June 29: Rugby to Minot, North Dakota - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

June 29: Rugby to Minot, North Dakota

Liberty belle
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TODAY THE ROAD flattened, the countryside opened and the wind howled - pretty much behind us. We raced along and felt for the poor individual and then the couple fighting into it. It would have been good to talk but we were separated by two lanes of traffic in each direction and enough grass in the central reservation to qualify as pasture land.

Had we met, we could have warned them that seven miles of US2 from shortly after Rugby has been closed in one direction. The traffic going both ways has been squeezed into one carriageway. Much of the space has been taken by orange cones and there is no shoulder either way. The result is that a car can squeeze past a cyclist with mutual discomfort but that a truck can not. And, this being one of the bigger highways west across the plains, there are a lot of trucks.

For a while we had to endure it because the side on which we should have been riding was a riot of rubble. The road had been ploughed and left like

Another "Oh no, what have I got myself into?" moment.
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a long strip of black corn flakes. We rode faster and faster, trapped on this scaring road, hating every moment. And then, convinced we were unlikely to come out of it unhurt, we saw our old side of the road was in poor shape but better than where we were.

We crossed when we could and ingratiated ourselves with a quartet of road workers.

"Can we get through? May we go through?" Steph asked. It never hurts to get a blonde with a British accent to ask for favours. The men were gathered round two vehicles as yellow as their jackets. They appeared in no hurry.

"Hey, where you comin' from with Norwegian accents like that?" asked a smiling man of about 55, the oldest of the group. He was sitting at the wheel of one of the earth-shifters, leaning out of the window. Norwegian was obviously a theme of the week.

"Norwegian?" I asked in an approximation of the hurdygurdy accent of the Swedish chef who worked with the Muppets. We have been regularly taken for Canadians on this ride and we are often mistaken for Dutch. Even Dutch people open conversations with us in Dutch. But never Norwegian. Even old blue-eyes back in Minnewaukan hadn't thought we were Norwegian.

We were allowed on our way with a lot of best wishes and laughing and we picked our way through heaps of earth and gravel almost all the way to a second breakfast in Towner. I mention the place only because it boasts that it is the cattle capital of North Dakota.

This epicurean life continued with lunch in the old soldiers' memorial hall in Granville, a place with a far more interesting claim. Why? Because it renamed itself after a drink that had never been sold there and in return was paid $100,000.

A company in New Orleans which distributed Dr McGillicuddy schnapps and other drinks had looked for a real-life village to turn into the home town of the less than real life Dr McGillicuddy, whose picture appeared on every bottle. To qualify, the place had to be under snow for much of the year, because schnapps sells well in cold places, it had to have somewhere to stay, it had to rename its bar the Shady Eye Saloon (the doctor's favourite) and it had to rename the entire village McGillicuddy City.

Granville won the competition and spent the money on an RV park and camp site, park buildings and a rodeo ground. The contest also led to an annual parade, entertainment and a roping competition.

"We all dressed up in costume to celebrate and we even staged a hold-up at the bank," our waitress told us. "It did the town a lot of good."

There's nothing to Granville, not even the excitement of watching traffic lights. The playgroup is appealing for money and the bank has closed. A local woman is converting it to apartments and the place is hopping at the news.

Wondering whether the old bank will be turned into apartments is the biggest thing in town. Since renaming itself McGillicuddy City, anyway
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"It'll be a big day for Granville if she can make that happen," the waitress said.

The wind blew us into Minot beside a railway marshalling yard, a milling company, and other businesses that need a lot of space and offer little beauty.

Minot is in an oil and building boom. Appropriate because it was born in another boom, when the Great Northern railway got this far in 1886 and halted for the winter. A town sprang up and the railway named it after one of its investors. Word has it that Al Capone used tunnels here to store drink during Prohibition. And he isn't the only danger the town has known. It will be a first target in a nuclear war because so many missiles are planted into the ground here. And in 2002 a train derailed and sent a cloud of anhydrous ammonia towards the town, with fatal results.


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