Running Hot, Straight and True


September 7, 2003

Fargo, ND
Bismarck, ND

298 miles

4:36 driving time




The 'Hot' in today's title refers to the temperatures.  For a couple of riding hours today it was well over 90 degrees.  No fun, but our Aerostich riding suits do a pretty good job of providing ventilation.  Leathers would be hotter than hell.  No thanks.

The 'Straight' in today's title refers to the roads.  I made my first left turn about 100 miles into the day.  This makes for high speeds and lots of road kill, fortunately, none of it due to our vehicles.  Today's count:  2 deer, 4 raccoons, 1 skunk, 1 wild turkey, 4 snakes, 1 possum, and several small birds, species unknown.  Two of the raccoons were adults, laying a couple of feet from one another on the highway; I'd like to assume they died while doing something fun.

The intersection of US 281 and ND 46 reminded me
of where Cary Grant got crop dusted in the Hitchcock
classic 'North by Northwest'.  And also of the road
junction where Tom Hanks meets his 2nd true love
in 'Castaway'.

After driving through dry prairie for miles, we spotted
the prettiest baseball/football field you could ever
expect to find.  It was nestled next to a
railway overpass in Enderlin.

The 'True' in today's title refers to what I hope my impressions of North Dakotans were during today's ride.  We were far off the freeway and driving through the heart of the state, seeing people driving to church, going about their jobs, and enjoying their September Sunday.

Since Day One of this tour, I've toyed with the idea of making the people I meet the focus of the day - photographing each person I talk to, listening to as much of their 'story' as I could glean.  Believe me, this is hard work, and I was only partially successful today - the area we're in is very sparsely populated, so you have to go out of your way to talk to anyone!  And I still find it hard to walk up to strangers, strike up a conversation, and then ask to snap their picture.  But I did chat with and photograph three North Dakotans.  Here is what I learned about each of them:


Loretta manages the breakfast area at the Hampton Inn in Fargo where we stayed last night.  I suspect this is a part-time early-morning job she uses to supplement her retirement income.   She lives close by in an adjacent apartment complex, but grew up and has lived most of her life in a rural area about 20 miles south of Fargo.  The town she grew up in has long since been abandoned; this is a continuing trend across North Dakota where small towns servicing a local population are made obsolete by declining farm populations and a continued migration of people to larger cities.  Loretta was very interested in our motorcycle trip and mentioned that there have been several large groups of Harley riders passing through the hotel on their way to the 100-year anniversary celebration in Milwaukee.  When I gave her our W&G card, she was unfazed by the prospect of finding us on the internet; she said she stays busy on a genealogy project and uses the internet regularly in her research.

Wayne is a farmer and seed store owner in the Enderlin area, about 30 miles southwest of Fargo.  We met him while taking photographs of the handsome West Prairie Church where he is a parishioner.  Wayne's ATV was parked nearby; he was at the church to pick up the Fargo Sunday paper.  I assume he has it delivered to the church because this is easier for the paper delivery person.  I complimented the appearance of the church and after thanking me, Wayne lamented that he wasn't sure the church would be able to continue - I recall him mentioning "22 people" which might mean last Sunday's attendance or perhaps even the total membership.  Apparently there have been several consolidations of local churches in the area and services are held only sporadically in Wayne's church.  "People just keep moving away, especially the young kids" said Wayne, 'They either leave the state or move to Fargo, Bismarck or Grand Forks where the good jobs are."


Irene and her husband Mark own and run a family pizza restaurant in Linton called "Hot Spot Pizza" where Gizmo and I had a great lunch.  (W&G highly recommend the 'Supreme' pizza.)   They recently moved to Linton from Clear Lake Minnesota after Mark suffered a back injury working as an installer of HVAC systems.  "Doctor said 'no more lifting 100 lb air conditioners anymore,'" related Irene, so Mark quit his job and they moved closer to Mark's family in the Linton area.  They've been in the pizza shop business for about a year and business has been "good."  Their daughters also work in the restaurant.  Like everyone we met, Irene wanted to know where we're from and where we're headed.  I gave her our card.  Perhaps we'll meet her online.

I was left with the strong impression that folks in North Dakota are personable, hard-working and tough.  You'd have to be to live in this part of the country.

