If I’ve been remiss in writing, you can blame our coffee pot. Months ago when we were provisioning The Rig, we went to Cabela’s, the store known for its vast supplies of camping, hunting, and fishing gear. This was my first experience in a Cabela’s and I was not disappointed in the quantities though I later learned we had gone to the “small” outpost. Nevertheless, in my excitement to buy lots of stuff, I zeroed in a classic looking coffee pot which seemed just large enough for a few cups of coffee or could be used to just boil some water. The real selling point, however, was that it said “Cabela’s” on the exterior. Also, since it was the floor model, we could get a discount (bonus!). We were so exited to brew our first batch of coffee on our shakedown overnighter. John and I each enjoyed our first cup of some strong brew, but things broke down after that. Our second cup contained some grounds and by the time we tried for a third, partial cup, we were left with dark, gritty sludge. This coffee pot works like percolator where hot water boils up through a small tube and runs back down through the grounds. Apparently our Peet’s Major Dickason’s and anything Starbucks isn’t made for the the Cabela’s perk. We are too stubborn and loyal to try other brands such a Folgers which might have larger grounds, so we basically just suffer and complain. But, the real reason I hate our pot is the amount of time it takes to wash the dang thing. Equipped with a million parts, this one appliance creates the most mess and uses the most water. From my sailing past, it was ingrained in me not to use too much water when washing dishes, so even though we have full access to water, I’m still stingy on the water when washing. When I’ve had additional support on board, I swear silently as I dump messy grounds in the trash, but if I’m alone, I curse openly with words not fit for print with each piece I wash. Don’t tell John, but sometimes I just give it a rinse and call it good. So, there you have it; I have not been writing about the small towns, forests, fields, and general sights because I’m too busy washing the damn coffee pot!
Our days of riding the quaint Wisconsin back roads past endless dairy farms have come to an end. We rode into Manitowoc on the western Lake Michigan shore about 12:30pm to rendezvous with the Rig in preparation for our 2pm sailing on the SS Badger, last coal fired steamship in the U.S. Our 4-hour trip took us to Ludington on the Michigan peninsula.
We had enjoyed a wonderful four day break at Bass Lake, a small family reunion of sorts with many aunts, uncles and cousins with significant others from as far away as Australia. The weather was perfect for swimming and water skiing, with temps in the low 80’s.
On Wednesday we departed Bass Lake to start day 40, passing numerous Wisconsin dairy farms with happy looking cows. The headwind was not welcome, our muscles groaning as they realized the journey wasn’t over yet.
As we mounted up this morning for what should have been a relatively easy, the radar showed imminent rain so we dug out the rain gear that had been stowed the entire trip. We were soon pedaling in a steady downpour, combined with 53 degree temperature and a stiff headwind. It was COLD!
We finally made it to a diner and caught up with the Rig to dry off and change. The rain subsided in the afternoon so we continued another 25 miles, half on gravel roads due to a navigation error. Ugh! “Perseverance” was the word of the day.
Tomorrow is another day! And Day 42 at that, 2/3 of the way through. Hoping for sun!
I’m fortunate that I married someone who knows how to make coffee. John preps the coffee the night before so that when he wakes up ( without an alarm), he can get the thing brewing so it’s ready when I stir out of sleep. We both enjoy some quiet morning time while the caffeine does its job. Checking email, avoiding news, responding to questions, figuring the route, etc. are a few of the morning online tasks. We give Olivia a shake about an hour before “wheels up”. She doesn’t like it. She groans, rolls over, and goes back to sleep. We give her a few more soft jostles before the voice tone changes. We go through them all: quiet cajoling, gentle whispers, firmer pleas, stern reminders, unaccommodating commands until she finally says, “Ok. You don’t have to be so mean!” It’s the same every day.
John scurries about. He gets the bike off the rack, does maintenance and other important tasks, though sometimes it’s unclear what. Whatever it is, he needs about 1.5 hours to get ready, sometimes more. Meanwhile, Olivia snakes her way out of bed, sits down and says, “I’m hungry.” I’ve anticipated this and have several cereal, fruit, and yogurt options at the ready. This is breakfast #1 and needs to get her about 20-30 miles where she and John will eat The Main Big Breakfast which will get them the rest of the way.
