Pedalling to Nirvana – part 4.1 (Wyoming-Montana)

A North American Bicycle Journey

I pedalled my way from Key West, Florida to Tok, Alaska. What I wrote in my journal is what I was thinking and feeling at the time, it’s just a reflection of who I am, my own personal opinions, my own perceptions, and written exactly as I saw the world around me at that particular moment.

Why I did it? That is what most people ask, and you know, it is not a simple answer. One of my thoughts was to really do something with my life and truly live. Experience the world around me before I shuffle off the mortal coil.

The story continues from:

Pedalling to Nirvana – part 4 (South Dakota)

Wyoming – Day 60 (May 1999)

rode on 212 through a tiny corner of Wyoming for 20 miles

nothing here, although the map indicated a tiny little spot of a place called “Colony” along this stretch, if there was a town somewhere, I never saw it.

DAY 60 Continued…- May 13, 1999

 

Wow! Now that was a quick ride through this state! Not much to say – Nothing through here. No stores or businesses, just rolling green pastures. On to Montana :-)

 

Continued in Montana…

 

Today – 21.12 miles in Wyoming

 

Montana – Day 60 to day 90 (May-June 1999)

montana

Entered from Wyoming on highway 212

stayed on 212 and cycled through a bunch of nothing tiny little nowhere places:

Alzada, Hammond, Boyes, Broadus, Ashland

then through 2 Indian Reservations:

Northern Cheyenne and Crow(Battle of Little Bighorn location)

At Crow Agency, I Had to take I90 through Hardin to Billings

From Billings it was north on 3 through a bunch more tiny little nothing towns:

Acton, Broadview, Lavina

at Lavina, I hopped on 12 heading west through:

Ryegate, Shawmut, Harlowtown, Checkerboard, White Sulpher Springs, Townsend, Winston, Helena, Elliston, Avon, Garrison

at Garrison, I had to get back on I90 to Missoula

from Missoula, I headed east on 200 through:

Milltown, Bonner, Potomac, Greenough

After Greenough I headed North on 83 along the east side of the Mission Mountains through:

Salmon Lake, Seeley Lake, Condon, Swan Lake, and Big Fork

At Big Fork, I went west on 82 for a short distance and then north on 93 through:

Kalispell, Whitefish, Olney, Stryker, Fortine, Eureka

Then through Port of Roosvile into Canada

 

DAY 60 Continued… – May 13, 1999

Wooo Hooo, I’m here! My halfway point is getting close! It’s still very cold as I ride under a ceiling of thick dark clouds. Reaching Alzada, I stop at the Bar & Cafe at the junction of 212 and 112. My average was 12mph getting here.

 

Walking inside, I was greeted by a rush of warm air, ahhhh. There was a large group of men sitting at one table and the rest of the place was empty as I walked to the counter and sat on one of the stools. I asked for a cup of hot coffee, removed my gloves and raincoat, and then went to the bathroom. My fingers and toes were numb from the cold rain, so I ran cool water over my fingers and slowly increased the temperature. At last! I have some feeling back! I decided not to worry about my feet and let them warm up on their own.

 

Back at the counter, I ordered a bowl of chicken noodle soup ($1.50), and a hot baked potato ($1.25). It was a much larger bowl of soup than I’d expected and it was good!

 

After I finished eating, most of the guys at the table had left, leaving three of them. One of them had been sitting on a bar stool by the window as he kept an eye outside, constantly looking or waiting for someone. He had the look of a rancher with aging skin from years in the sun. He looked to be about 5’8″ and was a stout, strong looking man, with short brown hair. “Where are you going on your bike?” he asked. I told him my plans then took my map over to discuss a route to Missoula. He introduced himself as Jack as he shook my hand and smiled. He had large hands of a hard working man as he pointed to a road on my map. Although his appearance seemed rough, his voice was gentle and kind. We talked about what I’ve experienced on my ride, about people, and about what some people are doing to prepare for “Y2K”. “Do you think there will be a problem?” he asked. Then went on to say that his wife is stockpiling so much food. Jack owns very little technology and doesn’t understand why there would be a problem. But he was sincere in wanting to do the right thing and no one is really 100 percent sure. So going along with his wife’s plan is all he can do. With the arrival of his father, Jack shakes my hand again and sincerely wishes me good luck.

 

I had been there about an hour which was just enough time to get the feeling back in my toes. It was still raining as I rode away. By 1pm the rain had stopped but the dark clouds remained overhead. In the distance I could see lighter skies to the west, and by the time I reached Hammond, the dark gray was replaced by light gray. Hammond had absolutely nothing – no stores or any type of business. I saw just a few houses and was surprised to see a small post office. Riding by Boyes, I saw a Trading Post store and a post office too. Both towns were about 6 miles apart and were very tiny. After passing Boyes, I started to realize that I was thirsty. With the cold and wet I’ve been riding through, I didn’t seem to drink as much. It had been over 35 miles since the cafe and I hadn’t thought about drinking anything. As soon as I started to drink, I realized how thirsty I was. My full bottle stayed tipped until it was half gone. Wow, I was incredibly thirsty and didn’t realize it ’til I took a drink. It was like my mouth was a desert that hadn’t seen rain in a thousand years. I didn’t even mind all the dirt and grit that covered the spout on my water bottle. Man, that made me feel so much better.

 

By this time, the rolling green hills were getting some exposed areas of rock. My speed had picked up as I consistently pedaled at 20mph. The tailwind was helping me tremendously. Just prior to approaching Broadus the wind came back. I biked up what I knew to be my last climb and was greeted by a headwind as I rounded the top. Broadus was within view and downhill from here. The sign said 3 miles but it looked more like 1 mile. As I pedaled the last three miles I was tired and the wind made it difficult. I was pushing to keep a pace of 11mph. My left knee began to get some antero-lateral pain but not too bad.

 

Stopping at the first convenience store, I was informed that all three motels were owned by the same person so there was no real difference in price. I rode to the intersection where the Quarter Horse Motor Inn sits and checked in. The room was $33.28 including tax. This was the dirtiest I’ve gotten yet riding in the rain. My bike and trailer were almost brown and I’m sure I wasn’t a pretty sight either :-) In the room I did my same ritual, turn on the weather channel and leave it there until I got to sleep. By now I know all the names and commercial slogans. I’d have to say that Warren Madden and Kristina Abernathy are the best ones on there :-)

 

Wind – Blowing to the west but changed to east at the end of the day.

 

Today – Total today – 98.39 miles (62.82 miles in Montana)

Total – 3120 miles

Avg. Speed – 15.5mph

 

DAY 61 – May 14, 1999

I left the motel and stopped at the grocery store. I used the ATM inside to get some cash then bought a banana, one box of granola bars (variety pack), one box of Nutri-Grain bars (cherry), and four Power Bars (peanut butter). My ride continued west on 212 and I felt like I was going nowhere. Yesterday I was flying down the road with ease, but today it was tough with a lot of climbing and I was tired. Actually the climbing probably wasn’t that bad, it was just being a bit tired and lazy. There were no trees along the landscape of rolling green hills. There were a lot of these little dark green bushes speckled everywhere under the bluish-gray sky. The bushes were maybe 8 inches tall so that left no place to go pee. I kept waiting, hoping something would appear to hide me from the road. The thought of standing in the wide open as cars drove by didn’t appeal to me.

 

Ah ha! An old abandoned building near the road! I set my bike down and darted around the building. Ahhhh…Relief :-) I walked back to my bike and sat on the trailer eating a cereal bar. A horse had been staring at me from about 125 yards away. He was a lone horse in a big pasture. I just sat there and stared back while I ate and rested. It was a cool morning which got colder as I rode. My toes were very cold but now that I was stopped they were warming up. It wasn’t raining but since my shoes were still wet from yesterdays soaking, I had plastic bags on my feet. I was wearing my bike socks, thick wool socks, then the plastic bags, and my feet were still cold as I rode.

looks-like-the-pavement-ends

 

As the morning progressed, it began to get a little warmer and by 11am I took off my jacket. Then I approached that dreaded section of road I’d been hearing about having road construction. For 9 miles, through a steep pass, they had removed the road and had just a dirt and gravel road. That sucked with my tire pressure at 90psi. I was pushing my luck on the long downhill reaching 35mph on loose gravel. But I made it down just fine. When I got close to Ashland, I passed a National Parks campground on the right, in the Custer National Forest. It had already started to sprinkle and I was still about five miles away. But the campground looked so appealing to me. Ahhh, camp in the forest with nature! Unfortunately, I had no food to cook, just the bars I bought. A part of me wanted to but then I thought, if I can avoid misery I will. I really don’t like cold so, with that settled, I continued on.

