This is a summary of a 6-day, 331 mile ride from Park Rapids, Minnesota to Kongsberg, North Dakota.
The final destination was my birthplace home. It had been 28 years since I last saw the place, a small village that lost its post office back in the 1950s.
The starting point was the home of my parents until their deaths earlier this year, at age 96 (Dad) and 91 (Mom). Kongsberg is where they met and were married in 1947.
We moved away before I was old enough to remember, but when I was a kid I always looked forward with eager anticipation to going back to visit my grandfather at his country store. I even stayed with him a couple of times before I was of school age.
The following is a brief summary of each day’s ride. Later on I’ll post separate reports with more photos for each day’s ride, and will add links to them in this article.
The first ten miles of the first day’s ride were mostly gravel, except for a small stretch of paved road north of Osage, shown in this photo. Much of the rest of the ride was on good roads on the edge of the White Earth Indian Reservation or inside it. Near the end I rode to the village of White Earth in Becker County, stopping at one township hall along the way there, and then stopped at another township hall in Mahnomen County before ending the days’ ride at Waubun. The winds were more or less with me for the entire ride of 55 miles.
Day 2 came two days after Day 1. I suppose it’s rather degenerate to take a rest day after only one day of riding, but I did it on purpose to prepare myself for riding day after day into the North Dakota prairie winds. The 51 mile route was very simple: go straight west from Waubun to Gardner ND on I-69, with one jog of two miles to the south. I did happen upon one township hall in Norman County, MN.
The first 30 miles of Day 3, across the Red River valley, were straight west to Page ND.
The wind was stronger. On Day 2 I had taken to getting a quick rest every 5 miles. On this day I took a more serious rest break every 5 miles, getting out my camera to pass the time at each one while I regenerated my energy. The above photo was taken where I pulled off of the main road for one of these breaks.
From Page I rode northwest on state highways 38 and 32. The winds were not so much of a problem on this stretch. Also, the terrain started to get a bit more interesting now that I was out of the flat valley bottom. I stopped for the day at the intersection of state roads 32 and 200, after having ridden 55 miles.
Day 4’s ride was another that went straight west into the wind. The first part wasn’t too hard, though, and I was now getting into coulee country, which provided some new scenery to look at. In the mid-afternoon the winds picked up, and I started taking frequent breaks again. At Glenfield I took a nap on a picnic table bench. Then I had to hurry to get to Carrington. I stopped once more to take photos of a historic church near the James River, but the wind was going down along with the sun and I was able keep going. It was dark when I rode up to our motel in Carrington, having ridden 61.5 miles for the day.
The wind forecast for Day 5 promised to make it the worst day yet. I got an earlier start than usual, but the winds were already strong by the time I got going. I didn’t like riding into the wind on US-52, where there was a lot of truck traffic and the rumble strips on the shoulders were placed carelessly. lt took extra energy and alertness to deal with that. So instead I took 20 miles worth of gravel roads to the north to get to State Highway 15. After I got there and was riding straight into the wind again, I found myself taking a break every mile. Finally I decided to call it a day a couple of miles from Fessenden, at a point almost 20 miles short of our motel at Harvey. It would take me until dark to do those miles in these wind conditions, and I figured I could much more easily tack those 20 miles onto the next day’s ride, when the forecast was for wind at my back. I stopped at the location shown in the photo and waited for Myra to come and get me. It would have been better for both of us if I had not gotten east and west mixed up and had given her accurate information as to where I was, but eventually we got together, and I rested up for the big push on the final day. 34.5 miles for the day.
Quitting early the day before worked pretty much as planned. In the morning Myra drove me back to the place near Fessenden where I had left off, and I made the 20 miles to Harvey rather quickly, and then did the remainder of the 74 miles after lunch. The wind wasn’t against me and that made a huge difference.
In the old days – even as late as the 1970s – Kongsberg was ten miles from the nearest paved road – US-52 to the north. Now there is a very good paved road that passes within a mile of it on the south. For a true nostalgia trip I would have ridden the ten miles from Voltaire on the gravel of Kongsberg Road, but I took the easy way instead.
Grandpa’s country store is long gone, but it used to stand just on the other side of the red brick building shown in the photo. That’s where I ended my ride.