Day 20
The wind was coming out of the northeast at 10 to 15 mph, so it was fairly slow going as I headed out of town after a good breakfast and another visit to the post office to mail some cold weather gear home. At the post office, I was approached by yet another bicycle tourist. This guy wasn't riding, he was being driven by his wife in a car with two Cannondale mountain bikes on the top, but he explained that he was riding across the country with his wife providing support. First class support: he would ride till he got tired or whatever and then she would pick him up and they would go to a good motel/hotel for the night. Then she would drive him back to where he stopped and he would continue his ride. Moreover, he was planning to take a break in the middle of his tour and fly up to Lake Placid for a few weeks rest before continuing. He told me he had homes in Palo Alto, Lake Placid and Hilton Head. All this in a conversation that didn't last more than 10 minutes!

I think I found the guy that those folks in Colville were talking about.

About 20 miles out of town I caught my friends at a crafts store with some groceries. They were busy trying to locate a stray dog that they had befriended during the night. Not a good thing to be doing on a day when they needed to make 100 miles into a head wind. While I was there three cyclists, including the one who had spoken to us the night before, came in. This day was my record day for meeting tourists!

The three were riding together and one of their wives was driving a support car. These guys, who were all in their early 60s, had all through hiked the Appalachian Trail. They were camping and the wife drove ahead to designated spots to eat and to camp. I think she may also have set up camp for them, but her main function was to enable them to ride unloaded bikes. Quite a bit different than the guy I had met earlier that day.

We visited a bit and then I left them with Kathy and Justin as I headed on down the road. I was very conscious of the long way I had to go into that head wind, and, as I rode away, I was quite concerned that Kathy and Justin were not going to make it. As it turned out, I was the only one of the six bicyclist at that stop that did make it to Harve that day.

A picture I really took for my wife who used to work for a company that made grain augers

I stopped for lunch in Chester and visited with the wife driving the support for the three guys. She told me where they would be eating, so I stopped at that cafe and, as I was finishing my meal, they came in. We visited some more and I left. I didn't see them or Kathy and Justin again.

Two incidents that day gave me a bad taste for bicycling in central and eastern Montana. The first occurred when I was cycling up a hill into the head wind. The traffic was light and the shoulder wasn't rideable, so I was cranking along in the right hand tire track of my lane. Two cars came over the hill ahead of me, but, as there was no traffic approaching me from behind, I stayed down on drops with my head down to minimize the effect of the head wind. Then one of the cars passed the other and came with inches of me at 70 mph or so. If I had wandered 6 inches to the left I'd be dead. I didn't see or hear him coming, I just experienced his draft as (not after - he was really close) he slipped by me. This was the first, and worst, of the dozen or more times cars passed into me in Montana. There was no need for them to do it since traffic was always pretty light and all they had to do was wait ten seconds or so till they were past me like the vast majority of people did, but that was too much trouble for these jerks.

The second incident was probably less dangerous, but it was also more spectacular. I was again cranking up a hill into the wind, but this time there was a good shoulder. A pickup came by and a beer bottle literally exploded in the grass about 10 feet from me. I don't think they were trying to hit me, but that bottle was thrown while the truck approached me from behind and hit the grass in front of me off to the side of the road, so its path did pass near me. I was not amused. There were other occasions on this tour when people were deliberately unpleasant to me, e.g. I was run off the road twice, but some how the beer bottle throwing was a different kind of nastiness. It, combined with the passing into and several other kinds of bad/dangerous drivers I experienced in Montana, made me want to get out of the state ASAP and never to come back on a bicycle. This is too bad because it is a beautiful state, and, other than the jerks, a good place to bicycle.

Shortly after the beer bottle incident, I stopped at a bar (Montana is full of bars and little else) for a snack. While I was there the wife driving the support vehicle for the three guys came in. She said they were camping at Hingham, half a dozen miles back from where we were, for the night. I rode on another 30 odd miles to Havre stopping to rest at Kremlin and then for "supper" (a coke and a bag of pork rinds!) at yet another bar 12 miles from Havre. At that bar I learned that bad weather was expected for the next day. I enjoyed the last 20 or 30 miles into Havre because there were interesting, pretty, hills in the south and the wind had eased up.

In Havre I found an inexpensive motel ($26 a night) near the bike shop and a good place (4Bs, part of the same mini chain I ate supper at in Libby) to eat. Havre didn't appear to be much more than a long strip, but it was the biggest strip for hundreds of miles. 105 miles into a head wind.

The next morning I woke to rain, wind, and cold. It was in the 40's, raining hard, and the wind chill was below freezing (my motel had The Weather Channel). This is in late June? I decided it was a rain day and went back to bed. Later that morning when the rain had eased off a bit I put on my GoreTex lined boots and parka and went out to explore Havre. I found a delightful book store where I bought a book on Modernity that was published in England in 1932. I had nice chat with the lady who, with her husband, owned and ran the that store. They had met in the graduate program in creative writing at Missoula some years before. I learned a lot about the area from her. Then I did lunch at the best restaurant in town where they were calling out keno hands as I ate - it is hard to get away from drinking and gambling anywhere in Montana. Then I decided to visit the bike store.

I liked the bike store although it wasn't nearly as well stocked as the one in Winthrop. The guy that owned it was competent and interesting to talk with. One of the things we talked about was the inexperience of tourists riding across the USA on the AC's northern route. He said he was amazed that the bike tourists who came into his shop were totally ignorant of bike mechanics, but he also said that by the time (really that should be if) they got to Havre, about 1000 miles into their tours, their major bike problems had been pretty well been sorted out. He agreed that Winthrop was better located, several hundred miles into a typical tour, for getting repair business from cross country touring bikes.

While I was in this bike store the guy doing the 'fully' supported tour came in. He said he had only ridden to Chester ( about 45 miles) the previous day because of the head winds. Then he and his wife had driven to Havre and were staying at "a really nice motel." She would drive him back to Chester the next day so he could continue his ride. I went back to my $26 room to read and rest.

I don't know what happened to the three guys that day, but I did find out later what happened to Kathy and Justin. In the heavy rain and wind their tent failed and everything got wet. They decided that they had to pack up and ride to Havre, 45 miles away. On that miserable ride, Kathy got a flat tire that they couldn't fix - no spare tube and the patches wouldn't stick in the wet - so they rode on stopping every mile or so to pump the tire up. It was not the best day of their tour. Meanwhile I was having a pretty good time; my reward for riding100 plus miles into a head wind.

Previous Page Next Page