Havre MT to Hays MT. Monday. With all pics.
Travel Time 9 hrs
Saddle Time 5:15
I figured I was going to stay in bed for a while after doing 175 miles the day before. I googled the Havre bike store first thing this morning and the only thing I got was a phone number. I called and left a message asking that they call me when they open. Well 15 min later at 8 am Roger called and said he was in the shop, but only for a few minutes then he will back around lunch time. I quickly dashed over there. We took off the tire and tube and saw that the leak was right at the patch spot from my first day! So I bought a new tire and finally said goodbye to the one that had been giving me headaches.
Roger offered to give me a ride in his truck over the 5 miles of construction I was about to hit leaving town. I thanked him, but didn’t want to cheat. Another stupid decision. The road was all mud and there was no shoulder. I was getting mud in my gears, brakes, hubs…everywhere. I tried flagging down some trucks for a ride, but they choose to spray me with mud instead. As soon as I made it thru these 5 miles, I pulled into a farm and asked the farmer if I could borrow his hose to power spray my bike. I wish I had taken a picture. But I was too caught up in the moment of salvaging my bike.
I had the wind at my back for the 45 miles to Harlem to see the memorial.
After I arrived at town hall and saw the pictures hanging in their meeting room, I asked how to get to the memorial 9 miles away at the crash zone. The women behind the desk immediately called the mayor and he drove over and picked me up. Coincidently, the 80 yr old mayor had gone to the bike store a few weeks back. The door was locked but Roger’s cell was listed on the door. He called Roger, who was out training a horse, and Roger immediately came in to open the store.
While I was sitting at the memorial in town, a car pulled up and a women came over to talk to me. She was my Warm Shower host and happened to drive by and spotted me. We talked, but I told her I needed to put more mileage on, so I thanked her and continued on. I won’t be near Warm Shower hosts for a few weeks.
I turned due south on 66 which meant that the heavy wind was hitting me hard from the right. I had to make 30 miles to the next town or the next anything. The pictures will show that all you see is farm and grazing land. The wind was so hard that I was leaning right just to keep straight. When cars came by I had to reinforce my hold on the bike, because I kept getting blown left. I finally made it to Hays, a small town mostly made up of Native Americans and I pulled into the one store they had. They called the owner, who allowed me to set up my tent on the grass across the street. The picture of the broken down wood building is of a call center used by the locals to sell mortgages over the phone. It was a small boiler room operation in the middle of nowhere!
As I was sitting outside my tent eating my dinner, an old man walked by. We talked for about 15 minutes about his time in the war, his time living off Haights Ashbury in San Fran in the 70s, and about the different farming going on around here. He then walked into the grocery store. On his walk home, he stopped by my tent and handed me a muffin for my breakfast the next day!
In the morning when I woke up. As I was taking down my tent, an old women stepped out from the house on the other side of the grocery store. She yelled over to me whether I wanted a cup of coffee. I don’t drink coffee but I did want to use her bathroom. She asked if I smelled the smoke in the air, I didn’t, but the ash trays around the house were a hint. She invited me in and we spent 20 minutes talking about her deceased husband ( Chief something) their 6 children and the additional 11 children she helped get thru high school.
The reality is that I sat there the night before watching all these bad stereotypical people drive to this store in their beat up trucks, kids hanging out the backs, most smoking and looking very out of shape (considering this “grocery” store is their only source of food for 30 miles). If you judged them by how they look, you wouldn’t get to appreciate who they really are. I was even talking to the grocery clerk about the 6 high school graduation announcements hanging on the wall. One of the cards mentioned that the boy was going to Dartmouth this fall!
Hays MT to Grass Range MT
Travel Time 8hrs
Saddle Time 5:30
Lots of nothing to see, which is something to see! Very glad I went this way. Did need to cheat for two miles for road construction again. I wasn’t given the option.
