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Wednesday, July 16, 2003
The first 15 minutes set the tone for the day. I awoke to
hellacious wind and rain that managed to slowly pick apart
my tent and loosen tent stakes. I exited my tent, touched
my bicycle to move it out of the rain and "ping" another spoke
on my rear tire popped. Though the morning was off to a weak
start, I did stumble upon "The Donut Shop" on my way out of
town. A classic shop with some of the best donuts I've ever
had. I binged knowing the next food stop would be hours away.
Miraculously, the weather cleared and the high heat hit. For
the next 40 or 50 miles we rode through a surrealistic setting
as you could see the heat rising out of the dry wheat fields
and roads. A couple of fires along the way produced some towers
of black smoke in the distant adding to the apocalyptic scene.
To match my third broken spoken I added my third bee sting
while cycling. We arrived at mile marker 70, dehydrated, slightly
sun burnt and drained only to find that the road was under
construction and the detour would add another 10 miles. We
opted to wait until the construction crew quit, and then trudge
on over the washboard road. It was 12 miles of pounding on
the posterior and hands that my body will not soon forget.
If my hands weren't so calloused up, I'm sure they'd bleed.
Arrived in the wonderful town of Akaska, SD (pop. 52) to a
hot shower, a big cheeseburger and a cold beer. Though the
day was far from easy, don't misinterpret my bemoaning; I
loved every minute of it.
Thursday, July 17, 2003
Lots of tough wind today coupled with only a single town
in the 70 miles we traveled. For the first time in a long
time, I had to abide by a schedule. A general delivery package
that needed to be picked up before post office closing time.
Today's trail took us through some truly beautiful hills void
of anything living save the prairie grass. The wind was so
fierce at places I literally had to lean to the side to stay
upright or fear being blown into the other lane. On two separate
occasions I frightened herds of horses that sent them into
a run and provided me company for a mile or so. To entertain
myself, I sang show tunes as loud as I could comfortable that
there was nobody around that I could offend. Arrived in Pollock,
SD (pop. 339) in time for the package.
Friday, July 18, 2003
We had a very late start today. Steph and I made the mistake
of going into Bert's bar last night for some dinner. We then
met the “bar” who kindly refused to let us buy a single beer
and continued to order them well after we were saturated.
I won't go into details on how much we drank out of fear Betty
Ford might hunt me down. I made every effort to politely refuse
their generosity, but I quickly realized that this was not
acceptable and soon found that the only to avoid a forced
rest day the following day was to leave the bar. I thanked
Arlo, Barry, Tom, Danny & Velvet and crept back to my tent.
Pollock, South Dakota - thank you for a memorable day. The
ride itself took us across yet another state line - North
Dakota. Ideal temperature, beautiful views of the Missouri
River and the continuing scene of desolation. We didn't pass
through a single town today but should be in Bismarck by tomorrow
for our shot of civilization.
Saturday, July 19, 2003
The mosquitoes were unbelievable last night. I am not exaggerating
- I could hear them outside my tent. Not a single mosquito
buzzing by, but a low hum caused from having hundreds of them
under my tent’s rain fly alone. My morning coffee was interesting
as I had to make it half about the coffee and half about mild
calisthenics to keep the darn (not the derogatory word I really
want to use) things away from me. I was on the road early
to get to Bismarck and a bicycle shop. Eight miles from Bismarck
and "ping" - spoke number 4 and worse yet - another spoke
pulled through the rim. I trued the wheel so that I could
survive the trip into the city and rode the remainder of the
way on an oval shaped tire. I imagine it must have been an
entertaining sight as I bobbed up and down on my warped wheel.
As luck would have it, the bike shop was next door to a premium
coffee shop. After a day of replacing the wheel and other
bicycle maintenance, I opted to stay in Bismarck and take
in the pleasantness of the city
Sunday, July 20, 2003
Broke camp late today and picked our way through the residential
streets of Bismarck to the outskirts of town and our trail.
Lots of headwind, hills and river valleys filled with deciduous
trees. Though it has been a gradual transformation, I only
realized today that the Missouri River is getting both narrower
and shallower often with vast sandbars. For a twenty mile
stretch, the route had a shoulder as wide as a lane and almost
as smooth. I claimed it as my own. It was nice to not have
to worry about keeping a constant vigilance on the approaching
traffic. Our route passed by a nice Lewis & Clark Interpretive
Center which I visited. Overall, it was a good though an exhausting
Monday, July 21, 2003
Cruising the local park seems to be a common form of entertainment
in most of the small towns we've been. Since we often camp
in these parks, I've become quite proficient at telling how
much there is to do in a town by means of the "cruising" traffic.
