Monday, July 4, 2016

73: Happy fourth of July!

We spent the fourth riding to Hutchinson, Minnesota - a town of some 14,000 that sports the first Starbucks we've seen in some 500 miles - or more. We don't actually remember the last time we saw one. There's also a McDonald's, Target, and Buffalo Wild Wings - where we will probably return in a bit to watch the Tour de France.
Westward Ho! for this crew
Today we saw the first bike tourists we have seen since leaving Helena. It was actually sort of exciting! One guy rode past, shouted "Seattle" then "where are you headed?" We shouted "New York" as he rode by. A short time later, another group of cyclists came by, and this time, Roger crossed the road, turned around and waited for them. They are headed for the Badlands, Yellowstone and Glacier. So we gave them a few of our favorite stops from our trip across the northlands.

We also had our own little "small world" moment on the road, when we pulled up to a car that had stopped and waited for us. Turns out, Jon (from Hitchcock a few days back) had posted our picture on Facebook, and his buddy Jeff saw us on the road and wanted to know if we were the people his friend had written about. Our fifteen minutes of fame!

We continued to ride through corn, soybeans and sugar beets. I know I said I had said my last about the corn, but after riding through corn fields for another two days, I can't help but write a bit more. Where does all this corn go?

Our hosts last night said that this is "field corn." That's in contrast to "sweet corn," which is what we grow to eat fresh. 98 percent of our corn-growing land is devoted to field corn. So this stuff is going to end up not on your plate, but in your gas tank (ethanol), soda (corn syrup), cocktail (alcohol), or perhaps your steak or bacon, since much of it goes into livestock feed. And there are just miles and miles of it! Given the role that corn plays in our economy, it's interesting to me that so much of this is dry-farmed, which is to say there is no irrigation. So it's all subject to the weather. Farmers that we spoke with in the cafes expressed hope that there would be rain at the right time, but really - if there is not - then it dries up in the field and doesn't bring the same price. I guess the bulk of it, the stalks and leaves, are still usable as silage. But it seems such a gamble. I am glad I am not a farmer! It was interesting to see that some farmers are putting wind turbines over their crops. Seems like a good use of the wind around here!

At times, I had a notion that Moses was parting the "seas of soybeans" on either side of the road so we could ride through on dry land! A silly image, maybe, but then after several hours watching it go by, the mind does wander.

Our hosts rode out with us today, which was a treat. We bid farewell to Mark and Celeste and wish them well on their next adventure:  they will be riding RAGBRAI in a few weeks and then Mark is going to do a portion of the Great Divide mountain bike route in Colorado. We will look forward to getting word of their travels!

The day's report: Montevideo to Hutchinson, 72.4 miles/3,567 to date

We passed a field of golden wheat, honestly, and I started to sing this song. It's probably my favorite of the national tunes.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine!
O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
Katharine Lee Bates - 1913

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