Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 53, 6/30/20 - Williston, ND

Just the Basics: We slept to the outrageous hour of 8:30 a.m., barely making it to the breakfast provided by the motel (6-9 a.m.). We rented a car and drove out to the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers, where there's a really nice interpretive center - the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center - with a great video on the history of nearby Fort Benton and a good deal of information about the natural history of the area.

We then went on to nearby Fort Union, a wonderful re-creation of the Fort Union Trading Post operated by the American Fur Company from 1828-67; the largest fur trading post on the Upper Missouri. The trading post traded with Assiniboine, Crow, Cree, Ojibway, Blackfeet, Hidatsa and other Native American Tribes and apparently lived relatively peacefully with them for most of its life. Lewis and Clark also camped in the area. It was wonderful to actually see the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers having read so much about them in Undaunted Courage.

The rangers there do some historical re-enacting - we were greeted in the Fort's Trading Room by a ranger dressed in period dress who was very knowledgeable about the fort and patiently answered all our questions - we must have had his exclusive attention for more than half an hour, as well as that of another man who was there - possibly a historian or archaeologist from another country or perhaps a ranger learning to do the re-enacting or . . . ? This fellow is there for 6 months of every year; the rest of the time he works and lives in Colorado. We also spent a good deal of time talking with a Native American Ranger and with another Ranger who is also a history professor and who participated in some of the original archaeological work done in preparing the re-creation of the fort.

Today's Photo: Fort Union Trading Post

Tomorrow: We are staying in place at the Super 8 in Williston, ND through Friday, 7/2/10, waiting for the heat wave to break and the wind direction to change. On Saturday, we head for Tioga, ND, which is about 52 miles from here, with about 1200 feet of climbing. At that time, the high is expected to be 74 instead of 95 and the wind to be N/NW instead of E/SE. Sunday should be even better.

For Those Who Want More: We will do a catch-up blog tomorrow; we hope to spend much of the day in the public library, reading, writing postcards, blogging and the like.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 52, 6/29/10 - Culbertson, MT to Williston, ND!

Just the Basics: H4: Horrible Heat, Headwinds and Hills! 44 miles; we're both sunburned despite assiduous application of sunscreen - it was still 91 degrees at 6:45 p.m. in Williston. We agree that the best part of the day is having endured it!

We made another milestone today - we passed mile 1500 and are now at mile 1533! We're in a new state (ND), and a new time zone - we heard from a fellow biker today that ND is actually NOT in the Central Time Zone - it's just that they don't observe Daylight Savings Time, so during that period they are, de facto, on Central time. Whatever!

We had a really good dinner at Don Pedro' s Mexican restaurant near our motel in Williston, including 1 1/2 Cadillac margaritas each.

Today's Photos (posted 6/30/10): (1) Speaks for itself; and (2) Showy Milkweed - a flower we've been puzzling over and finally ID'd = ) = )

Everything Else: Tomorrow; after 7 straight days of riding for a total of 319 miles, we're taking a layover day tomorrow.

Goodnight - we're beat!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 51, 6/28/10 - Wolf Point to Culbertson, MT

Just the Basics: 58 miles - much better than we expected! It did get hot, but we often had either a side-wind or a bit of a head-wind to cool us, and occasionally enjoyed riding in cloud shadow. Hilly, but not as much as expected - when we looked at elevation gain we failed to see that actually we would be off U.S. 2 for about 2/3 of the way, on BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) 1, which was considerably less hilly. BEST OF ALL, BIA 1 was VERY lightly travelled - a great relief from U.S. 2! We also took it easy - stopped to smell the flowers (literally - we ID'd a new one), enjoyed a picnic lunch plus nap, etc.!

Identified a new flower - Showy Milkweed. Again, tons of flowers - our faithful Purple Prairie Clover, yarrow, a pink composite similar to cone-flower, a new magenta pea-like flower . . . .

Had a neat steak/fries/beer dinner at 100 year old Montana Bar in Culbertson.

Kindness of Strangers: DIANE, proprietress of the King's Inn Motel in Culbertson. We pulled into the motel tonight to a rush of concern from Diane - it seemed that motels might be VERY hard to find for a while. We have: Several local centennials coming; the holiday weekend; AND lots of motels full of workers on a new dam and new oil fields (learned a new word - the drilling crews are staying in "mancamps" provided by the oil companies, but auxiliary workers are in motels). Within an hour she had us organized through Sunday, 7/4; more details tomorrow - it was amazing!

Today's Photos: We'll post 'em tomorrow.

Tomorrow: 45 miles to Williston, ND and the Super 8 Motel - we will be there Tuesday and Wednesday nights, 6/29 and 30. It is supposed to be much hotter and we expect head winds. YIKES!

For those Who Want More: Tomorrow, we promise!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 50, 6/27/10 - Glasgow to Wolf Point, MT

Just the Basics: 50 miles, pretty good riding conditions most of the time and the mosquitoes were not a problem - could the worst be over for a while in that regard? We actually managed a mosquito-free picnic lunch at a little picnic shelter in Frazer where we again encountered the family with 9 year old triplets riding cross country - see the photo.

Today's Pictures: (1) John, Valerie, Dierdre, Ian and Zara - Bound from Portland to Washington, DC on a tandem and a triple; the triplets are 9 years old! (2) Some beautiful prairie grass which we've been seeing and admiring for some time.

Tomorrow: 57 miles to Culbertson, where we'll be staying at The King's Inn Motel. We expect an 88 degree high, a south wind of 7 mph and some BIG hills near the end - YIKES!!

For Those Who Want More:
Flora: More of the wonderfully fragrant purple and white prairie clovers; prairie coneflower; yucca; a gorgeous gold and rust-colored small sunflower-type flower; and lots of what we think might be called butter and eggs.

We Discover A New Eatery in Frazer: Our Adventure Cycling Northern Tier maps indicate that the tiny town of Frazer (pop 452) has no services except a post office - but we found a convenience store/gas station which opened this month and stopped to take their information to send to the map-makers - and for drumstick-style ice creams.

The Kindness of Strangers: We stopped outside Oswego at what looked like a restaurant only to find it was a residence - apparently with no-one home, although the door was open. We were leaving when the owner pulled up. She insisted we come in and gave us frozen bottles of water and Cokes - we don't usually drink soda, but that's not the sort of gift you turn down.

Food Today: Oatmeal with raisins, coffee and English muffins at the Prairie Rose restaurant in the motel in Glasgow this morning. Coffee and WONDERFUL pie in Nashua - Riley had a spectacular rhubarb custard and Becky had delicious peach - BIG pieces, made on-site, with great crust for $2.50 each. YUM. Peanut butter & banana sandwiches and water for our picnic lunch. Drumstick ice cream cones. Chinese dinner in Wolf Point - MuShu pork & pork chow mein.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 49, 6/26/10 - Saco to Glasgow, MT

Just the Basics: First Things First: Congratulations to our grandchildren Carina, Owen and Jonah for the successful completion of another school year - grades 3, 1 and 4-year-old pre-school, respectively!

44 miles, making a grand total of 277 for the week, despite our Tuesday layover in Havre and the short ride (21 miles) from Havre to Chinook on Wednesday! This is the end of Week 7 - we have come 1,381 miles, almost the 200/week we hope to average.

Other than that, mostly same-old/same-old: The shoulders varied but riding conditions were mostly OK to good; as always, if traffic required it we stopped. Rolling terrain. Tail wind most of the day. Warm but often overcast, which mitigates that. Mosquitoes out in full force. Met SIX more eastbound cyclists today, all men (groups of 2, 3 and 1); not much interaction. It was sprinkling when we left Saco and we wore our jackets but soon removed them, as we were climbing quite a bit and it was too hot. In the end - no rain. = )

The terrain continues to be lovely: Fields of grain; meadows; pastures with stock grazing (mostly cows but today we also saw some sheep and a goat); mile after mile of sweet-smelling prairie clover; red wing blackbirds and curlews; yellow salsify going to seed in great white tennis-ball-sized poufs.

Today's Photo: Haven't got one.

Tomorrow: 56 miles to Wolf Point, MT on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation - we expect temperatures in the 80s and a tailwind much of the way. After that it is supposed to get hotter and shift to a southeast wind (translation: headwind), so we will see . . . .

