Riding Montana’s “Hi-Line” Days 17-21

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. 


Illusions, Delusions, and other Misconceived Notions

I suppose we really can’t predict the future and can only experience the present when it is upon us, but I have to say, I really had some major misconceptions about life on the road.  Here is my litany of delusions and facts:

#1: I had visions of gobs of time for reading.  To this end, I downloaded four books onto my Kindle app.  In reality, I have about 10 minutes at night before bed and my eyes close and I  fall asleep.  This is similar to my routine during the school year which is why it takes me so bloody long to finish a book (sorry book club!).  Happily, I’m reading John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charlie which is his narrative about traveling from East to West and back again with his pet poodle, Charlie  He moves at a faster clip than we do, but we overlapped briefly here in Montana.  Like me, he loves the state and wished he had more time. One thing I’ve learned from him is that whiskey seems to help in most questionable situations.  If he encounters an aggressive, angry type he breaks the barriers by offering fresh brewed coffee and “a little something to make it interesting.” This seems to do the trick in solving most problems. I’m thinking I might pick up a bottle, just in case.


One of the many support crew duties, cleaning the BBQ

#2: Taking up running. I bought a new pair of running shoes foolishly thinking I’d have lots of time to exercise. I knew I wouldn’t be hitting the gym, and running is an efficient and cheap way to get the heart rate up. In truth, I’ve only “gone for a run” twice – in three weeks.

#3: Hiking. I had visions of visiting lots of trails, especially over the passes. In preparation for all these hikes through bear infested forests, I purchased a large can of bear spray, just to be safe. Fact: two hikes, no bears.

#4: Planning awesome units, lessons, projects for next school year. You know, the ones which take thoughtful foresight to create really inspirational and meaningful activities which will make me the best 6th grade teacher ever! I brought along several important, and I might add heavy, books to aid my self-motivated professional development. Truth: see #1.

#5: Driving through pastoral, quiet, country roads. These country roads were to allow me time to remember Walt Whitman’s poetic insights and fashion my own while overlooking the vast beauty of this country. Fact: Highway 2 is fast and I have to pay attention to Google’s directions. It’s fortunate that I’m driving a truck and only have to go 60 mph verses cars which are instructed to go 70. I did have a sense of accomplishment when I passed my first vehicle. Some might say that passing a tractor doesn’t count, but I say pat your back when you can.

#6: Journal writing. Perhaps it’s fortunate that I lost my journal 5 days into the trip.  I believe it slipped into the garbage which is maybe where it belonged all along.

#7: Biking. Yes, I brought my “mom” bike hoping that upon arriving at our destination with hours to spare, I’d hop on my bike and ride to the local country market on Main Street to purchase necessary groceries. Truth – The poor thing hasn’t even been taken off the rack the entire trip. It sadly watches the world go by from the rear while collecting mountains of dirt and dust and is probably ruined from neglect.

#8: Daily, witty, and thought provoking blog quips about the adventure. Reality: One a week and of questionable quality.

The Rig Driver

Day 19 – Mosquitoes! Or Not

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.


Day 18 – A Day of Firsts

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 😉


AC/DC, Amps, and Volts Oh My

I’m the first to admit that when it comes to amps, volts, and types of power, I’m pretty much an idiot.  I blame my father, though I suppose I should blame my mother as well, just to be fair.  Despite the many things they did teach me, this is one area in which they let me down.  (Also, I can’t throw a ball. Dad!) When we first bought The Rig, John went to great lengths to explain how the thing is powered.  In an effort to try to cement the details in my brain, I would diligently repeat his verbiage, but in all honesty, it really didn’t stick.  I just pretended I understood, but John knows I’m bluffing whenever I ask something like, “What do you mean the fan I buy needs to be 12volt?” He just rolls his eyes. John has a model he made when he was about 7 years old that has copper wires and batteries and a when you flick a switch (because of course it has switches) then a fan spins or a light blinks.  Even looking at at this deconstructed device with all its exposed pieces, I still don’t get it.  It’s like magic.  I’m convinced that learning how all this stuff works is sort of like learning a foreign language – if you don’t learn it as a youngster, you can pretty much forget about it. Still, I try hard to sound like a know what I’m talking about.  When I call an RV Park, I smartly say that I’m driving a 30 foot Class C RV and 15 or 30 amps is fine.  It’s a good thing I haven’t been asked any clarifying questions because then the proprietor would know that I’m a fake.  I have no idea what a Class C vehicle is, only that I drive one.