• Mon August 30 2004
  • Posted Aug 30, 2004
Thirteen bike riders travel from Havana (North Dakota, that is) to Nebraska; By Brooke Anderson American News Writer From Havana (North Dakota, that is) to Nebraska or Mission accomplished. The first five-day, five-state bicycle tour ended successfully last Sunday night, with the group finishing with twice as many riders as it started with (from five to more than a dozen, and with no one dropping out), and with the tour's organizers already thinking of how to plan next year's journey. The trip, which began with a cold, rainy morning in Havana, N.D., ended with a 90-degree sunny day in South Sioux City, Nebraska. The event ran from Aug. 18-22. The tour took the cyclists through five states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska, though the group never ventured more than 5 miles into any of the four other states that border eastern South Dakota. The purpose of the tour was to get people acquainted with eastern South Dakota. And for the participants, all them South Dakotans, the goal was met. New appreciation Though all residents of the state, the riders acknowledged that the bicycle trip showed them parts of the region they never knew existed, and they also gained a new appreciation for their native state. On the first night, over a seafood dinner at a waterfront restaurant at Hartford Beach, Curt Svarstad of Irene said, "I feel like I'm in Minnesota," referring to the countless lakes and hills of northeastern South Dakota. He added, "I went through parts of South Dakota I never knew existed." On the second night, at a dark bar in Clear Lake over beer and greasy food, Al Bender of Volga said that he, too, was impressed with the natural scenery. "The vistas are great." Bender, who strayed from the designated route the second day, chose to ride on gravel and dubbed himself the "renegade," because he left the paved road. Only from a bike He said he went on gravel for 8 miles because he can "hear the tumble of the stones." Because there were no cars on these back roads, he said that all he could hear was the background noise of the gravel. He said he got to see wild, unfarmed land. He added, "I saw scenery one can only see from the bike. It's a subtle prairie landscape with short grass and rolling hills. When you're cycling, you don't have the choice. You become part of the landscape, and you have to pay attention to it." For most of the tour, the riders saw more farms than houses, and more animals than people. Cows were probably the most curious of all of the creatures. They would stare at the cyclists as they rode by, and often herds of them would run alongside the riders for several minutes. But the group also never spent a day without being greeted by a friendly farmer on a tractor, or getting friendly toots of the horn from passing cars. Considerate drivers Mary Svarstad, who drove a support vehicle for her husband, Curt, and also did so for a North Dakota tour, was impressed at how considerate cars on the road were. "I always watch other drivers to see if they go around the bikes, and they did." She broke her collarbone and helmet on a bike trip when a car drove into the shoulder where she was bicycling. "I'm a strong believer in helmets," she said. Riding into Flandreau, the riders passed by what has now become known as the Janklow intersection. There, mourners have placed flowers, a cross and a small model of a motorcycle where Randy Scott was killed. Jim Kersten, an Aberdeen native who now lives in Sioux Falls, whose idea it was for the trip, stopped to pay his respects. He said that this tragedy reminded him of how vulnerable runners are bicyclists also are. In fact, throughout the trip, there were no injuries. This could probably be attributed to several factors, including a route that had very few busy roads, a support vehicle that checked on the riders on a regular basis and of course considerate people along the way who drove cautiously near the cyclists. There were also no incidents of theft on the trip, even though the riders seldom locked their bikes when going into restaurants and the trailer was also usually unlocked. Likewise, there were no unruly bike riders in the towns where there were rest stops. Greeted with a smile Going to the small towns where the people greet strangers with a smile was one of the highlights of the journey for the weary travelers who needed rest and replenishment along the way. In the town of Strandburg, population 87, one small building served as the general store, the post office, the local eatery and the senior citizens' center. The man who runs the place is the former mayor. His daughter was hosting a Barbie rummage sale on the front steps when the cyclists passed through town. In the small town of White, the local cafe had six homemade pies lining the shelves, and for lunch, they were serving green beans from a nearby farm. And in the other small towns on the route, the good fresh food and the genuine hospitality was the same. Another similarity was the aging and shrinking populations of See TRIP, Page Trip Group enjoys meeting people Continued from Page these frontier towns. Talking to old-timers For John Knapp of Madison, one of the aspects of the trip he liked the most was the opportunity to talk to some of the old-timers from these small towns. "When you talk to old people, they'll always tell you something you didn't know. They had hard lives in their day." Knapp says he could listen to their stories for hours, and would be happy to do the trip over again to hear the stories of small-town South Dakota. Sitting at a diner booth in Clear Lake with fellow riders, Knapp said he also took the trip for the sport and camaraderie. He acknowledged that before the tour, he told his friends back home that he would go, so he felt he had to go through with it. "When I go back, I'd better have 400 miles on my odometer," he said. Had to do it On a similar note, Bender said, "One thing that men never do is outgrow the teenage ego. Once you do a little bragging, and you tell people you're gonna do it, you've gotta go through with it." For Mark Marion of Aberdeen, the trip was a testament of his good health. When he was 39 years old, he had double bypass surgery, and could barely walk across the room when he first recovered. Now he's bicycling across the state. What he liked about the tour were the countless hills, a welcome change from the uniformly flat terrain of Aberdeen. He said he joined the tour because he wants to "give it support and see it continue in the coming years." He plans on participating next year. Water on both sides John Knapp, left, of Madison and Jim Kersten of Sioux Falls ride down the road on the first day of the trip. Source:

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