 

It was 1:30pm when I stopped at the Hitching Post Cafe in Ashland. Sitting on one of the round, padded, barstools at the counter, a young waitress handed me a menu and asked if I wanted anything to drink. Looking at the menu I noticed they had a really cool selection for a small town cafe – even healthy food :-) I got my usual grilled chicken but this time with some cottage cheese too. They also had pizza and soft serve ice cream, which is unusual compared to the small town cafe’s I’ve been to. After I finished eating I decided to try one of the homemade pies. Mmmmm, I hate to say this but this was WAY better than Cooky’s in Missouri. She begins baking these early in the afternoon and is constantly selling out. Many times she has a whole pie sold before it’s even out of the oven.

 

By now I’ve been talking to my waitress, Cedar. She is the daughter of the owner and looks to be in her late teens. The cafe’ is family owned and operated and they also have a ranch. Cedar pulled out a Polaroid picture of the newest addition to their 25 horses. It was a two month old brown and white horse. Her mom, Marlow, was back in the kitchen most of the time doing the cooking and baking pies. She would come out to talk whenever she could. Mimi is their non-family employee and she took an interest in talking to me as well. Everyone was exceptionally nice and I felt right at home. Then Mimi took my bill and told me she was going to pay it for me. Wow! I don’t know if I could ever go back to living in the real world, the people I’ve encountered in this new reality of mine are incredibly kind and generous.

eva-and-her-doll

 

Within a few moments, an older American Indian lady comes into the store with a doll. The doll’s outfit was handcrafted to exacting detail of the Cheyenne’s traditional dress. It was made of buckskin and had lots of beadwork on it. The lady’s name is Eva. She is an 85 year old, full-blooded, Cheyenne Indian. She was born and raised on the reservation that the town of Ashland sits next to. Eva buys an American Indian Doll then makes an outfit for that doll. It takes her about a month to complete the outfit. Then she sells the doll with the new dress for $150.00. I sat with Eva in a booth and we talked about many things, from her hobby making doll clothes to life on the reservation. At 85, she lives alone on a ranch raising cattle with the assistance of one young man. One thing I found unique was how stress had never been a word she was familiar with. She told me that in her her whole life growing up in the Indian culture, it was something she never experienced or even thought of until recently. After being plagued by a severe, uncontrollable, eye twitching that prevented her from sleeping much, she went to a doctor at a clinic on the reservation. That’s when she first learned about stress and the doctor just told her, “Why don’t you tell me what’s bothering you”. He helped her to let go of the problem and the physical manifestation of it was soon resolved.

 

Her dolls help her to make ends meet sometimes. She told me that she hoped to sell the doll because she really needed the money. When she finishes one she’ll take it somewhere, like this cafe’, and have them sell it for her. So the doll was put on a shelf behind the counter with some other art created by the local American Indian artists.

 

Well, my mom collects dolls and has hmmm…must be close to 2,000 by now? Not sure but definitely over 1,500. The more I thought about it, the more I just had to buy it for Mom. Eva would get some extra money and my mom would get a very unique addition to her collection. It was Friday so the post office, one block away, was open. Marlow searched in back for a suitable box and without a good size, either too small or too large, Mimi drove home to get a box and packing material. She returned with a box that was perfect, tissue paper, news paper, packing tape, and markers to write on the box. I mean really! Do people actually go out of their way like this in the real world? That’s it, I’m never going back! :-) After they helped me package it, I was off to the post office to ship it priority mail. Then the only ATM in town wasn’t working so I had to go to the bank for a cash advance on my MasterCard since I was now depleted of cash. It was expensive, but if I figure the amount of hours it took, then I realize it’s not that much for all that time.

 

Checking into the only motel, I paid $27.08 total with tax. Then I walked to the store for junk food, Pepsi, and pretzels.

 

Wind – Calm

 

Today – 46.53 miles

Total – 3166 miles

Avg. Speed – 10.0mph

 

DAY 62 – May 15, 1999

I stopped at a convenience store, same as every morning :-) A young Indian lady riding her bike was there with her small boy on the back in one of those seat thingy’s that attaches to the bicycle. She told me I had a lot of climbing to do going towards Lame Deer. Another Indian family stopped to ask questions too. Everyone was friendly and they all seemed a bit curious about why I’m doing this.

 

By 8:30am I was heading west on 212 looking up at the cloud covered mountain tops. Then, after 13 miles, I finally reach the last of the climbing as I begin the downhill. As I was getting close to Lame Deer, I heard a car horn honk a couple of times from behind me. When the car drove by I saw Mimi waving at me. Riding into town, Mimi was waiting on the corner in her car. I stopped and asked about any cafe’s. She was concerned about me leaving my bike unattended while I went inside somewhere.

indian-reservation

 

Her reason for waiting for me was to invite me to the church with her for a little while. Mimi had told me yesterday how she was saved about a month ago. This meant that she quit drinking, smoking cigarettes, and smoking pot. With her new found religion, she is very excited about it and wants to share it with everyone. But doesn’t seem to be overzealous about it. I thanked her for her offer but had to decline so I could beat the rain today to Hardin. It was warmer now with a temperature of 58 degrees.

 

After talking to Mimi, I rode over to the cafe’ but it was closed so I headed for the convenient store. Inside, I ordered a turkey sub. While sitting outside by my bike eating my sub, the Indian girl that sold it to me walked outside. Her name was Desiree’ and she asked the usual questions. I questioned her about the reservation and it’s people. She seemed very shy and rarely looked me in the eye while talking to me. Desiree’ told me that I wouldn’t have a problem at all with camping. Most people are very friendly even though there does seem to be a lot of alcoholism and drugs. There wasn’t much around this area. It was an small town with just a few businesses. Everything looked old and a bit rundown and dirty. Even so, everyone was really friendly. She stayed outside and talked for about 20 minutes, until she was called to get back in the store. As she was walking away, Desiree’ stopped, turned, looked straight at me, and said, “I hope you find what you’re looking for”, then disappeared inside.

 

Continuing west, the landscape continued to have plush green hills and wooded areas. Then, as I approached Busby, I felt the first rain drops. The houses were all grouped together on the right in a small neighborhood. They looked like the government housing you see on military bases. I stopped to begin my water-proofing ritual; rain coat, glove liners, plastic gloves, outer gloves, plastic bags over my socks, and wallet inside a small plastic baggie. While I was doing this, a group of young boys stared at me from the playground about 150 yards away.

 

With that done, I continue riding and then see a small store to the left at the edge of town. I decided to stop for hot tea. The name of the store was Custer’s Last Camp, because this was the area where he and his men camped last, before meeting their doom. There were 4 bar stools at a counter where I sat drinking my tea. The owner is a white lady, which I assumed was probably married to an Indian. I don’t know what the politics are like on a reservation. Do they allow non-Indians to own property or businesses here? Hmmm, I would have felt awkward asking so we just talked about the people that come through the reservation. She said that everyone just drives right through, “Nobody stops to try to learn about the area, they just fly on by”. She also said that the Indians would be more likely to welcome me in their homes if I needed a place to stay. As I sat there, I noticed some of the local Indian ladies paying with something like WIC or food stamps. This just added to my impression of how many are at the lower end of the socio-economic scale. There was a glass jar behind the counter with cigarettes, the hand written label read “singles 2/30 cents”. What I have seen so far has been mostly older cars – mid 80’s and earlier models, very modest clothing, and many buildings and homes in disrepair. All of this set in a beautiful Montana landscape. I couldn’t help but wonder why everyone seemed to be at the same level, almost an equal distribution of money, without anyone being very wealthy. There were no big houses or expensive cars but everyone I talked to seemed happy and content.

