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Cyclists stop to rest in Dickinson on cross-country ride

A group of cyclists stopped to rest in Dickinson on their way to Boston on a cross-country ride from Seattle. Stock photo

Folk tend to pass through Dickinson on all manner of adventure, and Leo Hauser is no exception—he and 25 others took a day to rest and recuperate in North Dakota's Western Edge on their 62-day journey across the United States, from Seattle to Boston, on bicycles.

They're almost halfway there.

"It's cheaper than psychotherapy. It's a lot cheaper than sitting on a couch," Hauser said, reclining in the lobby of the La Quinta hotel in Dickinson. He'd just gotten back from a quick ride to and from Richardton. "If a person is in just relatively good shape, you can do it. You don't have to be a superstar athlete. The big part is up here."

He tapped his temple.

"Do you have the flexibility and stamina mentally when you're out there and you're halfway into a 100-mile ride and you have a 15 mph headwind smashing into your face just to keep doing it?" he asked. "Eventually you realize, yeah, I can do this. The biggest thing that happens to me—and this is my third multi-week trip I've done—but if I just be patient, usually around five or seven days into the trip, I have this moment of Zen. All of a sudden I realize that all I have to do today is ride my bike. That's all I have to do, that's my whole job."

Hauser is from the Montana region—passing through it and into North Dakota has been a highlight for him, a chance to be reminded of the best quality of the region—the goodness of its people.

"For me personally, being raised in Montana, coming over that into North Dakota, I once again appreciated the genuineness of this part of the country, they're just good, solid people," Hauser said. "I think part of it is reflected, too, how the driving public on different parts of the ride responds to cyclists on the road."

The American driving public has been "variable" when it comes to accommodating their two-wheeled brethren on the roadways.

"We had one guy in eastern Washington who did everything but take out a weapon and raise hell about the fact that we were on his highway," Hauser recalled. "You get over here and folks will almost stop traffic, back it up and get over to give you more room than you could ever want."

For the most part people are fine on the roads, Hauser said, though he added it was always important to be mindful of traffic, particularly as their route takes them now towards major cities and urban areas.

"We try to stay out of the mainstream in terms of traffic and cities," he said. "We will be going through some major cities, Minneapolis and on to Boston ... so you have to be very aware, that's the big thing. Realize that you are the little guy in the equation."

He's riding with a large group, some riders he's familiar with and many he is not, some from as far away as England and the rest gathered from every corner of the country. Hauser remarked that it's surprising just how often you'll find familiar faces in the cycling world.

"The more you do these rides, the more you'll see the same people again and again," he said. "It's kind of a weird addiction."

Hauser found this trip through the Bicycle Adventure Club, which has a website that allows riders and ride leaders to coordinate and organize lengthy bike trips like the one Hauser is currently on. The cycling community has grown considerably as technology has made cycling safer and more accessible.

"The first long-distance bicycle ride I ever did was in 1966 and I was in the seventh grade. My parents agreed to let me go with a guy and his sons up for a seven-day, 500 mile bike ride across Montana into Canada. At that point in time there was no such thing as a helmet, you wore blue jeans, you wore long-sleeve flannel shirts, you carried a sleeping bag as big as a Volkswagon," Hauser said. "Nowadays you have GPS satellites that track you, all of our routes are on the little Garmin. You can get lost, but you got to work at it."

So what advice does Hauser have for those interested in challenging the open road on the seat of a bicycle?

"Don't wait. Just do it. The nice thing about these rides is that you may sign up for a ride that goes four weeks or six weeks—if you only want to do a week of it, do a week. Put your toe in the water," he said. "Don't be put off by the fact that you're going to be up there with Olympic athletes. No. You're going to be with people who have pasta pouches and drink beer and who want to be out there to have a great time and have fun."