It turns out there is a lot of preparation involved every morning to get ready for the day’s ride. Here are some morning remarks, questions, and asks: Have you seen my arm protectors? Mom, can you get me one chocolate and one raspberry goo? Is there any ice? What Cliff Bars do we have? Dad, you didn’t send me the ride last night and I need to download it. Is this day 30 or 31? Wait, where are we meeting you? Are there any hills today? How did it get to be so late? When is our next rest day?
Once they finally leave, about 20 minutes behind schedule, my chores begin. I wash the dishes, fill the water, put things away, dump the bilge, review my departure check list (which keeps growing), and head out. Sometimes I do laundry and run errands. If a town is about 30 miles from our starting point, the cyclists will hit a diner and eat a huge meal. Sometimes I rendezvous with them, in hopes of snagging some bacon, but it’s usually all gone. If the mileage doesn’t work out, we arrange a meeting spot and then I make the meal. Basically I do the same thing I do at home but on wheels and with less refrigerator space. I don’t mind, in fact, I like it.
We have been told lies. Lies that gave us false hope. Hope that made dreams. Dreams that were crushed. People from home, and locals, had shared that Montana and North Dakota would be flat and easy. But I know differently. Every day we have had rolling hills to conquer. Although the hills may not be a tall standing mountain, they were plentiful and brutal. As the days passed, we found we were doing almost as much vertical as Going to the Sun highway. But unlike Glacier Pass, we were not mentally prepared for the elevation gain. Each day we went up and up in the “flatlands”. We have learned our lesson. People in cars don’t notice the inclines and declines of the strait roads. But every little hill is noticeable on the bike. We can’t expect any day to be easy. Now we know to be prepared for anything.
One of my favorite parts of this trip is watching and observing all the animals on our trip. While riding, I constantly watch the birds fluttering and chirping around us. One of my favorites to watch are the hawks. They are so big and sometimes I can even feel the powerful swoosh of their wings if they come close enough. The variety of birds definetly keeps me ouccupied during the long hours of riding.
Another one of my favorite animals to see while we are riding is the horses. I love horses and I am always thrilled to see them on the side of the road. On one of our training rides before the trip, I made Dad promise to stop and let me pet the horses whenever I wanted to. So if the horses are right next to the fence, or even if I just need a break from riding, we stop and I pet and feed the horses. I especially love the baby horses. They are so cute! Today we stopped and there were two baby horses! It was a great mental break.
Not only do I enjoy viewing animals while we are riding, but also in the rig. Yesterday we were at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It was so beautiful in the badlands! We saw wild horses, prairie dogs, elk, and deer. But at the park my favorite was the buffalo. We went up to the park during the heat of the day, so we only saw one bison very far away. But later on we were told that they all come out later in the evening. So after dinner we again drove up to the park. We were desperate to see more buffalo so we kept searching for a while. Then, all of a sudden, just like we had dreamed of, we rounded a corner and there was a whole herd of buffalo standing in the street! It was absolutely amazing. And there were also baby bison which I loved, just like the baby horses. We watched them slowly cross the road, and were amazed by their size and beauty. Also, on the way out of he park we saw a single buffalo right next to the road! We slowly drove past it and got an amazing up close view of the wild animal. The park and it’s wild animals definetly made my day.
To the local Montanans, US2 is known as the Hi-Line. It’s also the main east-west rail corridor so we see many BNSF trains daily, along with an occasional Amtrak. We’re often successful at getting them to blow their whistles.
Back to the road though. We’ve come to appreciate the sections with wide shoulders and a rumble strip to keep vehicles from straying into “our” lane.Unfortunately, many other times we we were confronted with no shoulder, or one completely filled with rumble strip. It’s on these sections we ride the white line and constantly scan the rear view mirror for overtaking vehicles, waiting for the sound of the typically courteous driver to cross the center rumble as an assurance we won’t be mowed over. Otherwise we pull to the side rumble and stop, particularly if there is oncoming traffic.
There are many interesting towns we pass through, their distant presence indicated by some green trees and a water tower. Sometimes there is a gas station where we can fill our bottles with ice water, other times just a few rickety houses and a grain depot.
The trains have really become part of our Hi Line experience though. As our Rig Driver likes to say, “there’s our friend again!”
We rode very close to the site of “Montana’s most famous train robbery” when Kid Curry, Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and Deaf Charlie held up the Great Northern Railway’s No.3 passenger train in 1901.