Total Elevation Gain (ft): 1217.8
Weather: Sunny, Hot
Hillbilly Insults: 0
Roadkill: 14 (4 Birds, 3 Snakes, 4 chipmunks, 3 Unknown)
Bugs Swallowed: 0
Mean Dogs Chasing: 0
What's the modern reward for vanquishing the Indians that provided us with a modicum of challenge and danger?
The new F-word. Fracking.
Peak oil be damned! We have the technology to extract America's energy juice from the tiniest crevices. Oh sure, there's some minor side-effects like despoiling and poisoning the earth, but the short-term economic and political gain is a whopper!
I've been diverted south from the original Northern Tier route because of dangerous truck traffic around the Williston Deposit in the mistakenly branded "Bakken Oil Field."
So, this entry is a one-fingered salute, of sorts, to the Bakken for slowing my reverse Manifest Destiny. The added miles are good for physical fitness but hell on the psyche.
The Bakken formation is a whole crapload of rock. Its formation lies below 200,000 square miles of subsurface in Montana, North Dakota, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It's named after Henry Bakken, a farmer in North Dakota who owned the land where the formation was initially discovered.
In 1951 oil was struck, but technical difficulties made it too hard to produce. Ever since, greedy bastards have been working non-stop, like squirrels on a birdhouse, to get all that black gold flowing. They had plenty of incentive as various estimates place the total reserve at up to 24 billion barrels. In 2008 new rock fracturing technology ("Fracking") brought a boom to the region. In 2010, oil production rates had reached 458,000 barrels per day, outstripping the capacity to ship the stuff out of the place.
One nasty byproduct of Fracking is the release of millions of gallons of natural gas. This seemingly positive windfall is, in fact, an Al Gore nightmare. The gas is flared off for a lack of infrastructure to make use of it. I've been in Watford City and the night is lit up like Kuwait after Saddam Hussein spitefully retreated his army in 1991.
Americans love to lionize and label anyone in the the military a hero. It's a bit ridiculous, because a lot of us know real jackasses that joined up not for the call of liberty, but for all sorts of pedestrian reasons.
Military worship is ingrained in us at a young age. Eisenhower's fear of the military industrial complex is now a reality and it has a big marketing budget. Those flyovers at football games ain't cheap. So, our collective guilt for allowing imbecilic jingoism and dunderheaded invasions is soothed when we get sappy over a few minutes of choreographed symbolism before a big sporting event. Unable to admit being wrong, we justify foreign policy disasters or tacitly ignore them by making stars out of corporate country music clones. They croon impossibly romanticized tunes about patriotism, drinking and adultery. Then there's the July 4th mass mouth breathing under fireworks and three day weekends where we shop at big box stores and ignore the lesser news feeds of men and women in uniform getting blown up.
If anyone is bristling with contempt for me right now, I apologize for my belief that I am right and you are wrong. I support the troops wholeheartedly. That's why I think they should have never been put in harms way for our expensive unjustified wars for the last decade. What I I call flag waving nationalism is dissent in the face of a torrent of public negligence and government stupidity.
This is a meandering way of saying that all the focus on the military robs our attention from the civilian champions that keep our cities, suburbs, churches and gas guzzling hybrid vehicles churning. I'm talking about roughnecks, hookers and meth dealers. These unsung "heroes" sacrifice their own comfort for the rest of us. They act symbiotically to make their lifestyle bearable so that we may reduce our dependence on foreign oil and maintain our precious carbon based economy.
I'm fully aware that I'm a hypocrite, contrarian and jackanape. Just because I self-righteously ride a bike doesn't mean that I don't also enjoy the comforts of my FJ Cruiser and my and my fourth Scion xB. I'm no consumer slouch. Ha! I'm composing this post on my nifty iPhone--designed in California, mined in third world hellholes and manufactured by Chinese indentured servants.
I merely want to give credit where credit is due, hero-wise. Presently, it's not the troops putting down nefarious enemy combatants keeping us safe, it's the aforementioned sex, oil field and narcotics workers on 18 hour shifts making it all happen. So, the next time you guzzle a frozen latte or wolf down a cheeseburger and sneer at a vagrant, prostitute or someone slinging from the comfort of your car, SUV or minivan, remember that you're looking down at patriots that simply haven't made the pilgrimage to North Dakota, yet.
What did you do for your country today?
I got a late start out of Hazelton because I stopped at the only small market in town and had the lunch special: cheeseburger and baked beans.
I sat down with the other patrons, Fern, Bernice, James, Katie and Joanne. They're all part of the Main St. Market Singles Club. That's what I call it, anyway.
James, in a thick German accent explained how he was the bachelor amongst all the women in the place, either widowed or waiting for Mr. Right. They were all locals and I could tell they must've thought I emerged from a flying saucer in my spandex and noisy cleats. I think I'd pass as a pretty good Klaatu and my bike could play Gort, if I threw the LED lights on it. Hazelton is a perfect setting for another "The Day the Earth Stood Still" remake.
I got on the road and the sun was shining beautifully on the rolling hills, but the wind wasn't cooperating like it was from Bismarck. This wasn't a brutal headwind, but an insidious crosswind that drains one slowly. It's like a heavy Belgian ale. The few times I've had some Trappist monk brew, I feel pretty good until the 25% ABV hits like a ton of bricks. I had that feeling about four hours into the ride.
About that time, I stopped in a town I cannot recall the name of. It had a Maid-Rite diner. I choked down a grilled cheese sandwich with a strawberry lemonade shush chaser. I was just finishing up, when "THWAAAAP!!!," an elderly woman caught her foot on a stool and face planted on the concrete floor with lightning speed.
I thought she'd be knocked out, or worse. 82 year-old Eileen Geislel was in the process of getting up when I jumped on the floor and put my arm around her. She was bleeding and probably had a broken nose. I didn't want her to move too much in case she needed to be immobilized. After a while, we got her in a chair and put an ice pack on her face. She said she was fine, but I asked that one of the many friendly cackling hens in the place to take her to the ER, just in case she had a concussion.
The sound her head made hitting the floor would make pro-linemen wince. Eileen, you're a soldier and I promise to send your war photo in the mail when I'm done with the ride, since you don't use the Internet.
I got to Gackle and was put up by Jason Miller, of Miller Honey Farms. These are the folks behind the cyclist brand favorite, Honey Stinger products. My kids love the stroopwafels, but you gotta lose Lance Armstrong on the packaging. That guy's a dope!
I never met Jason, but chatted with him on the phone. He was out of town, yet he leaves his home open for touring cyclists. With his wife Ginny, they've turned their basement into "The Honey Hub of Gackle: A Cyclist's Respite."
What a great place. Free lodging, wi-fi, a hot shower, linens and beds. Perfect. I was tempted to stay two nights, but Gackle turns into a zombie movie set after 8 p.m. and I have fantasies of making Fargo before my self-imposed July 1st deadline.
Thank you Millers and Honey Hub! You can check out the relevant details for this gem on Adventure Cycling's Northern Tier Addendum online information.
Enderlin tomorrow. Long stretches, no water stops. Will be packing lots of fluid in the Platypus bladder.