Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Having been impressed by North Dakota’s beauty, which to our relief was nothing like the plains of eastern Montana, we had high expectations for Minnesota. On many fronts the state has delivered. Lake Itasca was quite the treat where we had the chance to walk across the headwaters of the Mississippi River (inset). We witnessed the small stream grow into a wide, meandering river as we followed it south towards Minneapolis. You might think the water and warm weather as a recipe for enjoyment. This would be partially true. However, I have affectionately renamed the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” the “Land of Humidity, Mosquitoes, and Ticks.” The name doesn’t roll off the tongue like “The Beaver State,” but I think most would find it fitting. On one particularly miserable day, we cycled all morning through the pouring rain, thankful that the mosquitoes could not brave the elements - that is until we came to a stop. Apparently, Minnesota mosquitoes are even heartier than Montana mosquitoes (which are capable of navigating 20+ mph cross winds and performing aerial maneuvers that would make a WWII fighter ace turn white, all just to suck your blood). The Minnesota insects have been blessed with the ability to fly through tropical downpours featuring solid sheets of water. I suppose things could have been worse - a tornado was reported in the southern region of the state.

But alas, I complain too much. We have been spoiled by the people we have met after all. A fellow cross-country cyclist by the name of Dan bought us each a Snickers bar when he spotted us outside of a grocery store. It was a blast to have an exchange with someone that had been bitten by the touring bug, especially since we have not had the pleasure of meeting many other folks doing the same thing. We had a most enjoyable visit with Lance, a fascinating contractor that had been to the Antarctic a dozen times to construct remote field laboratories. He entertained us with stories of survival methods (a topic he teaches) over a couple beers that he so graciously shared.

Once in Minneapolis, the royal treatment didn’t stop. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a wedding party in a city park that insisted on including us in their delicious picnic buffet (we were of course unable to refuse). We also ran into a fellow by the name of Ross while checking out the University campus. Because we didn’t have a place lined up to stay on our first night in town, he offered to put us up for an evening. Not only did he treat us to an awesome pizza restaurant, he also cooked us one of the most delicious traditional breakfasts that I have ever tasted. Turns out that Ross is an incredibly chill and exceptional individual that is a chef, teacher, father, musician, mechanic, cyclecross racer, scientist and a multitude of other things. I was truly envious of his skill set.

The following day we met up with Sue, family friend of the Bettenburgs. Sue was an incredibly gracious and social host. Her and her friends showed us a terrific time on lake Minnetonka, where we drank and ate to our heart’s content as we floated around the lake in a party barge. We soaked up the sun and enjoyed our first swim of the trip. Over the course of three restful days spent at Sue’s house, we were able to check out Minneapolis in some detail. We visited Mall of America, the largest shopping center in the US. The four-level complex is so big that it features a full blown amusement park in the middle (see picture). We also took time to explore downtown and uptown where we got a taste of some excellent local bars and even found a Whitecastle. The burgers, while tiny, numerous, and tasty, were no match for the Juicy Lucy (a notoriously delicious burger served at the 5-8 club located near lake Nokomis).

Looking back, we had a whole ton of fun in Minneapolis. We plan to leave in the morning, but we will wait to see how that goes… Cheers!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Bicycle Effect

When you stop to notice the little things in life, you wonder how much they really affect you. Are the little things in life really small at all? I call this the Bicycle Effect. For instance, in Whitefish, Montana when we asked a lady where a grocery store was, she said in a not-so-nice way that they were all closed. Then after a bit of thinking, she mentioned a local place called Marcus’s, a small but good market. And that’s where we met Perrin and her family. As we stood outside the store looking at the map, she walked up and started talking with us. Long story short, we spent two wonderful days there because some unfriendly person helped us.

The second Bicycle Effect was that if we had not wasted time counting the train cars (112 cars) outside of Hope, Idaho we would not have crossed paths with the great people at the Hope store. At the Hope store and restaurant, a guy named Erik yelled for us to come over and have some beers. Without hesitation, we took him up on the offer and in seconds had cold brews in our hands. Soon after we were heading to Erik and Jen’s house to have some more fun. In this case I thank the train for letting us have a wonderful time meeting new and great people. I know how they build wooden canoes.

