“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. . .

 

 

Speaking strictly as a fan, I’m enthralled

I didn’t cover the Seattle Seawolves game today as a journalist, so I feel like I can ignore all that stuff about no cheering in the press box. Which leads me to say that I love it when my team scores a converted try 56 seconds into the game after Vili Toluta’u jumped up to take the opening kickoff from the arms of the waiting New Orleans forward. Brock Staller and Will Holder were steady all day in kicking conversions and penalties.

I’m even happier when my team goes up 21-0 before 10 minutes into the game.

Nervous when New Orleans scores twice within three minutes before the half and then gets the first score of the second half to come within a try of the Seawolves: 31-26.

And so ended the New Orleans scoring for the day, but not the Seawolves’, who added another penalty, three tries and three conversions to take the win, 55-26.

I didn’t take any photographs today, but I did talk to Peter Tiberio, who was bloodied in last week’s victory over the Utah Warriors. I tweeted a photograph of that last week and was surprised to see him scarless after the game today while signing autographs for future rugby players and chatting to fans. Last week’s cut took eight stitches to close, he said, and was wrapped for today’s game. Give that doc kudos for keeping the lads pretty.

Tiberio
Peter Tiberio has healed from his head injury sustained against Utah last week.

The win today puts the Seawolves at the top of the standings over the Glendale Raptors, who did not play. The Seattle team will be in Texas for the next two weekends, against Houston next week and then Austin the following weekend. The regular season comes to an end on June 16 when the Seawolves play Glendale in Colorado, a game that could decide the league winner and could be a preview of playoff action on June 30 (in Glendale) for the semis and July 7 (in San Diego) for the finals.

Wherever the season goes from here, the four home games ended on a high note today, and I can’t wait for the return of the Seawolves at Starfire (or CenturyLink) in 2019.

Hoping my enthusiasm hasn’t destroyed anyone’s beliefs in my ability to be an objective journalist. When I’m on the clock, these guys are just another team (and they should have beat Utah, 41- 22, instead of 41-32, but I digress). Not on the clock? Hey, I’m human and a forever rugby fan.

 

 

 

Poor tackling? Or great running?

Peter Steinberg, CBS Sports rugby commentator, insisted during the Seattle Seawolves game against the New Orleans Gold May 12 that poor tackling on the part of the southern team led to their 31-29 defeat.

And 100 percent perfect tackling would mean no tries scored and certain victory — or nothing worse than a 0-0 tie. But poor tackling can have two causes. The defenders might be slow, weak or easily got around, as Steinberg seemed to imply about NOLA. But some players are just hard to tackle. Some players like William Rasileka, Shalom Suniula, Will Holder, Matt Turner, Peter Tiberio, Peter Smith. Those Seawolves backs cut up the NOLA defense to combine for four tries. Smith was the perfect kicker, connecting on all four conversions and a penalty. (Steinberg also rightfully pointed out that NOLA could have tied the game with one more successfully kicked conversion or won if one of their missed penalty kicks had gone through.)

None of those Seattle tries would have been scored if NOLA tacklers had been more proficient, but the quick steps, deceptive passes and well executed plays of the Seattle backs made the NOLA task daunting.

And Seattle’s game is an exciting one to watch. Major League Rugby liked this score enough to name it the try of the week:

But for my money, the Seattle movement that starts at 2:00 in the video below is a lot more fun to watch:

On Sunday, the Seawolves face the Utah Warriors at sold-out Starfire Stadium back home in Tukwila. (5:30 PDT)

The Seawolves had to hang on to the very end to get the win against NOLA, and from the MLR game report on Utah’s win last week over Austin, it sounds like Seattle better be prepared to hang around to the end again if they want a victory. Austin’s Hanco Germishuys summed it up this way: “It just came down to the end. At the end Utah had more pace than us, more passion to get that win. In the second half we had that 20 minutes but then we started falling off.”

For Seattle on Sunday, there can be no falling off.

Seawolves 1/3 of week’s all-league team

Let’s start with Vili Toluta’u, named to this week’s Major League Rugby’s all league team. In Saturday’s game, the senior at Central Washington University popped out of the Glendale Raptor’s maul with the ball several times, contrary to the way things usually happen when a team settles in to drive down the field and instead gets a hard-running Hawaiian champagne cork flying at the scrum half. Makes him all-league open side flanker for the week.

Ray Barkwill and Tim Metcher take two of the three spots in this week’s all-league front row. The Canadian hooker and Australian prop are like stakes in the ground in the set scrums, holding firm until a second row like Taylor Krumrei, a University of Oregon alum, puts them in motion, driving low and forward. Taylor made the all-league team for the week, and Olive Kilifi could have filled out that other front row spot as far as I’m concerned. He’s a solid block of muscle and experience. (And I apologize for calling him Olive like the green things in a glass jar. I’m told by a person in the stands who says he knows Kilifi’s cousin that it is pronouced O-leave-eh.)

Four of the eight forwards on the all-league week’s team from Seattle. Add to that William Rasileka out in the backs. The Fijian played for his national side in 15s and 7s and came to Seattle in 2011 to play for Old Puget Sound Beach and then the Seattle Saracens. Nice to have him still in town, steady in defense and dangerous with the ball in hand.

With five of the 15 all-league roster coming from the Seawolves, it does raise the question: Why didn’t they win on Saturday?

That’s probably best answered by looking at the rest of the week’s rep side. There you will find the names of Harley Davidson (hooray for his parents if they decided on Harley) at wing and Maximo De Achaval (kudos to his parents as well) at fullback. Davidson had the second half try that put the Raptors up 16-3.

The answer to the question is complete when you look at the player of the week (who mysteriously does not get named onto the team of the week — what am I missing?). Here’s what the league said in naming the week’s top player:

“Glendale’s Zach Fenoglio earned Player of the Week honors. Fenoglio showed off tremendous versatility by starting the match at flanker and finishing at hooker. The Denver native converted a crucial try to help lift the Raptors over the Seattle Seawolves and start the season 2-0.”

Add in two penalty kicks from Glendale’s Will Magie, strong Raptor defense and lots of Seawolves handling mistakes, and you’ve got your answer.

Still, they persisted, scoring as time ran out. That try brought the Seawolves within seven points of Glendale (19-15), close enough for a bonus point in the standings (also awarded to a team that scores four tries in a game). That could be a crucial difference come playoff time (June 30 and July 7).