WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: Finishers Wander 18 - Glasgow, Montana
Date: Tue, 27 Apr 2004 22:15:47 -0700

78 and sunny in San Francisco. What the heck am I doing here?

    Although the day is starting out cold, hot temperatures are promised for later. Steeling myself, I forgo the extra wraps, then pare down to less each time I stop. Unbelievably, for the first time in a week I am riding without electrics. I am reminded of someone I knew who lived in Toronto. She said the winters were so harsh that as soon as the sun came out, no matter the temperature, everybody stripped to nearly naked to absorb it. So too today.
    The human spirit is resilient. Passing a town called Starkweather leads to another called Cando. Optimism to say the least. Actually, my impression is the local farmers are a fairly optimistic bunch. Despite the supposed decline of the small family farm, farms are not in decline. Freshly turned ink black earth stretches to the horizon, full of promise, waiting for purpose. Massive operations are active here, with enormous machinery I can't begin to describe except to say they would not look out of place in a Star Wars movie - multitudinous arms with all sorts of grasping devices. I passed one eight wheeled tractor whose wheels were at least 10 feet tall. Not small time stuff.
    The farmers are funny and friendly too. These icons of America still exist in small town cafes. While enjoying breakfast of home made strawberry rhubarb pie at Grandma's Kitchen Cafe, I was listening to the regular group at the next table. One was dispensing the daily wisdom: My wife keeps telling me where to go - I just wish she gave better instructions - she has no sense of direction. On fishing: It doesn't matter what side of the lake you go to, you always have to go to the other side to catch anything. And: They say the walleye never bite when you go on Wednesday, so I went to the lake on Tuesday and stayed overnight. While trading lies, each in the group was tossing a cooler of bar dice to see who would not have to pay today.
    In the center of North Dakota is Rugby, the geographical center of North America. How could I have come so far and yet be only at the middle? Oh well, the east-west sign is prophetic. It tells exactly where I have been and where I am going: [Photo of Geocenter]
    No matter what the map says, there really is no North Dakota. Heading west from the center, ND immediately looks like the rolling stagecoach hills of the west, Montana. East of the center, it is now apparent that I was merely seeing an extension of the 10,000 lakes, Minnesota. ND is the conjoin of MT and MN. I can not say it has an aura of its own.
    Despite having just passed the center of the continent, crossing the Montana border feels like I am halfway home. If pressed, a time zone is only one day's travel. I am now only one zone away from my own. Eastern Montana is one of the least sparsely populated regions of the country. Seeing all this empty land makes me envision what it might have been like when 100 million buffalo roamed the plains. It really is a shame they are gone. I like the flavor of bison much better than beef.
    Just after passing the border I glimpsed a sign for Rolling Hills Winery and Car Wash. Montana wine? Gotta see this, so I went back to chat. The owners were friendly and showed their best. The best seller is the raspberry wine, followed by blueberry, but their specialty is chokecherry wine. Thank you. Good bye. No really, thank you ... I have to go.
    Traveling through the rural west takes on its signature rhythm. Fifty miles of nothing. A small town. Fifty miles of nothing. In some way it is peaceful, because it does not require concentrated attention. My mind wanders even more so than my travels. Successes are remembered, difficulties are reconsidered for how they might have been. Loves are recalled, sadnesses are allowed to pass though the mind focus without invitation to linger. How can anyone listen to a radio on a motorcycle when there is so much commotion already inside the helmet? Time and terrain blend together, mutually changing from passage to past. Eventually another small town presents itself, and here I take refuge. It's been seven days of rough times. I need a day off. Coincidentally, it is due to snow here tomorrow.
    Oh, and the temperature? It started at 34 degrees when I left Grafton. It ended at 84 degrees in Glasgow. A greater change in one day than I saw total in several of the last few put together. In a car you might have noticed, maybe, when the automatic climate control changed from heater to air conditioner. On a motorcycle, you notice. That's why I ride.

474 miles
Grafton ND17 ND3 US2 Glasgow
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

P.S. A good place to eat in Glasgow is Eugene's Pizza. An old fashioned place in the same spot and same family since the 60's, they make pizza by pulling dough off the one mother rise, weighing each chunk for the right size. They also serve steaks, ribs, and sandwiches. A 12 oz rib eye was $11.25, complete with salad, rolls, coffee, ice cream ... and tomato juice (?)

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