Day 3

Leaving HarlowtonBlue sky, shinning on me.  Nothing but blue sky, do I see.  That old saw was definitely written about this morning.  Last night it was nothing but low overcast gray clouds spitting rain, and this morning, yes this morning has an entirely different beauty.

We were up at 6:30am, putting up our rain gear, munching on a few health bars, packing our bags, filling the water bottles, and getting the bikes ready.  We were on the road at 7:30am.  The temperature was 54 degrees so I had my leg warmers on; wow, talk about a nice warm feeling in my leg muscles.  I can’t get over how comfortable this recumbent bicycle is: just lean back in the bike seat, scoot down and rest the head on the rest. and peddle away.  Reclining in a Lazy-Boy couldn’t be better.

Stage Stop CafeThe first 17 miles clicked off running about 15mph; our fastest ever, never mind that it was all ‘down hill’.  Enter the Stage Stop Cafe in Shawmut MT, managed by Emilie.

The cafe had a warmth and charm you don’t find in the synthetic franchise places.  The tables were full of people talking about the weather, and flooding, and crops, and a Schwann’s driver was taking food orders over in the corner.

There is a lady there with her seeing-eye dog.  Her name is Sharon and she has only had this dog a few months.  Seeing-eye dogs go through a lot of preliminary training, but I didn’t realize the recipient must then train the dog for their specific life and traveling routes.  Sharon still had some eyesight when she received her first dog so training the dog wasn’t so bad, but this time around things were a little more difficult.  Sharon’s smile made up for any lack of eyesight; I know it sure warmed me up.

Big StretchThen there was Jerry.  Jerry seemed to know every road in this neck of the woods.  He was very interested in our ride and the ‘odd kinda bicycles’ we used.  He kept asking, ‘You guys really rode through Deep Creek Canyon?’  After the third time I was beginning to feel like Superman for having ridden through that area.

After an hour we finally had to move on, either that or start ordering lunch.  Next stop: Ryegate.  This is an ice cream stop only 14 miles down the road.  As it turns out, the cashier at the store is Shirley, a lady that was in the Shawmut cafe an hour earlier.  It was kinda of like meeting an old friend in the middle of nowhere.  At this point Tom kindly suggested that I might consider using some sun screen; there was some comment about me changing my name to Cherry.  Note to self: put on sun screen lotion when we start out in the morning.

13 Mile ClimbLavina was only 16 miles down the road and a good place for a lunch stop.  Seems like we are kinda eating our way across the country, doesn’t it.  By now At this we have ridden 47 miles and had three food stops.  Billings is just another 33 miles.  In the middle of the day, having ridden mostly down hill, and with a full tummy, we decided to push on to Billings for a 90 mile day. There is a fool born every minute!  The next 13 miles was a a 600 foot climb; not all that steep but a long slow grind.

Broadview was a 15 mile cold ice tea stop, and it was needed after the just finished climb which was done at 5-6 miles per hour.  By now I had the great idea to call Margie and ask her to fix us a nice steak/asparagus/cherry pie dinner;  obviously a carrot at the end of the stick.  Next stop: 16 miles to Acton.

At the Acton Bar and GrillThe Acton Bar and Grill was certainly a welcome sight even though the ride was fairly level; temperatures now in the high 80s.  Lou (left) has run the bar for quite a long time and offered us glasses of ice cold water and frozen chocolate chunk ice cream desert which was her treat to us.  I would have to take my shoes off to count all of the wonderful people we have already gotten to know.  Small world note: Tom camped out in Lou’s back yard back in 2008. Diane (right), filled us in with some interest facts about the area then showed us an old wagon that her husband was restoring.

Back on the road for the final 14 miles.  We were both a little war weary and somewhat beat but hope springs eternal, either that, or we were to tired to know any different.  The thought of a nice steak and cherry pie with ice cream continued to loom in front of us.

Trip FinishedAfter climbing almost a half mile today we managed to finish in Billings.  It took us almost 12 hours, including breaks, but we dude it!

On our trip across the country we need to average 60-70 miles per day to stay on plan.  Some days we will do a lot less due to weather or road conditions and some days we will need to do more.  This trip was a definite confidence builder.  Can we get up 6-8% grades with all of our stuff: yes.  Can we ride in miserable weather: yes.  Can we maintain our humor: YES! The question about being able push ourselves, our bicycles, and all of our gear was answered; we can average 63 miles per day.

On The RoadI need to develop patience.  At my age and weight and carrying all of my gear I cannot ‘attack’ the hills like a Tour de France rider.  I am slow and overweight.  No way around it.  Riding up a 15 mile 2% grade at 5-6 mph, sometimes a low as 3.5 mph, is not exciting.  Ah, but going down the other side is quite a rush.

What would I change?  Certainly I can mail my ‘cold weather’ gear home at some point which will save about 2 pounds.  Considering the availability of small stores I could carry less food which will save another 2-3 pounds.  Other than that, I felt the advance planning paid off.  I can’t begin to thank all those individuals that offered ideas and suggestions on bicycle set up, gear choices, and food selections.

Tom and I will be heading out from Seaside OR in two weeks.  We agreed to doing this trip back in September: 10 months ago.  Now, June 20th will be here before we know it.  Blessings to all of you who will be following our trip and offering us your well wishes.  Talk at ya’ later.






