Ride the USA-Days 33-34: Gitche Gumee/Fargo

Friday, June 26—Ashland, WI to Fargo, ND

It was foggy and pretty cold in Ashland this morning. I rode west to Superior/Duluth, and then northeast, away from my final destination for the day, to ride the North Shore Scenic Drive on Lake Superior, know as Gitche Gumee from Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha. The Ojibwe named the lake Gichigami (pronounced as gitchi-gami), which means “big water”.2015-06-26 10.16.342015-06-26 10.47.362015-06-26 11.04.34 2015-06-26 11.19.58 2015-06-26 12.16.11

2015-06-26 16.47.17

Chief Bemidji

There was a brief stop in Two Harbors. When was the last time you had to wait for a train?

I rode by a scenic outlook, and then did a U-turn to take a look at Split Rock Lighthouse from a distance. It seemed interesting enough, so I left the outlook and rode to the lighthouse. It is managed by the Minnesota Historical Society, and has a rich history. It is apparently the most visited lighthouse in the USA.

I left the North /Shore Scenic Drive at Silver Bay and cut across the center of Minnesota riding thorough some beautiful countryside! I went as far as Bemidji before heading southwest. It was a little out of the way, too, but I’d told Lisa I was going there. It’s a featured town in the TV show Fargo, which we watch. I thought it’d be fun to take a selfie in front of a “Welcome to Bemidji” sign and text it to her.

I rode through the town and across Lake Bemidji, called Bay-may-ji-ga-maug by the Ojibwe, meaning a lake with cross waters or a lake lying cross-wise to the general route of travel, on the Mississippi River. If there is a welcome sign, I missed it. Bemidji looks like a nice town, but nothing, really, like what is portrayed on the TV show.

I caught a glimpse of an Indian statue in a park, and parked my Harley to have a look. It is of Shaynowishkung, meaning “rattler’ or “one who makes a jingling sound,” an Ojibwe. He later became known as Chief Bemidji. The statue, in a park adjacent to the lake, was dedicated in a ceremony earlier this month that included his descendants. One of four plaques that surround the statue reminds us of “Promises Made (by the White Man to the Indians), Promises Broken.” My recollection of this town from a TV show has been forever replaced by the name Chief Bemidji, and what he meant to this part of Minnesota.

I travelled south on the Lake County Scenic Byway to Park Rapids and then west to Detroit Lakes on my way to Fargo. This byway is one of the best I’ve travelled so far.

Just yesterday morning I sent an e-mail to some friends of mine, Keith, Tyler, and Paul, who live in Fargo. I was planning on staying in International Falls tonight, and then riding through Fargo on my way to Montana on Saturday. My Harley would be due for another oil change by the time I reached Fargo, so I asked them if we could meet for coffee Saturday morning while my ride was being serviced.

I heard back from them fairly quickly. As it turned out, Keith was having a party Saturday night to celebrate his 50th birthday. So he suggested I change my plans and hang around Fargo for the party. That’s when I decided to ride all the way from Ashland to Fargo today, and stay here both tonight and tomorrow night. I needed a break, time to do laundry, and was really looking forward to seeing these characters.

Route:                    2W, 61N, 1N, 11W, 53N, 169W, 6N, 2W, 71S, 139th Ave, 34W, 10W, 336S, I94W
Miles Today:         494
Time Today:         11:45
Total Trip Miles:   8,977
Weather:               Foggy in high 40s to sunny in mid 60s to low 90s to cloudy in mid 70s with some rain
Lunch:                   McDonalds
Lodging:                B/W+ Kelly Inn & Suites
Dinner:                  Qdoba Mexican Grill

Saturday, June 27—Fargo/Park Rapids

Harley-Davidson of Fargo is in a new location in the southwest part of town, in West Fargo, actually, just a few miles from my hotel. They had a charity and rider function going on today. Incentives on new Harley’s were to end soon, so there was a big push on sales. They also ran a couple of raffles to raise money for needy children. All good.

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Adrian, the service manager and Andrew, the technician

I’d called ahead to make an appointment because the service shops in dealerships seem to always be busy. I spoke with Adrian, the service manager, who said he could squeeze me in. I also told him about my shorted seat warmer switch, and asked him to check in on a replacement seat. He has a great, customer-centric attitude and did everything possible to figure out why his parts department couldn’t get a seat for me. As it turns out, this particular seat is on backorder.

While I was looking around the dealership and signing up for the raffle, Tyler arrived, and then Paul. Paul and I did our best to convince Tyler to finally buy the bike he’s always wanted, especially since there were some great deals. He later sat on a slightly used, deep metallic red 2014 Street Glide that fit him perfectly.

Near it was a beautiful, royal blue, 2016 CVO Road Glide. I flashed back to yesterday when I met a guy riding a Road Glide at Split Rock Lighthouse. I’ve been curious about how this bike handled, with it’s frame-attached shark head fairing. He told me he tested it’s stability the day before and road 32 miles with his hands off the handlebars! I was tempted to trade mine in on the spot, but quickly came to my senses.

We left and went to get some coffee. Tyler and Paul are key people in RD Offutt Company that is the majority owner of Idahoan Foods, the company for which I last worked. We gave each other status updates on ourselves and our respective families, and re-told old war stories about our time working together. We worked hard, and had fun doing so. I really appreciated sharing this time together.

I was a little concerned about the evening  weather forecast and the ride I would take to Park Rapids for Keith’s party. Park Rapids is about an hour and a half east of Fargo, and there were thunderstorm and possible tornado warnings on the weather app. I thought out loud about possibly renting a car. Paul quickly and generously offered to loan me his for the evening.

They dropped me off to pick-up my ride, and went about their business while I went back to the hotel to do my laundry. I rode to Paul’s home to switch vehicles, and was able to meet his wife, three children, and new puppy. His children were all born while we were working together, so it was a pleasure to finally meet his growing family.

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Gordon, Tyler, Paul, and Keith

Keith’s party was being held at the family property on Long Lake, and specifically The Saloon, an actual old saloon they relocated there for such occasions. It was great to see Keith and his family, and Ron, the founder of RD Offutt Company. I met some very nice people, including Keith’s brother, Brian, with who I share several common interests. I chatted with several couples that have known the family for a long time, and a group of cyclists who ride frequently with Keith. For many different reasons, I was thankful for this divinely inspired intersection on my journey around the country.

As I was preparing to leave, several people warned me about my ride for tomorrow. My destination was Williston in northwestern North Dakota, the area experiencing the oil boom that began in 2006. Apparently the truckers that scurry along the roads there are notorious for not caring about who or what they might run in to.

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