 

Leaving Custer’s Last Camp, I pedaled along imagining the army of soldiers riding through here. Did any of them take the time to be inspired by the scenic landscape? Or were they too focused on war and violence? The rain brought out the nice refreshing smells of the prairies. For a few miles, I really enjoyed riding in the rain. It wasn’t very cold at all, just a little cool. But the cool soon turned to freezing cold. My fingers and toes became numb again as I worked hard to exercise them. It was difficult to keep my head up, so I looked straight down at the road trying to keep my face warm. Then, just as I was getting really miserable, a car drove up slowly beside me. “Do you need a ride?” came from an Indian lady in the passenger seat. I said, “No thank you, I’ll be OK. Is the town close?” The lady said “8 miles”, as she looked at me with a concerned look on her face. Then some jerk in a new Mitsubishi Montero starts blasting his horn from behind. I thanked the couple for wanting to help and they had to speed up because of the @#&hole behind them. Inside the Montero was a well dressed white couple with looks of anger and disgust on their faces. Some of those that just want to drive through and never stop, I imagine. The place was probably too dirty for them. I could only imagine what people like that talk about as they drive through…”oh honey look at them, they look so poor”, “where are their teepees?”, “Do you think it’s safe driving through here?” Just stupid, ignorant, people that don’t want to understand another culture or way of life. Too impatient to allow a kind person to try and offer help to a stranger in the bitterly cold rain. You would NEVER see someone like that even think about helping another person on the road. In general, the nicer the vehicle, the less likely they are to stop, or even come up and talk to you in a convenient store. They just stare and try not to let you know they’re looking at you.

 

The temperature is 39 degrees and well below freezing with the wind chill when I stopped at the cafe’ by the Interstate. First, I went to the bathroom to thaw out my fingers. Then, I sat at a table and sipped hot cocoa. I didn’t even have to try to talk to anyone. Several people were already asking questions and taking a sincere interest in me. Zach is the grandson of the owners and washes dishes there. He sat at the table with me as we talked about the reservation. Zach liked the fact that you can begin driving at any age and that there are no licenses required for hunting and fishing. Due to the “low standard” of education on the reservation, he goes to school outside the reservation.

 

We were soon joined by his grandfather and he shared many stories with me. He spoke of his close encounters with wildlife; Buffalo, bears, and moose. His speech was low and deliberate, speaking in English which appeared to be his second language. I would guess that he was in his late eighties or early nineties. They all told me about tonight’s Pow Wow and that I would have to join them. That sounded great so I left to check into the only motel ($30.00), and get a shower. After I took a shower and sat down for a few minutes, I began to get very tired. The Pow Wow was to start at 7pm and by 6:30pm I was sound asleep…

 

Wind – calm

 

Today – 64.92 miles

Total – 3231 miles

Avg. Speed – 9.5mph

 

DAY 63 – May 16, 1999

I heard my watch alarm at 5:30am as I came out of my long restorative sleep. What happened to the night? I’ve been asleep for 11 hours! Wow! Still too tired to get up, I laid in bed until the 6am train went by outside the window.

 

After I got ready, I went to the store to get my daily dose of PowerAde. While inside, I got into a long conversation with a Crow Indian lady. She has been moving away from many of the traditional beliefs and is now a Christian. This has caused many arguments among others in the tribe. She is told “That is white mans belief”. But she quotes biblical passages to support her argument. There are still many rituals performed today that she doesn’t believe in and will not participate in. Another lady came in wearing all black, “See, she is in mourning for a relative that died. She will continue to wear black until someone gives her a new outfit and feeds her to bring her out of mourning”. This is an old custom that is not part of her Christian belief. However, there are parts of the culture she is afraid of losing, like the language. With many of the children learning English only, she fears the language may someday be lost. She went on to say that traditionally, Indians have always respected the land and animals. “Take only what you need” is their philosophy. Kill an animal only if you need to eat. But recently there were several Elk found dead with some of the teeth missing. Some of the Indians had taken up hunting for sport, which had outraged many, especially the older Indians. She also spoke of prejudices which were very prevalent when she spent time in Canada. Apparently, the natives there will hardly look into the eyes of a white man due to low self-esteem. I was told of stories about random beatings of the males by white Canadians.

where-custer-last-stood

 

“I can’t believe you and I can talk and keep in eye contact…and be comfortable”, she said. We talked for a while and then I had to go so I could see where Custer made his last stand.

 

I never knew a thing about the battle at Little Big Horn and now I find myself walking on the very ground where so many were killed in such a short period of time. Custer and his men were on top of a hill when they were charged by the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians. I assumed he was in a valley with the Indians charging downhill, but that wasn’t the case.

220-soldiers-buried

 

He had 210 of his men with him the attack occurred. The Indians numbered approximately 7,000 with at least 1,500 of them being warriors. Custer didn’t have a chance! Of course there is a ton of information here, with actual artifacts from the battlefield and many displays, as well as a movie in the visitor center. It was well worth my three bucks to learn a little history :-)

first-glimpse-of-the-rockies

Total losses – all 210 under Custers immediate command, 53 of the other companies that were forced to retreat, and an estimated 60-100 Indians.

 

Now I was off and riding but as I started to pass the cafe’, I decided to stop in for a cup of coffee and see who I might meet. I sat at the same table I sat at yesterday. It was beside the booth that was next to the swinging doors to the kitchen. As soon as I sat down, two curious young Indian boys started talking to me. Then Larry started talking to me as well. I believe Larry is the father of one of the boys but I’m not sure. He is Zach’s uncle and it doesn’t take long to figure out that everyone is related somehow. As Larry and I talked I noticed an earnestness about him. He listened to me carefully and always paused before speaking. I ordered a pancake ($1.00) to go with my coffee. After I was finished eating Larry stood outside and talked to me for a few moments before I left. We discussed many things about the life of the modern day Crow tribe. Larry told me about many of the rituals they still practiced, such as sweat lodges. The thought of participating in such a ritual has always intrigued me and he was willing to share many of those rituals with me. I felt honored to have him speaking openly to me. I’ve heard that rituals, such as the sweat lodges, are sacred and that not just anyone can be invited to participate in such an experience. It was very tempting for me to stay and participate in such a personal experience of the soul. As we were discussing this, a man walked up, headed towards the door to the cafe’. Larry introduced him as the medicine man. Now that would be someone I would like to talk to as well. But there are still so many experiences left for me on this journey and not enough time for everything. It was another good-bye that I didn’t feel ready to do yet, but it had to be done. I could easily spend 2 years on the road and still never experience everything I want to.

along-the-interstate

Heading out on I90, Several people honked and waved to me from the secondary road as I left the reservation. I didn’t get too far before the coffee started taking effect. Stopping at the Crow Agency gas station, I had only gone about a mile between exits. I decided to buy some fig bars too and at the counter I noticed a young Indian man was sketching a female warrior. It was a good drawing, but definitely not Indian. It was like the fantasy art you see of scantily clad warrior females wielding swords. One thing I’ve noticed is that many of the native American Indians appear to be very artistic in some form. Whether it’s painting, music, dancing, sculpting, or whatever form of art an individual cultivates. They also have a very profound history of tradition and culture that fascinates me. Someday, I will have to find the time to spend with them.

 

My chain had been skipping and making noise for the second day. Upon closer inspection, I noticed a pin out on one side. It was obviously the one I had put back in when I had to shorten my chain.

harley-riders

Using my chain tool, I lined it back up and pressed the pin into the side that was out. This lasted maybe 5 miles, I was just praying it would hold together until I got to Billings, another 50 miles. When I reached Hardin I stopped at Subway for a quick lunch and then was off to Billings. There were a lot of people honking and waving. Even a guy in a semi headed in the opposite direction blew his horn several times and waved frantically. Wow! This is pretty cool! It seemed to be tough, with a lot of climbing, but the friendly motorists made all the difference. By mid-afternoon I began being passed by many Harley riders. Not all at once, but in small groups, sometimes thirty minutes apart. This went on for hours and I found out later that it was something called a “Poker Run” they were doing for charity.

 

Wait! What is it? Could it be? Is it really? Yes! I saw my first touring cyclist on this trip. They were heading in the opposite direction and we all exchanged waves. There were two close together (male and female) and a third one lagging behind (female). All of them looked like the traditional touring cyclist: touring bikes, bike clothes, and panniers. I on the other hand, have a mountain bike, my clothes were not visible under my outer layer which consisted of my Eddie Bauer Jacket and “The North Face” long “convertible” pants, and I was pulling a trailer. If they were tourers, I must be the antithesis to the traditional tourer.

