Riding with Brad

Riding with Brad

posted in: Bicycle Touring | 28

Hello,

This is Jeff (aka Dad). As you probably know, I’ve been traveling with Brad for the last couple weeks as he worked his way across the plains of North Dakota and Montana. I thought it would be nice to spend some time with him during this hot, dry, lonely stretch of the trip. Brad asked if I’d like to add a guest post to the blog so I’ll try to shed a little side commentary on our travels.

From day 1 of Brad’s planning he’d left an open invitation to join him on his trip. I loved the idea of it but the act of actually joining him by bicycle was not really in the cards for me. I would have slowed him down immensely and I’m not sure I am physically capable of some of those climbs! But, give me a motorcycle or a car and I could certainly keep up ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’d driven the western route last year by motorcycle and knew generally what he’d be in for and felt the plains would be a good place to accompany Brad. Driving through the plains is beautiful and interesting in its own right, but it is long and hot and I didn’t want to do it twice in one trip if I could avoid it. As it happened, our good friends Eric and Colleen were moving to New Zealand and had packed most of their belongings into a moving van which they stored at Colleens parents home in western MT. However, they had a convertible that lacked a driver and we thus hatched a plan that I would take the car out west on tour with Brad and deliver it to Colleens folks. They live just 1/2 hr off the Amtrak Empire line which in turn runs within an hour of home.

And so, Brad and I planned to connect in Bismark ND and I was to tag along with him as far west as I could go before heading back in early August. I headed west the evening of July 22nd and went as far as my brother Steve’s in Chaska MN. In the morning I headed for a rondevous with Brad in Bismark.

Now, some words about the car… It is a 1976 MG Midget convertible. For those of you who don’t know what a Midget is think ‘clown car’ and you’ll get the idea. The Midget is a british car – it is very small and is a bit of a challenge to get in and out of. However it is a very fun car to drive and people seem to gravitate towards it as it is so unique. This Midget has a four speed manual transmission and thus is not built for speed. It seems to run best at about 45mph. Which for this backroad tour is actually perfect since I was not in any particular hurry.

The MG
The MG

 

Before the trip, Eric had cautioned me that at higher speeds ‘she uses a little oil’… Well, the first few days of my trip in catching up with Brad in Bismark proved that out. At 55mph I had gone through about 7 qts of oil and I was seriously wondering how this was going to end. I cleaned several store shelves of all the 20W50 they had and kept an ample supply in the trunk. Thankfully, once I caught up with Brad, the pace slowed dramatically and the MG responded favorably and pretty much stopped chugging oil. Throughout the remainder of the trip the MG ran like a champ!

As noted by Brad, we had a nice stay with my aunt Nancy in Bismark followed with a good visit with my cousin Terri in Dickenson. Terri commented that it was a good thing we’d tracked south of Brad’s original route which took him further north as the oil boom has made travel through that area difficult. The roads are extremely busy and the options for camping or lodging are very constrained. Even on our more southernly route we observed quite a bit of oil activity and traffic.

As we moved west, Brad was generally on a 60-90 mile/day pace and depending on the wind this translated into 6-8 hours of riding with a few rest/water breaks, a longer lunch or afternoon siesta, and then an evening ride into the destination town. My days generally consisted of getting up with Brad in the morning and we’d have breakfast and break camp. If there was a good coffee shop in town we’d stop there for a bit otherwise Brad would get rolling. At my slower pace I’d generally drive 3 hrs to cover his span – typically connecting with him for a late lunch and then going ahead to scout out evening camp optons. The extra time gave me opportunity to shop for groceries, charge up all the electronics, and get a little reading in. I knocked out an old classic 1984 which I’ve heard many references to but never actually read. Big Brother indeed – kinda freaky how on target some of that material is!

