Day 5. September 21. Carrington to Fessenden


Ride date:

The day’s route is shown in green on the above map.

According to the wind forecasts, it had looked like Monday the 22nd (Day 5 of September’s six-day ride to Kongsberg ND) would be more difficult than the other days. It turned out to be that way.  Even though I got an earlier start than usual that day, it wasn’t early enough. The winds from the west rose early, too.

The goal for the day was Harvey, but first I needed to get to Fessenden. These winds helped me decide to go west from Carrington and then north to Fessenden, rather than first north and then west. I decided to get in as many of the westerly miles as I could before the winds got really strong.  But it was the wrong choice.

The problem was that this meant riding on US-52, which does not have much of a paved shoulder here, and which  carries quite a bit of traffic by North Dakota standards.  To make matters worse, there was a rumble strip which sometimes left enough room to ride on the outside, and sometimes did not.  It wandered back and forth in the general vicinity of the shoulder.  So I had to switch back and forth from one side of the rumble strip to the other.  I had been dealing with the same thing on Hwy 200 on the previous day’s ride to Carrington, but today was worse because while doing this I had to fight the headwinds and keep an eye out for the heavier traffic.

This sort of thing can get dangerous when I get tired, and in these winds I was going to get tired sooner rather than later. So after five miles I decided it was enough. I changed my mind and headed north even though it meant taking the gravel roads.

(If the federal guidelines for placing rumble strips on federally-funded roads had been followed by the North Dakota highway departments, this problem would not have existed.)

Shortly after turning north on 56th Avenue, southeast of Cathay

Shortly after turning north on 56th Avenue, southeast of Cathay

I went north, but not straight north.  I’d zig-zag, going north a mile or so, then west a mile or so into the wind, then north where I only had to fight cross winds, and so on.  The gravel roads were mostly well-maintained, but these weren’t the sorts of roads where traffic has packed the gravel in the wheel paths into a smooth, fast surface.  So starting at the point shown in the above photo I just kept going in a straight line north to get back to pavement as quickly as possible.  It probably would have been better if I had continued in the zig-zag pattern, though.

The photo shows the place where there was the largest concentration of vehicles or people I saw anywhere on the 19-mile gravel stretch.

Railroad tracks southeast of Cathay

Railroad tracks southeast of Cathay

This railway would have been the shortest path between Carrington and Fessenden, but it was not suitable for bicycle riding.

Minimum Maintenance Road - a road not taken

Minimum Maintenance Road – a road not taken

At this intersection I could have turned west again to take one of the less well-maintained roads along the way.  I probably should have taken it.  I might have made it at least as far as Fessenden if I had.

Looking north on 56th Avenue

Looking north on 56th Avenue

This was another place to stop and enjoy the scenery.  There were a few farmsteads along the way, most of them vacant.  Sometimes all that remained was a shelterbelt and a few out-buildings.

Germantown Baptist Church marker at rest stop on Hwy 15, 10 miles east of Fessenden

Germantown Baptist Church marker at rest stop on Hwy 15, 10 miles east of Fessenden

Finally, after 19 miles of gravel I was back on the pavement and headed straight west into the wind again.  I quickly decided I needed a brief rest, not every five miles, but every single mile.  At the second of these stops, I looked up and saw that there was a roadside rest area on the other side of the road. I was tired enough by then that if I had been riding,  I would have kept my head down and ridden past it without noticing.

Before taking a rest, I took a photo of the historic marker at the edge of the parking lot, which said this was the former site of the Germantown Baptist Church.

Later, after this ride was over, I got curious about the part that says the settlers had come from Catalue, Romania. I wanted to know just where that was. But Google was no help.  However, after getting the names of nearby landowners from an old plat map, I was able to find genealogy information for one of the settlers and learned that he was from Cataloi, Romania.  With that spelling Google was a lot more helpful.  I learned that Cataloi is a village in the county of Tulcea, near where the Danube River forms a delta as it flows into the Black Sea.  If you use Google Streetview to “ride” into the village from the southwest, you can see a newish-looking Baptist church on the right side of the road.  But it is probably not German Baptist; Wikipedia doesn’t list Germans as one of the ethnic groups now living in that county.

Rest stop on Hwy 15 at the former site of the Germantown Baptist Church

Rest stop on Hwy 15 at the former site of the Germantown Baptist Church

There was no drinking water available here to replenish my diminished supply, but there was a picnic table with a bench seat suitable for an afternoon nap. I’ve long said that learning how to sleep on a park bench is good training for old age, especially in the current economy, but it had been several years since I last did this (other than the brief try at Glenfield the previous day).

It was very pleasant here. The temperature was just right. A shelterbelt blocked the full force of the wind and let a pleasant breeze through. I slept for a full forty minutes, twice the usual time. I hardly ever need an alarm clock to wake up after twenty minutes, and sleeping on a narrow, wooden bench usually gets to be too uncomfortable for sleeping longer than that, anyway. But I slept for forty minutes and didn’t regret it one bit. I wasn’t even very quick to get up when I awoke.  I just enjoyed the refreshing breeze.  But eventually, I had to get back out on the road and into the wind.

End of the day's ride on Hwy 15 near Fessenden

End of the day’s ride on Hwy 15 near Fessenden

But after another 5 miles into the wind, still a couple of miles short of Fessenden and still stopping to regenerate some energy every mile, I decided that I didn’t really need to ride the remaining 20 miles to Harvey this day. It would be a shame not to to ride to and from our motel at Harvey, as I had done the previous day at Carrington, but on the next day the winds were supposed to be mostly favorable — for the first time on this trip.  A 75 mile ride the next day with a favorable wind would be much easier than trying to get an additional 20 miles into the wind this day.

So instead of riding until after sunset as I did the previous day, I called it quits around 4:30 and called Myra to ask for a rescue mission. I had to wait quite a while because I told her I was west of Fessenden.  It’s not the first time I caused a lot of trouble by getting east and west mixed up. Eventually we got together.

While I was waiting (at the spot shown in the above photo) I had time to think about the long-ago days as a child when I used to live in North Dakota. (My family moved to Nebraska when I was just eight.) This country with its empty spaces and distances doesn’t seem unfamiliar, nor does it seem familiar to me. It just is. Which is kind of the way it was for me back in the mid 50s.

I do remember that back then, I looked forward to moving to a state that had a more interesting outline shape on a map.

34.5 miles

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