Day 22: Fargo, North Dakota to Alexandria, Minnesota

Not long ago I visited Istanbul.  While in Turkey my wife suggested we see the “whirling dervishes.”  These are Sufi Muslims who meditate while spinning in circles.  If I spin myself around a few times I get dizzy and fall down.  They can spin, dance and be lost in thought for what seems like hours.

Today’s ride reminded me of watching the “whirling dervishes.”   In the morning I pedaled about 40 miles on Minnesota route 52.   Dervishes keep spinning until the music changes and then move to a different position.  On route 52 I didn’t spin my whole body in circles, only my legs.

There was very little traffic, the scenery didn’t change much and most of the ride was a hypnotic blur of legs going up and down.  Occasionally, the music of a car or truck  coming up the road would change my body to a different position. Otherwise  there seemed little difference between people spinning in circles and what I was doing this morning.

At the 45 mile marker I met my wife at the world’s largest statue of a “prairie chicken.”  Scattered across the country are bizarre statues.  A few days ago I took a picture of the world’s largest sand crane (a type of bird) and the largest buffalo.  Today it is the largest chicken.  Each small town seems to want to outdo the others with a special claim to fame.

Having my wife here for a few days is amazing.  I left my backpack in her rental car and pedaled without 15 pounds strapped to my body.  Instead of my searching for a place to buy lunch, she picked up food at a supermarket and met me at the “chicken.”  Having some support made the day much easier.

After lunch I pedaled to Fergus Falls.  As I pedaled into town a sign proudly announced that Fergus Falls had a population of over 13,000 people.  I was expecting another dying town but was shocked.  It had a huge main street and almost every building was in use.  People were shopping and the town had life, unlike some of the dying towns further west.

At the end of Fergus Falls, Google Maps decided to go crazy again.  It kept telling me to get on the Central Lakes Trail, but I didn’t see a trail, much less how to get on it.  When I saw the sign for the trail I was amazed.

The  Central Lakes Trail was another railroad line that had been abandoned.  The trail is 14 feet wide and smoothly paved all the way to Alexandria.  The trail was not as beautiful as the paved railroad trail I took in Idaho, which had mountain vistas at almost every turn.  Nevertheless, the Central Lakes Trail has its own beauty.

I pedaled a bit less than 50 miles of the trail, most of it in the same meditative state as I had this morning.  The trail was empty except for the occasional rabbit  and quiet.  It was the perfect place to pedal.

The first three weeks of the trip had some very hard sections.  I will not say today’s 112 miles were easy.  My legs hurt and my bottom hurts even more.  Yet while today was physically demanding, there was no crisis, craziness or complications.  It was a simple day; just move each leg up and down for hours.  I could get used to this.

Economist Biking Around America