lightening storm and let us sleep in their camper