Tom and I got up about 5:30 am, and after a brief discussion we decided to try and ride all the way to Billings instead of stopping at Lavina MT. Livina is a pretty easy 42 mile ride with a lot of downhill runs; Billings is 49 miles with some pretty hefty climbs right out of Livina and just before the Billings airport. The bottom line: we decided to go for it.
It was very foggy as we left the town which made for an almost surreal experience viewing the sun with its golden halo rising up in front of us. On the way out of town there is a painted wall with the names of Harlowton residents that have passed away from various types of cancer. It is a sobering reminder that many people have gone through a lot more than a tired butt and sore feet from pedaling a bicycle.
The heavy fog came and went as we pedaled the first 29 miles to Ryegate. It was so thick at time that we had to wipe our glasses off just to see the road. The process which we repeated numerous times went something like this: stop, wipe off the glasses, turn on the front and rear lights, take off the sunglasses, start pedaling again. A few minutes later the process would be reversed.
Due to the fog I used the blinker selection on both of my lights and was rewarded with a very nice comment when we reached Ryegate. A rancher stopped at the bar/restaurant/casino where we were eating a sandwich and commented, ‘I passed you guys leaving Harlowton this morning. Those flashing lights were sure visible from quite a ways back.’ From a safety point I felt pretty good.
By the time we left Ryegate the sun had burned off the fog and the temperature had begun heating up; a 180 degree change from earlier in the day. Soooooo, off we went after a brief rest, some pleasant conversation, and super good grilled ham/cheese sandwich.
Much of our time was spent riding beside the Musselshell River and the remains of the old Milwaukee Railroad Line, which was eventually shut down in 1980. The Musselshell was very high and moving quite swiftly due to the recent rains, but not has high as several years ago when it washed away part of the Milwaukee Line bridge.
We took the opportunity to stop and take a few photos of Grace Lutheran Church which is located in a scenic grass field behind the remains of the town. It is truly a picturesque spot and evokes memories of the old Carter family song: The Church in the Wildwood.
The church was built in 1917 by the Methodists, but shortly after WWI Barber, and the Methodist congregation, began to decline and the church, which was purchased by the Lutherans in 1977, is the only occupied structure remaining in the town.
On to Livina, and a final decision on making the run to Billings.
We arrived in Livina MT at 11 am: five hours, including stops, to run 49 miles. This was a respectable time so after stopping at the local convenience store we decided to turn right, head south, and go home.
Jan and Michaela were manning the cash register when we stopped. Jan has been there numerous times as we passed through the area so there was a little catch up conversation while we enjoyed a Wilcoxson Huckleberry ice cream sandwich. Mum Mum Good!
The wind out of the south, which we were hoping to find in Mexico, found us as we left Livina. We ended up fighting the headwind allllll-theeee wayyyy into Billings.
There are several positive things about riding into a headwind I discovered: you never get hot because the wind is always blowing in your face, the flowers are blown back toward you so there is no need to twist your neck to get a good look at them, and there is very little chance of getting a speeding ticket.
I will say, that cresting the hill by the Billings Airport and seeing the city from the rims was a welcome sight after pedaling down the road for a little over 12 hours.
Jim Lewis, Tom’s cousin, joined us on the road outside of Acton and finished the journey with us. Pulling into my driveway to complete this pre-ride was certainly a welcome relief. I used to tell people these pre-rides were to test out the bicycle and equipment; now I think it is to test out the ol’ body. Well, the body passed, but I am not so sure the colors were flying straight out from the flag pole.
For those interested – We traveled 92 miles, today, climbed 1,500 feet, and were on the road for 12 hours and 21 minutes.
One piece of gear I did want to try out on this ride was biking sandals instead of shoes. Last year I noticed Menno, a friend from the Netherlands that I met on the road, wore sandals even in the cold wet weather in Alaska. After some discussions with him I decided to try out a pair of Exustar clip on sandals. Bottom line: they turned out to be a keeper.
Several things I noticed: my feet did not get cold in cool weather nor hot in the heat, my feet tend to swell after a long day of riding and would feel cramped and confined in regular shoes but not in the sandals, and the sandals were easier to put on/take off than shoes. Yes, after putting substantial mileage on them they will be going to Mexico with me.
Speaking of Mexico, Tom and I will be heading down to Mexico on Friday thanks to my wife who will be driving us down. Monday, if all goes well, we will mount our trusty steads, point them north, and take off for Canada.
God bless, and talk at ya’ later.