The cairn marking the center of it all!
...well, at least the North American continent. Yes, Rugby North Dakota was determined in 1931 by cartologists to be the geographic center of North America. As I stood at the cairn marking the spot I could feel the energy of the entire continent, or I was hungry for breakfast, I'm not sure which.
Yesterday we didn't leave Minot until noon. We had to wait for a bike shop in Minot to open so we could get Alison a new rear tire (NOTE to anyone contemplating a long-distance trip: make sure to get Kevlar or equivalent tires. You will avoid most flats, including those that happen in torrential rain and lightning storms!). Val's Cyclery in Minot is a great bike shop with a very knowledgeable and friendly staff. After getting an Armadillo tire and some tubes we were on our way. Unfortunately, the temperature had already risen to over 80 and we knew that we would cook in the nearly 70 miles to Rugby.
At one point we stopped to take a rest and water break in a shaded area near the road. Before we sat in the grass we noticed that there were ticks everywhere, including several looking for purchase on our legs! Alison then noticed poison ivy in the same area. Needless to say we got out of there quick. After inspecting for ticks and washing legs of any potential poison ivy badness, we hit the road. Not much of a rest stop!
We got into Rugby by about 6:30 and headed straight for the Dairy Queen. I can't imagine going into the Walla Walla DQ and ordering up a DQ Double Ultimate cheeseburger! If we weren't riding every day and I ate like I am eating on this trip I am sure that my weight would have increased significantly! It seems like my body craves calories, and ice-cream and burgers seem like a very efficient way to deal with this craving!
After the DQ we headed for the town pool (again, most of the towns we have come across, from smallest to largest have a pool. Walla Walla should be ashamed of itself for not having one!). We paid, got changed, and jumped in. The pool here is indoors and very nice. About 20 minutes later a man at the side of the pool called me over and asked if we were the owners of the bikes outside. I immediately thought that I had done something wrong (remnants of my Catholic upbringing and a health dose of guilt from principal Sister Angelica perhaps?). He said that when we left the pool we would get our admission fee back since they never charge bicyclists to use the pool! Curry Mund, the recreation director for Rugby, also asked if there was anything else we needed. I told him that we were looking for a place to camp. He gave us directions to the city park and said that he would make sure the bathrooms stayed unlocked for us. He also said he would call the police to let them know we were there and have them cruise by a couple of times at night to make sure we were doing well. He also gave us his cell number and told us to call him any time if we needed anything! So, not only is Rugby the geographical center of North America, it may also be the friendly center as well!
While waiting in the library today to update the blog I met Curt, who was asking me about our trip. He is an avid cyclist and knows about the Northern Tier route since many cyclists come through this area. He was also very friendly and curious about our adventures.
In Travels With Charlie Steinbeck writes about a "look" people would get when he told them about his travels. I think I know what he means now. He talks about Americans wanting to be going somewhere, anywhere. There seems to be a genetic need to travel and to be on the move. When we tell people about our trip I often get to see the "look". I know that I get it when I meet someone on a journey. There has been on consistent characteristic of the people we have met on the trip: they are almost universally friendly.
There was one mishap at the pool. Gus slipped while on the high dive and scraped up his foot. We are taking the day off in Rugby and will combine two short riding days into a a longer day tomorrow.
The Oil Boom
An oil derrick east of Williston. Some put out 1200
barrels of oil per day.
When we arrived in Williston several days ago our Warmshowers host, Anna Hoffman, told us about the new oil boom in North Dakota. She said that a new technology allows oil companies to access the Baaken oil field located in a shale layer. She, as well as several other people we have spoken with, have told us that many people are getting rich (in fact in today's Minot newspaper there is an article about the "instant" millionaires created by the oil finds). It is not unusual for someone to get monthly checks of $100,000 or more for oil coming off their land. Many people, however, are worried that this boom might be like the one in the early 1980s. Williston, for example, had a surge in population. The town put city funds into construction of new houses for workers moving in. The boom, however, went bust after just two years. It took the city nearly 20 years to pay off that debt. Today, towns are not putting money into housing for new workers and there are no hotel rooms to be found. When people moved after the last bust there were no U-Hauls to be found from Williston to Billings.
Tomorrow we are heading off to Graham Island State Park and will again be on schedule.