 

Arriving at Billings, I stopped at a convenience store and got info for cheap motels and bike shops. I then headed down 1st Ave. towards downtown and stopped at the Lazy KT Motel, $32.25 total, with tax. With my stomach protesting it’s lack of food I decided to order a pizza. I ordered a small green pepper and mushroom pizza from Stage Line Pizza and 15 minutes later the knock comes. Cool! That was quick. The pizza guy, Dan, checks out my stump jumper and is really impressed with it since he owned a rock hopper. Dan hung out as long as he could but had to be on his way to service other hungry stomachs like mine. Before he left, he advised me to go to “The Bike Shop” on Grand Ave., not “Spokes”. I had intended on going to Spokes since they advertised in the phone book as a “Specialized” dealer and the other one was not. But it really didn’t matter.

 

 

Wind – Blowing to the southeast

 

Today – 65.72 miles

Total – 3297 miles

Avg. Speed – 9.0mph

 

DAY 64 – May 17, 1999

Last week I heard that someone was trying to get in touch with me. It was a lady that owns a PT clinic in North Carolina. So, that phone call was first on my agenda this morning. Come to find out, she really wanted me to come to work for her full time. I was told that she recently hired a friend of mine, Ron, and that he spoke highly of me and wanted me to work there too. When I realized that Ron was working for her I said “No Way!, Really?” It wasn’t until after I hung up that I realized how unprofessional I must have sounded. This was a perfect job – working with someone I know and respect. Unfortunately, she needed the position filled soon. She was willing to hold it for me but definitely couldn’t wait until my journey was through. With so many unemployed PT’s right now , it would be very easy to fill the position. It made me feel good to know that someone respected me as a clinician enough to be willing to hold a position in a market that’s over saturated with PT’s.

 

Leaving the motel, my first stop was the bike shop. The man checked my chain with a gauge and man, it was way in the red. The 3300 miles had really worn that chain out. So it wouldn’t be a matter of a just getting new link, but a whole new chain. This time I went with the next step up in a Shimano chain, the HG-91 for $27.95 plus $3.00 to have it installed. I haven’t priced chains at all and I hope I didn’t get ripped. Looking around the store I found a pair of “Ground Zero” gloves by Schwinn. That’s what I need! I didn’t know they made gloves like that. I’d purchased my stuff in Texas, New Mexico, and North Carolina, but the best gloves I could find were the REI Concept 2000 gloves. But those suck in really cold weather. Lucky me, they were on sale from $34.95 to $20.00 a pair…so I got ’em. He also told me about a “booty” specially made to go on the outside of bike shoes for rain and cold weather. Unfortunately, they were out of them :-( They don’t sell that stuff in the south, I had to come to Montana to find out about the cold weather stuff. Now I’m all set. I just hope my cogs aren’t worn too much from the stretched chain. The upcoming mountains will be the true test.

 

There was still the issue of getting my film developed, which I haven’t done in a while. So I head down the road to “Kasper’s 1 Hour Photo”. Of course, for my 4 rolls, they say it will take two hours. By that time it was almost lunch time. So I headed just a few stores down in this strip mall, West Park Plaza, to the Red Robin restaurant. I ordered the teriyaki grilled chicken sandwich that was recommended. And yes it was delicious! While I sat there desperately trying to get caught up on the last four days journal entries, a guy walked up and said, “The waitress told me you’re riding your bike from Florida to Alaska”. He had seen my bike and told me that he had a stump jumper just like mine. Only he told me he could never do any kind of long ride, he does mountain biking only. I did my best to encourage him to try a long ride and said it wasn’t that hard.

 

After eating, I went back to the photo shop and looked around while they finished my film. I found a small holder that one of my lenses can fit into perfectly. I attached it to the side of my handlebar bag. Now my camera and lenses are separated and will no longer vibrate against each other. I asked about cheap tripods and they called their other store to see if they had any. Yes, they have a $20.00 tripod, Cool! I figured I could attach it to the outside of my trailer. Cindy told me about how her and her husband are in to magnetic therapy. This was a concept that I am vaguely familiar with. There are some PT’s that have been using it but I’ve never seen any of the stuff. Holistic health is very intriguing to me but I’m sometimes suspicious of some of the holistic treatments. Having taken a lot of science courses, I’m always wanting to see things in black and white. But there are many things that work very well and cannot be explained in scientific terms. So I have these little internal battles at times. Just as I was walking out the door, Cindy hurried to catch me and wanted to make sure I had their email address. Then I was off to the other side of town to look at that tripod. By now, I’d given up the idea of leaving town today. At the other store I met John. He showed me the tripod and boy is it cheap! Everything on it is plastic, but it’s light :-) Once my camera is mounted, I’ll use either my remote switch or timer to take pictures. The tripod will move and cause the picture to blur if I push the button on the camera. For the price it is perfect.

 

John followed me outside after I bought the tripod. He wanted to check my bike out and we talked about my ride. John looked to be early to mid twenties with real short hair. He gave me a lot of advice on framing the subject when I photograph. John is exceptionally knowledgeable and spent a lot of time explaining things to me. This is very rare in photography! Most photographers have attitudes but this wasn’t the case with John. He advised me to learn more of the manual features and shoot slide film. Magazines and publishers want slides, the detail is far greater. He has sold some of his photos and wrote articles for magazines such as “Rock and Ice”. John told me about some of his climbs up El Capitan. He could relate to me being alone with my thoughts for long periods of time since he had gone on long solo climbs for days at a time. We talked for quite a while but then he had to go back inside and I had to seek out a cheap motel. As I rode away I thought about all the people I’ve met since the beginning of my journey. I wonder how many I’ll keep in touch with and if circumstances in the future will allow me to build on the friendships I’ve begun.

 

It wasn’t a long, heading east on Central Avenue, when I saw “Overpass Motel $26.00”. “Cool, I’m there”, is what I said in my mind. $27.04 total with tax.

 

Today – 7.96 miles

Total – 3305 miles

Avg. Speed – 9.5mph

 

DAY 65 – May 18, 1999

riding-through-downtown-billings

Before leaving town I had to go to the post office to mail the photos. It was a little difficult to find but I found it on the east side of town. As I was getting ready to leave I met a guy named Roy. We stood outside and talked about a new business he’s starting, Experiential Therapy. This sounded really cool! You take groups into the wilderness and put them in situations where they have to rely on each other and trust them. Roy is another on of those outdoor, rock climbin’, types.

 

After the post office and then the store, I finally left town by 9:30am. It was a long climb up to get out of town. Then I was headed north on 3, which was totally flat. When I reached Acton, I stopped at the Bar and Cafe’ there. I ate a chicken sandwich while the lady that owns the place told me how she was upset over an article she just read. Apparently, Ted Turner had slaughtered a few too many buffalo on his buffalo farms. This caused an excess of buffalo meat that the government is subsidizing by giving him something like 2 billion dollars. Now, I thought that was crazy myself. If I had Ted Turner’s kind of money I would not seek help from the government, I would donate the food to the underprivileged. Actually, even if I didn’t have his money and was broke, I’d still donate the excess that I couldn’t use.

 

Continuing north, the wind was still blowing to the northeast helping to push me along. This section of road wasn’t too exciting, looked much like 212 when I entered the state. Then, about 4 miles from Broadview, I saw a man standing by his car in a pullout off the road. Looked like he was waiting for someone. By now I’ve seen lots of people pulled off the road during the past 3,000+ miles. I wave and say “hello” as I continue on by. Then I hear, “Are you Wade?” “Yes”, I said curiously. How did he know my name? Who was he? I stopped my bike and he said, “You met my wife at Kasper’s yesterday”. He introduced himself as Keith and told me that he and his wife read some of my journal entries last night (the ones on my web site). After reading about some of my knee problems, he wanted to help me with his magnetic therapy products. At first I thought he was going to try and sell me something, but no, he wanted to give me some stuff to try. He told me that he was inspired by what he had read and wanted to help me on my journey. Keith gave me a magnetic knee wrap, magnetic massager, and a “therm” wrap for my knee. Of course I don’t have the intense pains I used to, but they do ache occasionally….especially after a long day of riding.

