We had enjoyed a wonderful four day break at Bass Lake, a small family reunion of sorts with many aunts, uncles and cousins with significant others from as far away as Australia. The weather was perfect for swimming and water skiing, with temps in the low 80’s.
The Stoker enjoying some R&R
The Stoker is constantly eating
On Wednesday we departed Bass Lake to start day 40, passing numerous Wisconsin dairy farms with happy looking cows. The headwind was not welcome, our muscles groaning as they realized the journey wasn’t over yet.
As we mounted up this morning for what should have been a relatively easy, the radar showed imminent rain so we dug out the rain gear that had been stowed the entire trip. We were soon pedaling in a steady downpour, combined with 53 degree temperature and a stiff headwind. It was COLD!
Before long we were soaked to the bone, and still 15 miles from a town big enough for a cafe. At one point we took brief refuge under a church porch but I convinced my Stoker we needed to push on.
We finally made it to a diner and caught up with the Rig to dry off and change. The rain subsided in the afternoon so we continued another 25 miles, half on gravel roads due to a navigation error. Ugh! “Perseverance” was the word of the day.
Tomorrow is another day! And Day 42 at that, 2/3 of the way through. Hoping for sun!
To the local Montanans, US2 is known as the Hi-Line. It’s also the main east-west rail corridor so we see many BNSF trains daily, along with an occasional Amtrak. We’re often successful at getting them to blow their whistles.
Growling at an oil train
Back to the road though. We’ve come to appreciate the sections with wide shoulders and a rumble strip to keep vehicles from straying into “our” lane.
A nice shoulder. Our own “lane”
Unfortunately, many other times we we were confronted with no shoulder, or one completely filled with rumble strip.
NOT our favorite
It’s on these sections we ride the white line and constantly scan the rear view mirror for overtaking vehicles, waiting for the sound of the typically courteous driver to cross the center rumble as an assurance we won’t be mowed over. Otherwise we pull to the side rumble and stop, particularly if there is oncoming traffic.
There are many interesting towns we pass through, their distant presence indicated by some green trees and a water tower. Sometimes there is a gas station where we can fill our bottles with ice water, other times just a few rickety houses and a grain depot.
Once there was even a really good bar at our RV stop.
The trains have really become part of our Hi Line experience though. As our Rig Driver likes to say, “there’s our friend again!”
We rode very close to the site of “Montana’s most famous train robbery” when Kid Curry, Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and Deaf Charlie held up the Great Northern Railway’s No.3 passenger train in 1901.
We’ll miss the Hi-Line, as we’ve now turned south to avoid the oil fields near Williston North Dakota.
We’d been hearing about them for days from passing bikers. Saco is the dreaded town where the swarms of nasty skeeters will ride along on our panniers then jump up for some fresh blood, returning to their perch to digest their meal before making another attack. Our morning diner waitress, when we were still a safe 20 miles west exclaimed to Olivia “honey, they’re gonna eat you up you cute little thing!” One of the local ranchers in the diner even gave us a bottle of deet (the real deal) and wished us luck.
Olivia was ready for battle. She’d read up on what to eat to ward them off (garlic, vanilla), what color clothing to wear (not dark), and had a plan for how she would juggle the spray cans of repellent while swatting them off.
Olivia getting a final dose of repellent prior to “battle”
At 10 miles west of Saco the skeeters hadn’t shown themselves yet so we stopped at a historic site for one last rest and spray down because our plan was to ride fast to clear the mosquito area as quickly as possible (despite a nasty headwind that had come up).
Montana’s roadside historic sites always make a nice pit stop
To make a long story short (another future post), we suddenly had a bent rear derailleur hangar which delayed us an hour for repairs. It was getting hot, and late so off we went to Saco. As we rode through town the nasty skeeters still hadn’t materialized. Had they been warned of Olivia’s battle plans? More likely, as one local surmised, “they are all breeding since we just had rain. A few days from now will be unbearable”. Hmm, okay.
The thriving town of Saco
Every town out here has a water tower
Well, we never encountered the mosquitoes. Thank goodness because the headwinds had become so strong we were only making 10 mph. We’d have been destroyed! Instead we pedalled on, finally completing our 89 mile day at 6:30pm. In the end, we’d been defeated by wind and hills, not mosquitoes.
We rode our first Century, 108 miles from Hingham to Dodson. The tailwinds helped but it was a long day in the saddle.
Our first real dog scare occurred about a mile out of Havre. He had run up a big bank from a trailer home and was on us without warning, barking incessantly and lunging at us. Olivia has become a pro at pulling out the pepper spray quickly, thanks to other encounters with slightly friendlier canines. Fortunately the owner called for the angry dog and he was sparred a dose of pepper spray.
Olivia at the ready with pepper spray
Have I mentioned it’s been HOT? Every day since Seattle it’s been well over 90 degrees. Well this was the first day it did not reach 90. In fact it was “only” 85. What a treat!
And finally, we’d had our first thunderstorm overnight so had mud and puddles to start the day. It quickly warmed and was sunny but we raced a rainstorm our last 20 miles of the day. The rain finally caught us though, which was a welcome relief.
Oh, and it was my birthday! What a great way to spend the day 😉
We left St. Mary yesterday with the view of Glacier Park’s magnificent peaks in the rear view mirror. A brief sadness overcame me as I realized I wouldn’t see mountains like this for weeks. But we conquered them and now we’re in prime shape to rack up the miles on the plains, with the prevailing winds at our backs. There were three minor hills as we made our way to Browning, official seat for the Blackfeet Nation where “Indian Days” was taking place (more on that later). We took advantage of the last hill to set a new speed record at 45mph as we could see the road stretch for miles.
The Reservation didn’t offer the typical diners we’ve become accustomed to for breakfast but Taco John’s offered enough sustenance to power us on to Cut Bank, “Where the Rockies Meet the Plains”.
This morning (Monday) we woke to the warmest morning temperature yet, 68 degrees versus the typical low 50’s of recent weeks. And the wind was blowing from the West just as it had all night.
We set a new average speed record of 18.4mph on the route to Shelby (US2 East) and found the perfect diner to make my stoker happy, which is VERY important.
Refueled, we mounted up again and enjoyed mile after mile of 25-30mph cruising. That certainly helped as we set a new distance record of 96 miles.
The Stoker is now resting in her bunk, enjoying ice cream while the Captain and Rig Driver enjoy the local bar at our RV “park” in Hingham, MT.