My favorite TV show is 60 minutes (as the Greenes can attest to). A week or so before I left, they replayed Leslie Stahls piece on missile silos in the Midwest. Obviously I wondered if I would pass one. Well today was my lucky day. I came over the crest of a hill and I saw to the right a fenced area with two military looking vehicles parked outside. No small building and no drive in movie theatre (name that reference). As I was biking closer, I noticed someone on a lawn mower heading along the driveway towards the road I was on. I’m no Matthew Broderick so I wasn’t about to bike up the driveway. I went over to ask him about the site and noticed he was wearing army attire and dog tags. We started talking. It turns out he is from Kingston NY. He explained that the two vehicles were there because there was a small security issue. He said it was a “paperwork mix up”. The next thing I know, two more military Hummer like vehicles pull in and soldiers with guns jump out. They ask me to go back onto the road because they need to talk with this soldier. They ask him for ID but not me. Meanwhile I am taking pictures and no one stops me! I decide I should bike on, quickly! A few miles up I see a similar looking location with no activity.
I am staying at the Four Seasons tonight. Or at least I have set up my tent behind one. It comes with a shower, bathroom, restaurant, grocery store, and casino! Stopped here because the next anything is 44 miles away.
Oh, and I did see an Elk……..sign
Grass Range Mt to Melstone MT
Travel Time 8hrs
Saddle Time 6:30 hrs
Today, the first half of my ride was thru the “Baby Rockies ” or the “Snowie Peaks”. No major hills but just constant up and then down and then up……
I tried to stop for lunch in Roundup MT, it was the only option on today’s ride and it seemed like it would be a good size. As I rode into town, there was a golf course, so that was a good sign. I asked two people if there were any restaurants with WIFI, and they looked at me like I had two heads. There weren’t even places that sold sandwiches, except the gas station. I went in there to buy a cold Gaterade. When I asked if I could fill up my water bottles with water from their tap, they said ” you can’t drink the water in Roundup”. I looked at them like they had two heads!
I made it to the next town, Melstone. There are two places for food. I went into the grocery store and bought my daily chocolate milk and got some cold OJ. When I asked if there was a place for me to sleep, they suggested the park next door. Worked out great because there was a hose for me to use to shower with. The woman from the store brought me down a gallon container of their shipped in water for me to have!
Then I went across the street to the cafe to check out the dinner specials. It was air conditioned and had the news on, so I decided to make myself comfortable. I met Hause, a 60ish yr old cowboy sitting at the bar with me. He told me how he left home at 18, and rode the rails as a hobo for many years. He explained the different techniques of jumping on trains, how it is important to wedge open doors so you don’t suffocate, and how to build a really efficient stove out of a can, some candle wax and a small piece of cardboard. I then started asking him about all the cutting of hay I went by today and the huge bushels. Did you know there are 19 different types of hay ! ( many of you refer to me as Forrest Gump for this trip, so do you want me to name the many types of shrimp/hay?). He thought me why some stacks were round and others square. Why it is important not to build bushels in the heat of the day. And most importantly how the the hay is just redistributed on the fields during the winter for grazing! The large machine I played chicken with on the road was a racker that takes two piles of cut grass and combines them into one. He then taught me about the large sprinkler systems I had been seeing. They are extremely expensive but are very water efficient, which is critical today. When he went to the bathroom, Connie the bartender told me he is illiterate! Meanwhile Connie just got back from Budapest and she has been to Paris and multiple other locations around the world. She lives in a town of 100 people. She is looking forward to her nieces wedding in October in Middlebury VT!
Thursday ( I have posted mon-wed and added photos to War Games)
Melstone MT to Forsyth MT
Travel Time 7 hrs
Saddle Time 6 hrs
Last night was a though one. I went to sleep at 9 in the little park, but at 1am my tent was getting hit by hard wind gusts. I thought the worst so I jumped out. But when I stood up, the wind wasn’t that bad. It is just the wind really shakes these small tents. I considered moving the tent to behind the concrete bench, but the wind was hitting there too. So I went back I to the tent. As I lay there I wondered if the town had any early tornado warning systems. I know my iPhone will alert me at home if there will be a cloud overhead. I didn’t know if Connie or Hause would know a storm was coming or whether they would think of notifying me. I decided to move my wallet, phone and iPad next to the tent door in case I had to make a quick escape. I slowly fell back asleep.
A few days ago I was wondering why I have been lugging around the tent and gear. I had only used it once. Well, I just slept in it three nights in a row and I’m sure I’ll have more nights in it.