For Those Who Want More: Just short and sweet today.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 48, 6/25/10 - Dodson to Saco, MT

Just the Basics: 48 miles on U.S. 2, pretty decent riding conditions - the 1st 10 miles or so had poor shoulders but light traffic and generally good visibility; the rest of the time the shoulders were wide and we rarely had to stop for traffic. It was hot and mosquitoey - today we went over to the dark side - we are now using Deet-based insect repellents. Probably for that reason we did pretty well today, bite-wise - until we stupidly went for a walk after dinner having washed it all off - YIKES!!!!

After we stopped for lunch in Malta a guy saw us putting on sunscreen and repellent - he told us that the mosquitoes in Saco flew in formation! He was right. We stopped once about 5 miles from town, intending to drink water - a CLOUD of them immediately boiled up around us - end of stop!

Today's highlights included a great breakfast, a visit to the dinosaur museum in Malta, losing our camera and getting it back, a nice time in the bar in Saco, and tons of beautiful scenery.

There's another group of bikers at the motel: A family - mom, dad, and 9 year old triplets, biking on a tandem and a triple!! Sadly, we have only seen the mom and only for a couple of minutes - they started in Portland and are headed for Washington, DC.

Today's Photos: (1) Playing pool (badly) at the bar in Saco! (2) It's hot on the road!! (3) Amazing! The ball went in the pocket.

Tomorrow: 43 miles along U.S. 2 to Glasgow.

For Those Who Want More:
Morning at Stage Road Inn, Dodson: We woke to the sound of birds and with early morning sun and still-cool air streaming into the room. We dozed a bit, had some coffee, and just enjoyed being alive. Breakfast was great - locally-made sausage, eggs, waffles, fresh strawberries, and 2 kinds of homemade jam - chokecherry (made by our hostess Sandy), and raspberry-rhubarb (made by her daughter).

Malta: We spent a couple of hours in Malta - shopped for insect repellent, sunscreen and bite-treatment; visited a small, interesting dinosaur museum; and had a good lunch. We also had a nice experience at a convenience store. We had stopped in search of repellent, et cetera. Becky went in while Riley stopped to buy a newspaper from a vending machine. We then went on into town in search of stuff they hadn't had at the convenience store. As we got ready to go on, Riley realized he didn't have our camera - long story short, he'd taken it, his knife and other stuff out of his pocket, searching for quarters for the newspaper machine, and left them on top of it. We rushed back to find it all waiting in a little bag at the cash register - another patron had just turned them in - we were able to catch him and thank him just as he was about to drive away - he and his wife were on their way to Glacier from KY. = )

Wildflowers: Today the whole road was lined with wildflowers - most notably, purple prairie clover, along with occasional white and yellow clovers. Their scent filled the air - it's easy to see why clover honey (a local product) is so good!

The Bar in Saco: Whole bunch of neat stuff:
  • We roll into town - stop, trying to figure out if the motel is actually open - we had a reservation but it looked pretty abandoned. As we started to look for the office the bartender, who'd seen us arrive, was on his cell phone out front calling Carla, the motel owner, to let her know she had some folks waiting. We thanked him and he said that if we got too hot, it was nice and cool in the bar.

  • After our showers, we went for a beer - it WAS nice and cool in the bar.

  • A farmer there introduced himself - said his name was Derek and that he'd seen us in Deb's Diner in Harlem yesterday - he's been driving truckloads of wheat between Saco and Harlem every day and had seen us a couple of times! We had a great conversation with him about grain elevators and how they work. We also learned that the train only stops at a few of the elevators we see in every little town; we had noticed that many of them have had the name on the elevator painted out and we had wondered about that. Later the bartender told us that Derek's brother is a well-known country musician and he has also done a lot of music - unfortunately, we don't recall the brother's name.

  • Interesting conversation with the bartender about a proposal to make much of this area a national bison reserve - he sees the appeal but feels the government is not mindful of the wheat, beef, oil and gas that is produced here and the people who do that work.

  • Riley proposed a game of pool - we're eating in a lot of little bars these days and there's usually a pool table. We're both real novices - especially Becky! - but we got a good deal of instruction from Derek (the wheat farmer), the bartender, and a second (female) bartender who arrived shortly. Big fun.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 47, 6/24/10 - Chinook to Dodson, MT

Just the Basics: About 54 miles to Dodson. We left Chinook at 8 and were in Dodson by 3. We would have been there sooner except for traffic. Except for 12 miles on County Road 9, we were on U.S. 2, and until we hit Phillips County at about Mile 48 the shoulders were terrible - very narrow and with rumble strips in the shoulder. Consequently, we made lots of stops to let traffic pass from behind whenever there was oncoming traffic or poor visibility. The 12 miles on County Road 9 were great from a traffic perspective - perhaps 3 cars of through traffic - but the road was under construction so lots of riding on gravel and a fair amount of construction traffic but it was very slow and very watchful of us.

On the plus side: The scenery continues to be incredible. The roads are bordered with a vast variety of wildflowers - we've finally succumbed and bought a prairie wildflower book and hope to learn some new ones, but we've been seeing wild roses, orange globemallows, lomatiums (Cow Parsley and others), a pea-like flower, arrowleaf balsamroot, several sizes and varieties of sunflower-like plants - etc. Lots of red-winged blackbirds today and more curlews and what we think is an Eastern Kingbird - we saw one at the Chinook Wildlife Museum - stay tuned!

Much of the time we had a tailwind and much of the day clouds kept it from getting too hot. In RILEY'S opinion the traffic wasn't all that heavy either!

Let's not even TALK about mosquitoes. For lunch we shared a Power Bar we ate fast walking around in the middle of traffic-less CR 9 dodging mosquitoes. No real rest stops, either, also due to mosquitoes. Luckily, we had stopped for pie and coffee at mile 20 in Harlem. We arrived in Dodson, which supposedly has a cafe and a grocery - turned out they are the same place and it was closed. We went to a bar and had a bag of chips and a couple of very cold O'Doul's Amber Non-Alcoholic Beers- very welcome. Things were not looking good for dinner - the cafe was closed and the bar had no food . . . .

Then we arrived at the Stage Road Inn B & B and the cares of the day melted away - see below!

Today's Picture: Sadly, we didn't take any - if we had one, it would have been of antelope!

Tomorrow: 45 miles to Saco, along U.S. 2. Per our map, the shoulders get better after Malta at about mile 20.

For Those Who Want More: Sandy Calk's Stage Road Inn B & B is about 0.7 miles from Dodson on County Road 204, located on 1600 acres, much of which has been farmed by Sandy's folks for 4 generations - her grown kids are the 5th generation to be raised in this area. The house was built in nearby Savoy for railroad magnate James Hill and moved here at some point.

Here is a partial listing of the many delights of our stay:

  • Sandy herself - a retired social worker who grew up farming here and has a fascinating collection of family treasures, local art, and tons of stories.
  • Ice cold limeade and brownies to welcome us - when Sandy heard what we'd had for lunch she topped the brownies with ice cream and chocolate syrup!
  • Since dinner was NOT going to be available in town, we asked if she ever made dinner for guests - for a fee, of course. She was more than willing but said it would be "just quesadillas." Turned out they were loaded with chicken and veggies (and cheese of course) and were wonderful. She makes them in an electric quesadilla iron - sort of like a waffle iron - something we had never seen before. We also had fresh pineapple, papaya and melon.
  • She offered the use of her washer and drier - Becky gladly accepted.
  • After dinner she drove us out around her property to see antelope - we saw many does, some fawns and a beautiful buck. We also saw her fields of winter wheat and rye (all planted last fall) - she rents them to a longtime friend who farms them (and his own land) organically. The rye is already very high and looked like the heads were forming on it.
  • There is a painting in her living room of the Native American who posed for the Indian Head Nickel - her parents had it in their home. Nearby is a photo of the same man - she found it at an auction or something.
  • There are lots of books and she gave us some neat ones to look at while we're here.
  • We can hardly wait for tomorrow morning's "Full Ranch Breakfast"!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 46, 6/23/10 - Havre to Chinook, MT

Just the Basics: 21 miles - a short day due to location of motels for the next several days.

We had a nice, slow morning in Havre. Brian and Kristin Nanners and their friend John were at the cafe for breakfast when we got there and we chatted a bit, read the paper (lately we're reading the Great Falls Tribune), and enjoyed our oatmeal.

