Night before last we spent sleeping on the ground, cold-camping off the side of a county road in a copse of trees with the birds and mosquitoes. And last night we spent in the ‘famous’ Nordic Inn with the manically self-involved Crazy Viking as our host.

Out of sheer exhaustion we had finally pulled off the road about 5:30 pm after biking all afternoon. We had been fighting the same persistent cold head wind and merciless landscape that had plagued us the entire way; only this time on bikes towing a trailer with a bum axle.

The trailer wobbled, bungeed, and pulled so hard that the only thing we could figure was that we either had an overload problem or a weight distribution problem. Out of a scene from ‘Lost in Space’ we jettisoned 20% of our cargo which meant giving up the major remaining portion of the 15 lbs of pinole that I had hauled up from Mexico. That helped to make the pulling easier but did nothing to affect the trailer’s penchant for acting like a lead weight affixed to a rubber band. We stopped and redistributed the load a couple of times but that only seemed to have a minor impact.

We struck camp at first light. The only change in the weather was that it was colder. Sarah’s only pair of running shoes were soaked through from the day before so she was pedaling in sandals like me. She volunteered to pull first and after an hour up the road the left wheel fell off the trailer. We stopped and took everything out of it, then turned it over to re-affix the wheel. An hour later it happened again. And while the dark thoughts began to stack up like the so many clouds that surrounded us, we still endeavored to pedal and pull on into the diminishing grey horizon.

It was in the tiny hamlet of Freedhem where we finally caught a break and our luck, at least for the moment, changed. For the first time in 6 days we found an outpost that sold stuff. It wasn’t necessarily useful stuff as neither of us wanted a soda or a frozen pizza or needed gasoline or animal feed but just the same it was a place to stop and the solitary general store offered up a porch and a chance to talk to someone local.

And that someone was the affable hippie John, and kindred spirit that he was, thinks just like me that Led Zeppelin, while undoubtedly the greatest rock band of all time, should have never changed styles after their first album. We were soon joined by the waifish, friendly and very talkative Renee who said over and over that we had to visit the town of Cosby and see the pits because they were so marvelous. And that we had to stay at the marvelous Viking Hotel because it had all of this marvelous Viking stuff in it. Her ex-brother-in-law Scott Johnson rattled and roared up next in an old Nissan pick-up truck. He stopped his errands long enough to introduce himself and to point out, after a quick walk around our trailer, that our problem was in a slightly bent flange.

And our luck couldn’t have gotten any better when we were offered a ride over to Cosby and that Scott would bend out the flange and fix the wheel to boot. On the ride over we were given a non-stop monologue that began somewhere with Vietnam, tore through 15 years of cowboying, and ended somewhere in the present of oil field work, deer hunting and tales of wives and ex-wives. The ex-wife was blue ink tattooed, tits and all on his left  forearm; although ‘her tits are bigger now’ (because of the five thousand dollar gift for the boob job).

It turned out that not just was the flange bent but the wobble was the result of the wheel bearings not being tight and that we had been only moments away from real disaster had they gotten any more loose and fallen out. With that fixed, we rang the big bell at the Nordic Inn and were finally only gained admittance after uttering the inane passwords ‘just open the damn door please’. Our Hagrid sized host (right down to the belly, beard, and hair) quickly informed us that his hotel was all about the experience. And while I heard him say that in addition to other important media attention he had been featured on the cable show ‘Extreme Food’ , I also heard and recognized that there was some serious artless and mostly flatulent self-promotion at work.

There were 2 other couples staying at the hotel; a young couple from nearby Brainerd (of movie ‘Fargo’ fame) and a couple who were up from the twin-cities. We all converged on the bar for cocktails at 5:30 pm. and exchanged pleasantries where we could. I say that as our bartender/host expectedly monopolized the conversation most of the time as center stage entertainment which he unapologetically explained away as part of the experience.

I justifiably lubricated myself with a couple of pints of beer but not before asking Sarah to nudge me and say ‘you said…’ when I began to stray across the yellow line. While she is no stranger to drunken and loutish behavior I wanted to make sure that she headed me off with the pre-arranged code words ‘you said’ just as I reached the upper setting of my bore threshold limit (‘will this guy ever shut up?’) and the mean sarcastic part of me emerged and rudely put both elbows on the table.