Some of you will know that I am a home brewer. I had noted Brad’s brewery reviews had suffered a bit lately so we attempted to rectify that ๐Ÿ™‚ We visiting several small breweries in Havre, Wibaux and Whitefish. All three of these were excellent and I had a very nice visit with Michael – the owner of the Havre Triple Dog Brewery. Brad will have more opportunities in this area whenย he gets to Washington as micro-breweries are plentiful in the area.

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Brad’s biggest challenges in the plains were the sun, wind, and heat… Individually any of these can be a burden but combined they wear you down in a hurry. It’s easy to look at a mountain and think – wow those will be really hard to get over… but the plains are sneaky and may in fact prove to be one of the harder parts of his trip. Watching Brad come in at the end of each day – dry and spent – I wondered how he’d hold up and how the mountains would go. But frankly, he made Logan pass look easy… the cooler weather and having Jarle as a riding partner really picked him up. He actually beat me to the afternoon campground that day!

So, here some moreย photo’s of touring inย the MG and of the guy who is normally behind the camera in this blog.

Typical lunch scene
Typical lunch scene
The man in action
The man in action
Abbey with the monks - we didn't stay here
Abbey with the monks – we didn’t stay here
Typical blogging morning
Typical blogging morning

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Alternate road scene
Alternate road scene
Typical top down drive through the desert
Typical top down drive through the desert
Lunch break on the way to  Fort Peck
Lunch break on the way to Fort Peck
Having a good laugh over Brad's culinary techniques
Having a good laugh over Brad’s culinary techniques
Coasting
Coasting
Dinner at the Beaver Creek Brewery
Dinner at the Beaver Creek Brewery
Route planning over some cribbage
Route planning over some cribbage
Fort Peck reservoir
Fort Peck reservoir
This is solitude
This is solitude
Cool Down Treats
Cool Down Treats
North Dakota Tree Farm
North Dakota Tree Farm

On a related note: I had breakfast with a ND oil man who said he was lured there by the promise there was a pretty girl behind every tree! When he finally found a tree he asked “Where’s the girl” to which came the reply “Apple Tree”.

Typical cruising speed in the MG - I need gas!
Typical cruising speed in the MG – I need gas!
Boat for sale - CHEAP
Boat for sale – CHEAP
It is hot out!
It is hot out!

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A cheeseburger with egg on top! Breakfast or lunch?
A cheeseburger with egg on top! Breakfast or lunch?
Really hot
Really hot

 

Goats at the top of logan pass
Goats at the top of logan pass
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Did we mention Glacier is Beautiful?

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Brad beats me to the campground… “What took you so long?”
Now thats some FIREWOOD!
Now thats some FIREWOOD!
How old is this tree?  Somewhere around 120...
How old is this tree? Somewhere around 120…

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Avalanche Lake
Avalanche Lake
Lake McDonald
Lake McDonald

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Swimming Hole
Swimming Hole
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Napping again
The backup water supply
The backup water supply – It was my job to keep these full!
There was Quiche as well as Coffee!
There was Quiche as well as Coffee!
Whitefish Brewing Company
Whitefish Brewing Company

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Doing a little maintenance
Doing a little maintenance
Trekking on as we depart in Whitefish
Trekking on as we depart in Whitefish

 

It was a bummer turning back in Whitefish… but I had a deadline to return home and he has one to get out west. He’s in for a little more dry hot weather between the ranges but he’ll finish with an awesome route through the north cascades – more climbing but I’m sure he’s up for the challenge.

I dropped off the car and spent the night with Keith and Mary Jean – they were such gracious hosts! They dropped me off at the station in Shelby for the long ride home. The train ride home has been long but it’s nice not to have to do the driving. I’ll be home in a few hours now and already I see I’m over a 1,000 miles away from Brad. Safe travels the rest of the way Brad. Happy peddling!

28 Responses

  1. I met Brad at Va. Beach at the start of the trip. Great that his Dad joined.
    My big bike was from Va. To Miami across to the west coast and back in June, 1948, when was16.