Then we walked downtown and bought Riley a pair of rain pants (we left his somewhere) - something Becky thought Riley really needed - and bought Becky a very light sun-hat with a visor - something Riley thought she really needed. Not surprisingly, the staff in the store are bikers and one of the guys spoke enthusiastically about Undaunted Courage, the Lewis and Clark book we recently finished.

Riley also got a very nice haircut. While he was having it, Becky had a great time reading Trout Unlimited's magazine - they're a great conservation group and she particularly liked an article on stream/fishery re-development on the Upper CT river. The barber and Riley chatted about many things - including mosquitoes (apparently we ain't seen nothing yet!!!); he also told us not to miss the Wildlife Museum in Chinook (see below).

Today's Photo: Brian and Kristin Nanners. As we biked to Chinook, 1st John caught up with us, then, later, Brian and Kristin did. John wants a faster pace, so had gone ahead on his own. (We mentioned them yesterday as bikers 5, 6, and 7 whom we met last night.)

Tomorrow: 49 miles to Dodson, where we'll be staying in our 3rd B & B. If things go as planned, 5 more nights in MT after tonight and then we'll be in ND. (We may take a break somewhere in there, however.)

For Those Who Want More:
Riding Today: We thought it would be pretty tough; our MT biker's map shows the rates of traffic on all major highways and gives some info about shoulders - lousy on this stretch of the 2, according to both the map and folks in Havre. It was really narrow much of the way, but in some parts there was a rideable dirt area beyond the shoulder - it was an OK day, despite many stops to let traffic pass for safety purposes. We also saw the Milk River for the first time, which in this area follows what was probably an ancient riverbed of the Missouri River. We saw lots of flooded fields and overflowing streams.

A Change in Scenery: We are loving our ride through North Central Montana's High Line Country - despite having experienced heavy rain and big winds, being hailed on and having to seek shelter from a major thunder and lightening storm in the last few days. All this has been much harder on MT than on us - lots of serious flooding (we are seeing some of this) and several tornadoes which have wreaked havoc and killed at least one person (fortunately, we have not seen any of those!). The country is a BIG contrast with the mountain scenery through which we rode starting way back in Spokane. Now it is rolling country with huge wheat fields and huge grazing lands and very little other vegetation except in riparian areas (makes it hard to find places for a pit stop). One of the great pleasures is hearing frogs in the wet places - we never hear or see them in the Tri-Cities! We are starting to see curlews again and a couple of days ago one flew along above and ahead of us for a long time, making its high-pitched cries.

Brian and Kristin Nanners: Experienced bikers following the same route to Bar Harbor as us, but riding at a faster pace - they are considerably younger than we are and very fit and active. They are administrators at what sounds like a neat private middle school in WA. Fun to talk with and they have their own Blog at Crazy Guy on a Bike. They were bikers 5 and 6 whom we met yesterday but we only spoke with them briefly last night.

John and Kathi Johnson: These are the first two of the 7 other bikers we met yesterday. They hail from WI and ride a tandem and have done a lot of tandem event-rides. Kathi is just retired and John is about to retire. Also a bit younger than we are and really great to share biking stories with; we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner and beer with them last night. Kathi is going to email a picture they took of us with Kate and Derek (see below); we hope she's also emailing one of her and John! We'll share them when we get them. Like us, they, too are blogging - their blog has lots of detail about the countryside. If we get their permission we will post their URL.

Kate and Derek: Numbers 3 and 4 yesterday, they also joined us for dinner and beer last night. Much younger than we, they hail from MN where Kate is a nurse with Healthcare for the Homeless (Becky is a longtime fan); she's about to start to train as a Nurse Practitioner. Derek is a graphic designer who did catalogues for a sporting goods firm and is now deciding what next. Like the Johnsons, they're headed West - again, great dinner and drinking companions. They're doing a fancy blog (remember that Derek is a graphic designer), complete with little video clip interviews of folks they meet along the way. Somehow we haven't been able to locate the blog, but we're trying.

Chinook: Chinook has less than 1500 people, 1 motel + restaurant, one bakery open for breakfast and lunch (where we had a great navy bean soup with lots of cabbage) and a pizza place which, sadly, doesn't sell beer. The high school teams are the Sugarbeeters - there are sugar beets painted on the sidewalks at street corners. They also have 2 wonderful museums!

(1) The Blaine County Museum (which appears to also have Dept. of the Interior connections) has a very nice bookstore, some good displays of local history, and an absolutely amazing multi-media presentation (primarily video but with occasional use of large, wonderful paintings done specifically for the presentation and very skilfully used in sync with the soundtrack on the video) called 40 Miles from Freedom, which tells the story of the attempted flight to Canada of the Nez Perce people, under Chief Joseph and other chiefs, and their last stand, the Bear Paw Battle, about 15 miles from here. Their journey ended just "forty miles from freedom" in Canada - really moving and extraordinarily well done.

(2) Chinook's own Wildlife Museum: Founded by a group of local citizens and devoted to MT wildlife species, it is really exceptional. The building was originally a movie theater and was donated. They do a major fund raiser every year - a prime rib dinner in a local venue such as a church, along with a silent auction. They also wrote some grants and many of the stuffed animals in the displays are "sponsored" by local folks. Somehow they were able to hire Acorn Exhibits, of MN, to design and build the exhibits and they are fantastic. Among our favorite parts were an underwater beaver den with a mother and several babies, and, elsewhere in the same exhibit, baby wood ducks jumping into the water from their nests, built up to 60 feet up in streamside cottonwoods!

One More Museum - Havre Underground: Yesterday we took a tour of this great museum. Like many towns, Havre once had an extensive system of underground tunnels downtown, built mainly for pipes for the city's steam heating system, but also full of basement storage areas for local businesses, and, eventually, places where many Chinese railway workers lived, and a brothel was located. After a major fire, many businesses moved into their own cellars and set up shop for some time. There are great re-creations of a drug store, a Chinese laundry, an entrepreneur's office, a brothel, a bakery, a mortuary, a dentist's office, a sausage maker's, a butcher shop, and so on. There is also a railroad museum upstairs. All of this is staffed by local volunteers - our tour guide was great.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 45, 6/22/10 - Havre, MT

Just the Basics: Just a few miles to the Bullhook Community Clinic, one of the wonderful network of community clinics with federal funding which grew out of the civil rights movement - really inspiring and the nurse practitioner we saw was great - as were all the staff. Becky's left knee got a cortisone shot and all should now be well.

BIG NEWS OF THE DAY: Today we met 7 other touring cyclists! We had dinner & then beer with 2 great east-to-west touring couples. John and Kathi are biking from Wisconsin to Anacortes and Kate and Derek from Minnesota to as far as they get in the next month. Both are doing blogs and Kathi took some group photos she's going to email to us - stay tuned. It was wonderful to have a social evening with folks who are sharing this great adventure - and who also turned out to be such neat people.

After the beer we went to walk on the road above the railroad yard and everyone went their separate ways. However, on our way past our dinner restaurant there was Derek calling us in to meet another group of 3 eastbound cyclists! The restaurant was closing so we didn't talk long and failed to get their names (John, and Kristen and Brian, we think) - but pretty cool!

We also liked Roger, the Havre Bike Shop guy, who was able to quickly install a new derailleur for Riley's bike and make it work for all three gear ranges, although it was not a perfect match for the one that died. We also bought 3 tubes - we have given up on our beloved-but-very-heavy thorn-proof tubes in favor of carrying more of the lighter regular ones.

Nice breakfast (oatmeal w/raisins & almonds for $2.75 a bowl!) and dinner (liver and onions - I know, but we LIKE liver and onions) at Cher's Cafe next to the Siesta Motel (great!) and a good lunch at Wolfie's Diner, which has a a 50s theme. We had bowls of good chili and shared a chocolate malt.

Today's Photo: Burlington Northern & Santa Fe's diesel repair shop as seen from a road bridge over the train yard in Havre.

Tomorrow: Tomorrow will be a short ride - just 20 miles or so to Chinook. The shortness of the ride is dictated by the locations of towns with motels for our next couple of days, which will be 49 and 45 miles to Dodson and Saco, respectively.