The third Bicycle Effect happened on the road from Rugby to Esmond. Peddling in the rain, an older gentleman passed us and felt sorry for the two fools that were all wet. He offered to let us stay in his spare bedrooms. There was no choice but to take him up on the offer. It was so endearing how he offered us everything followed sincerely by, “That’ll be just fine.” Sylvester was such a wonderful host that after dinner and breakfast, we didn’t leave till two o’clock in the afternoon.

I think that what Chase and I are experiencing is kindheartedness brought on by our good looks. Just kidding! It’s our steel horses that bring us all these great adventures. People see them and think automatically that we are nice folks. It is the case, but it’s great that people assume that. This is something that I have never experienced before, and from now on I will try to be like one of the great people that we have met.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fun in Fargo

Six-o-clock on Thursday we rolled into the booming metropolis of Fargo Moorhead, perched directly on the border of North Dakota and Minnesota. We had done some networking prior to our arrival and already had a place lined up to crash for a couple of nights. Tired from a long day of riding (we took an accidental 20 mile detour), we gladly parked the bikes. Our hosts, Tyler and Greg, both architecture students at ND State, welcomed us in with open arms and open containers. While we quenched our thirst, our hosts entertained us with some excellent live music. Greg could pluck a banjo like nobody’s business and Tyler played the guitar exceptionally well, especially for someone who had picked it up recently. Soon after, they whipped up some killer burgers and hobo potatoes that made our tummies oh so delighted. Later that night, I went out to make some calls and do something that I would later regret. You see, ever since leaving home I have had this insatiable urge to partake of fourthmeal, or Taco Bell if you will. Since TB was just two blocks away, I sauntered down the street and ordered myself a double decker taco and a grilled stuffed burrito. What happened next was almost too graphic to describe. I finished eating my food and a feeling of dread swept over me. It took a moment for my mind to process what had happened – my TB experience had left me feeling dirty and completely unfulfilled. So there I was, alone in an unfamiliar place, having just lost my fast food virginity for the trip. It was a horrid experience, but not bad enough to stop us from eating at the first Whitecastle we see.

The following day, Clancy and I walked down to the post office to claim a package that our friend Ashlee had sent to us. At the pick-up counter, a clerk retrieved a healthy sized box from the back room. We were expecting a small parcel, not a ten pound crate. Certain that there had been a mix up, I took a moment to inspect the box. Not only was it large-and-in-charge, it was also beautifully decorated with our names and a map of North Dakota! (see picture). I could not help but wonder how many postal employees had taken the parcel off of the belt just to oogle at its beauty along the way. Not surprisingly, the best was still to come. Once we got back home, we dissected the package to discover a bounty of goodies that included coconut marshmallows, cake, and home made energy cookies, all of which were exceptionally delicious. If you want to send us something I hope you are taking notes!

Later that evening, Greg schooled us in a very enjoyable round of frisbee-golf (referred to as Frolf in these parts). Afterward, upon Tyler’s return home from work, we headed out to an Irish pub called Dempsey’s. The music was good and the beer was even better. We had a chance to meet some more super-chill architecture students from the program and proceeded to have a terrific time socializing with our newfound friends. We closed the bar, capped the night off with an Irish car bomb, and stumbled home together. The next morning, Tyler graciously treated us to a buffet breakfast where we over indulged as per usual. Eventually, we gathered up the gumption to load the bikes and head out of town – it wasn’t easy I tell you. Goodbye Fargo, Greg, and Tyler, we’re gunna’ miss you!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Buffet: Episode I and II

We had been talking about it for a long time, and eventually our thoughts came to fruition at Spirit Lake Casino on Devil’s Lake in North Dakota. The price: six dollars. The experience: worth every penny (and then some). The two competitors had an unspoken but well understood wager - whoever walked away with the most food in their belly without upchucking would be crowned the king of the cafeteria.