    • Jeff Ryan

      Wow, that must have been quite a trip. I bet you’ve never regretted it ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Hi Jeff…what a great opportunity for you to be able to share time with Brad on his epic bicycle trip across the U.S. No doubt a lot of good memories were created. I sure would like to visit you guys in your new place one of these days and check out your brews. I’ll be traveling with Mom to Bemidji at the end of September and then down to the cities for her sister’s birthday. How far are you from Minneapolis? Best to you and give Terri a big hug for me. Bill

    • Jeff Ryan

      Hi Bill, Yeah it was a great time – I’m glad he let me tag along ๐Ÿ˜‰ You should definitely come down and bring your mom. We’d love to see you guys. We are about 75 minutes south of the Minneapolis airport.

  3. Gene Dankbar

    Great post ! Thanks for posting! And more great pictures!

    Gene..

  4. Jeff, love the guest post! One of my favorite parts of Brad’s blog so far has been him sharing time with family and friends across America. And when you joined him on the trip, I just thought that was awesome. I agree that your support across the hot plains was smart and probably critical in helping him “fly” across North Dakota and much of Montana. I can’t believe how close he is to Washington already. When his adventure is complete, please see if you can talk Brad into getting his old job back at UTAS. We kinda miss him. You and your wife, and of course Brad, are always welcome should you ever make it out to Connecticut. Best wishes for the remainder of your journey home.

    • Jeff Ryan

      Hey – yeah I was fortunate to be able to spend that time with him. I too am amazed how far he has gone… When we mountain biked 20 miles that day I was shot… can’t imagine doing 5,000! We’ll see where he ends up – we miss him too ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the gracious invite!

      • I had a nice phone conversation with the mad bicyclist last night. Told me he just crossed into Washington. Less than a week remains of his amazing adventure.

      • Okay, where’s your boy? He was planning to arrive in Anacortes tomorrow, and I was hoping to see another update detailing his Idaho and eastern WA exploits.

        • Sorry! Just got it up finally. Been meaning to get it out.

          • Oh, you’ve pitched me a softball with this post! Must… resist… temptation…

  5. Gramma & Grampa K

    Great blog Jeff…..what an opportunity for both of you….lots a love

  6. Karen Brogan

    I love reading about all the adventures and seeing the beautiful pictures. So glad you were able to spend time with Brad and help him out. Good luck Brad and be safe!

  7. Erik Lewinski

    Thanks for the guest blog! More awesome photos. My buddy had that car in the mid 80s. I remember feeling small on the expressway. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jeff Ryan

      I miss the MG already ๐Ÿ˜‰ By the time I got out there I kind of wanted to drive it back home!

  8. brad martin

    Great post, great car, great photos, thanks for sharing Jeff!

  9. Patti Mitchell

    Brad, loved reading your journey. This is Patti, Chuck’s wife, from Chattanooga, TN. It was awesome hosting you back in May. Looks like fun times with dad. Incredible pictures and stories! Chuck is bicycling in Yellowstone park right now. Headed to Grand Tetons then back to Ole Faithful and onward to Oregon and Washington State.

    Take care…open invitation to visit Chattanooga anytime!

    • Thanks Patti! Hope to make it back to Chattanooga again some time! I’ll definitely be in touch if I do. Glad Chuck is enjoying his trip. I like taking a look at his blog to see how things are going.

  10. Paul Phillips

    Jeff – What a great opportunity to spend time with Brad. Great pics of the MG in the wild. Thanks for posting your point of view.

  11. Great post and pictures! I especially liked the “Typical lunch scene”, I can relate to that ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jeff Ryan

      Hey Jarle,
      Congratulations! I was happy to read that you made it to Seattle. I hope you enjoy the rest of your stay and best of luck to you as you return to Norway. It was great meeting and visiting with you and I know Brad enjoyed the riding company.

  12. Jean Ryan

    Great post Jeff. Sounds like the two of you had a memorable time together. Lots of good memories. Really good pictures. I’m so glad you were able to do it and got to meet some of the nice people he has encountered in his travels.

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