This is part of a series of posts written during my cycle from Vancouver, BC to Minneapolis, MN in June 2013. For the most part I followed the Adventure Cycling Association’s ‘Northern Tier’ Route, but deviated where I saw fit. It was a great experience, read on to find out more…
I rolled out this morning into a world of bleak fog — as the miles rolled by I might as well have been cycling in place, the view was constant. To make the morning even bleaker, roadwork required that I ride on gravel for 15 miles — not conducive to quick progress!
Things improved rapidly after a few hours, the road turned east and the fog lifted — suddenly I could see the hills I was pedaling over and the wind was at my back. I made great time all the way to Minot, where I’d planned to stop for the day, and grabbed some dinner before looking for a campground. This was where things started to go wrong.
My GPS had located four campgrounds — I went to three of them in turn: the first was flooded, the second had a convention center built on top of it, and the third didn’t take tents. I’ve never heard of an RV park that didn’t accept tents, but the owner was adamant — she also confirmed that the last campground on my list had closed, having relocated to Bismark, the state capital of ND, over 100 miles to the south.
After the last few days of being unable to camp, I was determined not just to get a motel — instead I rode out of town, thinking that I’d find something sooner or later. I had a light tailwind and made good time, but there were no campgrounds on offer. To make matters worse, I was riding into an area of flooding, and with the standing water came my old adversaries, the Mosquitos. I thought that worst-case scenario was to ride to Devils Lake, where I was fairly sure there was a campground.
However, after nearly 200 miles I got a call from my girlfriend, Elizabeth, warning me that there was a storm heading my way and told me that there was a free campground in Rugby, the next small town down the road. I sped up and went straight to the campground, but it too was flooded out. I had no choice but to press on, now with the added pressure of lighting flaring across the horizon. I was really conscious by this point that I needed to get under cover fast — I cycled faster, each lightning flash and boom of thunder spurring me on.
With dead on 200 miles done, I saw a picnic area just off the side of the road and pulled over. By this time the wind was picking up and the storm was almost on me — I knew I didn’t have time to pitch my bivy, so I lay it on top of a covered picnic table and climbed in. The wind made everything a challenge; it must have been 60mph and I had to secure everything to my bike to stop it flying away. At least when I was in my bivy I was dry and warm, but even then the wind whipped the rain so hard it stung and the lightening was so close I could feel the static, each boom of thunder deafening. In fact, I’m fairly sure that the corrugated-iron roof of the picnic shelter was struck several times. In the end I managed a few hours sleep, but it was easily the most ferocious storm I’ve been out in — terrifying.