 

After Keith gave me those things he did re-iterate with sincerity that he just wanted to help and added, “I know I may never see you again”. Which is true, I don’t know myself what the future holds for me. I’ve met so many incredible people and unfortunately, when I get involved in conversations, I forget to take their photos. But I never forget a face, it’s always the names I have a problem with. I’ve called people by the wrong name so many times and it makes me feel bad. Like the girl from Custer…I still have the image of her sketch pad sitting on the table behind her. Those eyes sparkled, reflecting the same excitement I had as I shared my experiences. Even her voice echoed my very tone. It was one of those rare moments with a meeting of the minds as she stood in front of me. But her name eluded me and I could only try to guess.

 

As far as the magnetic therapy goes, Keith told me the manufacturer’s web site is: www.nikken.com and for additional info, his email is: kkober@wtp.net. Just to clear things up, I’m not endorsing products here :-) But I’ll have 3,000+ miles to test it out!

 

Continuing my journey, I rode through Broadview which had a convenient store but nothing else. Then Lavina was just as small as Broadview with only one small store. At Lavina I headed west on 12. Soon the cold rain came. What was a 60 degree, sunny day, quickly became a 45 degree, dark, rainy day. The cold wind was blowing to the southeast sending small bits of hail into me. For 15 minutes I was miserable but then the rain stopped and the sky began to clear again. Reaching Ryegate, I stopped at a convenient store and bought a banana, muffin, and tea. I talked to the lady inside and she told me that a guy came through 3 weeks ago on a horse, riding it to Prudhoe Bay from Kansas. Wow, maybe I’ll see the guy on my way up :-) She said his wife drove a truck with supplies and pulled a horse trailer. They brought two extra horses just in case one couldn’t make it.

 

The headwinds were tough as I continues west. At the recreation area, “Deadman’s Basin”, I was debating stopping and setting up my tent or continuing on. I was moving slow and still had 20+ miles to go…and the sun was waning. I stopped at the entrance, stood there, took a drink from my water bottle, and looked up the road to “Deadman’s Basin” ahead of me. The wind was beginning to die down and the evening air was restoring my vigor. So, I thrust my right foot on the pedal and my bike leapt into motion. With the evening, also came the deer. For the next 20 miles I rode up close to so many deer, either beside the road or right on the road, I gazed over to my left and saw a group of about 30 deer in the field. This was really cool! And it was a good decision to keep going. My lungs sucked in this cool air easily as I began to feel so alive. Seeing that group of deer, I began to think ahead…to Alaska…to the Arctic Circle. I wondered if I’d have the incredible opportunity to see the Great Caribou Migration that occurs every year. Well, I’ll just have to wait and see.

 

Reaching Harlowton, it was just beginning to sprinkle. I saw “Wade’s Cafe'” and had to stop there to eat :-) It was 8:45pm and they close at 9pm so I made it just in time. After eating my grilled chicken sandwich, I went across the road and paid $30.00 for a motel room.

 

Wind – Blowing to the northeast for the first half of the day, changing to southeast the second half.

 

Today – 97.62 miles

Total – 3402 miles

Avg. Speed – 10.5mph

 

DAY 66 – May 19, 1999

Well, today sucked almost as bad as the sandhills of Nebraska. Yesterday I rode from an elevation of 3117 to 4245, a total of 1128 ft. over 97 miles. Today I rode from 4245 to 5280, a total of 1035 ft. over 39 miles with strong headwinds all day. And my butt was very sore! It hadn’t been that sore since the beginning of my trip.

 

I left Harlowton at 8:30am into the wind. The only pleasant thing was the view of the snow capped mountains to my left. There was an interpretive sign that said those were the “Crazy Mountains”. Apparently some woman went insane a long time ago and left the wagon train. She was found at those mountains and they called them “Crazy Woman Mountains”. If it was the wind that made her crazy, I couldn’t blame her. The wind was so over-stimulating as it attacked all the sensory receptors of my skin. And that constant noise as it ripped by my eardrums. AHHHHHH!! I had to stop, get my walkman, and find some comfort in music. It helped lift my spirits even though the sound of the wind was almost as loud as the music…I couldn’t drown it out.

 

Reaching a small town called “Two-Dot”, I leaned my bike against the guardrail of a small bridge. I sat there by the road, leaning against my trailer. Oh how I hate this! The wind…I hate it! Why am I putting myself through this torture? I looked ahead at the turn-off that goes into the small town. They had nothing but a bar and cafe’ there. Not much traffic traveled this road and I felt all alone sitting there. Of all the places I could be at this moment in time, I sat there looking at an empty road and wondering why. Why am I doing this? Why am I continuing? Why don’t I go home? Why am I alone? Why am I beginning to feel so lonely right now?

 

Then, as a car drove by, a lady honked and waved. At that moment I had to remind myself how every day usually ends on a positive note. There is something waiting for me up the road. I just have to get there to discover what it is. So, I ate a fig bar and continued west.

 

After about another 12 miles I came to the intersection for 294. That was my intended route to Townsend, which would have been a little less than 100 miles for today. But the way I felt after only 25 miles and it was already afternoon, I knew I couldn’t do it. There was my other option – to stay on 12 to White Sulphur Springs, about 30 more miles. So I decided to stay on 12 to White Sulphur Springs.

bar-at-checkerboard

When I got to the town of Checkerboard, I saw a bar and cafe’. I rode up to the old green building and went inside. Ah, how nice to sit inside out of the wind. I ordered a small cheese pizza and attempted a conversation with the lady that owned the place. She didn’t seem to want to talk to me at all. I was the only person there but she preferred to speak to me only when necessary. A local came in, sat down, and she just talked away to this guy. But I noticed that she didn’t appear to be a happy person. She spoke of mostly negative things. I asked about motels in White Sulphur Springs and she said they had a couple. Then another lady that had come in to play the casino machine said, “How about the small cabins?” “Well, he’s probably not prepared”, said the lady behind the bar. Then she turned to me and said I’d need my own sleeping bag. I said I had one and asked how much. “$18.50” I gladly accepted.

 

room-cabin-in-checkerboard

When I met J.D., I was finally beginning to feel more positive. J.D. is a photographer that lives in a house directly behind the bar. He told me a few things about photography to help me out. When I found the very small, one room cabin, J.D. rode his 4 wheeler over and told me to stop by after I get settled in. He wanted to share some more information and show me his photography. After putting my bike and trailer inside, I walked over to where he and his wife live. There were many framed photos sitting around and on his walls. He told me a lot of things and let me copy some data from a list for shooting under different conditions. J.D. also told me that if I come through here again to stop by his place first, “I’ll let you stay here…save you a couple bucks”. Yes this day did indeed end on a positive note :-)

 

Wind – SUCKED!! Northeast wind

 

Today – 39.41 miles

Total – 3442 miles

Avg. Speed – 6.0mph

 

DAY 67 – May 20, 1999

from-the-road-on-200

Having heard that the wind doesn’t start blowing until 8:30 or 9am, I wanted to leave early. But I just felt exhausted from yesterday, both physically and mentally. I moved slow and went to the bathhouse and took a shower. It was 8am by the time I rode away. There were many antelope out this morning, which made the ride nice. I was still climbing above 5280 ft. though. Townsend is at 3813 so I thought today would be an easy ride. Wrong! The first 42 miles I was mostly climbing.

on-12-west-of-junction-on-89

Reaching White Sulphur Springs, I stopped at the “Truck Stop Cafe'” and ordered one pancake and hot chocolate. I’m not sure what the temperature was but it was cold enough that I had to wear a jacket. When I left White Sulphur Springs, I began to see prairie dogs scampering across the road. Cute little boogers, aren’t they :-)

 

After the junction with 89, I had a steep pass to climb with more snow around. Since leaving this morning, I’ve been seeing patches of snow on the ground everywhere. The only good thing about these open prairies would have to be the fact that you get to see an occasional antelope and prairie dog. When I reached Helena National Forest, I immediately felt the rush of a calming, cool moisture, envelope my body. It surrounded me like water flowing around a rock. My body felt relaxed as the tension lifted from me. My shoulders dropped down and I took in a deep breath. Ahhh, I love the plush green forest! And the best part is that it’s mostly downhill from here. :-) The sound of the stream was my music as I free-wheeled down.

