We meet Gracie Zeller in Carson, North Dakota while cycling around the state.

About midway through this past August’s Cycling Around North Dakota in Sakakawea Country, we arrived in Carson, population 293 and the county seat of Grant County.

After my wife and I had set up our tent and were preparing to settle down for the night, a young woman, perhaps 18 years old, strode into camp with camera in hand.

“This is the most activity this park has seen in years,” said Gracie Zeller, who was born and raised in the small North Dakota town. She told us it was great what all of the cyclists were doing by “livening up the town.”  In fact, the 282 riders plus support staff more than doubled the town’s population. Gracie shared a little with my wife and I about her town: how the grade school for Grant County was still located in town but that the high school had been moved 14 miles to the west to Elgin. She said that Elgin was now trying to snatch the grade school away from town. Her biggest complaint was that there wasn’t a lot to do in Carson (perhaps the common lament of Great Plains teenagers). She told us she loved the little park where the bicycle riders were camped this evening and came here often. Gracie had a sweet smile and a quiet, soft-spoken nature. She thanked us for visiting her town and then continued her journey into the bicycle encampment, documenting with her camera our brief presence in the town park.

That night, the community prepared a delicious meal of pork steak, corn, baked potatoes, and spaghetti salad with choice of desserts. We were joined by several community members, who otherwise only had the option of the local bar for dining out.

The next morning Carson served up local summer sausage, eggs, and pancakes with an optional homemade blueberry topping. It was the cheapest community meal of the weeklong ride at only $6. Both of the meals we ate while there benefited local community projects.

Hats off to Carson, North Dakota for showing what community spirit and working together can accomplish!