I got on the road early to beat this heat. I figured if the wind was at my back, I would shoot past the “big” town of Forsyth and give up on a motel, and go a little father. But as soon as I hit the road I realized the wind was in my face. So for the next 66 miles I just looked down and pushed hard. The pedaling is hard, but it is really a stress on my shoulders and neck when I am not sitting upright
There are birds that like to fly next to me when I cycle by. They get really close and fly at my pace next to me. I figure they have their own blog and discuss racing cyclists. I can’t stop and take pictures, because they fly away. But today I tried to get a shot of them when I cycled. Not a good picture. One of them was successful in dropping a gift on me. I’m sure his blog will get a lot of hits tonight!
Every few miles for the last two days I have past bee farms. You can see these structures coming from a mile back because their shape sticks out from the landscape. They are usually a hundred feet back from the road. As I approach I switch to the other side of the road, keep my mouth closed, and pedal hard. There are always a couple of bees shooting across the road at that point.
I made it Forsyth and passed on the HOWDY hotel because no Wifi. The motel I am staying at has a laundry room, which I was happy to use for my blue shirt!
Next few days I might be out of communication. Hope to make it to Rapid City SD on Sunday. Take a day off on Monday and see Mt Rushmore. Have a happy 4th!
Forsyth MT to Ashland MT
Travel Time 8:30
Saddle Time 6:30
So last night, something funny happened to me in my hotel room. (No nothing like that!). I had just finished speaking with my wife Sue, my daughter Abby, and our friend Andy who were all hanging at the beach. I was then scanning thru the TV stations watching FOX News from NY, CNN, and bouncing between two movies Fight Club and the recent Jack and the Bean Stalk (which was pretty good). I started to fall asleep. I guess I was feeling like I was back home because the second I clicked off the TV and I mean simultaneously when the TV went off, a freight train rode by and sounded its horn. It was as though someone wanted to immediately remind me where I was, and that the next morning I was getting up and pedaling. It was very humorous and depressing at the same time.
For breakfast I had a nice stack of pancakes at the diner across the street. The same place I ate a delicious, probably the best ever, chef salad the night before. I was all excited to get on the road because the first 6 miles were going to be on the Interstate Highway. In MT cyclists are allowed on the highway if there is no other options. Most people don’t know this, but one of my training rides brought me into CT by the Stew Leonard’s in Danbury. Before I knew it I was on the on ramp to Interstate 84. I immediately stopped and took out my phone to see where I went wrong. Before I could turn around a state trooper pulled up and started lecturing me. He gave me a ticket and told me how some cyclist had biked on 84 the previous week. I think this is why they showed me no mercy. I didn’t tell my family because I figured they were nervous enough about my upcoming trip. (Abby, now you know why I was late picking you up from field hockey in Brewster). Anyway, as I approached the highway this morning, I noticed a service road running parallel and it checked out on my map. So I decided to play it safe and take the side road. I wasn’t concerned about safety with the big rigs. I am more worried about the crap the builds up on the shoulder, especially little metal shards from trucker’s tires.
The ride today was simple. I did pass a farm that grows rubber tires. And I rode by a small building in the middle of nowhere. Plus I learned that Prairie Dogs are hard working students. And based on all the beer can sacrifices around Custer memorial, I assume Budweiser must have been his brand of choice. FYI, the birds were back!
As I approached a town, Col Strip (yes spelled that way), I came around the corner and there was a large plant out of nowhere. As I passed it, I read the sign that it was an energy plant. Then around the next bend there 4 huge smoke stacks and a very large structure across from a big coal mine. This was a coal burning energy plant. If you didn’t see it, you wouldn’t have known it was there. I googled it and it is one of the most efficient plants around. It was obviously very beneficial to the local people because there was a beautiful school campus next to a golf course. And the town looked like it had very good road construction and decent neighborhoods.
My last break came at Lame Deer. A small town in the middle of Cherekee Indian reservation. I grabbed some food and Gaterade at the local gas station and sat down on curbside. Dell from the store walked out and started talking to me. It turns out that this weekend was a big Pow Wow event and Native Americans from all over were coming for this three day celebration. Dell also told me about how he helps the local kids and is a mentor to many of them. He said he was heading for the NBA but drugs and alcohol got in his way. A lesson he tries to teach the local kids he coaches.
