Michael's Excellent Adventure

Day 8, 6-23-2002


I guess the thing to keep in mind would be the words of Mark Twain: "I didn't have time to write a short letter so I wrote a long one."

So, having said that, hello from sunny Minnesota! Here I am, firmly ensconced in the province of my schooling, the location of some the most formativist of my formative years, and I must say I am glad to be back. It's a homecoming, in many ways. But let's not let me get ahead of myself.

When last you left your intrepid, trepidatious heroes, we were in Great Falls Montana, having a grand old time at Casa Creighton. After a delicious breakfast of Mike's pancakes (we got the leftovers for the road; incidentally, a pancake and piece of beef jerky is a nice trail snack), we set out early the next morning for Havre, climbing up out of Great Falls, up the hills that line the Missouri River to a broad flat plateau above it. Cresting the plateau was quite a moment: quite a bit like pulling yourself up a ledge and suddenly finding yourself on a table top. The wind was quite frisky, the sky was clear, and there was every indication that the day was on its way to heating up. As I said above, the terrain was quite flat, but not overwhelmingly so. The highway went through broad shallow drainages, so we could see a climb way the heck off in the distance, and a ribbon of highway stretching towards and up it. The climbs were short though; no more than a quarter mile.

In terrain like this, you don't want the wind against you. It soon became apparent that it was very much with us. As the day heated up, a quartering tailwind out of the west roused itself, and soon John and I were making very good time. Even the slight cross component was quite welcome, as it served to cool us down. Before we knew it, we had blasted through 40 miles, and we stopped at a rest stop above Fort Benton, the furthest inland port in the world. Fort Benton was the highest point that shallow-draught steamboats could get to on the Missouri River. Our rest stop was high up on the bluffs over the river, overlooked the town, and yielded a stunning view of a Missouri River oxbow. After a quick bite and several pictures, we took off for Big Sandy. On the road to that little town, a couple in a sedan passed us, with a lady in the passenger's seat leaning out of her window pointing to her camera. John and I just smiled and nodded — we run into a lot of new people every day; you're bound to get some crazies. But get this: the car pulls over onto the shoulder in front of us, blocking our path, and these two people get out of the car, gushing about how cool our bikes are and how neat it was that we were doing this and blah blah blah — never mind that, y'know, we were out here in the middle of nowhere, with a limited amount of time, water, and energy to get us to the next town, and these two nimrods were keeping us stalled for their own fatuous pleasure. What a couple of creeps. I didn't need to see their license plate to know they were from California. But they finally did pull off, and we did make it to Big Sandy, and from there to Havre, and on, ending the day with a bonus 25 miles past Havre to Chinook, with 142 miles under our belts and feeling pretty good about ourselves.