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Published August 12, 2013, 09:45 AM

Cyclists, not bikers

Local talent comes to town when the bicycle tour hits your locale.

By: Ryan Taylor, Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — I’ve spoken, spun ropes and shared Cowboy Logic with a lot of different people around the country. I’ve been in front of farmers and bankers, cowboys and pastors, chambers of commerce, bird watchers, dentists, engineers and numerous associates of various associations. Anyone and everyone can appreciate a little Cowboy Logic, especially if they’ve just had a big dinner and want to ruminate awhile anyway.

And, for the third time of the three years that my hometown has hosted the bicyclists of the CANDISC bike ride, I drove in from the ranch to entertain and provide a glimpse of local culture to a big group of bicycle riders from around the continent.

If I ever wonder how to entertain these folks, I tell myself, “It’s just like riding a bike.” Except it’s more like spinning Will Rogers-style rope tricks, reciting stories from my book, and generating ad libs about just the right things at just the right time. Still, it’s learning and remembering a skill, so it is like riding a bike.

The first thing I remembered is what the long acronym, CANDISC, stands for — Cycling Across North Dakota In Sakakawea Country. It seems like a roundabout way to name a bike ride, but I think it may be a rule among bike tours to come up with long names.

One of the other big bike tours I’ve heard my cycling friends talk about is RAGBRAI — the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. Seems like there’s a seven-letter acronym theme going on in the cycling world.

Then I heard about an eight letter race that had to one up the seven letterers, GRABAAWR. Any guesses? On pronunciation or what it stands for? It is the Great Annual Bicycle Adventure Along the Wisconsin River. Whew! Just saying it is almost as hard as riding bike on its nearly 500-mile course.

The CANDISC course this year was 371 miles across central North Dakota and up to the Canadian border, including one night at the city park of the cattle capital of North Dakota, my hometown of Towner.

CANDISC is a bicycle ride, not a race, one rider reminded me. And these folks are cyclists, or bicyclists, not bikers. At this exact moment of summer, the “bikers” were in Sturgis, S.D., at the motorcycle rally, and the “cyclists,” some of them, were camped out in Towner at a much milder gathering with considerably less engine noise and fewer leather bikini tops.

CANDISC is a pretty rural affair. The seven night’s camping included one state park and six bustling little towns with populations ranging from 68 to 1,453, not exactly metropolises. With a population of 533, Towner was right in the middle.

So when it came to finding a little entertainment for the cyclists in these small towns, it wasn’t likely we’d get Lady Gaga or Toby Keith to come do the gig. But every little town found someone in the neighborhood to get up on the flatbed to play guitar, sing or maybe tell a story while spinning a rope.

I think everyone on the ride was well fed and watered, saw some pretty pastoral landscapes, got a lot of good exercise, and maybe even learned a little about a few small towns that aren’t always noticed from the highway.

When our children are old enough to go on the ride, I think I’ll trade my spot on the flatbed for a seat on the grass at the park, and a bicycle seat pedaling across North Dakota. I’m not an avid cyclist, but I think I remember how it’s done. It’s not just like riding a bike, it is riding a bike … a long ways, just long enough to clear the head and strengthen the heart.

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