Snowscape – The 1999 Teddy Tour, April 2 – 4
by Marion Perry, first published in Freewheelin’ 1999
The Teddy Tour to Theodore Roosevelt Park, N.D. is a rite of spring for Wascana Freewheelers. There is music: Queen’s Bicycle Race blaring in the campground parking lot as we prepare to cycle; the air horn signaling the start of the tour; ritual acts: making coffee every morning in the club pot, stopping for lunch on top of Buck Hill, flying kites, drinking Buttershots out of the bottle, walking the campground loop in the dark. There are also legends of past Freewheelers and their escapades at Teddy recounted around the campfire and while cycling.
“Remember the time Bill Stewart was cycling 50 mph and hit the texas cattle gate?”
“This is the Kay Walker barf hill. Her husband was an strong cyclist and she tried to keep up to him on this hill…!”
“In 1996 we had to shovel snow before we could set up our tents….”
“One year John Allen forgot his sleeping bags and toughed it out overnight without them. Lucky that was a warm year!”
It’s a glorious Friday as I drive to Weyburn. At the border, the customs officer doesn’t say what he’s thinking when I tell him my destination. The further south I go, the cloudier it becomes. At Williston, I stop at Albertsons (formerly Buterys) and meet Jim Smith and Kathy Willis in the store. They arrived the night before and were prepared – with skis and boots as well as bikes. Velda has her downhill boots too! The newspaper reports Dickinson received 9 inches of snow the day before but it missed Williston. We’re apprehensive.
At the North Unit Visitor Center, Velda talks to Michael Richter who was going to join us for the ride. He had gone to Bismarck the previous day and encountered the worst winter driving of his life. He’s headed home. In the campground the air horn sounds as the fearless four (Velda, Jim, Kathy and I) set out. It’s windy and fairly cold, but we warm up as we climb to the stone shelter at the Riverbend Lookout. We continue past the bison herd to 3 miles from the Oxbow Overlook. At this point, we notice that we will have to face the wind on the return journey and opt for lunch in the ditch before heading back to the campground. While we are eating, we’re happy to see Brian and Donna coming up the road. The entire group returns to the campground to drive to the South Unit. About 5 miles from the South Unit we see the snow. It’s not in patches like most years, but covers everything. As I enter the campground, I see the wild turkeys scratching for food. I’ve heard them very early every morning for four years, but I’ve never managed to catch sight of them before. Camp is set up; supper cooked and eaten. Jim and Kathy come from town for hot chocolate and Buttershots – a wonderful combination. We turn in early after our campground stroll. It’s overcast – no stars visible. Velda, Brian and I have all camped here in the snow before. We’re optimistic. The road’s ploughed to Wind Canyon. If there’s sun, there won’t be a problem cycling.
Very early Saturday morning I hear rain on my tent. By 8:30 I see a thick opaque substance covering my fly. I shake it off and look out. It’s snowing. We move the picnic table and set up tarps – one above and two for walls. We cook breakfast; it’s still snowing; go for walks; it’s still snowing; cook lunch; it’s still snowing; drive to Medora, it still snowing; drive up to Wind Canyon, go for a walk up there, yup still snowing; drive back and dress for supper at the Roughrider Hotel (the only place open in Medora). Sunday, we drive home in a convoy. The road is alternately bare and covered with icy slush almost to the bridge over the Little Missouri River just before the North Unit. When we stop for a break at the North Visitor Center, the bikes are encrusted with ice. There appears to be no more snow here than on Friday. The rest of the journey is uneventful except for two mini blizzards for short stretches north of Williston. Well, it wasn’t a great cycling trip, but it was an adventure shared with friends. Plan on coming next year. Just bring a shovel!
Top 10 Things You Don’t Want to Hear On a Camping Trip
by Velda Back, Brian Fergusson, Donna Solie and Marion Perry at Teddy ’99
- “I’ll knock the snow off the toaster.”
- “Put that in the cooler so it doesn’t freeze.”
- “Nothing like a cold beer on a 30 degree day – Oops it’s Fahrenheit not Celsius!”
- “Marion, can I borrow your snow shovel?”
- “Watch for the avalanche off the tarp!”
- “I’m glad I don’t have a Cannondale because those fat tubes would catch a lot more snow!”
- “Gee, I wish I’d brought my Sorrels.”
- “The coffee grounds are frozen.”
- “If you put plastic bags inside your boots, your feet will warm up.”
- “Is that snow coming straight down or at an angle?”