For Those Who want More: Maybe tomorrow: Havre Underground and the Railway Museum

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 44, 6/21/10 - Chester to Havre, MT

Just the Basics: It's been an eventful day but it's after 11 p.m., so here's a list of a few items:

  • 64 miles!
  • In the past 4 days, we've made almost as much easterly progress as we did in the previous 12, which included, it must be said: 4 layover days due to rain and avoiding weekend traffic around Glacier, as well as climbing over the Continental Divide and following circuitous roads and routes, unlike our progress along U.S. 2, which is pretty straight.
  • Breakfast at a Subway in Mike's supermarket in Chester with lots of joking around with the staff.

  • Coffee and a shared cinnamon roll at a bar in Inverness where the barkeep told us the sad story of their local school. Due to consolidation of small districts, they lost their school - the kids are now bused to Chester. His understanding was that when a school is closed due to consolidation part of the "deal" requires that the building be maintained in ready-to-use status for three years, should it prove possible to re-open. In this case, heat was turned off, pipes froze, water damaged the new gym floor, vandals broke windows - he said the guy who was the maintenance man for 35 years can't bear to even drive by it today - really a sad situation.

  • Lunch at a bar in Hingham - great hamburgers and wonderful homemade navy bean soup.

  • Tonic with a twist and salted peanuts at Blackie's Tavern about 12 miles west of Havre. The Pepsi guy had hooked things up wrong and the tonic tap was dispensing Dr. Pepper but it all got straightened out. The new owners were interested in our trip and ended up charging us only $1.50 for a $1 worth of peanuts and the 2 tonics-with-a-twist.

  • Good dinner at The Duck Inn in Havre.

  • ANOTHER flat tire (Riley's back tire again!)

  • Rain - quite a lot of it.

  • Hail!!

  • A thunder and lightening storm so severe and windy that we headed for a nearby farmhouse (luckily there was one nearby - they are few and far-between), hoping to seek shelter in a garage or something. No-one was home, but we leaned our bikes against their garage and sat on a bench in a corner where the house and garage joined and there were eaves overhanging and waited it out.

  • After making it through all that climbing, Becky's bad knee is having issues - she hopes to have a doctor check it out tomorrow.

  • Wandering around in Havre looking for the bike shop on our way into town. A guy stopped to help - turned out he is a letter carrier and drives the mail from Havre to Chester each morning - and he'd seen us biking in Chester at 8 this morning!
Today's Photo: We watched the storms approach across the plain.

Tomorrow: Depends on progress at the bike shop and what is happening with Becky's knee. Ideally, we will go just 21 miles, to Chinook - the short distance sets us up for an appropriate next riding day and also works for dealing with bikes and Becky's knee for part of the day, if that works.

For Those Who Want More: For the 3rd day in a row, at least, it's too late to deal with "more" today - maybe it will happen tomorrow!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 43, 6/20/10 - Shelby to Chester, MT

Just the Basics: 44 miles today and a fairly trying day. We knew the riding conditions would be tough so planned an early start which meant a picnic breakfast in our motel room - nothing open in Shelby before 8 on Sundays. We had bought some stuffed eggs, grapefruit and cinnamon rolls in the local Albertson's. As you may know, those little fridges in motels aren't too great and the egg whites froze! We cracked the ice off the surfaces of the whites and ate them anyway - nothing we'd recommend, but the grapefruit, coffee & cinnamon rolls were tasty!

We had headwinds for a good chunk of the ride and this stretch of U.S. 2 has minimal shoulders for the first 30-35 miles. Worse yet, for a considerable section there are rumble strips in the shoulder which are not good to ride on - and there was a fair amount of traffic. We had to stay very focused and frequently stopped to let traffic pass whenever we thought there was any safety reason to do so.

Mosquitoes have also joined the tour so for the present, no more pleasant roadside picnics and rest stops - if there's grass or other vegetation, there are mosquitoes. We stopped for lunch in a pull-off area so we could be off the road but also far from grass, but there were so many red ants on the pavement we made and ate our lunch standing up and walking around. We did have one nice rest stop - we sat on a cement curb in the shade of some grain-storage tanks in the middle of a big dirt/gravel area (no grass - no mosquitoes) and shared an apple and a melted Snickers - and felt very cheerful!

Today's Picture: Grain elevators near Lothair, MT. We see numbers of elevators like this every day up here in Montana's High Line Country. Lothair has a post office but no other services - it's really just a wide spot in the road.

Tomorrow: Remains to be seen. The next town with a motel is Havre (say Have-er), which is 60 miles from here! That is also our first chance at a bike shop where we hope they can fix Riley's gear problems and sell us a new rear tire for his bike and more thorn-resistant tubes.

The weather is supposed to be mostly OK and there are supposed to be wide shoulders on U.S. 2 all the way, and in the first 32 miles there are 4 little towns where you can get something to eat. We hope to make the 60 in one day, but if that turns out not to be practical we will plan to camp in either Joplin (mile 10) or Higham (mile 32). In either case we would be camping in a city park, so probably no possibility of blogging. There's also a grocery store in Higham, and getting water should not be a problem in a city park. = )

For Those Who Want More: Hopefully, more will be coming soon, but not tonight - we've a long day tomorrow and need to hit the hay.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 42, 6/19/2010 - Cut Bank to Shelby, MT

Just the Basics: Only 25 miles today - as per our planning, based on the location of the next bike shop (Havre) and the spacing of the towns. Our day began with a 2ND FLAT TIRE FOR RILEY - THIS TIME THE FRONT TIRE - it was pierced by a fancy upholstery nail - we discovered it on our way to a very nice breakfast at a Cut Bank restaurant that we think was called "The Family Cafe." Breakfast meats which they offer included "fried pork side," which we think is the salt pork we put in homemade baked beans; the most expensive item on the menu was sweetbreads! We're in stock-raising county, for sure!

Riley was only able to repair one of the damaged tubes this morning - and that necessitated a trip to a NAPA auto parts store in Cut Bank to get fresh patch cement - heretofore, we have had so few flats in the last few years that the rubber cement in our patch kit had dried up. Our Cousin Steve read yesterday's post about the first bike troubles and did some online research to try to locate tires and tubes in Cut Bank and actually found a source and emailed us the information - unfortunately, they didn't have the right sizes, but he is now our Director of Research!

Shelby is a town of about 4000 folks; main industries are: Railroad, farming support, tourism (Glacier & Canada), a prison, the county seat - and, coming soon, the FBI! It's totally charming. We're at the O'Haire Manor Motel, a nice , older, AAA motel where a pleasant room w/screened windows which actually open, a fridge, microwave, TV & double bed is just under $60 with tax! There's also a guest laundry - and boy did we need it.

We're going to have to do a "catch-up" blog in a couple of days, but we need to mention one item here: Yesterday we met a couple of touring cyclists from Belgium - they were going west from New York. They are probably a bit younger than we are, but not a lot - and BOY! - compared to them we're pikers!
  • Last year they biked from San Diego to St. Augustine, FL.

  • Some time before that they biked from Washington, DC to Portland.

  • This year they are headed north to British Columbia and will bike in that area until they have to go home at the end of their vacation, in August.

  • They are mostly camping - and it is still pretty cold at night - at least for those coming from the west.

  • Yikes!
They, too, are using Adventure Cycling maps.

Today's Photos: (1) The touring cyclists from Belgium - regrettably, we didn't get their names; (2) A grain elevator - very typical in these parts, often near the railroad - trains are our most constant companions in this area.

Tomorrow: 43 miles to Chester with a 9 mph headwind most of the day.

For Those Who Want More: We promise to get back to you about: Curlews,frogs, trains, the new landscape, meals in Browning and Shelby, trains, pit stops, mountains and more!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 41, 6/18/20 - East Glacier to Cut Bank, MT

Just the Basics: It's been a complicated day. 50 miles with a surprising amount of climbing and a late start due to weather.

Within a couple of miles of East Glacier Riley's gears developed a problem and he can no longer access the lower range of gears. Later in the day he had a flat tire - we found a slit in his tire but no obvious culprit as far as the flat is concerned. There is a bike shop in Havre (about 125 miles from here) where we should be able to get some attention for his gears and hopefully a new thorn-resistant tube, possibly a new tire, too. If we need more help than they can supply, there is another bike shop in Glasgow, another 158 miles from Havre. If we need help sooner or neither place can take care of things, we will take the train back to Whitefish to the bike shop there - or something! Yikes.

There was also plenty of good riding and a nice visit to the Museum of the Plains Indians in Browning, but we're beat, so will tell about all that tomorrow.