Day 2

Fixing our first flat.Day 2 of our shakedown adventure was a 57 mile ride from White Sulphur Springs MT to Harlowton MT.  The first 15 miles involved 1800 ft of climbing, and then mostly downhill. But (isn’t there always a but?) we were subjected to our first mechanical test of the trip: a flat tire.  After brief delay and a new tube installation we were on the road by 10am.

The day started out cloudy and cool but quickly turned cold and rainy: 41 degrees and pouring down rain. When you are climbing the ol’ bod is a little heat generator so you tend to stay warm. Going downhill has just the opposite effect: you stop generating heat, you cool off, and you look for anything that will warm you up. Whala!  What should appear but Checkerboard.

Checkerboard Inn with JudyCheckerboard is a small community primarily made up of recreational cabins for hunting, fishing, and rafting.  The local hangout, the Checkerboard Bar & Inn, is a quaint building with taxidermy mounts adorning the walls, a pool table in one room and an old upright piano sitting quietly in the corner just waiting for someone to bang out a tune.  Judy, the proprietor, provided us with hot coffee, some great hamburgers, and wonderful tales about the area.  Judy had been here since 1990 and was a fountain of area information. Unfortunately, all warm things must end.
tom-the-duckBack on the road in the rain and in the cold we continued to climb the hills.  Little did I realize that with all the rain, my traveling companion was slowly turning into a duck.  Necessity is the mother of invention, and Tom certainly chased that mother around.  He ended up using his pannier covers, wrapped around his shoes, to try and warm up his feet.  It worked, and we continued to paddle along.

The good: the rain stopped at the 45 mile point.  The bad: the wind began picking up.  The ugly: we were riding directly into the wind.  The last 12 miles was mind over matter; all we could do was slowly grind it out.  On the bright side, with all of the rain and windy weather we decided to stay in a motel, again.

Stacy-country-innEnter Stacy, at the Country Side Inn.  Talk about a warm cheery face after a gray blustery day!  It is amazing how people can brighten your day just when you reach a low point. We met Linda as we rode into town; she directed us to the motel and showed us the beautiful flower bed she was building.  We met Bob, a fellow from Utah, who was helping to eradicate some problem prairie dogs.  During supper we got to know a wonderful waitress at the Sportsman’s Bar who was saving to buy a trumpet and enroll at Missoula in music.

A trip like this would definitely be a lot harder if it weren’t for the wonderful people we keep meeting along the way.  Regardless of the daily headlines, there are many nice and friendly people out there.  All you have to do is slow down, offer a smile, and share a story or two.

In Harlowton.Well, day 3 will be here before I know it.  Talk at you later!

Day 1

Tom and Rick in TownsendSomeone once said, ‘These are the times that try men’s souls’.  I don’t think it was focused on bicycle riding, but it was certainly true, today.

Tom and I left Townsend MT this morning (June 3) with dark clouds hanging overhead and a 58 degree temperature.  Our goal was to ride 44 miles and camp out in White Sulphur Springs. This was the most demanding day because the first 27 miles was all uphill, in some cases the grade exceeded 8%.  Well, it turned out that the hills were not the most demanding part of the ride.

Rick in the rain.The temperature dropped to a low of 41 degrees, there was rain (and more rain), and sleet.  To add insult to injury, a stiff wind shifted into our face for the last 9 miles.  There is not much you can do in this situation but drop down in low gear and crank away.  It took us 6 1/2 hours to reach White Sulphur Springs, which included food stops and rest stops and potty stops and let’s get warm stops.

Tom at lunch.All in all, though, it was a good ride which tested our resolve and our equipment.  We told a few jokes, swapped tall tales, and broke bagels together. Actually, our hands were so cold we broke bagels all over ourselves and the ground.  Both of us ended up smelling like cooked salmon because that went everywhere, also.  Halfway up the steepest hill I was threatening to shoot the person that talked me into this trip; Tom assured me that it was some guy name Mark.

The good news is all of my stuff stayed dry thanks to the Sea to Summit dry sacks Tom pointed me towards.  Most of my clothing is some type of synthetic fabric which dried out pretty quickly, and the selection of clothing I decided to bring seems adequate for all occasions.  I was somewhat cold but not uncomfortably so, and I was damp but not soaking wet.

The Bacchetta recumbent bike performed very well, especially the front gear selection.  At this point I am not sure what, if anything, I would change on the bike.  Right now I am carrying 31 pounds of gear, 9 pounds of water, 8 pounds of food, and 13 pounds of panniers.  The bike itself weighs about 42 pounds, so my total rolling weight is 103 pounds.  It would be nice to get this below 100 pounds, but I am not sure how to do this right now.  Note to self: go through my weight list to see what can be tossed out.

Blowin' In The WndMayn Cemetery is on the right when entering White Sulphur Springs (coming from Townsend), and it had a beautiful display of American flags, which, incidentally were really, as they say, Blowin’ In The Wind. We decided to stay in the All Seasons Inn; camping would have been miserable because of the wet and muddy ground.  The hotel provides a secure area to store the bicycles which was a real plus, and the hot showers were an even better plus.  Dinner was at a diner instead of our cook stoves.  Lots of nice people, lots of nice stories about White Sulphur Springs, great idea to stop here.

Get ready, Harlowton.  You better close the bars and lock the women up cause the old guys are headin’ your way!