 

Just before reaching Townsend, there was one last hill to climb. It was about 6 miles before town, but it was several miles of coasting into town after that climb. There, I found the “Elkhorn Cafe'”. After I parked my bike, I immediately went inside looking for a bathroom. Then I walked back to the dining area and felt confused and a little weak. My blood sugar was low and I was a little dehydrated. This was not a well planned day. I ran out of water and ate my last Granola bar about 3 hours ago. I could’ve easily used my water filter in the stream but I never even thought about it. Now I found it a little difficult choosing the right words to say. But by the time I drank some tea and ate a…Guess!…Well?…Yep, you got it, a grilled chicken sandwich :-) I was feeling back to normal. At last I was capable of forming complete sentences and carrying on a conversation. Mallory was my waitress. She’s 16 and we talked mostly about all the sports she’s involved with. Well, that was after I finished sharing my experiences on the road so far. Mallory is involved in all the sports she can be in: soccer, softball, ice hockey, rollerblading, and recently took up snowboarding. Currently she’s saving up for a snowboard for herself since she’s been having to borrow one from a friend. The town is very small, somewhere around 1000 people but 1500 at the most. But there are indeed a lot of mountains around to keep someone busy snowboarding :-)

 

After I left the cafe’, I biked to the Lake Townsend Motel and paid $34.32 total for a room. When I spoke of my bike trip, the lady behind the counter said that the small newspaper in town would be interested in a story. She gave me the name and number to call. I called from my room and spoke to Matt. He informed me that someone would call me first thing in the morning.

 

By the way, the temperature in town was 77 degrees when I got here. Big change from this morning.

 

Wind – Basically to the west

 

Today – 65.49 miles

Total – 3507 miles

Avg. Speed – 9.0mph

 

DAY 68 – May 21, 1999

After writing every day for this long, I’ve hated picking up this pen lately. There is a thick callous forming on my middle finger where the pen rests as I write. The content of what I write is scattered as I hurriedly write what I can to be done with it quickly. Many descriptions and details are left out as the writing jumps from right brain to left brain style. Next time I will consider one of those really small laptops like a Toshiba Libretto. I can type faster and easier than I can write. OK, enough complaining for now :-)

 

The phone in my room rang a little after 8am. It was Matt, from the local paper, calling to meet me for an interview. He arrived about 8:30am in a 4 wheel drive sport utility vehicle…a Toyota 4-Runner, I believe. A much younger journalist than I imagined, probably early twenties. Matt was well dressed and had short blonde hair. The interview was more like just hangin’ out and talking. He enjoyed my stories and took a genuine interest in what I was doing. Some reporters are just trying to get a bunch of facts down to put together a story and fill space in their paper. I’m not sure how long we talked…hmmmm, 45-60 minutes I think.

 

When Matt left, I checked out and rode to the convenient store. I bought fig bars, Nutri-Grain bars (cherry and blueberry are my current favorites), peanut butter crackers, and Gatorade. While pouring the Gatorade into my water bottles, I noticed that stuff was beginning to grow inside them. YUK! Oh well, I’ll just pretend I didn’t see it and I won’t know the difference :-) As I rode out of town on 12 West, I noticed a lot of traffic today. Up until now there has been very little traffic on the road. This section of 12 West is actually joined with 287 North. A lot of people use 287 North to go to Helena. The shoulder had grooves in it which made it impossible to ride on. Instead, I had to ride the white line for the next 13 miles, then the grooves disappeared. During that 13 miles I remained on a long uphill grade, with 30mph headwinds….That Sucked! It seems as though, in this region, the wind always blows in one direction. Basically out of the west blowing towards the east. But even as I headed in a northerly direction, I still had headwinds. The wind flows like a river as it snakes it’s way around the mountains and through the valleys. The road I’m pedaling on is it’s river bed as I head upstream to the Rockies. The Rockies? The Rockies! How will I handle them when I can barely tolerate this little stuff? My body has been through so much abuse already, will I make it?

068-01b

These thoughts race through my mind with a certain gravity. All I could do was try to forget, and to think about how Lewis and Clark came through here, just a little distance off to my right. I wonder what it was like to enter an untamed wilderness like they did? What did they write about? I will have to read about their adventures someday and see how they described this area.

no-more-trees

The immediate landscape was pretty boring to me. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if it wasn’t for this darned wind! Ahhhh! I yelled at it, cursing it, I hated it…but the wind would not yield to me. My whole body remained tense and there was nothing I could do to relax. Not even singing or talking to the cows.

 

When I reached Winston, over two hours had passed and I’d only gone 13 miles! Geez, I’d planned on having lunch in Helena, 30 some miles of total riding. Man, I was moving sloooow! It wasn’t much of a strength issue, it was that I didn’t want to move. I could’ve pedaled much faster easily but that just intensified the wind and made me more tense. There was a bar and one convenient store. There was a bar on the door of the bar bathroom, it said “Bathrooms for customers only!” I went inside the bar, which was very dark, and there was a very large man behind the counter. He was the owner of the bar and looked to weigh 400+ lbs. The only food he had was DiGiorno pizza. There were 10″ pizzas in either supreme or pepperoni. I asked if he could take the pepperoni off so I could have a cheese pizza. He said brashly, “No, you can take them off.” What a jerk, I thought, but I was hungry. The problem is, when you cook it with the pepperoni, you still get all the juices from the pepperoni soaking into the pizza. If you pull it off prior to cooking, it’s as if it were never there. But that jerk just couldn’t understand the philosophy of that. So after he finished cooking it in the oven, I picked the pepperoni off and at the pizza. It still had a strong taste of the meat which eventually made me nauseous. On a positive note, I got to meet Rick. He was an older gentleman wearing a work uniform that has his name embroidered on it, and wearing a baseball cap. Rick asked me some questions and told me that I’m getting ready to enter a “hostile environment”. He was referring to the nature and wilderness that lies ahead. He advised me to get a snake bite kit. I was informed that there are a lot of rattlesnakes where I’m heading. It was great to sit down and have a good conversation even if I had a crappy pizza.

 

Looking up at the ceiling, I noticed it was covered with one dollar bills that were stapled in a certain way. As I looked carefully I noticed that they spelled words. The big guy at the counter told me I’d have to give him a dollar then he’d tell me what they said, as he smiled inanely. Apparently, one must sign a dollar, give it to him, then he uses it to write on the ceiling. He went on to tell me that it was his little scam. I thought it to be unique and clever, but I had no interest in knowing what it said, so I kept my dollar and he kept his secret.

cool-mountains-to-look-at

It was after 1pm and I had 20 more miles to go. The wind seemed to get stronger as the sun was heating the air. From now on I must try to leave early in the morning, before the winds begin attacking my senses and attempting to hold me back.

riding-into-helena

I passed through the town of East Helena and rode the bike path to Helena. After stopping at several different places I was able to get directions to a cheap motel. On the way there, I stopped at a camera store to look at filters. I lost or misplaced my circular polarizer and a new one is $62.50. Geez! This is an expensive hobby! Needless to say, I didn’t buy one. I’ve decided to wait and maybe mail-order one at a lower cost.

 

Finding the King’s Carriage Inn, I paid a total of $34.28 for a room. Now as I sit at this small table, I ponder the road ahead. If this journey is about 7,000 miles then I’ve come just past half way. Considering the incredible experiences and people I’ve met so far, I could be satisfied with ending it now. But would I regret quitting once I get home? The important thing I have to remind myself it that this is not about any destination. It is a journey not only on my bike but into my soul, which has no destination. What is important to me is staying focused on my true self. That part of me inside that can be just as complex as anyone else’s. My identity is multi-faceted, only revealing certain aspects to different people. With most I feel very comfortable and allow my true self to come alive. While at times I may appear quite different depending on the dynamics of the conversation. Like the guy I encountered in Spearfish Canyon. There I presented myself boldly ad forcefully, and I’m sure my voice was even lowered an octave as I took on this persona. Isn’t it funny how each of us may present ourselves quite differently depending on the situation?

