‘Flyway-Byway’

GARRISON One week, 435 miles and seven communities. That is the itinerary for participants in this year’s CANDISC bicycle tour.

The 22nd annual event starts Sunday at Garrison High School and ends at the same location Saturday, Aug. 9.

CANDISC is an acronym for “Cycling Around North Dakota In Sakakawea Country.”

Organizers do their utmost to put together new routes for CANDISC each year, thereby giving repeat participants new ground to cover and new sights to see. The theme for this year’s tour is “Flyway-Byway,” an appropriate name for a 435-mile bicycle trek through an area much acclaimed for its prairie potholes and high waterfowl populations.

“Our oldest rider this year is 79 and our youngest is 10,” said McKaila Matteson, Garrison’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and CANDISC director. “We’ve got them from 23 different states and four Canadian provinces. We pull in the avid riders who are very advanced and a lot of new, young riders who are anxious to get a bit of a new challenge.”

A challenge awaits this year’s field of cycling enthusiasts. Wind, rain and hot weather can all effect the daily duty of peddling 60 to 70 miles per day. Fortunately for CANDISC riders, there is no daily or weekly competition. Times are not important. Finishing each day is challenge enough.

“Many riders just try to go out and enjoy it,” said Matteson. “They get to know North Dakota’s true hospitality and enjoy the unique characteristics of each community on the route.”

When riders stop at Steele at the end of day two they will see the world’s largest sandhill crane statue, which is 40 feet tall. Their route will also take them to Hague where a historic and beautiful Gothic-style church and iron cross cemetery is located. Then it’s on to Strasburg for a view of the early 1900’s Sts. Peter and Paul church.

“The tour is through the flyway but it also emphasizes the German and Russian heritage in much of the area,” explained Matteson.

After 21 years of cycling, CANDISC has become well known for conducting a very organized event. Volunteers make certain that all efforts are made to insure that each rider has an enjoyable experience.

“We make sure the riders are safe and staff the whole route,” said Matteson. “This year we’ll have two sag wagons, two staff vehicles, an information van, porta-potties, shower trailer and a bike mechanic from Val’s Cyclery in Minot. There’s also a lot of volunteer help in the host communities. We really couldn’t do it without them.”

Sag wagons are used to pick up riders who have mechanical or physical difficulties. Event organizers encourage riders to use the sag wagons as needed rather than risk injury or duress. When picked up, riders are transported to either the next rest area on the daily route or to the daily destination community. CANDISC officials can also, at their discretion, direct riders to use the sag wagon due to safety concerns.

A main feature of CANDISC is the reception riders receive in local communities at the end of a long day’s ride. Traditionally, community volunteers do their best to provide riders with a healthy meal and comfortable places to pitch camp. Each day riders place their luggage or packs into a CANDISC truck that transports the necessities to the proper daily destination.

While small communities Wilton, Steele, Wishek, Linton and Mercer are on this year’s CANDISC itinerary, the Thursday stop-over will be at Papa’s Pumpkin Patch near Bismarck. The tour ends with a barbeque at Garrison’s City Park.

“They get a return picnic that will include buffalo brats, watermelon and desserts,” said Matteson.

CANDISC reached a peak of about 500 riders one year, pushing the limit of what volunteers and communities could handle. This year’s entrant list is down a bit with 200 enrolled, an amount Matteson calls, “still a good number.” According to Matteston, a field of 250 to 300 participants is considered just about the ideal number for the yearly event.