Deja Vu


August 28, 2003

Williston, ND -
Minot, ND

284 miles

4:51 driving time



It's foggy as we roll out of Williston this morning.  We hunt for the turnoff to ND 1804 heading east from downtown.  As we leave town, we gain speed and our face shields are quickly coated with fog, reducing the already marginal visibility.  Because being able to see seems like a good idea, we raise our shields and immediately our glasses are fogged up as well.  Yes, it's very foggy.  Strange, but haven't I been in Williston on a foggy morning, bumbling around for ND 1804 once before?

Well, come to think about it, yes, I have.  It was September 1997.  This was Gizmo's and my first motorcycle tour together, the genesis tour for the Whizmo and Gizmo Online Motorcycle Tour Empire you see before you now.  On the fifth day of that tour we departed Williston for Grand Forks, en route to Glenn Michigan to visit, you guessed it, the Jerks - the same Jerks we are visiting this year.  Before that fateful trip, Giz came to me with a hare-brained plan to create an email diary of his first big motorcycle trip to visit the Jerks in Michigan.  I was mildly amused by the plan; the thought of sitting around in hotel rooms typing when you could be seeing the sights, hanging out, drinking, and recounting big-fish stories of the day's exploits seemed mildly preposterous and slightly daft.  But as the trip progressed, Giz seemed to have a lot of fun with it and his following of friends and family back home was impressive.  So, as the tours came and went, I was sucked into this crazy gig.  I still motorcycle tour as Mark more often than Whizmo, but at the current once-per-year frequency, these W&G tours are a lot of fun.

Forty-five minutes into the day, the road straightens and I call to my Bavarian engine room for more steam.  Something about this section of road going arrow-straight beckons to me ... go faster!  The speedometer climbs to 100, 110, 120 ...  wait a minute, isn't this the same spot where I pinned my ST1100 back in 1997 and scared myself silly when the road ... I back out of the throttle and squeeze the brakes, remembering the incident:  I had the ST pinned flat-out at about 130 when the road suddenly split, with gravel straight ahead and pavement curving to the right.  I almost mistook the gravel as the main road and would have had fun controlling the ST in gravel at 130.  Deja vu pays off today.

Even when not retracing routes, as these trips go by and we accumulate more experiences in the memory bank, I am amazed how many of the experiences we have each day are similar to experiences we have had on other trips.  They are the fibers weaving the cloth of each trip, and we've become better weavers on every tour.  But there are always lots of new experiences to make things interesting,

During that 1997 trip we were learning the ropes of touring together.  No more.  We have this thing down to a science now and it is very satisfying when we have a good day (like today) when everything goes smoothly.

It is a little-known fact that Gizmo and I don't ride together very much on these tours.  I'd guess that for about one-third of the miles we are completely out of sight from one another, aware the the other person is somewhere up ahead or back behind, but not knowing exactly where.  Another third of the miles pass with each of us catching only occasional glimpses of each other traversing distant hills.  No, this isn't due to our not doing laundry often enough.  It has to do with each of us going at a different pace and having different things we want to stop and see.  By traveling more loosely, each of us has the flexibility to fit the rhythm of the trip to our individual needs.

I can't use this style of riding with many people I tour with; we'd lose each other in the space of a few hours.  But the process of making repeated tours with the same person has the effect of each of us knowing what the other person is likely to do in any situation, so we each can anticipate what the other is likely doing when they disappear in the rear-view mirror or pull over to take a picture. We also don't crash (or should I say haven't yet crashed?), so we each have confidence that there is no need to panic if someone hasn't showed up in fifteen minutes or so.

One fun aspect of repeating a route you did six years ago is that you can look for things that you remember from the earlier trip and see what has changed.  In the case of New Town, ND a heck of a lot has changed.  I remember the town as a mostly run-down, sleepy small town, but today it is bustling with new buildings and new construction everywhere.  What once were barren sub-divisions with no trees are now overgrown with large cottonwoods. Much of the land here is in the Fort Berthoud Indian Reservations, so there is the obligatory (and huge) Casino going in just outside town. 

I trust you are suitably impressed that we
shoot great pictures while driving down narrow
bridges with throttle locks engaged and no
hands on the handlebars.

The new, wider New Town bridge is being
built just north of the existing bridge.