 

Well anyway, when the quest of my self-discovery is finished, so will my trip be. It may very well be that I don’t have to go all the way to Prudhoe Bay to find myself. I might find myself out in the Yukon somewhere, maybe swimming naked in the Yukon River :-)

 

Wind – Yadda, yadda, yadda…same ole story

 

Today – 36.52 miles

Total – 3544 miles

Avg. Speed – 7.0mph

 

DAY 69 – May 22, 1999

Well I’ve been thinking about something….I remember something Jon Krakeur wrote in the beginning of “Into Thin Air”. Something about not writing a story immediately after you experience it. I’m not sure exactly what he said but it was basically something to the effect of taking the time to become more objective. Maybe I interpreted the statement wrong but it seems like it would be a good idea to wait before writing about an event so what you write is not clouded by emotions or your own biases. But, you know all of us have said or done something that we looked back on and thought…geez why did I say that or why did I do that. There will be things in here I will go back and read later and say to myself “What was I thinking when I wrote that!” But I really don’t care, these are my unedited journal entries filled with all my thoughts and emotions. My interactions with others and how I perceive the events that occur. I know that what I think about someone else’s statements or actions may be totally wrong, but hey that’s OK I’m not perfect and I hope everyone enjoys seeing the world through my eyes, even when I do make many mistakes :)

tough-climb-ahead

I left town around 8:30am going west on 12. It was mostly climbing, but not too bad. After 10 miles, I see McDonald Pass ahead. The climb to the top was 6.5 miles. There were splotches of snow on the ground, and yes it was quite chilly. Now for the fun part… going down!! :)

top-of-mcdonald-pass

Up until this point I’ve had headwinds and increasing altitude since leaving Helena, making it sloooow going. So I was very much looking forward to the downhill. On my way down, I flew by a slow moving semi that had just passed me as I approached the top. HA HA sucka! I’m faster than you nana nana naa naa :)

 

Reaching Elliston, at the base of the mountain, I was hungry and wanted a break from the headwinds. It was almost noon so a perfect time to get a bite to eat. The only places here were either a convenient store or “Stoner’s Last Chance Saloon”, I headed for the saloon. Inside the saloon, I found out all they have to eat are hamburgers, hot dogs, and french fries. I was told that the Avon Cafe’ was 8 miles farther down the road, but I needed a break now so I ordered fries and a tea. The fries were immediately drowned in ketchup in an attempt to rid them of that fried taste. I was sitting at the bar and on the wall behind me was a large blow up of “The Weekly World News”. It stated that the first bigfoot was captured here in Elliston, MT. The story originated from their annual bigfoot hunt every March. Every year someone dresses up as bigfoot and hides in the mountains. Whoever “captures” him wins $200. There is also a prize for finding the bottle of Rainier beer. It is basically something like a huge hide and seek game, but the story was grossly distorted by the media in order to sell papers. The guy beside me couldn’t believe how many “stupid people” there are in this world. Phone lines were flooded with calls about this story and one guy in Texas wanted to bring some sophisticated equipment to help capture another one. After reading the article, I couldn’t believe they could get away with lies like that. They made stuff up about how “bigfoot” was taken to a research lab in Helena. Geez anything to sell papers and make money…greed is all it is I suppose.

 

The saloon was rather dark inside with several people already drinking at noon. One thing about Montana, EVERY town has at least a bar. There may be absolutely nothing else, but they have a bar. The guy beside me looked a bit like the rough outdoor type. He wore a Carrhart hat, and a blue denim long sleeve shirt over his white long underwear shirt. His hair was graying and pulled back into a pony tail, and his skin was tan apparently form years in the sun. He and his wife live close by and raise New Foundland dogs, or newfies as he refers to them. They have 11 of these “third largest dogs.” Man can you imagine the food they’d eat!! WOW that’s a lot of dog food. Anyway, it may have been the alcohol he was consuming, but this guy sure was a talker! I thought I was bad, but this guy has me beat making it difficult for either me or the waitress to find a break in his conversation to get a word in. Or should I say “get a word in edgewise?” What is that all about anyway? Do words have edges? Should I use sharp words with these people :)

 

After I was finished eating, I continued west on 12. At Avon, I stopped at the Avon Cafe’ for a grilled chicken sandwich and a tea. The waitress asked if I wanted a lemon in my tea as I sat on a bar stool at the counter near the register. I jokingly made a comment about how caffeine was already a diuretic and so was lemon. “The lemon would probably increase the diuretic effect” I said as I joked about how difficult it is at times to find a place to pee along the road. While she went to get my tea, I looked to my right and was confronted by a glare from an old man standing by the register. He looked to be about 75 -80 years old wearing loose dark brown corduroy pants with a loose fitting shirt. Hmmmm … what was that all about?? I looked forward thinking “What’s that guys problem?” I looked back at him and he gave me that same resentful glare. This time I smiled and wanted to say something to figure out what this guy is all about, “it was tough coming over that pass on my bicycle.” He nodded his head in agreement then said sternly “I want to argue with you about lemon being a diuretic, they never taught me that in med school.” His voice was low and coarse as he spoke in a manner as if scolding me. Continuing to smile, I told him that it was something I’ve heard for a long time and many people I know hold that same belief. Maybe I was wrong, I couldn’t cite the physiological response in the body, so I conceded that it could be a false claim that many have made. The only thing I could recall, but didn’t verbalize it was Dr. Kalmus in Biology 5230 stating the effects of alcohol on the ADH levels in the body and explaining on a cellular physiology level why drinking beer makes you have to go pee all the time. You gotta understand he was trying to get the point across to college students and wanted to use example most were very familiar with :) So that thought flashed though my mind and I was trying to be nice but he remained in his “God Complex” that some doctors get.

 

Next stop was the general store in Garrison. That is the ONLY place in that town. So I guess it isn’t a typical Montana town… there is no bar!!! I got one of those SOBE beverages I used to get all the time when I lived in New Mexico a year ago. This time I got “Zen Blend”, cool maybe I can reach a state of Nirvana after drinkin this stuff hee hee. Of course if I remember right, Nirvana is the highest state of consciousness a person can reach in the Zen philosophy. While consuming this cool “spiritual” beverage, I talked to Michelle, she was working behind the counter. The store phone rang one time and then the pay phone rang one time immediately after. Michelle said that is a signal from her friend in Pennsylvania for her to get on the net to chat. There was a computer behind the counter which allowed her to chat and stay connected to the world in this tiny little Montana town.

 

At this point I hopped on I90 and followed it west to Drummond. Arriving in Drummond, I found “Swede’s Cafe” and ordered a turkey sandwich from a big lady with tattoos. She directed me to the campground just outside of town to the west. After eating, I found the secondary road that parallels I90 and rode about 3 miles to “Good Time Camping” campground. I paid $10.00 for a tent spot and talked to the owner, Anna. She was from New Jersey and still had that accent. Her and her husband moved here several years ago and bought this property to create a campground. Since jobs that pay decent are almost non-existent in Montana, her husband works in Colorado.

at-the-campground

After setting up my tent and showering, I walked back up to the office area where Anna was sitting on a bench in front enjoying the evening sun. She had a copy of “Trailer Life” for me to look at so I could see what was in or near Missoula as well as heading north to Canada. Her daughter Lori was hangin’ out too, enjoying the warm calm evening. Both of them were very friendly and when I was looking in the store for something to eat , Anna gave me some chicken :) Then I was off to meet my tenting neighbors. A couple had set up a tent before I got here and they looked a little rough. They introduced themselves as Pierre’ and Monica.

 

Pierre’ is a French-Canadian that speaks with a very distinct French accent. He had gray hair and although he looked a little rough, there was a bit of sophistication in is mannerisms and the way he spoke in his low-reserved tone. While he doesn’t drink at all, Monica does, this was just one of MANY odd differences between them. Monica was very loud when she spoke and had these wild-staring dark brown eyes. She acted like a free-spirited kid as she walked around in her bright yellow duck slippers. Pierre’ and Monica met in Nevada and have been married for about a year. Both of them quit their jobs a couple of weeks ago and are on a journey of self-discovery. They have a small silver pickup truck containing everything they own under the camper shell and are driving from place to place camping most of the time. Their next destination will be to visit Monica’s relatives, whom Pierre’ has never met. We sat at the picnic table next to a fire trying to keep warm as the evening got cooler. I noticed Pierre’ was having a lot of difficulty with his right arm. He told me that he had lot of pain in his right shoulder all the way down to his elbow. It has gotten much worse during the past 2 weeks causing him to avoid using it much of the time. There was nothing I could do for him, it may be tendonitis, I gave him a few suggestions and then told him he should see a doctor soon. Although he has no insurance he didn’t care what it cost him, it was very painful and just wanted to be out of pain. Since they were going through Idaho to Washington, I gave him the name of a good doctor I know in Idaho. Then advised Pierre’ to call the Doctor office in advance to make an appointment and explain his private pay situation so he could get an estimate of what the bill might be. Man I really hate to see someone in that much pain. By 11pm it was really cold and we all scurried off to our respective tents.

