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Bring on the Bikers: Pedalers put on 400 miles

A cat greets Al and Lisa Thompson of Mandan as they make their way into Gladstone from Mott on Thursday morning. The two are ninth-year riders in Cycle Around North Dakota in Sakakawea County.1 / 2
Elvira Martin, Dickinson, helps fellow K-cettes at the Gladstone Knights of Columbus Hall. The Knights of Columbus ladies auxillary members prepared refreshments for the bicyclists.2 / 2

More than 250 cyclists pedaled around the region Thursday with the 20th annual Cycle Around North Dakota in Sakakawea County.

As part of the group's Enchanted Anniversary Tour, bikers ranging in age from 12 to 77 started off Sunday at Fort Stevenson State Park on the 70-mile trek to Center. They conclude the journey Saturday in Garrison.

Ben Auch, who lives south of Mott, coordinated the city's welcome of the bikers, which included movies, music by local musicians, swimming at the pool and camping at the park. Organizations also served the riders meals for fundraisers.

"This is a great way to show off the town and all it has to offer," Auch said. "This will show people that Mott is a great place to stop when going on vacation, and it will be a big benefit to the community."

Al Thompson, Mandan, rolled into Gladstone with his wife, Lisa, on Thursday morning for refreshments. The food service director at the state penitentiary said the ride is completely different from his day-to-day life.

"It beats regular work," Al said.

CANDISC covers 400 miles and includes stops in Center, New Salem, Carson and Hazen, as well as the 75-mile ride from Mott to Hebron, which included stops in Gladstone and other small towns.

The longest trip, New Salem to Carson, is 82 miles. The shortest ride is Center to New Salem at about 25 miles.

CANDISC is capped at 500 participants, who are followed by a bike mechanic, doctor and physician's assistant.

CANDISC started in 1993, the year after Iowa native Dick Messerly became manager of Fort Stevenson State Park in Garrison.

Messerly said park visitation was down and he wanted to attract the public to the park, so he fashioned an across-the-state bike ride modeled after the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.

Recently, a press release stated that Fort Stevenson was the No. 1 attended state park, Messerly said.

"Before the oil boom, people thought of North Dakota as the last frontier, flat with no scenery," Messerly previously told The Press. "Then, they come on the tour and are surprised by how beautiful a state it is. They go away as great ambassadors for North Dakota."

Every year, there is at least one main, but not nationally known, attraction. This year it is Garrison Dam and the Enchanted Highway.

McKaila Matteson, who helps coordinate CANDISC but has never ridden the route, said four riders are 20-year veterans of the event.

"I think what I enjoy most is getting to see the wide variety of bikers this brings," she said.

CANDISC's route changes yearly, but Matteson said this year's Enchanted Highway tour harkens back to a similar route in the early 2000s with different host communities.

Messerly chooses the routes, looking for small towns between 40 and 80 miles apart, where people will provide the cyclists with meals and entertainment.