Michael's Excellent Adventure

Days 5–7, 6-20-2002 to 6-22-2002

Rest, Butterflies, and Rollers

Hi again folks. I'm sitting here in front of Mike Creighton's computer at his lovely Great Falls home, and I figure I'll take the opportunity to send out more actual words. This'll be a rarity on a trip that includes ports of call like Glasgow, Montana and Williston, North Dakota. When I have cellular service, I can send out mileage in simple, brief e-mails from my phone, but even that's turning out to be a rarity in the wild and woolly west. (Some "nationwide network", Sprint. Huh.) So enjoy this while you can. I probably won't be able to send again until the Twin Cities.

Two days ago we had our hard earned and much deserved break in Missoula, which was quite fun. Greg Sipes, Adventure Cycling's portrait artist was very enthusiastic to meet me based on just seeing my recumbent alone, and when he heard about the body sock and the fact that the bike was home-built, and then our mileage, he flipped. He usually shoots one or two shots of folks who pass through, but he used a whole roll on me. Look for one or two of 'em in an upcoming issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine, available at your better bike shops everywhere.

I also took advantage of one last chance to have haute cuisine before traversing the culinary wasteland that is the upper Midwest, and went to a lovely bistro and had cassoulet. No, I am most assuredly not veggie on this trip.

Yesterday we set out of Missoula for Lincoln, a paltry 90 miles away up the Blackfoot River. We took advantage of a nice railroad grade bike path to get from our motel out of town, and soon found ourselves deep in the hills, once again following a river. We were on Montana route 200, which we would follow all the way to Great Falls. It was good to get on the road again. The drivers in town were pretty much jerks, but once we left the city everyone was really cool again. The wide shoulder helped, I'm sure. We had a snack in tiny Potomac, and then pushed up over the Granite Range, a minor set of hills in this high basin. At the summit there was a sign for a turnoff to the ghost town of Garnet, which would have been awesome to go see, but would have entailed 10 miles each way on gravel roads. Most of the riding was medium rollers, with some wide flat stretches of land rimmed by dramatic mountains on all sides. I can see why they call this "Big Sky" country.

We had lunch in Ovando, a real high Montana western town. The general store is a B&B, and there's a watering hole named Trixi's where we ate lunch. Even after not having had a bite of beef for at least 5 years, I'm already getting pretty sick of burgers. We ran into another pair of bicycle tourists on uprights (Titanium, can you believe? For touring?) who were taking it easy, 50-60 miles a day. Which, don't get me wrong, is awesome. I'd love to just poke across the country. But I don't have that kind of vacation time. It was really fun to talk to them.

Anyway, they were also very impressed by John's and my pace. They were typically prejudiced against recumbents, which was quite funny, considering. We average 150 per day through country that in no way could be described as flat, and they're still convinced "'bents can't climb." I wonder if early adopters of the lever had so much trouble. "Hey, I see you're having trouble moving that boulder. I have this stick and this smaller rock that might help you." "No thanks. Actually, I think I'll just get a titanium boulder. They're lighter."

So, out of Ovando, and up the Blackfoot some more. We pull into Lincoln at the very reasonable hour of 6:00 PM, and get our nicest motel room (and correspondingly soundest sleep) of the trip so far. Leeper's Motel. Look it up if you ever find yourself in Lincoln, Montana. We have dinner in the diner across the way, and as luck should have it, the salmon steak is the special. Hot damn, it's not a burger!

Which brings us to today. We get up early and refreshed, ready to tackle our last pass, Roger's Pass, through a little set of hills called the "Rocky Mountains." You may have heard of them. We're not apprehensive, though, as I have intelligence about this pass that says it's a cupcake. Sure enough, the pass is about 18 miles out of town, and only the last 2 miles are even remotely steep, and I don't even have to get into my granny gear! We stop at the top and take some pictures to commemorate the historic occasion. For the last time on this trip, I micturate in a watershed that drains to the Pacific Ocean. The drop down the other side of the pass is fun, but no great shakes compared to the drop down the Blue Mountains after Alpowa on day 3. It's over all too quickly, though, and we get into the rollers. Ugh, the rollers. For those of you who think you know what it's like to cycle rolling hills, you ain't seen jack shinola. These rollers are from drainages directly off of the Rockies. Drainages that we are traveling perpendicular to. It's 2 miles of 6% grade uphill, 1 mile of down. 1.5 miles of 5% uphill, 2 miles of down. It's a leg burner, and this terrain lasts for about 30 miles.

But finally we pull through it; we crest one last climb, and then it's a drop down to the Sun River. Here, the cross winds are pretty insistent, but we still manage 17-22 mph, which is encouraging for the days to come. We pull up to Mike's house for an astonishingly early 4 o'clock finish, and a 96-mile day, still feeling quite fresh. This is also hugely encouraging, as it shows that if we get our asses in gear and get reasonably early starts, we can pull big miles in a day, finish early, and still feel good. Doing 96 today, on a day with as much climbing in total as we had, and still feeling good enough to do another 30 or 40 if we wanted to bodes well for the abstract plains of Eastern Montana and North Dakota. (Spot the pun.)

Mike feeds us yummy food, and is an all-around great host. Thanks Mike!

Tomorrow, it looks like rain, which sucks, but we're going anyway. Hopefully it'll keep us cool, but not cold. We'll follow US 87 at least to Havre, and if conditions are good, maybe we'll push on to Chinook. The next day, John and I intend to crank up the intensity again and push for Glasgow on US route 2, from wherever we end up. The day after that, we hope to be in Williston. If we can pull that off, and if we can blast across ND, John and I could make a significant incursion into Minnesota by next weekend. That's the plan, that's the goal, wish us luck.

Thanks for all your good thoughts so far. Much love to you all,

—Michael