Tomorrow: For reasons having to do with the spacing of towns in this sparsely-populated area, we expect to go only 24 miles, to Shelby.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 40, 6/17/10 - East Glacier, MT STILL!!

Just the Basics: Another day of waiting out the storm - some rain, cold, big winds. We have been reading Undaunted Courage, by Steven Ambrose, about Lewis and Clark and the Corp of Discovery, which we strongly recommend. Whenever they were forced to stay put they got antsy. Our situation is REALLY different - and incredibly more comfy than theirs ever was - but we're ready to move on!

Actually, we have now both finished the book and Riley has finished a related book - Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes, edited by Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., which he found both informative and, at times, very moving. Becky has just started it.

Another word or two about the Sears Motel where we are staying. It is a fascinating business: A simple motel, a gas station, a gift shop and a Budget Rent-A-Car agency. The manager says she typically works a 110 hour week during the season, with a crew of 4 part-timers. She's been doing it for 28 years and spends winters in FL, recovering! She's a kick to talk to.

Tomorrow: The weather is supposed to clear up as the day goes on; as of now we plan to make the 46 mile ride to Cut Bank. Should it turn out to be a poor idea, Browning is only 13 miles down the road, so we'll have a chance to change our minds.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 39, 6/16/10 - East Glacier, MT

Just the Basics:
A weather-mandated layover day - cold and rainy with head winds of 14 mph and gusts to 30 predicted. Will do the same tomorrow - winds to average 17-18 mph with gusts to 40. Not safe for highway biking in this area.
Spent the day confined to quarters, which made us restless. Becky doing postcards, a couple of letters and reading, Riley working on decisions about political donations and such with a bit of help from Becky.

Today Riley looked at the maps for the rest of the route. We have 3714 mapped miles ahead of us; if we can keep to our goal of 200 miles per week we should arrive in Bar Harbor, ME by 10/23/10. There are, of course, many ifs - weather, for one thing, as we are experiencing today. In addition, our knees, hips and such occasionally remind us (gently, so far) of our ages and that we probably shouldn't count on making it to Bar Harbor - but we're optimistic.

Dinner: Prompted by our motel hostess we went to Serrano's Mexican restaurant for dinner. As she suggested, a $10.95 nacho "appetizer" was actually a meal for 2 - chips, chicken, black beans, guacamole, sour cream, onion, tomatoes, cilantro - YUM! We also enjoyed very good classic margaritas.

Tomorrow: Staying here due to severe weather, unless the forecast improves.

Today's Picture: Look how low the snow level is after recent storms and chilly weather!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 38, 6/15/10 - Essex to East Glacier, MT

Just the Basics: Today we went over the 1000 mile mark and crossed the Continental Divide - about 1 1/2 miles later we observed a stream running downhill to the east! In a way, that's all we need to say about today - but of course there's more!

We biked about 31 miles today and climbed about 1700 feet. It was pretty much a slow steady climb from Essex to Marias Pass - actually, the steepest hills were early in the ride and we continued to have some hills after the pass.

There was a 50-60% chance of rain today and the sky looked threatening much of the afternoon. Moreover, there was a stiff, cold headwind most of the way down from the pass - but it never rained. However, when we arrived in East Glacier, they had had a hailstorm! If we look out the window of our motel we can still see little snow-like heaps of hail under the drainspouts of the cabins across the way!

Today's Pictures: (1) The Pass! (2) A view along the road - we saw stuff like this the entire day.

Tomorrow: There is a 100% chance of rain - about 1 3/4 inch, with headwinds of something like 14 mph and gusts of 30 or so. YIKES!! Depending on what we find in the a.m. we may just stay here or we may go 13 miles to the next town (Browning) and then lie low. It is 46 miles to Cutbank, which is where we hoped to go tomorrow, with a climb of about 530 feet, but it sounds like that's not in the cards. Stay tuned.

For Those Who Want More:
Mountain Goats! Not far from Essex there's a mountain goat viewing area - Goat Lick. In the spring they come down from the hills to lick a certain type of rock to get minerals they need. There's a parking lot and a great viewing area and we stopped there and saw at least 3 different goats roaming about and licking the rocks. We felt really privileged to have arrived at the right time of year to see these amazing creatures. In the past, the traffic was a big hazard, but now there is a wildlife crossing under the road for them and they are much safer.

New Friends: Last night at the Izak Walton we met Martin and Mary Jean Paup, a lovely couple who are on a train trip from Seattle to East Glacier and then back. We enjoyed their company and tonight we ran into them again in the East Glacier Lodge dining room and had a great post-dinner conversation about travel and hiking and books, and homelessness and many other topics. Meeting interesting people is one of the great pleasures of this trip.

Dinner: We are not staying at the Lodge - we're down the road at the much more modest but charming Sears Motel. However, we wanted to celebrate crossing the Continental Divide and reaching the 1000 mile mark, so we went to the Lodge for dinner. We had wonderful Rocky Mountain trout - very simply prepared and served with Asian pickled ginger - delicious! - and a rice pilaf and asparagus. We had martinis before dinner, and wine with dinner, and shared huckleberry bread pudding for dessert. A great celebratory dinner. (We also had a great picnic lunch at the Pass, but were driven out by mosquitoes.)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day 37, 6/14/10 - Apgar Village to Essex, MT

Just the Basics: We biked 30 miles today and climbed bout 1150 feet. We are ONE MILE short of 1000! We got on the road at 6:30 a.m. because we wanted to allow lots of time for riding safely - in this area Highway 2 has narrow shoulders and is curvy so we knew we'd be stopping a lot to let traffic pass and perhaps be frequently walking the bikes on curves, et cetera. We also wanted to get a jump on much of the traffic by starting very early.

It actually went very smoothly. Starting early seemed to help - traffic was pretty light for the first 1 - 2 hours. Also, there was often no real PAVED shoulder but often there was pretty good gravel shoulder, allowing us to get as far from traffic as the occasion warranted.

We did a fair amount of hopping off and some walking, but also lucked out - there was a 10 mile area where roadwork was going on. That may not sound lucky, but it was - it meant traffic was slower in many areas and there was a 1-2 mile area where it was down to 1 lane, with pilot cars guiding folks through in a single direction. This meant we often had the road entirely to ourselves, and for some time after we got through the traffic behind us came through in widely spaced batches as lines of cars were piloted through, so we still had long periods when there was no traffic behind us. = ) = )

Today's Photo: The Izaak Walton Inn where we are staying tonight.

Tomorrow: Barring the unforeseen, we will cross the Continental Divide tomorrow, at Marias Pass. We will climb 1700 feet and travel about 30 miles. We will be spending the night in East Glacier. (Note: Here, and in general, when we quote climbs we are talking about total climb, not net.) Marias Pass is the lowest pass across the Continental Divide north of New Mexico. It was almost discovered by Lewis (of Lewis and Clark), when he made an exploratory side trip up the Marias River as part of his return trip from the Pacific. But the pass was hidden by clouds!

It was not discovered by white men until more than 80 years later, with the help of a Blackfoot guide.

For Those Who Want More:

The Ones That Got Away: We stopped for pie and coffee today at the Stanton Creek Lodge 16 miles east of West Glacier - they had coffee, but no baked goods, so we got a Butterfinger candy bar to go with our coffee. We got to chatting with the bartender about how business was going - OK for this time of year - and about our trip. His name is Chris Kupka and he and his Grandpa Jerry own the place.

Chris had gone fishing the day before at Stanton Lake and caught 29 fish, including a Cutthroat trout that weighed 5 lbs. after it was cleaned! He asked if we liked fish - we said we did. He then presented us with two frozen fish wrapped in foil - said to just toss 'em in a campfire! Sadly, we will not be camping tonight so we had to decline them, with many thanks. He then charged us $0.50 for the candy bar and gave us the coffee for free! The world is loaded with great people. As we left, he told us to ride safely and said "God bless you."

The Izak Walton Inn: Tonight we're at the Izak Walton Inn in Essex. The Inn was built by the Great Northern Railroad in 1939 to house and feed railroad workers - a large crew wintered over here to keep the rails plowed, and extra engines and crews were also needed to get trains up the steep grade from West Glacier; they too were quartered here. It's a wonderful Craftsman-style building with a huge stone fireplace, lots of rustic furnishings and touches, beautiful wood paneling and wonderful railroad decor - the lamps in the room are mainly made of iron spikes, for example, and the bedspreads are striped like engineers' overalls and caps.

