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 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.
Back 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.
Enter 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.