After getting my fill of trains, plains, and inescapable sunlight the mountains are a welcome sight. Montana and North Dakota present a vast open landscape and plenty of solitude. Make sure you bring your sunscreen and mosquito spray… and a book.
Day 91 July 29th – Fort Peck to Malta
After my blog updating in Glasgow I hit the road again for Malta. It was a long riding day today and I spent 2-3 of those precious riding hours over my lunch/blogging break so I had some miles to get in! Down the road I ended up taking a breather and shade break at a road side rest stop. Right when I was thinking about getting going again my dad pulled up with a newly purchased cooler with some ice cream treats! A nice welcome surprise! Ice cream hits the spot after some hot riding.
Cooled off and on a sugar buzz I kept riding until 9 PM when I got to the city park / campground in Malta. I’m not sure why, but the mosquitos out here seem especially vicious. As I approached town I was finding mosquitos chomping on me if I wasn’t going over 15 mph. Even the towns around here have small specialized trucks that go around town releasing a mosquito repellent fog of some sort. I’m sure it’s not entirely healthy for breathing, but I wouldn’t want to know what the bugs are like without it. We ate like kings tonight… dad cooked up some sausage with sauerkraut and green beans while I set up my tent and showered under the conveniently tall water spigot.
Acts of kindness: 2 – Dad caught up with me at a rest stop with ice cream!; Dad picked up groceries for an awesome dinner in Malta
Day 92 July 30th – Malta to Havre
Dad went to town with the groceries because breakfast was great this morning too. Another big ride planned for the day… Havre was 90+ miles away. It was especially hot today. About half way into my ride I stopped and met my dad for lunch in Harlem where we found shade under a tree in the local park. After lunch I decided to snooze away the peak heat of the day but my siesta was cut short by the sprinkler system.
The 2nd half of todays riding was a bit more frustrating. Dad reported construction near Havre so I attempted to reroute North of Highway 2 on some gravel roads. Well as google maps would have it, my detour was a complete dead end leaving me in the middle of a mosquito infested farm field. I ended up backtracking to highway 2 and planned another detour closer to Havre where the construction was. I guess you could call this detour a success, but the condition of that road had me questioning whether the construction could actually be worse.
I pulled into Havre at 9:00 and went straight to the local pool that was closing to see if I could get a shower in. Luckily the staff was still there and let me sneak in a quick shower before they locked up. The park we stayed at was a block from the pool. Dad had asked the sheriff earlier and was suggested to camp at the park for free. Tons of these small towns in North Dakota and Montana have been great about letting bikers camp out in their parks for free or almost no cost. I was beat and frustrated from the detour struggles earlier in the day so I opted out of going for dinner. We just snacked on a few things before setting up camp and calling it a night.
Acts of kindness: 3 – A lady pulled up to ask if I needed anything on my approach to Havre; Havre public pool let me get a quick shower in while they were closing up; Dad figured out free camping options in town.
Day 93 July 31st – Havre to Chester
We were up and moving early today, stopping at a local restaurant on the way out of town. My cousin who used to live in Havre suggested it, so special thanks to Jesse for the recommendation. Riding was slow today due to the headwinds and the heat. Winds weren’t crazy, but any headwind makes a significant difference. I had originally planned to ride to Shelby today (105 miles), but the heat was proving this goal to be a bit ambitious. I ended up stopping in the small town of Rudyard where Dad met up for lunch. We set up under an awning in their park where I plowed through a good chunk of a book and took a nap. I think it was a good 15 – 20 degrees cooler in the shade. After about 3-4 hours of lazing around the weather cooled and I hopped back on the bike.
I met up with Dad in Chester to camp for the evening. They allow free camping in the park and we met another Northern Tier cyclist, Durell, here. There were also a couple RVers parking here for the night from Canada. Durell flew into Seattle from Atlanta, Georgia. He said he decided to do the trip about 3 weeks before he actually left. I admire his spontaneity! After a good chat with Darren we set up camp and I got in a “bird bath” (as Durell called it) in the park bathroom. After, we made dinner and I finally made some apple crisp I had been planning on making. It was a great success!
Acts of kindness: 3 – Met Durell and got a bunch of good camping suggestions and advice for passing through Glacier; Dad got groceries and bought breakfast (trip expenses are at an all time low with Dad helping with groceries and camping!)
Day 94 August 1st – Chester to Cut Bank
Durell was heading out while we finished up breakfast so we said farewell. After I packed up I got moving while the weather was still cool. Today actually turned out to be much cooler than the previous days. I met up with Dad in Shelby where we had lunch and parked at a quaint coffee shop, the Prairie Peddler. I had ended up having a bit too much caffeine as I finished off my book. Their Americano was good!
It was only about 25 miles to the campground/RV park in Cut Bank. As I climbed up the windmill covered ridge before Cut Bank I finally got my first glimpse of the mountains I’m going to be tackling. These things are looking a bit more intimidating than the small ranges I’ve been seeing north and south of me on Highway 2. Soon it will be the big climb! Our campground in Cut Bank overlooked the same canyon that Lewis Meriwether and his band of explorers camped at when exploring the Missouri river watershed. They hoped that it extend beyond the 50th parallel north which would have increased the claim of the Louisiana purchase. They found it turned west which ended their travels north. Their northern most encampment was called “Camp Disappointment”. The camp owner said they excavated a T-rex fossil just across the canyon. The site itself offered a lounge with wifi. That evening we kicked back in the lounge and enjoyed a couple Big Sky brews and a pizza while we had a big brain storming session on a web app idea.
During the night I heard storms rolling in. Luckily I had enough warning to run out of my tent and better secure my tie downs which I had lazily put up earlier. I didn’t have all my panniers sealed up either! Good thing I prepared for the rain because the sky really opened up shortly after. The light show and downpour came, proving I had properly sealed my tent seams.
Acts of kindness: 2 – Dad picked up the za and camping fee!
Day 95 August 2nd – Cut Bank to St Mary
We ended up going for breakfast and getting groceries before heading out. Fairly late start today. As I was heading into Browning, another cyclist caught up to me while I was stopped having a snack. The cyclist, Jarle, was from Norway and was riding from Chicago to Seattle before flying to Spain to better learn spanish since it is one of the courses he teaches in Norway. We rode together the rest of the day, only stopping for a lemonade 20 miles from St. Mary. He had a huge riding day since he started in Chester.
The campground in St. Mary was pretty packed and luckily my dad was able to reserve the last spots (typically reserved for walk-in/bike-in campers). I told Jarle he was welcome to camp with us so he joined us for the evening. We planned to get an early start since cyclists were not allowed on a certain stretch of the west side from 11 AM – 4 PM. Jarle had planned to ride through the park, but I was going to stay in Glacier and get a hike in.
Acts of kindness: 3 – Jarle bought me a lemonade; Dad got the campground and groceries