 

Wind – Headwinds in am, calm in afternoon

Temp – Cold in am, upper 70’s in afternoon

 

Today – 69.59 miles

Total – 3614 miles

Avg. Speed – 9.5mph

 

DAY 70 – May 23, 1999

Woke up this morning to frost on the ground. When I was ready to leave, Lori advised me to hop the fence and take I90. It was better than the secondary road and has a wide shoulder. Lori helped me get my bike and trailer over the fence then I was on my way. After riding 5 miles, I had my first actual flat. The tire on the B.O.B. trailer had picked up some small pieces of steel wire…this wheel rolls right in line with the other two and they didn’t get a flat. The Continental tires are a much harder compound rubber and I’m using those thorn resistant tubes. Instead of repairing the holes I just replaced the tube and tried pumping it up. Since I biked through a lot of rain, the grease was washed out of my Mt. Zefal alloy pump, making it difficult to use. I got maybe 25psi in the tire and decided to ride it like that until I reached the next town, where I might find an air hose.

 

Continuing the ride, the low tire gave me much more resistance than I’d expected, making me work harder. But the scenery was exceptional. Montana keeps getting better every day! Clinton was about 20 more miles of riding and when I got there I went into the only convenient store they had. After finding one of those pre-packaged, loaded with preservatives, bland tasting, microwaveable, sandwiches, I got a SOBE’ tea and headed for the register. I inquired about an air hose and she told me it’s been broke for about a year and that the guy fixing it is really slow about getting anything done. Outside, I decided to try the pump and possibly dig out my “Judy Butter” grease to re-lube the thing. A guy with long black hair and covered with tattoos noticed I had a problem. He immediately opened his trunk and gave me a can of Fix-A-Flat, then told me to just keep the whole can. I really didn’t want to keep the rest of this stuff, just use enough to inflate my tire, but he was adamant that I keep it, so I thanked him.

 

I inflated the tire as much as the can would allow, and boy did that make a huge difference. I rode away with greater ease, that is until the interstate turned to grooved pavement. They are apparently re-paving the surface or something. They grooved it all the way to the edge of the shoulder. My arms began to itch from the vibration as I pedaled at 8mph to make it easier to tolerate. I tried singin’ one of those dumb lyrics I made up, one that I made up on a desolate stretch of road. The secondary road was in sight but I would have to go over a barbed wire fence, up a small hill, and past the railroad tracks. Just as I was debating this, an exit was ahead! I continued riding, wondering if this secondary road would take me all the way to Missoula

The day was incredibly nice so I didn’t let too much get to me. A green mountainous scenery with a very warm, bright sun, was too inviting.

beaver

As I approached a large gas station/store, I noticed a cyclist in my rear view mirror. I turned into the parking lot in search of an air hose to finish inflating the tire. The girl on the bike had stopped by the door as I went back to park my bike so I could ask inside about an air hose. Of course I had the usual difficulty finding a place to park my bike. I usually try to lean it against the wall but it was difficult to find sufficient space due to newspaper boxes and the ice box, so I leaned it against the curb. That is when I met Kristen, the other cyclist. She asked about my ride and told me that she was training for the American Lung Association bike ride from Seattle, WA to Washington DC. After a few moments of conversation, she invited me to stay with her and her roommates. Cool!!! I totally forgot about getting air in my tire and after I bought a Gatorade and we rode together into Missoula. What a neat town, cyclists everywhere. People are on bikes all over the place. This is a first for me since I started my ride. The bank sign read 84 degrees making it my hottest day since I left Florida.

 

Arriving at the house where Kristen lives with three roommates, She unlocked the garage so I could store my stuff inside. There were about 8 bikes hanging from the ceiling and several others throughout the garage. They also had a bike stand that could mount 2 bikes, one on each side, to work on them. What a cool set-up, a complete bike shop in the garage! I got a change of clothes out of my trailer and one of her roommates got home. Chris had been out on a bike ride and had stopped to fill his water bottles. He introduced himself with a mud spattered face and bike clothes. We talked for a couple of minutes then he was off to finish his ride. Inside the house I met another roommate, Teresa, and then made my way to the shower. After showering, Kristen and I rode to the store so we could buy some food for the pot-luck we were headed to. Then we stopped by Drew’s place, her boyfriend, and the three of us rode to the cookout. What a cool town to ride in. There are bike paths, and trees line the streets everywhere providing shade from the warm, bright, sun.

 

When we arrived at the house it was difficult to find a place to put our bikes because all the trees and fence space was occupied by all the other bikes. Many people in this towns ride their bikes everywhere and come to find out, it is filled with mostly environmentally conscious people. Looking around at all the people, I was immediately reminded of the cookouts in the biology department at the university I attended. Birkenstocks, some tie dye, guys with long hair, everyone brought their dog, and mostly vegetarian dishes. It was very easy to talk to anyone there, so many friendly people. I met Don, Heather, and a couple others whose names escape me. The food was excellent and we sat on the ground talking about everything. Drew is going into a Masters program for GIS. It’s ummmm, Graphical Interface Systems…I think. Something like that. He explained it and it sounded like a cool field to get into, it has to be better than healthcare! Kristen is finishing up her degree in biology and is still trying to decide what to do from there. It is pretty much a known fact that it’s very difficult to do anything with a biology degree. Before PT school, I was a biology major and president of the Tau Gamma chapter of Tri-Beta, the National Biological Honor Society. Although I loved biology, I knew that a bachelors in biology was just a steeping stone to something else. This was so amazing, sitting in the grass shaded by trees and hangin’ out with all these cool people. Just a few hours before I was contemplating a campground or looking for a hostel to stay in. This is what’s cool about adventure with no plan or set structure, I just go and see what happens.

 

As the sun dropped further in the sky, we lost our shade, so Kristen, Drew, Heather, and I, walked to the side of the house blocked from the hot sun. Everyone decided to get a movie and go back to Kristen’s to watch it. Drew had to go home first and Heather had to stay and clean up some since she lives there. Kristen and I rode to Hastings to rent a movie. The good movies that I hadn’t seen, Kristen had seen. We started to get “The Apt Pupil” then looked around some more. I noticed “Holy Man” with Eddie Murphy. Both of us thought it had to be a good movie since Eddie Murphy was in it. So, we got that one and biked back.

 

Chris returned from his mountain biking excursion. He biked 100 miles! The mountains are so close that he just biked from the house up to the top of one mountain, passed by the house for a stop, then biked up another mountain past the other end of town and back. I had already heard about Chris’ hardcore, extreme mountain biking, but I couldn’t imagine 100 miles up and down two mountains with fat tires and low tire pressure. It would have to be like me biking 200 miles on the road. Anyway, Chris is a very good mountain biker and humble about it. When he gets done with a long ride where he went and how many miles he went. Chris is not the type to boast about his accomplishments. When he’s not biking, he works full time with MRI imaging.

 

Drew was already there when Kristen and I returned then Heather arrived. Se we went to the living room in the basement and started the movie. The basement has two bedrooms, a full bath, and a living room. There are two bedrooms upstairs where Kristen and Teresa sleep and two downstairs where Chris and Jock sleep. The downstairs living room is where the only TV is so we sat there to watch the movie. I think we were all waiting for the good part, but the end of the movie seemed to come way too long. In a word, it Sucked! Of course, I think Kristen blames me for picking it out :-) By now it was late and everyone left…and I had a place to sleep in the downstairs living room.

 

Wind – Calm

 

Today – 53.15 miles

Total – 3667 miles

Avg. Speed – 12.0mph

The story continues in:

Pedalling to Nirvana – part 4.2 (Montana)

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