Bicyclists should be allowed on the freeways

June 11, 2018 Glendive, MT. to Medora, ND

We got up early and both of us – the truck and the two bikes – entered the on-ramp to Interstate 94 next to our hotel. Not with the bikes in the back of the truck, but with both of the riders pedaling along the freeway.

Apparently it’s the only way to make bike contact with North Dakota from Glendive. Mary Jo and I would be un-supported this day, as Kathy was driving 194 miles to Bismarck airport to pick up Don, Mary Jo’s husband, to be our next SAG person.

We rode well coming out of the Yellowstone River valley. The grades angled up not so steep as on the back roads. The surface was smooth not like the rougher chip seal on the other roads. The traffic was light this early in the morning in northeast Montana.

As soon as we exited the freeway, we came across a bunch of cowboys, horses, trucks, cows and calves strung out over a field with a branding going on. What a racket. Men shouting, but mostly cows and calves mooing out their desperation.

North DakotaNot much farther came the border to North Dakota: Mary Jo only has 45 states left to ride across, and we were started on No. 46 with another return to I-94.

When we arrived at where we were supposed to exit off the freeway, MJ noticed the sign noted Medora, that night’s stopping point, was only 22 miles ahead. The indication on the “Adventure Cycling” maps (highly recommend) said 33 miles to go.

Why shouldn’t bicyclists be allowed on the freeway? The grades are better. There’s a big wide shoulder that makes riding out of traffic easier – especially when there are rumble stripes placed across the highway as they were in North Dakota. A simple stripe along the highway is perfect – you stay over there with the speedy traffic and we stay over here, bicycling along at a slower place. And in a place like Seattle, where the freeways are parking lots most hours of the day, the bicyclers would be the fastest things on the freeway.

The problem would be the exits, since bikers on the shoulder have to ride through the off ramps when they are continuing down the road. That would have to be the bikers’ responsibility to get across the exit without tangling with a car or semi. Hey, we helped pay for some of the best roads in America, why should we use them?

We tour the last 22 miles on the freeway: 62.5 miles in 4 hours and 45 minutes, for an above average of more than 13 mph.

Glendive, MT, to Medora, ND

“Maybe we shouldn’t even ride tomorrow”

June 10, 2018 Chaulk Butte Road to Glendive, MT

MJ in STP
Mary Jo in her Seattle to Portland jersey.

Last night I heard Mary Jo say words I never thought I would hear come out of her mouth: “Maybe we shouldn’t even ride tomorrow.”

This from someone who had ridden across 44 of the Lower 48 states? Was she going soft?

We could have ridden farther yesterday, but both of us decided quitting at Jordan was enough hills and winds for the day. Mary Jo had been checking the forecast on Dark Sky (highly recommended). What she found were winds blowing from the east, directly in to the way we were headed. What happened to the westerly winds so common in this part of the world?

Plus, we were still in the up and down roller country.

So MJ decided we would truck to where the downhill started on the day’s ride and start from there. If that seemed to go OK, we’d keep on going.

I could hardly believe it but happily agreed.

The wind was blowing from the west. So maybe the Principal Rider and Planner, but maybe not the Principal Weather Forecaster?

The downhill to Circle went well. The boogers from my cold are gone (both snot and blood). I said I would bail if I was slowing her down, but on the next 14 miles of uphill part way to Lindsay, I kept up. There were some cross winds, but when we veered right on to Highway 200S, it became a tail wind and then the downhill slide into the Yellowstone River Valley at Glendive. Never below 20 mph for the last 30 miles.

Maybe the best day of riding – 69.6 miles – ever, and we almost didn’t do it.

Chaulk Buttee Road to Glendive

 

 

 

Truck trip to Fort Peck Dam, holding more water than ever

June 9, 2018 Mosby to Jordan, MT 

MJ riding

Principal Rider is also the Principal Planner for this trip, and she had made plans to stay in Jordan, MT, which did not look so good in pictures and looked even worse in reality. Although we did have a very nice lunch there in the shade of the park — and I got to use my new camping table! Thanks again to our SAG person, the truly wonderful Kathy.

Picnic table
See my new camping table? It’s on the right side.

Mary Jo thought that it would be more fun to head up to Fort Peck, which sounded fine to me since it meant the bikes would be in the back of the truck. So reservations were made and canceled and off we went.