For my first plate I loaded up two pounds of steak and shrimp (the specialties for the night) along with some token greenery on the side. Clancy stocked up on a more dainty portion of fried foods and steak for his first helping. As I loaded my second plate, filled with primarily with meatballs and breads, I took note of our differing strategies. Clancy preferred to dish up modest portions while I tended to hamster-pile a great deal of food onto one dish - a survival instinct perhaps? For his second plate, Clancy selected a vegetable assortment featuring a salad - a rookie mistake (though I didn‘t mention this during the competition). By the time I was working on my sixth plate, Clancy was on his fourth. While I sat with a hefty pile of shrimp and my fourth desert in front of me, Clancy looked longingly at his lonely plate that consisted solely of one egg roll and seven grapes. Knowing the victor had already been decided, I stared him down, like a Bengal Tiger eyeing his prey. I could have stopped the massacre at that moment, but I wasn’t playing simply to win, I had to beat the spread; like running up the score in a rival college football game - glory was at stake here. By the time that the crumbs had settled, we both walked away losers. With extreme discomfort and indigestion on the horizon, we had just enough mobility to waddle out to the casino floor where I spent half an hour on the blackjack table and lost eight dollars - a personal best for me given that my only other casino experience resulted in me parting with 14 dollars.

In the morning, we woke up late, hungover from the previous night’s food binge. Much to our dismay, we arrived just ten minutes before the waffle buffet closed. In a mad dash, we filled multiple plates with Belgian waffles, fruit, French toast, and shortbreads. The scene must have looked something like a $5,000 shopping spree at the Eagle Point Wally-world. We were so focused on snapping up food before the wait staff did that we hardly took note who was devouring greater portions. In the end it hardly mattered - we both ate enough to put off our next meal until 4:30 PM.

Before leaving the Casino, we decided to take a glance at the pool. It just happened to feature a waterslide that we felt compelled to test drive (see picture). Afterwards, we were still too stuffed to start pedaling so we lingered in the hot tub until nearly 2 PM. I’m certain I’ve had this much fun before, but I sure can’t remember when.

Monday, June 8, 2009

One Month on the Road

Can you believe it!? We've been missing one month as of today. In ways it seems like our journey started just last week, but for the most part it feels like we have been traveling for many months (in a very good way). Pace of life on a bicycle fits us just fine - this last month has been one of the most enjoyable in memory. Thus far we have traveled over 1,700 miles through Washington, Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota. Just yesterday we passed through the geographical center of North America - Rugby, ND. By Thursday we will have reached Fargo and the Minnesota border. The last few days, rain and headwinds galore have tried their best to put a damper on our progress, but the generous people we have encountered (Vince, Kirsten, Father Katanga, and Sylvester) have spoiled us and brightened our days tremendously.

If you haven't checked out our pictures page lately, take a peek, as we were finally able to get current. We send our best to friends and family at home! Time to get back on the road...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Costco Shopping List

As you have probably read, food is a constantly on our minds. Unfortunately, some of the tastiest morsels are not available at your average road-side convenience store. For this reason we are planning a Costco pilgrimage (think Amazing Race but instead of a checkpoint, the final destination is a Costco). The following items made the grade:

1. Nutella: A delicious chocolate hazelnut spread that Clancy brought back from Switzerland, where they put it on everything. I believe the retailer sells them in 32oz two packs in true Costco fashion.
2. Rotisserie Chicken: Moist, delicious, fresh from the oven - need I say more?
3. Large Combo Pizza: Costco makes some darn good pizza pie, give it a shot if you haven’t lately.
4. Almond Butter: Like peanut butter but even more delicious and nutritious!
5. Flat of Muffins (12): Most likely in the chocolate/blueberry/poppy seed combination. However, we might consider coffee cake as a worthy substitution in place of poppy seed.

That seems like a lot of food you might say, to which I would respond , well we are shopping at Costco - no? In the event that we are unable to dispose of enough food in a timely fashion (i.e. the bikes are overloaded), we are considering taking a rest day just to enjoy these finer things of life. Surely, there is no greater joy to be had as an American than over-consumption.