This story is about biking and the North Dakota prairie. It comes from John Nolan, formerly of Enderlin, N.D., and now of Fargo.
John’s story begins when he and his wife Erlanne were living in Germany. He’d recently retired from the Air Force, and Erlanne was a contractor for the Army. They’d lived abroad most of their 27 years (at that time) married lives, and yearned to be a part of the homeland again. But where?
“We could go east, we could go west; we had to decide,” John wrote. “So why did we end up in the north central prairie — Enderlin, N.D.? I don’t have a good answer, and I still consider the decision an experiment.
“First of all, we do have some roots here. Erlanne was a long-time resident of Fargo. My parents were North Dakotans; my father was from Wahpeton and my mother was from Enderlin.
“I was the son of a career military officer, so I never lived in the state until attending North Dakota State University (1969-1974) and taking employment in Fargo after graduation. Adding my college years and time served at various jobs, my in-state residence amounted to about 10 years.
“During this time, I became an avid cyclist and pedaled my bike many miles through the surrounding country.”
So John says three life-altering events occurred in his life: “I fell in love with my wife, I fell in love with bicycling and I fell in love with the North Dakota prairie.”
During their time in the military, the Nolans served in India, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Germany, among other places. But, John wrote, “The prairie tugged on our hearts and souls. So when it came time to move, we knew where we had to go. The fact that we bought a house over the phone from Germany (a 30-minute conversation as I recall!), sight unseen, seems shocking to most, but it was located in our mental homeland, so what could go wrong?
“Nothing went wrong; we were dealing with North Dakotans!”
Wind is a mentor
This bicyclist continues, “The chance to cruise the prairie on two wheels under our own power was an activity we looked forward to. Where else can you roll for hours on bicycle paths as big as state highways, with only an occasional automobile?
“Ah yes, but there is the wind. To many cyclists, it’s a relentless foe, but to me, the wind is a mentor. It teaches patience and discipline. And I believe prairie cyclists are some of the most enduring because of it.
“There is also the perception that eastern North Dakota is scenically challenged (read ‘boring’). Not so! Along the Sheyenne River valley and the Sheyenne National Grasslands, both near Enderlin, lie some of the most scenic parts of the state. Even the flatlands separating the diverse terrain has a beauty of its own. So our decision to move to Enderlin landed us in our own slice of cycling heaven and we take advantage of it all summer long. The only thing missing for a cycling enthusiast in Ransom County is more cyclists; so I needed to fix that.
“Soon into the first spring, I began complaining to the city planner, ‘Why aren’t there any cyclists around here? What you need is as bicycle tour through this county to show the world what a great place it is and what good cycling can be experienced in the area.’
“I got a stern look and the challenge quickly followed, ‘Why don’t you start one?’
“With the gauntlet dropped, my reply became, ‘OK, maybe I will.’ In a matter of seconds, an idea was spawned. The result is the Ransom Ramble; a bicycle tour through Ransom County.”
John wrote that the first three-day Ramble occurred in September 2004. It drew 62 people from eight states.
It continued for a few years but has been discontinued. But John and Erlanne still ride their bikes around Fargo; John recently biked 15 miles.
Meanwhile, he wrote Neighbors, he’d become “entrenched” about rural North Dakota.
“The honeymoon is still on,” he said, “and my heart is singing!”
If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.