I’ll always have Fargo

Posted in Uncategorized by Sean Holton on September 30, 2009
A typical stretch of road in eastern North Dakota

A typical stretch of road in eastern North Dakota

 A couple weeks ago I wrote about a cross-country bicycle trip I took back in 1997. These last couple of days of my treatment have reminded me of two or three really hellish days from that ride that threatened to ruin the whole trip. We’d hit these really strong headwinds in eastern North Dakota and had to grind through flat, unprotected rides of up to 100 miles a day going just 8 to 10 m.p.h., spending close to 10 hours a day in the saddle. The last day of the North Dakota segment was a 92-mile ride from a small town called Cooperstown into the city of Fargo and then across the Red River into Moorhead, Minn. The headwinds out of the southeast were predicted at a steady 20-25 mph for the entire way — so it looked like it could take as long as 12 hours to complete the day’s ride. But trip organizers told us at our camp in Cooperstown the night before that anyone still out on the road after 6 p.m. would have to abandon their bikes and hitch a ride in a support van so the tour could stay on schedule. Doing such would have meant surrender and humiliation to those of us going cross-country, because if you got in the van even for just one mile (let alone 10 or 20 miles) it meant you didn’t really ride your bike across the whole country. We wouldn’t have been able to look one another in the eye when we reached the Atlantic. So a bunch of us got together and said, ‘No way we’re getting in the ‘sag wagon’ — no matter how hard the wind is blowing.’ ” We set out extra early that morning and packed a change of clothes on our bikes in case we had to pull off into some small town and hunker down on our own — and then worry about catching up with the rest of the tour a day or two later. It didn’t matter. We weren’t getting in the van no matter what.


The route map to Fargo

But that day’s ride — July 11, 1997 — turned out to be not as bad as expected. We somehow managed to dodge the worst of the winds early in the day and make better headway than we’d expected. By 11 a.m., the winds were blowing hard but we were already more than halfway through the ride. A couple hours later we crossed Interstate 29 and I remember feeling like I’d made it home to the Midwest, because I-29 is a freeway that originates in my hometown of Kansas City and shoots straight north to Canada.

Still, the thing I remember most about that day was pedaling the final 15 miles into the city of Fargo, which was probably the largest city we’d seen since leaving Bellingham, Wash., more than a month earlier. I have rarely been so happy to reach a place in my life. Finally, there were trees, houses and buildings to block the wind. We knew we’d made it. And after that, we knew there’d be nothing on the rest of our coast-to-coast journey that would stop us. The highest mountains, the longest daily rides and the worst potential winds were now behind us.

I’m getting really tired of these days of being tired. Sprawling out on the couch half asleep for most of an afternoon and still going to bed early at night is not my idea of living. It’s just like grinding out a whole day going only 10 m.p.h. into the wind on a bicycle — no fun at all. But I’m down to the wire now. I took my next-to-last chemotherapy pill this morning and went to radiation. Thursday will be the last day for both — at least for awhile.

When I pull into the driveway of my home after that last treatment, I hope I will feel just like I did that summer afternoon 12 years ago when I pedaled my bicycle into Fargo.


15 Responses

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  1. Jolene said, on September 30, 2009 at 7:52 am

    Hi Scott:

    Geat photo of my home turf. I grew up about 70 mles north of Fargo, so that landscape is very familiar to me.

    I’ve been following your blog for the past week or so, having found my way here from

    Really enjoying your stories and the quality of your writing. Of course, I’m sorry that we aren’t meeting under happier circumstances, but I’m glad to have found you nonetheless.


  2. fish said, on September 30, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    take a nap and gear up for the last big day!! woot-woot!! except from experience, it takes a bit to rebound… learned that when i went to seattle a week after last chemo and expected to be running around everywhere. had to sit down after walking a few hundred yards along the water. probably shouldn’t tell you that… on the other hand, every day gets better once it’s done!!

  3. claudine hellmuth said, on September 30, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    here’s to tomorrow! your last day!!!

  4. maxtrue said, on September 30, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    You’re almost there Sean. What an amazing role model in dealing with dread. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your tribulations. Whenever I need a reality check, you’re there to remind me. And of course you’re put a whole new light on the concept of triangulation. It’s burned into your brain.

    Until your next post.


  5. Colorado Bob said, on September 30, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    My best North Dakota story –

    Sat in Moorehead Minn. for 2 days waiting for a load. Finally , I set out across N.D. on the 94, pulling an empty to get a load of wheat blown into my trailer. For miles a flatbed followed me as the cross winds from Canada, pushed me all over the road. As winds increased I drove slower and slower. Finally, as I neared 25 mph. a gust lifted the North facing tandems on the the trailer off the ground, then dropped them back down.

    The C.B. crackled:
    ” Whoaaaa Swift ! ”

    Suddenly I wasn’t scared anymore.

  6. Colorado Bob said, on September 30, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Took that wheat to the terminal at Lewiston , Idaho . The eastern most port on the Pacific Ocean. At the elevator, before it gets dumped they test the load. As well as sampling the grain, there is a smell test. I inquired about that with the operator at the elevator. What smell was he looking for ?
    “Skunks” he said.
    “Combines sometimes run over skunks “.

  7. Colorado Bob said, on September 30, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Lard …… as you crest that mountain tomorrow, and stand on top, please leave all these
    internet prayer flags, so that they always stay in a breeze.

  8. RebelliousRenee said, on September 30, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    you’ve almost made it, my friend…. one more day….

    you may still be tired… but think about how euphoric you’ll feel tomorrow….

  9. Flatus said, on September 30, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Lard, thanks so much for allowing us to ride with you on your journey. That is indeed a mitzvah of the highest order.

  10. Peggy Nogaro said, on September 30, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Hey Sean, Brother John told me about your website — I’m enjoying your witt and story-telling. I’m sure having John with you for the past few days has been interesting, to say the least! I’m glad to hear your chemo is almost over. Hope you start to feel like your old self soon. Love, Peg

  11. sturgeone said, on September 30, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    Lardman…….north dakota, eh? i played mandan and east fargo in 82……dead of winter…..i’m glad i went there because that’s how i came to find out i’d never need to go back……

    that’s great stuff on the treatments……when you feel like it make a run up to shadowmoss…..

  12. Tonyb said, on September 30, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Hey Sean
    Thanks for sharing.Its nice to be reminded of what we can endure!I think you’ve accomplished much and done the rest of us who care about you some good in the process…

  13. Elaine Kramer said, on September 30, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    When we lived in Orlando, Emma was in the Children’s Chorus, and the group closed every practice with the Irish blessing. The children’s voices were lovely, and though I couldn’t find a recording of them singing it, here’s another one that has the same sweet quality.

    Sean, may the wind now be always at your back.

  14. lisa said, on September 30, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    sean, i’ve been away and traveling for work. even though i’ve been away from the blog for a few days, you have been in my thoughts and prayers. i can tell your energy is flagging a bit …. hang in there. you have endured physical tests before. i will continue to pray for strength for you. you are surrounded by those who love you.

  15. Lois Grebowski said, on September 30, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    One more day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Woo hoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Happy dance!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    Sending positive thoughts and prayers your way….

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