Riley Takes a Hike: About three miles along a forest road rising behind the Inn, and part way along a trail to Marion Lake. Very nice chat with a forest ranger along the way.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day 36, 6/13/10 - Apgar Village, Glacier Park, MT

Just the Basics: Another wonderful R & R day in Glacier - a rival for our affections with Yosemite, which we consider "our" park. Some highlights:

A morning coffee walk - a favorite camping tradition; we make coffee and stroll through the campground - we're not camping this time but there is a campground and we walked about 1/4 mile to it and all around 1 loop. We were happy to note a site reserved for hikers & bikers. This one had spaces for 3 tents, a fire ring, 2 picnic tables and a barbecue. In this campground there are leveled, framed designated tent sites - no wandering around trying to decide where to put the tent!

3 Rs: We both did a little Readin'; Becky did some Ritin' (16 postcards and the Blog); and Riley did some 'Rithmetic, calculating distances and elevation changes from here to Minot, SD - 600 miles and about 6700 feet of climbing. We'll be in MT for a LONG TIME.

Riding the Red Bus: Glacier Red Bus Tours have been a greatly loved feature of the Park since 1936. When the season is in full swing, there are many different tours. Right now there is one on the East side and one on the West; we took the 3 1/2 hour West side's Huckleberry Mountain Tour along both sides of the Lake. We learned quite a bit about natural history and ID'd a bush we'd been seeing for a while - some sort of hawthorne, perhaps Black Hawthorne. Benny, our bus driver, was great.

Today's Photos: (1) View of the Rockies over Lake McDonald; (2) Our Red Bus

Tomorrow: 32 miles & about 1150 feet of climbing to Essex, where we'll stay at the historic Izak Walton Lodge

For Those Who Want More: See you tomorrow!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day 35, 6/12/10 - Apgar Village, Glacier National Park, MT

Just the Basics: It's basically been a lazy day in the cabin. We slept more than 9 hours - not surprisingly, given our ages, we pretty much take every chance to sleep late that presents itself - and we never try to cut sleep short in favor of an early start.

We rode about 6 miles today - down to West Glacier and back to do laundry and grocery shopping and make a brief visit to Canada's Welcome Center there. Glacier is part of a wonderful and unique International Peace Park - Glacier on this side and Watertown on Canada's side of the border; it is collaboratively managed by the 2 countries, the State of Montana and the Province of Alberta, and the Blackfoot Peoples, and is a World Heritage Site.

On the ride over to West Glacier we met a very nice family that had stopped on the path to watch and photograph a deer. They were spending the summer in Missoula where the dad was taking a summer class at the University, and it was fun talking with them about our ride.

We've spent the rest of the day catching up on business and email, making reservations for Monday and Tuesday nights, reading, doing some cooking and the like - very laid back and pleasant.

We love the setting of the Apgar Village Lodge and the cabin is just right for us - clean, simple, lots of windows and great views, enough dishes and such available that we can actually cook, etc. They get lots of cyclists and when we checked in we were each given "bike bags," which contained rags for wiping down wet bikes and gear and a couple of big trash bags to use for covering the bikes if we left them outside or to put on the floor under them if they were inside! Pretty clever!

Today's Photo: Deer grazing below a bridge over the Flathead River in West Glacier - the beginning of the bike path to Apgar Village goes down beside the bridge.

Tomorrow: We will stay here, avoiding weekend traffic around the park. Monday we head for Essex, where we have a room at the Isaac Walton Lodge.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Map of Our Ride, Seaside, OR to Glacier National Park, MT

View ride progress June 11 in a larger map

Day 34, 6/11/10 - Columbia Falls to Apgar Village, MT in Glacier National Park

Just the Basics:
First Things First! Congratulations to our oldest grandchild, Allegra, who graduated from 8th grade today (if we haven't screwed up our dates)! Ditto to grandchild #2, her sister Isabel, who finished grade 3 today, we think. Have a great summer, ladies!

23 miles with about 500 feet of climbing. Today we officially joined Adventure Cycling's Northern Tier Cross-Country Bike Route as we left Columbia Falls on County Road 486. From here on we will be using their very detailed maps which we love!

Today's route took us on less-traveled roads instead of on busy U.S. 2 to Glacier National Park. We travelled on CR 486, Blankenship Road (which included 3 miles of gravel), 5 Lakes Road and, finally, for 2-3 miles on U.S. 2 (wide shoulders) into West Glacier. The following 2.5 miles were on bike trail to Apgar Village. Just before we reached Apgar Village we saw a brown bear cub climbing a tree by the path!! Becky discouraged Riley from taking a picture - Sorry!

Tonight we're looking forward to a pretty typical "Friday Date Night" for us - we'll share some wine; have popcorn and crackers and cheese, and Kipper Snacks and fruit; maybe have some ice cream and play some Scrabble. = ) = )

Today's Photo: Looking across Lake McDonald from right by our motel in Apgar Village, MT, inside Glacier National Park

Sat & Sun, 6/12 & 13: We want to avoid weekend traffic around Glacier National Park - and to rest up a bit for the climb from here on up over the Continental Divide at Marias Pass, which will probably occur on Tuesday, 6/15/10 if things go as planned - they don't always do that, of course! SO - we have taken a little cabin with a kitchenette and will stay here and "cook-in" for the whole weekend.

For Those Who Want More: Here are a few tidbits.
Breakfast at Montana Coffee Traders: We had a great breakfast in Columbia Falls at another Montana Coffee Traders coffee store and cafe - we were also in one in Kalispell. We love their coffee and have been ordering it online for years - we love their Good Migrations line which is fair-trade, organic, and shade-grown (better for songbirds, especially).

Mosquitoes at Our Picnic! Had another nice picnic lunch in the woods at roadside - due to mosquitoes, however, we skipped our usual post-lunch nap!

Meeting a Fellow Cross-Country Cyclist: As we rolled into Apgar Village we met a guy who had ridden Adventure Cycling's Trans-America Cross Country Bike route some years ago. He did it with a friend and they just powered through in something like 59 days. He approved of our "Enjoy the Journey" approach - we urged him to do it again, that way.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 33, 6/10/10 - Kalispell to Columbia Falls, MT

Just the Basics: 19 miles along US 2, MT 35 and Columbia Falls Stagecoach Rd (the latter thanks to a tip from the bike staff at Wheaton's in Kalispell). We couldn't leave Kalispell until after noon, as we were waiting for some bike equipment coming in Wheaton's UPS delivery at that time.

We're off to dinner and a movie in Columbia Falls - there's a Glacier Centennial Film Festival going on and we think we're going to see Red Skies of Montana, a movie about firefighting in the Northwest, and a documentary about the 1910 Big Burn.

We'll post more tonight or in the morning.

Today's Photos: Approaching the Rocky Mountains along Columbia Falls Stagecoach Road.

Tomorrow: We expect to go to West Glacier; if that changes we'll update.

For Those Who Want More: See Day 34!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day 32, 6/9/10 - Lakeside to Kalispell, MT

Just the Basics: Only 16 miles today - we needed to stop in a town with a good bike shop because Becky's gears have been having some problems. The day started out poorly - it was raining, and we immediately faced a short but very steep hill on US 93 with lots of traffic and no shoulder to speak of. In this sort of situation we walk the bikes or, if riding, hop off whenever traffic conditions warrant - which, in the first 2 miles was CONSTANTLY; our route called for us to stay on 93 all the way to Kalispell and we hadn't run into anyone with a different suggestion - pretty discouraging.

BUT - at around mile 2 Riley spotted a little footpath that ran perhaps 500 yards on the other side of the guard rail along the road and we biked on that, then dipped into a short little road, and for the rest of the trip, with help from some local folks, managed to ride on frontage roads, bike paths and back roads all the way to Kalispell! Now we're happily ensconced in the Kalispell Grand Hotel - a wonderfully restored historic building with great staff and fresh cookies, popcorn and coffee in the lobby!! Our bikes are being cared for at Wheaton's Bike Shop, established in 1918, and we're happy as clams. See below for more stories.

Post-Dinner Addendum: We had a very nice, moderately-priced Chinese dinner at the Alley Connection Restaurant adjoining the hotel - lots of crisp veggies in our entrees. The owners are Vietnamese; the light fixtures, especially, made us homesick for Little Saigon in Orange County, CA.