We thought of riding up to the turn off to Fort Peck, but the wind and hills had taken the toll on us. So we finished with 50.6 miles for the day and headed north in the truck.

We stayed at the Fort Peck Lodge, built in 1933 as a temporary housing and garage for the 10,000 or so people who came to build the Fort Peck Dam. The lake on the Missouri River is 134 miles long, and it’s all head back by an earth-filled dam.

MJ and KT at FP
Kathy and Mary Jo in front of the Fort Peck Lodge.
KT and JB at FP
Our SAG rider and the Slowest Rider.

Because of the wet spring in Montana this year, the article in the Billings Gazette points out that it has held back more water than ever before: “Looming above the plain like a great grassy green berm, Fort Peck Dam has impounded more Missouri River water this spring than ever before — enough to cover all of Yellowstone National Park with 6 feet of water.”

We walked around the houses that have been built there in the temporary-then-became-permanent community and found them to be very nice houses and government buildings.

Lobby

Bear
The waitress said he showed up overnight

The lodge makes it obvious that hunting/fishing/outdoors to the rural Montana economy is huge to them. Every room is filled with trophy heads, pictures with big fish and dead deer, elk and antelope.

Somehow we had one room that was decorated with something other than the manly arts of fishing and hunting. We had a picture from the Moulin Rouge, a copy of the Mona Lisa and a Dutch masters portrait. Maybe we looked that way to them.

And the Principal Rider became the Principal Hunter, her room filled with lovely trophy pictures.

Mosby to Jordan

Pass the steak, pie and, yes, blue-cheese dressing

June 8, 2018 Lewistown to Mosby, MT

Judith Mtn
John, south of the Judith Mountains, a wonderful day of riding in Montana

We rode all 79.6 miles today. The first seven miles out of Lewistown was uphill, and then we had 20 miles of downhill. Great ride with Judith Mountains in the distance, and that’s where this picture was taken.

We started in on what would become a common theme today: Uphill and then a bit of down, then uphill and then down. Last year, when we rode across Nevada, there was steady uphill going up the pass and then a corresponding down hill into the next basin. It always seemed like we got short changed on the downhill on this rollers. Up, up, up and then down, then up, up and one-half do–.

Delores
Delores, who puts on a pretty good spread

We stayed at the Hill Ranch Oasis, a bed and breakfast, run by 84-year-old Delores. She gets help from daughter, sons and in laws for the two seasons she has: May and June for prairie-dog shooting (we did not do that) and then in the fall for hunting deer, elk, antelope and dire wolves (only if they are stalking the livestock).

The Hill Ranch Oasis had many cattle and sheep but sold them as Phil, the patriarch passed away recently.

The meal that night was tops: Steaks, fried potatoes, asparagus, pickled beets and plain old pickles and green salad with the blue-cheese dressing. Delores made the dressing, and it was the best ever. I’d go back just for that. Choice of pie for dessert: Strawberry rhubarb (my favorite) and cherry. With ice cream, if you wanted it. I’m sure I forgot something because I was too busy eating all of it.

And the next morning? Pancakes, to get you off to a good start.

Dining room
In city the living room, dining room area of The Hill Ranch Oasis.

Lewistown to Mosby

Where did you get that tick?

Fort Benton

June 7, 2018 – From Fort Benton to Lewistown, MT.

I gave myself permission to ride only 65 miles today since the day’s allotment of 100 miles seemed a stretch for someone who has to admit that maybe they are slower than the Principal Rider because they are always behind her. The picture above was one I shot at the beginning of the ride coming up out of Fort Benton – one of the few times I was ahead of Mary Jo.

ElevatorI did 61.6 miles to Denton, MT, home of the dire wolf. That was the strange animal shot on May 16, 2018, by a family who thought something was stalking their livestock. When we were there, it was pretty much up in the air about what this strange creature was. I was betting on the dire wolf, but the DNA says it was just a plain wolf. I was in it for the International Cryptozoology Society, since they have not had much since the coelacanth showed up for them back in 1938 after being extinct for 65 million years. Fake news, they all cried in their fishy voices.

We did have another nice lunch in Denton, siting at the park table out of the sun and away from any wolf dangers, dire or not.

Square Butte
There we are with Square Butte in the background.