They're rebuilding the spectacular steel truss bridge just west of town with a wider new bridge (someone we met later in the day said that the bridge was built in 1948 and was designed for Model A's, not 18-wheelers and Ford Excursions) and there is a new Grumman-Northrup plant at the edge of town.  Someone told me that North Dakota is losing population every year - well, New Town is doing its part to stem this trend.

All that remains of the New Town water tower.

Our (crooked) marker on a footing
of the defunct New Town water tower.
Coordinates:  47' 59.08" N, 102' 29.29" W

During the 1997 trip, I was on a mission to photograph water towers, and New Town had a dandy rusted-out model on the north edge of town.  So I was quite surprised to find it not looming on the horizon as we approached town.  After breakfast, I told Gizmo I wanted to try and find some remnant of the tower, and impressed myself by driving directly to what was left - four foundation piers for the water tower legs and a steel standpipe in the center.  It was fun to make the connection to the previous trip.  As we pulled away, I wondered if we would pass this way a third time - I hope so.

Speaking of connections to previous tours, some of you know that on last year's Divide Tour we left two markers of our passing at Whizmo and Gizmo Passes.  This year, Gizmo decided to produce a few more plaques so we can further deface America with our own special version of  "Kilroy was here" signage.  What better place than one of the foundation piers of the defunct New Town water tower?  As always, a special prize awaits anyone who can provide reasonable proof that they have visited one of our markers.  And Photoshop-savvy readers, especially Photoshop-savvy readers who happen to know one of us all too well, may find their "proof" receiving considerable scrutiny.

One thing that never changes on our tours is the fun of dealing with the locals.  In Pick City we bought gas at a small gas station and tackle shop; the tackle shop part was unbelievably well stocked and I think they sell a lot more worms than windshield wipers.  Feeling the effects of a riding day nearing its end, we plunked down on a convenient bench in front of Scott's Bait & Tackle Shop and began eating ice cream bars.  An older gentleman (who had a remarkably sprightly spring to his step) came over and began a conversation with the ubiquitous ice-breaker:  "Where you guys heading?"  My response, longer than a few syllables, was all he needed to peg us as friendly, and Conrad (as I would later learn his name) joined us on the bench. 

Locals and non-locals discuss world affairs at
Scott's Bait and Tackle, Pick City,
North Dakota

Conrad and Gizmo

In the next thirty minutes, we learned (among other things) that Conrad moved to Pick City in 1948, worked as a crane operator, and took 6.5 hours to drive the four miles from his job at Garrison Dam to the Pick City Tavern during one particular bad snow storm in 1953.  Needless to say, Conrad was a lot of fun to talk to and had many interesting experiences to share.  He didn't sound like he was the sort to spend much time on the internet, so we neglected to give him our card, but I'm making a note to myself now not to make any assumptions on things like this - watch us find out that Conrad is on the IPSEC steering committee and programs routers in his spare time.

Deja Vu.  Even by design, it's a great thing.


 W&G Contest #2  

A Perplexing Palindromic Puzzle

Ok, all you math gurus out there. It's time for another Whizmo and Gizmo numeric brain teaser.

Anybody out there know what a palindrome is? Of course, you do. It's a word that reads the same from right to left as left to right.  For example, my daughter Anna, bless her heart, has a palindromic name. You can have palindromic numbers as well such as 3, 55, 121, 7667 and 14741.

I like to watch the odometer on my bike for interesting patterns, and today the following number, as if by magic, appeared:

Yeah baby, that's a palindromic number all right. So I got to wondering ... how many times since my bike was brand spanking new has a palindromic number appeared on the odometer?  Let's see: 1, 2, ...., 9, 11, 22 ... well, it starts to get a little more complicated as the numbers get bigger.

So that's the contest.  How many unique palindromic numbers have appeared on my odometer between (and inclusive of ) miles 1 and 28682?  Leading zeros are, of course, ignored.  It's not a hard problem, but it is tricky and easy to make mistakes. 

First correct answers wins, but if no one gets it right, then the closest answer wins.  So even if you don't want to attempt to figure it out precisely, you might as well take a flyer.

We need your name and email address to uniquely identify the winning entry.  Whizmo & Gizmo swear on a stack of balding tires that we would never, ever share your email address with anyone for any purpose.  We just need to know who the winners are!