After dinner we went to a bar - something we virtually NEVER do - and slowly sipped single-malt whiskeys (Jameson & Glenlivet) while watching Chicago win the Stanley Cup in overtime.

Today's Photo: The Kalispell Grand Hotel, where we stayed - our room is on the 2nd floor just below and to the left of the balcony that you see in the picture. A great place!

Tomorrow: Update: We are going only about 15 miles, to the small town of Columbia Falls. Our legs can use a break from climbing (our next big climb will be over the Continental Divide) and we want to go to the movies there tomorrow night - a special showing of a documentary and a movie about The Big Burn, the terrible 1910 fire which devastated much of the northwest.

For Those Who Want More:

The Bikes: Becky's bike is getting a new chain. The guys in the bike shop say we may go through them about every 1000 miles (we're now over 900!!), given the hard work they are doing - carrying lots of weight, riding in the rain, traveling on mud and gravel roads, et cetera. However, he checked out Riley's chain and says it's OK. We'll also be buying a chain cleaning set; we've been lubricating them but had decided not to bring the chain-cleaning stuff - bad idea, says the bike mechanic.

Finding Our Way: We've had surprisingly good luck finding less-traveled routes, by looking at maps, using Google and Map My Route, and seeking advice from local folks. We'd asked around about this area but had come up dry. After our unhappy start on US 93 we started out just trying what looked like it might be a frontage road, having it work, getting info about the next one, etc. As we approached the town of Somers, at about mile 6, there was suddenly a bike/pedestrian path. We stooped for breakfast at a bakery/restaurant with a great view of Flathead Lake and then continued on the path.

It ended shortly and we started down a road towards the lake, hoping to find another road headed our direction. We were about to give up but Becky saw Sliter's Ace Hardware across the road and suggested we ask there. Jackpot! Three different staff members discussed our situation with us and among themselves.

  • Told us about a Rails-To-Trails bike path another 1/4 mile down the road, which no-one else had mentioned to us;

  • Drew two small, detailed maps to show us what to do from then on;

  • Copied a page from an atlas for us; and

  • Told us we should go to Wheaton's Bike Shop in Kalispell and gave us its address and phone number!
Once we got to Kalispell we were having a little trouble finding the bike shop - a guy in an electric company truck stopped and gave us directions - he said "We're bikers too, and I knew from the way you were studying the map that you must be looking for a particular place!"

Once we got to Wheaton's bike store, the bike mechanic told us about this hotel - and the nearby Chinese restaurant where we plan to eat dinner tonight!

Down and Dirty: Another rainy day, so we and the bikes got a bit splattered - we are SO glad we had fenders put on our bikes before we started! - but today was the worst yet in that category. Just normal riding in the rain had us and our stuff a bit bedraggled, but as we approached Kalispell we had to go through an area where they are building a highway bypass, and where dump trucks full of dirt are going back and forth a lot. The road itself was quite muddy and we regularly got off the road onto muddy, grassy shoulder to stay out of the trucks' way.

Becky's front fender has very little clearance - the bike wasn't particularly designed to have fenders - so even a large pebble stuck in a tread can brush the fender as the wheel spins. In this situation, a large clump of mud had the same affect. She hopped off, grabbed a handful of dry grass and rubbed the mud-lump off the tire.

As we left the construction area behind we each found we couldn't clip onto the pedal on the side of our bikes where we typically unclip and put a foot down when we need to stop. Mud again - the cleats on our shoes and bikes were crusted with mud and couldn't fasten together. We stopped and cleaned our shoe bottoms by wading in puddles. We used sharp little pieces of Styrofoam we found by the road to chip mud out of the cleats on the pedals and then rinsed them with water from our water bottles.

This is Montana: When we asked the bike shop mechanic about a place to stay, he recommended the Kalispell Grand Hotel. Becky asked how they'd feel about a pair of grubby bikers - he replied "This is Montana!" When we got to the hotel, she asked if they had a room for a couple of muddy bikers - a senior staff person immediately instructed the clerk to see if they had any of those still available, or words to that effect! They then gave us the economy rate for a room in the next category up. Now we're cleaned up and sitting in wing chairs in the lobby, listening to very nice piano music in the background, sipping complimentary coffee from a china mug and reading and blogging - this is Montana!

Norm's News, Kalispell: Last but not least. When we biked in MT about 14 years ago we were hugely impressed by Norm's News. It's been in business since the 30s and has the biggest selection of magazines either of us has ever seen - really huge and diverse. It's also a candy store and a soda fountain. we bought an Economist and had root beer floats instead of lunch. = ) = )

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 31, 6/8/10 - Hot Springs to Lakeside, MT

Just the Basics: 52 miles with about 1400 feet of climbing - although it felt like more! Perhaps that's because yesterday was also over 50 miles, with 1900 feet of climbing. It was another breathtakingly beautiful day, through forested hills and high-mountain pastures. At one point there were three miles where we were advised to watch for bighorn sheep - we watched assiduously, but no such luck.

Early in the ride we encountered 10 miles of roadwork through which lines of traffic were being guided by pilot cars, and dump trucks rumbled back and forth. It sounded like it might be tough, but, in fact, it was pleasant. Much of the time we had the road to ourselves, when a line of cars came through with their pilot we just waited for them to pass - and construction guys are great. At one spot a guy yelled "Where are you from?" Becky yelled back "We started in Seaside, OR," and he said something like "Good Grief!" Very satisfying. The pilot car drivers would wave as they went back and forth and the dump trucks gave us a wide berth. = ) = )

Today's Photos: (1) A typical view from the road - really! (2) Our 1st view of Flathead Luke; and (3) Becky works on the blog in our charming room at the Sunrise Vista Inn in Lakeside where we found a small bouquet of fresh lilacs and petunias in our room to greet us!

Tomorrow: We expect to ride only about 16 miles, to Kalispell, where there are 2 bike shops (and many other delights). Becky's 2nd to lowest gear in the back has problems Riley can't fix, so we need to see a bike shop mechanic. We were in Kalispell 14 years ago on our ride from Missoula to Glacier Park and have happy memories of the town and surrounding area.

For Those Who Want More:
Hot Springs: More info on the cool Burma Shave-style signs advertising Hot Springs businesses: Becky asked Carole, the proprietress of Loafin' Around (see below) about the great highway signs coming into Hot Springs (see Day 30). She said they were a project of the Chamber of Commerce - along with a very nice big wooden sign in town with a map and directory of local businesses, and planters of flowers throughout town. Later Becky found that the town has a website with information about all this and more.

Loafin' Around: We had breakfast at Loafin' Around, a bakery owned by Carole (didn't get her last name) in a building that was formerly the Cowboy Bar. Carole does all her own baking, including the bread - the whole wheat toast that accompanied our oatmeal was GREAT. We also shared a fresh, warm cinnamon roll - YUM! We think the two hearty peach halves we each got as the fruit cup with the oatmeal may have been home-canned - more flavorful than typical canned peaches and possibly canned with the skin left on. It's a Small World Item: Carole used to sell baked goods out of her home in Yakuts, OR, a town on the OR coast which we visited on a previous bike trip!

A Fellow Biking Enthusiast: Not long after we came through the road construction described above, we stopped for a snack and a rest. A car coming from the other direction pulled over into the same pull-off spot and we were enthusiastically greeted with "You made it!" The driver had passed us coming through the area earlier and thought it would be really hard to bike through - he said he'd "said a little prayer" for us and figured it would take us a long time - he was amazed to see us again so soon! (Actually, as noted it, it was actually pretty pleasant.) Turned out he did a lot of mountain biking and had once biked from Grant's Pass, OR to Coeur D'Alene ID. The world is full of folks who love biking!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 30, 6/7/10 - St. Regis to Hot Springs, MT

Just the Basics: 51 miles, about 1900 feet of climbing. It was a pretty challenging day, partially due to all the climbing, partially because - for about the 1st time on this trip, we didn't sleep too well last night - especially Becky - and partially because there was quite a bit of rain, at several different times of the day, including a thunderstorm that had us planning to shelter off the road if necessary - turned out not to be.

Tomorrow: We will continue on MT 28 to US 93, probably to Lakeside - a distance of about 50 miles with about 1500 feet of climbing.

