Down the Lawrence Welk Highway and beyond

June 15, 2018 – Bismarck to Napoleon, ND

Napoleon

Still some wind today, but much easier than yesterday. It got stronger toward the end of the 72.1-mile ride and winding our way through the ponds outside of Napoleon brought us face up into the wind.

And about those “table tops” we’d be sailing across after we got past Bismarck? No signs of them today.

Lawrence WelkBut we were on the “Lawrence Welk Highway” today, which brought back many memories. Thought of my Grandma Saul, who sat down in front of these TV shows every night, long after they had gone off the air leaving only reruns to go on and on forever. If they aren’t still there and if she were still alive today, she’d be searching for the Lemon Sisters and Jo Ann Castle on Youtube.

We did love Grandma back then, but at the time, we had little good to say about Mr. Welk and his music. Wonder if we’ll be sitting around looking for American Bandstand, Shindig and Soul Train reruns in our older days? Maybe not yet.

IMG_0030 2
Isn’t that a beautiful table? I bought it especially for this trip. And Don, our now solo SAG host, prepared a lunch for us.

Napoleon had a special ring to it for those of us who grew up in Henry County, Ohio, whose county seat was also named Napoleon, the dreaded arch rival back in the day for those who grew up nine miles down the road in Liberty Center, which is not some shopping center that came along much later.

Not so friendly coming out of Bismarck, where the sure-to-show-up on any bike ride is some jackass yelling out the window at they speed by you. Made me wish we were back in friendly Montana.

But in Napoleon, ND, they were getting ready for a parade of old tractors the next morning, and several of them were out cruising the town that night. Every tractor driver I ever met was friendly and always gave a wave. Same here.

Bismarck to Napoleon

 

“Maybe we should call it a day here”

June 14, 2018 – Glen Ullin to 15 miles short of Bismarck, ND.

MJ on June 14

For the second time this trip, I heard Mary Jo say something I never expected to hear from her: “Maybe we should call it a day here.”

“Here” being 15 miles short of Bismarck and only 40 miles of riding? I had steeled myself against this throughout the ride today, hoping I would not be the poltroon who put my bike in the back of the truck and myself in the back seat. But I happily changed course and agreed as going up hills in a 24-mph head wind was a struggle. For me, it meant straggling along at three mph and impossible to get over 10 mph on down hills because of the winds. Still not to Bismarck yet, so no table tops to cruise across.

So the bikes went into the truck, and we drove into Bismarck and had a nice lunch before taking Kathy, the No. 1 SAG person ever, to the airport to fly back to Seattle and head south to California with No. 1 grandson, who finished his first year at Seattle University.

My birthday came earlier this year as Mary Jo and Don bought me a new bicycle pump to replace the one I bought in 1992, when I did my first Seattle to Portland ride. We tried the old pump out while in Medora, and it did not work. Nothing like a worn-out, busted pump on a long bike ride.

North Dakota seems richer than Eastern Montana, and others blamed that on fracking and what that has done for the economy here. But some of these things have been in place much longer than the oil industry arrived here. I’m blaming it on agriculture – more croplands instead of range lands, well-kept buildings instead of whatever holds up over the winter. Just looks that way from over my handlebars – even into the winds.

Glen Ullin to Bismarck.jpeg

Ever in Glen Ullin, ND? Visit the Wet Spot, Mile Marker 69

June 13, 2018 – Medora to Glen Ullin, ND

First biker
We met our first biker of the trip. He was headed west to do the Continental Trail and figured riding out from the East Coast would get him in shape.

Breakfast at the Farmhouse and then on our bikes for the pedal across North Dakota – where we thought the winds would come out of the west and blew right up our back and push us across the state. But there was an easterly wind right from the start, and it got stronger as the day went along.

We made a few turns during our route to Glen Ullin, which made me realize that no matter what happens in North Dakota, the wind never stops and it always blows right in your face. It was almost impossible to get going more than 10 mph even on the down hills because of the wind. We still managed to average 9.7 mph. Not sure how we did that. Longest and hardest ride of the trip, but there were better things to come: A woman in the Taylor Nursery shop said that once we got beyond Bismarck, there would be nothing but “table tops” to cruise across.

But for today, we crossed a time-zone change out here in the middle of the state and did not finish our 86.2 miles to Glen Ullin (pop. 800) until late.

The only place to eat, according to Margaret at the Red Roof Inn B&B, meant either driving 20 miles back to Dickinson or going to the Wet Spot Liquor.

Did I hear that right? That’s right, Wet Spot at Mile Marker 69. We had to go there.

Inside Wet Spot
Three milquetoasts, who were not offended, at the Wet Spot bar.

Outside Wet Spot

Frozen pizza on round cardboard, which was not too bad at all. Great selection of liquors, and the bar maid said she did not think a bunch of milquetoasts like us would be offended by their double-entendre name. She pointed out the mile marker out front was designating 69. Not fake news here.

But we didn’t want to sleep on the wet spot though, and we headed back to the Red Roof.

Medora to Glen Ullin

What would you do on a rest day after biking 375 miles?

June 12, 2018 — Rest day

Horse

It’s our rest day in Medora, ND, just outside the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and what do we do? Go on a hike, of course.

We’ve already ridden more than 375 miles on our bikes, but now it’s time to stretch our legs in a different way.

We had our breakfast at the Farmhouse Café with the same Macedonian waiter who waited on us for lunch the day before. Like all help around the United States’ national parks, it’s fun to spot the nametags of where all the serving staff, desk clerks, housekeeping and store clerks are from. We had a wonderful spinner of tales from a Southern state at the Ferris Store. We had a very attentive young woman from South Africa for our server that night at the Theodore Restaurant in the Rough Rider Hotel (celebrating Kathy’s birthday).

It’s this hotel and the nearby Ferris Store that got this place up and running. That’s when Harold Schafer – the man who brought us Mr. Bubbles — bought these two places in 1962 and started putting together the village that helps support the national park, bringing the good times out to the Badlands, aways from much else.

All four
Kathy, John B., Don and Mary Jo

Now we are four, with Don flown in from Cincinnati. We drove the truck on the 36-mile loop that goes through the southern portion of park. Saw bison, wild horse and many, many prairie dogs.

BisonPrairie dog

We stopped at Jones Creek trail head and had a nice picnic out of the back of the truck before our three-mile hike. We were warned by a trekker coming off the trail to watch out for ticks, which he was shredding from his back. We made it through with no bloodsuckers that needed to be glad to get out of our skins.

We didn’t go to the “rootin, shootin” Medora Western Musical, see an impersonator tell Theodore Roosevelt’s story here or eat at the Pitchfork Steak Fondue restaurant. We didn’t stop at some of the old cabins and other structures that were here when TR made this his way of growing up and then putting it back together after his wife and mother died on the same day.

It’s the kind of remote (where did this landscape come from?) setting that makes a human admit he needs to make it on the land by himself without too much help from the dry, uneven earth around him.

But it is beautiful, and I hope the faux TRs don’t give it away.

From the mission statement of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation:

“PRESENT opportunities for our guests to be educated and inspired through interpretive programs, museums and attractions that focus on the Old West, our patriotic heritage and the life of Theodore Roosevelt in the Badlands.”

Trail

 

 

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.