Based on my scale, Stanton must be one of the most boring
towns we've yet encountered. Entire families and elderly folks
did the loop several times during the afternoon. It was almost
disturbing. This morning was cooler than most which made the
ride even more enjoyable. After crossing over the Garrison
Dam we passed through some remote Dakota countryside complete
with missile silos and the blooming purple flowers of the
flax plant. It was quite a contrast. All day the sky was filled
with cumulous clouds which always provided me something with
which to occupy myself. The conditions were so ideal we ended
up bicycling 110 miles. It was a very long day but a very
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Steph and I spent the morning in an incredible rock museum
in Parshall, ND. Not the sort of town you'd expect to find
a world class anything, but one wealthy rancher was able to
amass an incredible collection. Our ride started on Highway
23 and had an good deal of traffic by North Dakota standards.
I caught up with two cyclist (of a group of 30) who are bicycling
across the States for Habitat for Humanity. This meeting point
appeared to be the one place our paths would intersect in
the entire cross-country trek. We hopped off Highway 23 and
traveled on route 1804. It was one of the most memorable stretches
of road I've traveled in the past 3000 miles. Almost immediately
it became noticeably more arid and signs of the badlands appeared.
All this happened with the Missouri River still in sight.
Finally, by the end of the day we ended our two week trek
north-northwest and turned due west for the first time in
1100 miles. For the most part, this will be the direction
I head for the next 1500 miles till I hit salt water. We are
now only 60 miles from Canada. The symbolic achievements of
the day merited a piece of juneberry pie.
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
The distance I've traveled north is clearly evident in the
crops. In Kansas the wheat was brown and in the process of
being harvested. This far north, the wheat is still green
and apparently several days away from harvest. In addition
to the crops, oil has come into the picture with pumps scattered
here and there as we ride across the Williston Basin. I crossed
into Montana and my adrenalin was fueled by nostalgia of previous
summers spent in the state. In addition, Montana is a Rocky
Mountain state which is obviously closer to the Pacific Ocean
than the Plains states. The arid conditions are evident on
my skin and my nose. My nasal membranes have dried giving
the interior of my nose a feel akin to sandpaper. Steph and
I passed by Leo's house, a kind individual I had meet earlier
and he took us for a tour of Culbertson and the surrounding
area/river valley. Absolutely beautiful.
Thursday, July 24, 2003
A great start to the day at The Wild West Diner with a cowboy
style breakfast containing all the artery clogging goodies.
As a bonus, my waitress was an aggressive coffee pourer which
added a little zip to my normal cadence. As much as I tend
to brag about my present appetite, I couldn't handle the proportions
and had to send one of my basket ball sized pancakes back.
The first two hours were along some of the emptiest roads
I've encountered. We arrived in the small town of Brockton
were I had my "second" breakfast. Yes, we eat like hobbits
and my first breakfast had already settled. We entered the
Fort Peck Indian Reservation and noticed a stark contrast.
Everything was a little more surly than it had been. Though
we had ambitious goals for the day (110 miles), when the thermometer
hit 103 and was still climbing and the headwinds reached 20-25
m.p.h., we called it quits in Wolf Point, MT. Way too many
people drinking malt liquor during working hours, but it was
the only option for the next 40 miles.
Friday, July 25, 2003
The morning started with some sprinkles and news that fires
were ravaging parts of Montana I had planned to pass through
in the next few days. It's been almost four weeks since I've
had a "zero" day, and my body aches. Fort Peck seemed like
a logical stop, all the services and the last stop before
a long dead zone. I left the reservation and lunched at Bernie's
Cafe in Nashua, MT. The place prided itself on its homemade
ice cream, and with good right. It was some stellar stuff.
The last 15 miles of the day were pretty tough, a nasty headwind
picked up and I cautiously eyed storms in the distant. The
mapmakers were also misinformed - with the exception of a
hotel and a post office, Fort Peck is empty. Not an ideal
place for a day off, but it assures me of getting plenty of
Saturday, July 26, 2003
I had hoped to capitalize on my free day by sleeping in,
no such luck. My biological clock woke me up at 6 and I was
unable to return to sleep. Though unsuccessful on the sleep
front, I did manage to celebrate my free day by making a second
cup of coffee and subsequently overhauling my bicycle. I ventured
down to the dam and took a tour of the facility and some of
the fossils the workers had unearthed during construction
of the dam. My campsite neighbors invited me over for some
grilling that night and I spent the evening enjoying their
company and a feast of meat. I must thank Felix, Ashley, Willie,
Gene and Barbara for their kind hospitality.