Today's Photos: (1) Intersection of MT 200 and MT 28 and the first indication that we're approaching Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park - nice view of the countryside - and you can see the Espresso place where we stopped off to the right! (2) A typical view along the road - we were constantly surrounded by hills and distant mountains.

For Those Who Want More:
Hot Springs, MT: We are staying at the Alameda Hot Springs Resort, an echo of yesteryear when folks came here to bathe and take cures. The showers use the hot springs water - everything smells a bit like sulfur, but your skin feels very nice after you bathe in it.

For $75 we have a kitchen, a bedroom, a cozy living room and front and back porch space, all decorated like something from the 1930-55 era. The male half of the managerial couple had seen us riding earlier in the day and was full of amazement at our riding - and he thought we'd only ridden from a nearby town. His wife, Miss Tracy (they're from Louisiana) offered spinach from their garden for our dinner if we decided to cook in - not too possible, since the town's only grocery closes at 6 and we got in around 6:30.

There is evidence of lots of recent effort to promote the town as a tourist destination - one clever idea has small bright red signs with white letters all along the road for perhaps 5 miles before you get to town - reminiscent of Burma Shave ads, if you remember those - promoting businesses and other delights of the town. It's a pretty small place - there are supposed to be 4 restaurants in town but we only found 1 actually open. We enjoyed a veggie pizza and Cold Smoke on draft - a new favorite dark MT beer we just discovered.

The Whistle Stop Cafe, Paradise, MT: We stopped for lunch at the Whistle Stop Cafe in Paradise, MT - like so many small towns, once a railroad stop. The cafe has only been open a couple of years and has really good food - a newspaper story posted by our table told of a couple who drive 100 miles from ID every Sunday just to eat breakfast there, and another couple from Edmonton who regularly drive down for the cinnamon rolls! Each spring they post US and world maps on the wall and encourage folks to write their names and hometown on signal dots and post them on the map! We did.

Conversations Along the Way:

(1) We came to a place where a lot of rocks had fallen on the road and stopped to take them off, just as a US Forest Service truck pulled up for the same purpose. It was driven by a Forest Service volunteer and we worked together to clear the area, chatting as we did so. Turns out he had strong Tri-Cities connections. Somehow, we got to discussing immigration policy, English-Only legislation, the drug wars in Mexico - quite a conversation. We didn't agree on all points but it was respectful and interesting - what an amazing world!

(2) We stopped for coffee at an Espresso stand at the junction of MT Highways 200 and 28. The proprietress was really interested in our ride and told all the other customers who came while we still there all about it. One of them gave us advice on where we could - and couldn't - get water. We also learned that in these parts, if you don't want milk or sugar in your hot or iced coffee, you need to say so!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Day 29, 6/6/10 - St. Regis, MT

Just the Basics: A quiet layover day in St. Regis. The promised rain fell in the afternoon - we were glad we weren't riding in it.

Riley spent nearly the entire day glued to the computer on a work-related project - which he finished. He also looked at elevations and weather for the next couple of days, using Map My Route.

Becky finished dealing with laundry, went to the grocery store; wrote and mailed 17 postcards; made lunch; did some work on "Project Rain-proofing," (involving the use of 1.1 mil puncture-proof 13 gallon kitchen trash bags); read more in Undaunted Courage; and nearly devoured the entire Sunday edition of The Missoulian - a paper for which our son-in-law Jack used to work! Also had a good phone conversation with Jack, who's working on a documentary project on public policy and oceans - stay tuned!

After dinner we took a short walk to the town park where there is a great large, multi-panel wooden sign with lots of information about local history and recreational opportunities. It was very nicely done with carved wooden borders, hand-lettering, a combination of text and photos, and a history of the creation of the park, which dates back to the early 1980s. The town has been sustained by lumbering, provisioning settlers, railroading and now mainly tourism, enduring the economic ups and downs associated with each of these enterprises - it made a great finish to our stay here.

Tomorrow: We plan to ride about 50 miles to Hot Springs, where we have a motel reservation. We'll be riding on highways 135 along the Clark Fork River, 200, and 28. We will climb about 1900 feet, mostly 3% grade or less; the weather is supposed to be OK.

Photos: None today.

For Those Who Want More: You got what there is!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day 28, 6/5/10 - Saltese to St. Regis, MT

Just the Basics: 26 miles and about 1000 feet of climbing. Today ends our fourth week - we have come 800 miles, surprising ourselves by averaging 200 miles per week this early in our trip and with all the climbing required. We hope to be in Whitefish, MT on Wednesday, ready to launch our push over the Continental Divide and past our 1000 mile mark - we'll see!

Today's ride was GREAT! We began by pushing our bikes up a very steep dirt road out of Saltese to a road which was created over the old Hiawatha (Milwaukee) Railroad right of way - beginning by crossing the trestle pictured here. Then about 6 miles of VERY roughly graveled dirt road to Haugen, where we stopped for a real breakfast, having had only Luna Bars and coffee in our motel in Saltese. We had planned to go all the way to St. Regis on this forest road but it was SO rough we decided on Plan B.

The next 3 miles or so were on a paved frontage road from Haugen to DeBorgia, followed by 3 miles on I90 to Henderson, where we picked up old US 10 all the way to St. Regis; this road is also known as Camelback - you gradually climb 1000 feet over 6 miles, then descend at a mostly similarly gradual grade for 6 miles into St. Regis. The road was very lightly traveled and entirely through wonderful forest, dominated by firs. At lunch and rest stops we saw yellow glacier lilies, wild strawberries, trillium, dandelions, balsam root, violets - and more!

Tomorrow: Another layover day due to weather - the forecast is for 0.64 inches of rain, with a potential thunderstorm. The road we start on will be curvy and we need to make about 50 miles, so tomorrow is not likely to be the right day for that ride.

Today's Photos: (1) The trestle out of Saltese; and (2) Fresh bear scat on the Hiawatha forest road - shortly after Riley spotted a black bear on the hillside above us!!

For Those Who Want More:
Big Sky Country: It is true what they say - Montana is Big Sky Country! Particularly as we look north from St. Regis the sky appears so immense we imagine the world to be a bigger place than we thought! There are many clouds, of all types, mostly white, and holding them the bluest sky you could ever imagine.

Finding Our Route: We are still "between" the Adventure Cycling Lewis and Clark and Northern Tier Cross-Country routes, so finding our way on our own. Riley is carrying a variety of maps and we do a lot of talking to local folks, as well. He also makes great use of Google maps.
Today's route represents contributions from:

(1) The couple managing the motel in Saltese - they told us that a group of bikers had come through going west over the forest road we proposed to travel and the husband (a biker) confirmed that the graders had been through recently so we should not find any rocks or fallen trees, etc. blocking our way.

(2) The morning clerk at the motel, who told us about the Camelback route - she said it was a climb but very pretty (and of course there'd also be the downward swoop that followed) - and warned us to remember that cars were on the road even though it might begin to seem like there weren't any!

(3) The cashier at the 50,000 Silver Dollar truck stop restaurant in Haugen, who told us we could take the frontage road to De Borgia - and a staff person at a restaurant down the road who confirmed that.

Dealing With Rain: We are doing better on this score than on previous bike tours because we have a lot of our stuff in ultra-light waterproof bags and Riley's new rear panniers are fancy Ortlieb water-proof ones. Riley's front panniers & Becky's rear panniers have pretty decent covers (kind of like shower-caps or bowl covers, they have elasticized edges and are pulled around and over the panniers). That said, we are not at 100% dry, or anything like it, as our very rainy Friday ride revealed.
Becky's front panniers have no rain protection and the 4 panniers that just have covers did a fair job of protecting our stuff but they still got pretty wet - as did some of the stuff in them. We were in a tiny motel room in Saltese so we had drying stuff everywhere, with a clothesline Riley rigged which required us to exercise extreme care in getting up to use the bathroom at night - et cetera! We were aware of these issues and packed with the possibility of getting some stuff wet in mind, but will definitely expend some more effort on keeping stuff drier in future!
Bike Stuff: As we were riding up Camelback, Becky's 2nd lowest gear in the back began acting up. Every time she shifted into it, there were repeated sudden lurches in the gearing, which we now think is due to a defective cog in the cluster - perhaps due to all the rough roads in the past few days. Riley spent a long time working on it but in the end, she's avoiding that gear and we'll have it checked out at the bike shop in Whitefish.