FARGO — Some would call Randy Kiefer homeless, although he prefers “nomadic.” Whatever the case, home for the 70-year-old native of Cayuga, N.D., is on his bicycle although he does have a storage shed in Irvine, Calif., that consists mostly of bikes.
He made it to Fargo on Monday after 3,300 miles from Anchorage, Alaska. This trip started on May 1 with a timeline of reaching North Dakota in time for his niece’s wedding in July in Milwaukee.
Getting to Wisconsin will have some uniqueness to it in that he’ll be riding in a car. That started on Tuesday getting a ride to his sister Teresa Hoistad’s home in Lisbon, N.D. The bike, a steel 1979 Raleigh Competition (more on that story later), will get a brief rest.
“Simplicity, really,” Kiefer said.
Simplicity since May 1 was starting in Anchorage and running into wet and heavy snow three days later. It only lasted 40 of the 90 miles he rode that day and it was cold.
“But I’m prepared,” he said.
The route consisted of the northern-most paved east-west highway in Canada, which avoided major cities like Calgary and Regina. It’s commonly called the Northern Woods and Water Route that consists of 1,500 miles starting in British Columbia and ending in Manitoba. Being from North Dakota, the landscape felt familiar to him.
The small towns along the way were stocked with friendly people curious to what he was doing. As expected, there was the unexpected like a couple of caribou coming up from behind him and passing him on the road.
“That somewhat startled me but they just ran off,” he said.
He got some nice photos of bears on his cell phone and there was the occasional moose along the road. But mostly, it was a lot of long days on the bike. Peaceful, serene long days.
That’s been Kiefer’s life of choice since retiring from the United States Department of Defense in 2011. He has an undergraduate degree from North Dakota State in 1972 and a graduate degree from NDSU in 1974 in community and regional planning.
Despite months on a bike, he stays in touch with the world. He wanted to know how former Bison quarterback Easton Stick is going to do with the Los Angeles Chargers this season. He asked about new NDSU head coach Matt Entz.
Every so often, he’ll send a group of photos to his bike friends, which include local Fargo riders Dick Reis and Don Isensee. Those two met Kiefer in Brandon, Manitoba a few days ago and rode the remaining distance with him to Fargo.
Last summer, those three rode from Santa Barbara, Calif., to Alaska. Kiefer stayed there renting a furnished apartment. Kiefer did some side trips in Alaska like the Dempster Highway from Yukon Territory to the Northwest Territories, which is 450 miles each way.
“I don’t have a stable home so I’m flexible,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to spend a winter in a somewhat colder climate so I decided to do it.”
Those three have been riding together for about 25 years and have knocked off more than a dozen states. Most of the rides, Kiefer said, were in the seven- to 10-day range.
All on the 1979 Raleigh Competition.
He was living in Monterey, Calif., in the mid-1990s and was looking for a touring bike when he ran into a man who once bought a bike for his son, but was rarely used for the last 15 years.
“I went to his house, looked at it and it was rough,” Kiefer said. “I told him I would give him 50 bucks. And he said I’ll take 35.”