Morning Routine

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.

The “Flatlands”

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.  

Los animales

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. 

Riding Montana’s “Hi-Line” Days 17-21

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. 

Growling at an oil train

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. 

A nice shoulder. Our own “lane”

Unfortunately, many other times we we were confronted with no shoulder, or one completely filled with rumble strip. 

NOT our favorite

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. 

Once there was even a really good bar at our RV stop. 

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. 


We’ll miss the Hi-Line, as we’ve now turned south to avoid the oil fields near Williston North Dakota. 

Captain 

Illusions, Delusions, and other Misconceived Notions

I suppose we really can’t predict the future and can only experience the present when it is upon us, but I have to say, I really had some major misconceptions about life on the road.  Here is my litany of delusions and facts:

#1: I had visions of gobs of time for reading.  To this end, I downloaded four books onto my Kindle app.  In reality, I have about 10 minutes at night before bed and my eyes close and I  fall asleep.  This is similar to my routine during the school year which is why it takes me so bloody long to finish a book (sorry book club!).  Happily, I’m reading John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charlie which is his narrative about traveling from East to West and back again with his pet poodle, Charlie  He moves at a faster clip than we do, but we overlapped briefly here in Montana.  Like me, he loves the state and wished he had more time. One thing I’ve learned from him is that whiskey seems to help in most questionable situations.  If he encounters an aggressive, angry type he breaks the barriers by offering fresh brewed coffee and “a little something to make it interesting.” This seems to do the trick in solving most problems. I’m thinking I might pick up a bottle, just in case.

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One of the many support crew duties, cleaning the BBQ

#2: Taking up running. I bought a new pair of running shoes foolishly thinking I’d have lots of time to exercise. I knew I wouldn’t be hitting the gym, and running is an efficient and cheap way to get the heart rate up. In truth, I’ve only “gone for a run” twice – in three weeks.

#3: Hiking. I had visions of visiting lots of trails, especially over the passes. In preparation for all these hikes through bear infested forests, I purchased a large can of bear spray, just to be safe. Fact: two hikes, no bears.

#4: Planning awesome units, lessons, projects for next school year. You know, the ones which take thoughtful foresight to create really inspirational and meaningful activities which will make me the best 6th grade teacher ever! I brought along several important, and I might add heavy, books to aid my self-motivated professional development. Truth: see #1.

#5: Driving through pastoral, quiet, country roads. These country roads were to allow me time to remember Walt Whitman’s poetic insights and fashion my own while overlooking the vast beauty of this country. Fact: Highway 2 is fast and I have to pay attention to Google’s directions. It’s fortunate that I’m driving a truck and only have to go 60 mph verses cars which are instructed to go 70. I did have a sense of accomplishment when I passed my first vehicle. Some might say that passing a tractor doesn’t count, but I say pat your back when you can.

#6: Journal writing. Perhaps it’s fortunate that I lost my journal 5 days into the trip.  I believe it slipped into the garbage which is maybe where it belonged all along.

#7: Biking. Yes, I brought my “mom” bike hoping that upon arriving at our destination with hours to spare, I’d hop on my bike and ride to the local country market on Main Street to purchase necessary groceries. Truth – The poor thing hasn’t even been taken off the rack the entire trip. It sadly watches the world go by from the rear while collecting mountains of dirt and dust and is probably ruined from neglect.

#8: Daily, witty, and thought provoking blog quips about the adventure. Reality: One a week and of questionable quality.

The Rig Driver

Day 19 – Mosquitoes! Or Not

We’d been hearing about them for days from passing bikers.  Saco is the dreaded town where the swarms of nasty skeeters will ride along on our panniers then jump up for some fresh blood, returning to their perch to digest their meal before making another attack. Our morning diner waitress, when we were still a safe 20 miles west exclaimed to Olivia “honey, they’re gonna eat you up you cute little thing!” One of the local ranchers in the diner even gave us a bottle of deet (the real deal) and wished us luck.

Olivia was ready for battle. She’d read up on what to eat to ward them off (garlic, vanilla), what color clothing to wear (not dark), and had a plan for how she would juggle the spray cans of repellent while swatting them off.

Olivia getting a final dose of repellent prior to “battle”

At 10 miles west of Saco the skeeters hadn’t shown themselves yet so we stopped at a historic site for one last rest and spray down because our plan was to ride fast to clear the mosquito area as quickly as possible (despite a nasty headwind that had come up).

Montana’s roadside historic sites always make a nice pit stop

To make a long story short (another future post), we suddenly had a bent rear derailleur hangar which delayed us an hour for repairs. It was getting hot, and late so off we went to Saco. As we rode through town the nasty skeeters still hadn’t materialized. Had they been warned of Olivia’s battle plans? More likely, as one local surmised, “they are all breeding since we just had rain. A few days from now will be unbearable”. Hmm, okay.

 

The thriving town of Saco

Every town out here has a water tower

Well, we never encountered the mosquitoes. Thank goodness because the headwinds had become so strong we were only making 10 mph. We’d have been destroyed! Instead we pedalled on, finally completing our 89 mile day at 6:30pm. In the end, we’d been defeated by wind and hills, not mosquitoes.

John

Day 18 – A Day of Firsts

We rode our first Century, 108 miles from Hingham to Dodson. The tailwinds helped but it was a long day in the saddle. 

Our first real dog scare occurred about a mile out of Havre. He had run up a big bank from a trailer home and was on us without warning, barking incessantly and lunging at us. Olivia has become a pro at pulling out the pepper spray quickly, thanks to other encounters with slightly friendlier canines. Fortunately the owner called for the angry dog and he was sparred a dose of pepper spray. 

Olivia at the ready with pepper spray

Have I mentioned it’s been HOT? Every day since Seattle it’s been well over 90 degrees. Well this was the first day it did not reach 90. In fact it was “only” 85. What a treat!

And finally, we’d had our first thunderstorm overnight so had mud and puddles to start the day. It quickly warmed and was sunny but we raced a rainstorm our last 20 miles of the day. The rain finally caught us though, which was a welcome relief. 

Oh, and it was my birthday! What a great way to spend the day 😉

John