Montana 2014 Part 1 – Day 35 – Belle Fourche – 30 miles north of Alzada: Vibrancy and vitality

Monday June 23, 2014, 104 miles (167 km) – Total so far: 1,557 miles (2,505 km)

If you talk to a curious stranger long enough, and you’ve answered all the basic logistical questions of where from and to, how many miles you travel in a day, etc., you often get asked “why?”. Why are you doing such a crazy thing? My normal response to this is something about dreams – how we all have something we’ve always wanted to do, and that this is my dream. This is fine most of the time, but I have discovered that some people, sadly, don’t have any dreams. So what I would really love to do is bottle up a day like today and then pour it out like a glittering rainbow when people ask ‘why?’. Because today is precisely but wholly why I ride. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 1 – Day 36 – 30 miles north of Alzada – Baker: Riding clinker

Tuesday June 24, 2014, 71 miles (115 km) – Total so far: 1,628 miles (2,620 km)

Willa Cather once wrote, “Anyone can love the mountains, but it takes a soul to love the prairie”. Many people will tell you there is not much to see in eastern Montana, but the landscape in the southeast corner is every bit as grand as the Rockies. It is no less magnificent nor smaller in scale. It is just a horizontal grandeur instead of a vertical one. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 1 – Day 37 – Baker – Miles City: 85 miles by noon – tailwind, anyone?

Wednesday June 25, 2014, 85 miles (136 km) – Total so far: 1,713 miles (2,757 km)

The fog sits 20 or 30 feet up in the air when I crawl out of the tent. The wind is still. The tent is wet. It is cool and clammy. A tailwind is predicted, as are storms after noon. Let’s get going. I’m looking forward to the ride today because there are no services for 82 miles. That, hopefully, will mean a road without much traffic. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 1 – Day 38 – Miles City: The Range Riders

Thursday June 26, 2014, 6 miles (10 km) – Total so far: 1,719 miles (2,766 km)

The woman gives me a map of the museum. On it is drawn a bunch of little arrows in an incredibly complex pattern. The little arrows denote a path through the 11 buildings that comprise the Range Riders Museum. If you follow the arrows, you won’t miss a single thing. I look over the directions and then look back at the curator and the other volunteer. “Do you do a sweep of the building at closing, just in case someone misses an arrow”? Read more

Montana 2014 Part 1 – Day 39 – Miles City – Forsyth: Paying it forward

Friday June 27, 2014, 48 miles (77 km) – Total so far: 1,767 miles (2,843 km)

The old station wagon creaks and groans as it bounces into the parking lot on old shocks. It’s got a fan-belt problem, too. If I were knowledgeable about vehicles, I might be able to diagnose more issues. It’s pretty sad if a poor car has problems even I can detect.

A small U-Haul truck pulls in next to the station wagon. Two young boys of similar age roll out of the car. They’ve got skinny limbs and big heads with blonde hair. A mom gets out and pulls a baby carrier out of the front seat. A scrappy-looking man wearing sweatpants and a black Iron Maiden t-shirt gets out of the U-Haul and joins them, as they come over and sit down near me at the tables outside of McDonalds. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 1 – Day 40 – Forsyth – Custer: Travelers past

Saturday June 28, 2014, 56 miles (90 km) – Total so far: 1,823 miles (2,934 km)

Yesterday we rode up on the plains for most of the day with occasional glances down into the Yellowstone River valley. Today we’ll ride down in the valley nearly all day.

Our route takes us west on old Highway 10 which was also the Yellowstone Trail – one of the first national highways (along with The National Road and the Lincoln Highway). The river, in this section, saw a lot of traffic, too. You will immediately think Lewis and Clark, but there were French explorers up here a couple years before them in the Yellowstone Valley, many fur trappers and traders (there is an old fort site at the confluence of the Bighorn and Yellowstone Rivers), and lots of Sioux and Cheyenne. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 1 – Day 41 – Custer – Hardin: Fame precedes me

Sunday June 29, 2014, 36 miles (57 km) – Total so far: 1,859 miles (2,991 km)

I roll out of Custer early – a steep-ish climb back out of the river valley awaits me first thing. Good morning, legs.

I’m concerned Highway 47 might be busy as a cut-through between I-94 and I-90, so I want to get a few miles in on that shoulderless road before the traffic picks up.

The road sits high in the landscape. It rolls along through sagebrush and grassy fields. A ridge populated with pines and rock outcrops keeps us company off to the right. Way down off to the left is the cleft of the Bighorn River. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 1 – Day 42 – Little Bighorn Battlefield: In the end

Monday June 30, 2014, 34 miles (55 km) – Total so far: 1,893 miles (3,046 km)

In the end, there were no winners. In the end, soldiers and warriors littered battlefields all over the West. In the end, a culture was irrevocably broken and a way of life lost. There were many battlefields and many forts. There were many broken treaties. But the Battle of the Little Bighorn is perhaps the most famous of them all. After visiting so many sites of significance in Western American history on my previous tours, today I’m heading down to put in another piece of the puzzle. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 1 – Day 44 – Billings: All business

Wednesday July 2, 2014, 19 miles (31 km) – Total so far: 1,985 miles (3,195 km)

Today is an errand day. I need to get my thyroid script refilled, purchase a few supplies (including insect repellent and bear spray), get my hair cut and see about getting a new middle chain ring. Shifting problems persist.

Billings is not really bike-friendly, but I manage to get around. The best option in some places is to just take the lane. I also opt to cash in some Rewards points, which I’ve been accumulating for years, to get a motel room. That RV park was not very nice, was over-crowded and very expensive. The KOA did not look any better. After riding all over the place today (the smoke haze is from wildfires in Canada), I decide I would never want to live in Billings.