I decided a good night's sleep was more valuable than an early start. I think I made the right decision. Left New Town heading east on North Dakota Highway 23. No towns for 50 miles. Only one gas station/convenience store at the junction to Makoti. Good tailwind, but it's moderately hilly so I can't get going too fast. Trees are becoming more common now and there are little ponds along the roadside. Seeing a lot of different birds now. Some of them are quite territorial. Redwing blackbirds squawk and follow me around. Some stretches of the road stink of hydrogen sulfide escaping from the occasional oil well.
The guy with the Yak passes me in the morning. I meet a cyclist running sweep for an Adventure Cycling group. He's got a safety triangle on the back of his rig that says "Dave". It's going to take them 90 days to cross the country. They cook for themselves and camp every night. This limits the distance they can cover in a day. He's a teacher, but says he's just one of two in the group. The rest are professional vagabonds. (I think that's what he said.) One is a newly Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Wisconsin. We chat for a long while and then he's off to catch up with the rest of his group.
Switch to US Highway 83 heading north into the wind. I can see Minot soon after from about 15 miles away. It's much flatter now. A small military convoy passes me. The main vehicle is a weird looking semi-trailer painted white with diagonal black stripes across it. There's a warning sign on it that basically says, "If this thing catches fire you will die from toxic fumes." I assume it's a missile. There's an air force base nearby. "Litter collection next two miles sponsored by Minot AFB Missile Battalion."
The guy with the Yak catches up to me again just outside Minot. He must be slowing down. Either that or he takes really long breaks. "Quite a culture shock." Minot is big and we haven't seen any towns since leaving New Town this morning. Haven't seen many farms either. It's just as empty here as it was in the Clearwater Forest in Idaho. He told me he's taking an easy day so I leave him behind.
It's downhill into Minot but there's no uphill to get out. Instead it's absolutely flat. Unlike the flat stretches earlier, there are no hills ahead, behind or on the sides. Everything is flat. I'm back on US Highway 2 heading east with a tailwind again. The riding is easy. It's 44 miles to the next town with a motel. No problem. I pull into a rest stop where I meet a retired couple driving a souped-up pickup towing a massive camper. They're from Michigan and both have German accents. Alaska to Michigan. The husband tells me he'd never do it again. "You can see everything in Jasper." The wife takes my photo. "It's nice to meet someone with ambition."
It's about 7:00 PM when I pull into Towner, "The Cattle Capital of North Dakota". Haven't seen many cows lately, but Towner has a cheese factory. The first since Tillamook 1400 miles ago. Saw some canola fields. Acres of yellow flowers. Towner is a small town forest in the middle of the prairie. It's a cute place, but where is everybody? The place is completely shut down. There's food at the gas station on the highway, which is open 24 hours. I am the only customer at a 6-unit motel. The owner is looking to sell it. The bathroom sinks are antique looking. The whole place is well preserved, however. Everything looks 30 years old. Somebody else just checked in. Later that night a trucker arrives. Maybe they cater to the "we gotta find a motel soon" crowd.
No phone here so I will post this tomorrow. The phones in New Town were difficult to work with last night. I couldn't get the computer to dial the phone without getting a recording saying I dialed incorrectly. When I dialed myself it worked just fine. I guessed the computer was dialing faster than the system could decipher the tones. It connected only after I inserted a pause between each digit.