Tomorrow we're on to Miles City where our truck and trailer are hopefully waiting for us, safe and sound.  The Weather Channel is calling for thunderstorms on the leading edge of the colder weather moving in from the west coast.  We don't want rain, but will accept almost anything which might break this heat. 


Well, all ye faithful armchair travelers, Contest #5 entitled  'What The Heck Is It?' generated some delightfully clever answers.  And someone actually nailed it.  As you will recall, we asked you to identify the purpose of the dial on the oven in this photo:

Here are some of the judges' favorite amusing-yet-not-quite-correct answers.  Our regulars were very active on this one.  We're a bit concerned that the regulars are going to want to start getting paid or something.

Tom Brady suggests Minutes left until the next coffee break at a union shop.  Cynical, but obviously based on real-life experience.

Glenda Revelle chides us ... C'mon you guys, this one is way too easy. It is obviously the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bakin'-ometer."  Very good punning there, Glenda.

The ever-present Joe Ozinski warns It may be too late to help, but I'm afraid you weren't really in Frazee. You've been abducted by aliens! It's a Venusian clock. So, how WAS that Venusian bread?  Gosh, does this guy know his planetary time systems or what?  Joe, you should have been an astronaut.  You're way out there.

Pete Wylie weighs in with A Midwestern doomsday clock. The numbers represent Republican Presidents. One more and it's game over!  Thanks Pete, but the judges opt to sidestep any political commentary.

In a science fiction vein, Glenn Lorbiecki concocts this fantasy ...  Thermometer reading in hundreds, mis-calibrated as a result of its age and a dearth of proximal technicians to initiate repairs.  You are correct Glenn, Frazee has a dearth of proximal anything.   

Philip "Gryphon" Brogden says It's the number of hours without someone asking what the heck it is. Self-referential signs are fun!  Philip goes on to add that he will be making a pilgrimage to Gizmo Pass near Pietown NM on a Norton 750 Commando this fall, which clearly sways at least one of the judges' opinion!  Send us that photo Philip!

Shifting to a semi-serious vein, Ralph Meyer offers up It looks like a gas gauge to me... like how many cubic feet of natural gas, or propane are being used to run the oven. Or how 'bout a 10 minute per number bread timer... bread usually takes 60 minutes to get done. So that batch has 53 minutes to go. The thing's big 'cause Annie wears glasses and couldn't see anything smaller. When the big hand hits '6(0)' again, a loud buzzer accompanied by a steam whistle goes off to let the town know to 'come and get it'(s) fresh bread.  Pretty good Ralph, you are right that the entire town of Frazee gets it bread at Annies.  They're kind of like the Krispy Kreme of western Minnesota.

John Nave, proud ST1300 owner, theorizes Might it be a system to remember what exact bread is in that baking cycle?  An honest effort John, but not right.  How was the test ride on the FJR?

Steve Ellis, desperate for a win, shoots in the dark with It sets the number of racks in use in the oven at each baking, thereby regulating the amount of heat produced. Like the water level setting for washing machines.  Again, an honest and earnest effort, but not the correct answer.

Flora McGill guesses Each number represents a round of loaves.  Hmm, the judges aren't exactly sure what you mean by 'a round of loaves', so we're going to have to keep digging in the mailbag for a precise answer.

Bill Lindner from MinneSOta nails it with the entirely accurate and very succinct Tells you which shelf is behind the door.  Well done Bill!  Bill must have some experience with large baking ovens.  Inside the oven is a large rotating mechanism with six trays for baking loaves.  To bring a particular shelf to the front of the oven, the baker cycles the racks until the proper number is indicated.  Congratulations Bill!  By the way, Bill submitted the correct entry a mere 1 hour and 49 minutes after posting. Woohoo!

And on to Contest #6 ...

 W&G Contest #6   

Name the Dominating Denomination



The good folks of Minnesota and North Dakota are god-fearing people and we've seen hundreds of churches during this tour.  In fact, churches easily outnumber food stores, drug stores, and gas stations, although they're in second place behind the bars that seem to be everywhere.  In any event, one particular denomination VASTLY outnumbers all the others we see in this part of the country.  So what is the dominating denomination?

Anybody familiar with this part of the country probably knows the answer, so whether you know for sure or not, ENTER SOMETHING RIGHT NOW.  And for those devious souls who might think of entering more than a single entry, only the first one counts.  And be sure to attend the confessional next Sunday.  Your mom knows what you did.


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!