Sunday, July 27, 2003
Steph was unable to motivate this morning so I departed solo
in order to hopefully beat the heat and wind. The sun had
just crested the nearby hill and its proximity to the horizon
cast a long shadow of me and my bicycle which I used for entertainment.
I ascended the dam and found myself surrounded by deer on
all sides for the next 5-10 miles. The terrain was quite rugged
with little vegetation save some twisted juniper tress and
sage brush. I realized the day was likely to be remote when
the only mileage worthy of noting on an informative sign indicated
a junction of two roads in 52 miles. It was truly remote without
a single town and only a half dozen houses in 95 miles. Water
might have been an issue if Bill & Marlis Dasinger hadn't
offered me a gallon of their water en route to my destination.
I arrived in Jordan, MT mid-afternoon and bedded up in the
city park for the night.
Monday, July 28, 2003
Today, I temporarily gave up initiating waves. The efforts
did not merit the rewards since most vehicles (especially
RVs) tend to offer nothing in return but an incredulous look
as though I was bicycling naked or riding a pogo stick or
some combination of the two. Montana has some of the strangest
definitions on what constitutes a "town". Passed through Edwards
today, it is on the map but nothing more than three abandoned
buildings that have been unoccupied for at least 20 years
judging by the rot. At the other end of the spectrum, towns
of less than 50 will often have all the services of a town
20 times it's size by rest-of-the-world standards. Today's
ride passed through more sage brush with buttes scattered
about. A few pockets of pines brought to my attention the
rapidly approaching Rocky Mountains (which I have yet to view).
Arrived in Winnett, MT (pop. 186) in the peak of the heat
(100+ degrees). My head had started throbbing a few miles
before town and I took that as an early sign of possible heat
stroke. Much to Steph's chagrin, I am now determined to break
camp even earlier. On a side note, I left the local grocery
store and saw some dude trot up to a bar on his horse. Gotta
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
On the road before six today which allowed me to watch a
fiery-red sunrise. Also observed lots of pronghorns. I met
another cyclist heading west, Jay, and made pace with him
for an hour in order to chat. By 8:30 I was famished and broke
out lunch (no second breakfasts available) before undertaking
the climb over the Judith Mountains. After the Appalachians,
the grades were heaven sent and though they were long, they
were very tolerable. Arrived in Lewistown, MT for another
lunch, some bicycle work and some Internet time. The town
itself was wonderfully preserved and had some well preserved
buildings in addition to some incredible views of the surrounding
mountains. Ate dinner at "The Mint" and met Jay and Steph
at the fairgrounds for camping.
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
I made one of my toughest decisions of the trip this morning.
Eliminate the morning ritual of brewing coffee. The time involved
to prepare and the strong urge to take advantage of the cool
morning weather sparked the decision and I am pleased to say
that as of right now, I appear to have faired well (i.e. no
withdrawal symtoms evident). Also, as a diuretic, coffee does
not bode well with the need to maintain oneself properly hydrated.
I was on the road early again and privileged to another incredible
sunrise, this one over the Judith Mountains and surrounding
lakes. The road got lonely and I encountered little save the
endless hay bales and buttes as far as the eye could see.
The effects of the hard weather are evident on the barns/buildings
with their heavily weathered wood. The road had minimal traffic
and whenever I stopped moving, it became blissfully silent.
Present location - Geraldine, MT (pop. 284). Tomorrow it's
our first city of size (Great Falls) since North Dakota.
Thursday, July 31, 2003
Up early and without my normal coffee kick-start. Jay made
it to Geraldine last night and we departed together passing
through more desert-like terrain. We startled several pronghorns
which then demonstrated why they are the second fastest land
animal. The terrain continued to be arid and judging from
the dried lakebeds, drought conditions may exist. Two hours
into the ride I hit the Missouri River valley for a steep
descent into the town of Fort Benton. A delightful town on
the riverbanks nestled among the cottonwoods. In addition
to the nice setting, the town had a restaurant with a bottomless
cup of coffee. Leaving town required a climb out of the river
valley; but all the effort was compensated with a beautiful
view of the green valley and the starkly contrasted brown
of the surrounding hills and the distant mountains. I benefited
from a tailwind and made Great Falls for a late lunch.