Today we left the quaint little town of Granville (pop. 250). Dave and I treated ourselves to breakfast at the Liberty Diner, which was quite hopping on a Saturday morning– we estimate that we saw at east 10% of the residents of Granville. Full of waffles, biscuits and gravy, and coffee, we set off on a fairly short 60-something mile jaunt down highway 2 to our destination– Knox, ND or more specifically, the house of Bill and Nancy Nix. Now your mother probably taught you never to take candy from strangers, and even more not to get in a vehicle with a stranger. But what if a stranger in a pickup demanded that you come to his house for dinner and sleep in his cabin? We just couldn’t refuse the offer of a warm bed, homecooked food and the chance to get to know interesting people and so we changed our route ever so slightly to include Knox (pop. 25?).
We met up for lunch in Rugby, a small town whose claim to fame is being the geographic center of North America. While you’d think that would mean we are halfway through our journey, we still have a few days before we reach our halfway point. We bought groceries at the local supermarket and ate in a peaceful green park. We arrived at the Nix residence midafternoon where Bill greeted us heartily and showed us to his “bunkhouse,” which is a cabin he built for his children and their friends to use when they came to visit for hunting and fishing trips. With two bunkbeds, a couch and a cot, and more hunting and archery paraphenelia than I have ever seen before, the bunkhouse was a welcoming alternative to our tents.
Now Bill Nix is what you might call a “character.” He’s a self-described redneck and political conservative (which he defines as, “I think everyone should get a job.”) He doesn’t like Obama, socialized healthcare or vegetarians (“vegheads”). He got caught dodging the draft and spent 2 years in Vietnam, (as well as some time in Orange County prison). He loves traditional bowhunting and the great outdoors. He’s got a lot of opinions, and he’ll tell you each and every one for as long as you’ll listen. Somehow, inspite of his rough edges, Bill is an instantly likable person with a sophistication and intelligence that shines through his many stories, jokes and pieces of advice. He loves to help people and has a special place in his heart for adventurers and wayward kids.
After heavenly hot showers, we spent the evening getting to know Bill & Nancy and eating tasty hot meal of meaty spaghetti and garlic bread, followed by root beer floats! Before long we headed out to the bunkhouse and slept ridiculously well in the quiet comfy cabin. We were having such a nice time that we decided to take a shorter day the next day so we could spend the morning with the Nixes.
Over our breakfast of freshly baked cinnamon rolls, Bill began to describe the delicious fish fry we would have to celebrate the fourth of July if only we would stay another night. He bribed us with promises of archery lessons and pineapple upside-down cake. Finally, we succumbed and decided to take a rest day. We had decided to alter our route slightly, which made our new route about 120 miles shorter, so we felt that we could still easily maintain our schedule.
We spent the day lazing in the yard, writing postcards, reading, napping and just enjoying sitting on something softer than a bicycle seat. Greg and Dave borrowed the dog clippers for haircuts. Bill produced a guitar and Greg commenced to play and sing some of his original songs, which greatly impressed Bill. He wants Greg to send a CD so Bill can finangle his friends at the nearby radio station to play Greg’s music, especially the recently composed “North Dakota rag.” He brought out a bow and arrows and we had target practice with lots of advice from Bill (“Be the arrow…”) True to their promise, Bill and Nancy fried up more fish than we could possibly eat. They also whipped up a pineapple upside-down cake in a dutch oven and baked it over the fire. Truly a delicious dessert with vanilla icecream.
After another restful night in the bunkhouse, we were awoken at 6am by Bill ringing a big bell outside the door. We ate another wonderful breakfast of eggs, toast and fruit and took some photos with our new friends. We bid them farewell, promising to return someday for all the wonderful North Dakota experiences they had described to us– visiting ancient petroglyphs, bow hunting, ice fishing, and just walking among the golden leaves of fall. We feel blessed to be among the wayward adventurers “rescued” by the Nixes and all feel a renewed desire to look for opportunities to extend hospitality and random acts of kindness and other actions that turn strangers into friends.