I made it to the 5 star motel in Ashland. For $35 a night I got a smoker room, but it had a shower, which is what I needed. The owner drove me to the local school where the July 4th celebrations were going to happen. I participated in the BBQ with the locals, the native Americans and some Amish. But I left before the fireworks because tomorrow I am trying for 100 miles and it is supposed to be around 100 degrees. I am going to start at 4 am and see how the wind treats me.
Thank you again to everyone that makes comments on my blog. It is really motivating for me! If you read the comments, you will see that some of the people I have met along the way are making comments. Like Connie from Melstone who said they DO have tornado warnings. But she didn’t state whether she would have come and warned me 🙂
Ashland MT to Alzada MT
Travel Time 9 hours
Saddle Time 7.5 hours
I knew it was going to be close to 100 degrees so I set my alarm for 3:30am to get an early start. When the alarm went off I re-set it to 4:30. Got on the road @ 5. When I dropped off my room key by the office, a dog came out to greet me. As I started cycling, it followed. I figured it would stop once I hit the main rd, it didn’t. Then I figured it would stop when the road left the town, it didn’t. I went a mile and the husky stayed with me. At two miles it was still with me. I kept trying to shoo it away, but no luck. I thought I lost it when I picked up speed, but then when I climbed the first hill,the dog was back on my tail ( pun intended). Finally, after 3 miles, I got up to 25mph heading down a hill and he couldn’t keep up.
I stopped at mile 45 in Broadus to load up at the local IGA with some breakfast fruit and drink. Met a bunch of delightful people that stopped to talk to me while I was sitting on the ground eating. One of the men working at the store came out and shared with me that he did a major bike trip when he was 37. He compared the type of bike he rode versus mine. He came out three different times to talk.
My plan was to make it 80 miles to Hammond for lunch. Grab something cold at grocery store and then if I felt good, go another 22 miles to Alzada. Well I got to Hammond and there were three vacant buildings and a post office (see pic). So I sat in the shaded entrance to the post office and ate the fruit I had purchased earlier and then got back on the road. I had asked the postwoman if there was a grocery at Alzada, which was about 20 miles east on the road. She said she had no idea, she only has driven west, because that is the direction of her home. There is only one road, and she has never driven past the post office!
The wind picked up, and in my favor. Made good time to this town which has 6 buildings, 3 that look occupied. One is the gas station where I’ll get some supplies. And then there is this creepy saloon where I’ll have dinner and set up my tent behind it. See picture of barkeep Diane. Diane says her big week is coming up, hiker week! She makes more that week than any month during the year. The big day of the week is topless Tues where her waitresses are topless. It turns out she has to hire “professional talent ” for this, since no one local takes the job. Diane and I watched When Harry Met Sally on the bar TV and then I went to my tent.
Also pic of horses hanging near my tent. Also pic of their version of South of Boarder billboard. Been seeing them for miles. Lastly, I have no idea what is in the trailer, but those cattle are guarding it with their lives.
Tomorrow I hope to go thru 3 states and make it to Rapid City to rest for a day. I have packed two Camelback bladders, I think they hold 2 liters of water each. I have filled both up for these last few days. They are heavy but very useful during this part of the trip
Alzada Mt to Rapid City SD
Travel Time 11 hours
Saddle Time 8:20 hours
Gained. 6,432 feet
Week 3. 520 miles
Total to date 1,502
Woke up at 4am knowing I had to break down tent and wanted to be on road at 5am. The wind was at my back so I made it to the 45 mile town Belle Fourche in good time. I was finally out of Montana after 13 days, flew thru Wyoming, and was in South Dakota before I knew it. I then started calculating that I can make it to Rapid City by 2, which would be long before the bike store closes at 4. I wanted to get the bike tuned after 1,500 miles!
For you golfers out there, you know how you don’t want to birdie your first hole. Well, in cycling, if you have good start, you know something is going to change.