The Principal Rider went on another 85 miles before we picked her up in the truck. Hills, wind and chip seal roads slowed us down considerably. We were riding 100 miles because there is nowhere to stay on in that part of Montana.

I did pick up this bit of humor from someone in Geraldine, MT:

We were talking to an older gent about biking and floating the Missouri River when another local fellow came up to him and opened a wadded up tissue for him to see something therein.

“Is that a tick?” he asked.

“Yes,” the older gent replied. “Where did you get that?”

“Out of my neck.”

“I bet he’s glad to get out of there.”

In the truck
Me in the truck, my sister out riding.

Fort Benton to Lewistown

First day of riding: Lot of boogers

June 4 and 6, 2018 — Where the bike goes, we all go. And in the beginning, the bike went to the Knicker Biker shop in Great Falls, MT, which meant we went there, too, or at least to a hotel nearby.

Terry.jpg
Officer John mowing — for us?

Kathy and I gave ourselves two days to get to Great Falls with time for an overnight stay with Officer John and his newly minted librarian, Maureen. Congratulations on finishing the degree at Spokane Community College.

JB at SipI most wanted to stay in the Sip ‘N Dip Lounge and O’Haire Motor Inn, which is only a few blocks away. But we did get there in time to catch the mer-persons. The locals tell us we should have listened to Piano Pat – maybe next time.

After getting Mary Jo, that would be the Principal Rider, from the airport, we went the next day to the Knicker Biker to pick up her bike (shipped from Cincinnati) and have it put back together. I told the mechanic my rear tire looked a little worn. “You don’t want that on your way across a 700-mile ride,” said the worker. So he replaced it.

I started out with a head of snot because of a cold and a head of blood because I was starting a new blood thinner medicine. I caught the cold at The Seattle Times, where I worked for the past two months and did not get a whole lot of training in. And I got the new blood thinner because aspirin did not control my underlining clot factor.

I was accused by the SAG support of slowing down the Principal Rider. At lunch, the SAG rider and the Principal Rider had decided that I should stow my bike in the truck and join in the passenger seat for the ride to Fort Benton.

Of course, I was incensed, and from Highwood, MT, where we had a nice lunch in someone’s front yard, I picked up my pace and we did the 53.7 miles with an average time of 11 miles per hour – approved by the Principal Rider.

Of course, my boogers were as big as stones and my blood boogers were as big as boulders. A shower in the Grand Union Hotel, a nice dinner (Mary Jo did all right with the trout) and a walk down by the Missouri River, made it all seem like the first day of a ride – happy to be doing this again.

MJ at falls
Mary Jo at the Great Falls, MT.

 

No country for mixing rugby and biking

The idea was to ride my bike across Montana and North Dakota and keep track of the Seattle Seawolves rugby team at the same time.

It was an idea doomed to fail.

The Seawolves vs. Austin Elite game on Saturday, June 9, was not carried on TV networks available in Jordan, MT, (pop. 386). Especially since the game was played on Friday, June 8, which shows you how out of touch I was after four days of bike riding (246 miles). I heard it was a nail-biter with Seattle winning, 20-19.

And Seawolves vs. Glendale Raptors on Saturday, June 16, while in Lisbon, ND, (pop. 2,124)? Forget it. Yes, really forget it. Seattle lost 33-11.

But I did get to see the U.S. team beat Scotland, 30-29, which bodes well for the national team going forward. Maybe a win or two in the 2019 Rugby World Cup? That would be welcome across the land – even in Jordan and Lisbon, should they hear of it.

About this bike ride: It was not my idea. My sister gets credit/blame for that. It’s her goal/obsession to ride across all of the lower 48 states. We did Iowa and Nevada in 2017. Arkansas, North Dakota and the rest of Montana were on tap for 2018. I promised to ride across Arkansas with her, but our plans fell apart due to other priorities.

I said I would be support and gear/guidance (SAG) for her on Montana/North Dakota. But when her riding partner backed out, what kind of brother would I be if I left her pedaling alone somewhere between Great Falls, MT, and Fargo, ND?

KT at truck
Kathy preparing lunch the first day at the SAG wagon.

SAG duties fell to the spouses, and Kathy and Don can never be thanked enough.

JB and Don
With Don along the way in Napoleon, North Dakota.

It all started on June 4 when Kathy and I started the drive from Seattle. . .