I knew Rapid City was on the outskirts of the Black Hills where Mt. Rushmore is. I just assumed I wouldn’t hit any major hills in the Black Hills. I was approaching the area and asked a young man with a bike on his bike rack, for directions. He said that after Deadwood and Lead, I would hit a bad hill, Strawberry Hill. He said it was over a mile of 12% incline. He said I would probably need to walk my loaded down bike up this hill. I continued cycling towards the Black Hills. I should have know there was trouble ahead when I saw signs stating ” Winter Activities next few miles”. Well there was a hill just to get to Deadwood. It was 12 miles long of 3-5% incline. That isn’t too bad if you know it is coming. But when you go around each turn hoping it is the end, and it just keeps going, it is really draining. And the guy that gave me directions never even mentioned it! I make it to Deadwood and stopped for lunch. I asked the manager about Strawberry Hill. She says it is a steep windy 5 mile road and she would be more than happy to load my bike into her truck and take me to the top. I seriously gave it consideration because I was exhausted and I had 45 miles to Rapid City and I was starting to cut ETA close to 4 pm. But I decided to give it a try and hope the truth wasn’t as steep as the guy said and not as long as the manager estimated. I started the climb and about 2 miles into it I stopped to rest. The incline was around 6%. I had chosen to stop at a driveway because there was a railing for me to sit on. I didn’t know whether I should hitch a ride or not. Then I noticed people leaving the house I was parked at. I decided I was going to ask them how much longer to the top. If their reaction was negative and I still had a long way to go, I would look for a ride. Luckily they said the top was around the next bend. So I continued on my way and made to the top. Everyone said that once you made it to the top, it would be downhill from there. Well they lied. There were still many climbs ahead of me. I was racing the clock to get to Rapid City. My Warm Shower host had said he was walking distance to the bike store. I got to his house at 3:45 and threw my panniers and gear on his porch before I even met him, and rushed to bike store.
Well Cranky Jeff’s bike store was still open and they will tune my bike tomorrow and they hooked me up with a tour operator to take me to Rushmore tomorrow!
I spent last night at the Warm Shower home of Brad. Brad is a nurse at the local hospital and works the night shift. Having Brad out during the night was very useful to me since his room is the only one with a room AC so he allows cyclists to sleep on his floor during the night. He shares his portion of the house with Bill who is a family practice resident and shares Brad’s passion for rock climbing. They both chose this town because of its proximity to the amazing MTns. They even put a Rock-wall in their rented home. Bill sleeps at his finances home because she has AC!
Something weird happened to me at night. I had done my laundry and hung most of it on the porch to dry overnight. At 3am we got hit with a major lightning and rain storm. I ran out and brought my clothing in. But my towel was gone. In the morning I checked all around, and it hadn’t blown away. Someone stole my towel but left everything else. And this was a nice neighborhood!
Brad came home in the morning and had his morning cocktail before going to sleep. We swapped cycling stories before I headed out on my tour of Mt Rushmore, Needles Highway, and Crazy Horse. We all know the story of Rushmore, but did you know that Crazy Horse is 10 times the size and is being carved by one family! All these are amazing sites. The shot of the two boulders book ending the road is interesting because the mtn in the background is Harney Mtn which is the highest point between the Rookies and the Atlantic Ocean. Nothing on east coast s as high as 7,242 feet
My entertaining and fact filled guide, James, returned me to Rapid City, but not to Brads, but to a hotel. I needed a better night sleep before I head into the Badlands.
The bike store was extremely helpful. They discovered a major chip on my back wheel. Two spokes weren’t even attached anymore. They had another performance touring wheel to replace it with. And they tuned my bike. However, they were not very uplifting on what I am going to experience on the roads thru South Dakota. Lots of nothing, except heat and thorns. There are some type of thorns that blow onto the roads near here that give bikers flats. I had heard about these, two states ago. So they put in heavy duty tubes and a Mr.Tuffy liner. Fingers crossed. Heading out early Tues and probably no cell service for a few days. There is a picture looking east from Rushmore. That is where I am heading.
Also my friend and blog consultant David Perlmutter has added a link to his selfie site. You can follow the exciting progress of my facial hair my hitting the link. He has put in some pics of Marc Childs just to confuse you.