Day 5. Wednesday, July 15 – White Sulphur Springs to Harlowton, Montana

Wednesday 15 July 2015

At 7:30 a.m. it was overcast, biting and a damp 55° IMG_0083as we left the warmth of our hotel room.  First order of business was to stock up for lunch as there would be nothing between here and there and our continental breakfast was not going to take us very far.  From our doorstep we began our climb through the Castle Mountains,DSCN3556 aptly named for the rock outcroppings that look like castle walls on the mountainside.  Once again we had the road to ourselves.DSCN3574  It was supremely quite except for the chirping of the ground squirrels as they scurried for cover or the screech of the eagle hunting in the sky.  The clouds made for striking contrast DSCN3562against the fields painted in soft hues.DSCN3654  We pedaled past Lake SutherlinDSCN3601 and the Bair Reservoir (note the rain on the horizon).DSCN3626  After miles and miles of almost treeless hillsDSCN3611 and fields,DSCN3616 we turned a corner into a beautiful green enclaveDSCN3631 that lastedDSCN3645 for a few miles;DSCN3636 then we were once again in the treeless high plainsDSCN3649surrounded by the Castle, Belt and Crazy Mountains on the horizon. DSCN3657 At mile 40, we stopped for our stale peanut butter and jelly picnic,IMG_0112 but with the entire sky getting darker by the minute, we did not linger.IMG_0111  Ten miles out, the wind decided to challenge our trek into town.  Though it was not a strong wind, it was enough to slow us down and make us earn every mile.  On the edge of town, we met Connor and AmalaIMG_0115 on their way to the town we’d left 60 miles ago; final destination Portland, Oregon.

On the other side of town we found our “accommodations” for the night, a tiny bit better than a tent; but became immensely better than a tent when it poured an hour later.  Pretty sure the farmers don’t want us to leave, but that the Montana tourist department may escort us out.

Thankfully, the rain stopped in time for us to bike the mile back into town for a ‘Jail House Pizza’ dinner.  Just about as fancy as our room (note the bars on the windows), DSCN3679 but much more appealing. DSCN3681 “We” left just enough pizza for lunch, as well as, room for real homemade banana cream pie.DSCN3683Unlike the fries from a few days ago, there was no guilt after our 63 tough miles.  See you tomorrow!

Day 6. Thursday, July 16 – Harlowton to Roundup, Montana

Thursday 16 July 2015

Mother Nature smiled sunshine on us today and gifted us with a little tailwind.  IMG_0119We sailed on the flat, straight road east, paralleling the defunct Diamond R Freighting Company (railroad).  We would occasionally catch a glimpse of an old bridge, IMG_0156now grown over with grass and often used by the farmers that now reigned.  Trees were few and far between and you could see for miles.IMG_0136  We took an occasionally look back at the mountains becoming mere silhouettes on the western horizon.IMG_0121  By ten o’clock, we had already logged 30 miles, so stopped for a little break and cold water, but Not at this bar.IMG_0132After our short break the flat ride became mild rolling hills, some rolling longer than we would have liked.  But on several of the rises we would catch a glimpse of the Musselshell RiverIMG_0160 weaving it’s way through the countryside.

Shortly before noon, we came to our last food outpost and the crossroads we would need to decide the direction on.  Heading south would take us to Billings (where we ultimately wanted to be), but it was another 45 miles.   Continuing east was only another 24 miles and a stop for the night.  Knowing we couldn’t make such a decision without food, we went in for a bite,IMG_0148after all, they said Bikers Welcome. IMG_0147 The gentlemen at the bar told us the south route from this point was much easier than the route from Roundup.  But we’d already clocked 50 miles and though the thought of not having a big climb to get to the city was appealing, we were a bit tired.  So after lunch, we continued our easterly trek; Billings would have to wait until tomorrow.  Though biking through these parts is gorgeous, the population is sparse and towns are really spread out, creating a challenge to our route each day; and as you may have noticed, we both prefer the comforts not afforded by a tent, even though we carry it with us, for emergencies.

 The road became a ribbon of continuous ups and downs,IMG_0151 slowing us to half the pace we enjoyed earlier.  The breeze did nothing to cool us and in the full sun, our ODO’s were reading 104°; it was Hot (a far cry from our 59° start)!  An hour down the road of struggling to get up and over, only to climb again, the hills became a little more spaced and occasional clouds made the temperatures tolerable.IMG_0159  We finally came upon our cowboy townIMG_0162 and a break from the heat of the sun.  For dinner we opted for the roasted chicken in the grocery store across the street, instead of biking back into town.  It had been a tough 70 miles and we were done for the day.

You were spared too many pictures today, as somewhere during the day, one of the camera’s decided it had had enough.  Unfortunately, many photos were lost, but our memories still remain.

 

Day 7. Friday, July 17 – Roundup to Billings, Montana

Friday 17 July 2015

Another overcast, yet refreshing 55° after yesterday’s draining heat.  Unfortunately, the weatherman’s last minute wind direction change, was not in our favor; guess we were due.  We had to backtrack two miles to get back on course, which allowed us to read the historic markerIMG_0169 and catch a few of the road signs; Arrowhead Rd, Horsethief Road and even Ponderosa Drive….this is Cowboy Country, still. IMG_0175 We crossed the Musselshell RiverIMG_0173 and began our long slow Bull Mountain climb into the wind.  The morning was almost hypnotic, as if we’d travel back in time;IMG_0192 wild open spacesIMG_0186 and horses roaming free.IMG_0181  Inevitably, a car would break the trance and bring us back to the slow crawl up and into the wind.  IMG_0191

We were delighted to see a few of the Highland Cattle IMG_0187we had first fallen in love with in Scotland.  It took us well over two hours to climb the 17 miles to 4010 feet, we could not wait for the downhill.  Unfortunately, we were lucky to break 20 mph pedaling hard against the wind; a far cry from the 40 mph we enjoyed a couple of days ago on a downhill.

The other side of this mountain was barren of most treesIMG_0199and we could see forever.IMG_0200You could almost here the music from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly movie playing in the background.IMG_0207

As we crested one of our many climbs, a chirping sound was everywhere.  The sky was void of birds and there were no trees in sight for birds to hide.  We soon realized the prairie dogs were calling back and forth to each other from across the road.  This long road into the windIMG_0221 was as difficult as it was beautiful.IMG_0224The sky even screamed, “This is Montana!”IMG_0230

But the wind was working on us, hard.  Around every bend and atop every hill we searched for some glimpse of this city of 100,000, though we could see for ever, all we saw were the plainsIMG_0244and antelope (sorry MaryEllen).IMG_0242At mile 40, we finally saw a speckling of civilization that breathed necessary life into our tired legs.  It was another five miles before we found a place to eat lunch and rest.  It took us another hour for a couple necessary stops (camera) before we checked into the luxury of a Real hotel.  By design, dinner was across the street and delicious. DSCN3779

DSCN3778 The hard fought 50 miles and almost six hours in the saddle was going to feel good against the pillow tonight.

End of Week 1

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Missoula to Billings, Montana

week 01

400.3 Miles

Continental Divide at Flesher Pass (6131 feet)

Day 8. Saturday, July 18 – Billings to Hardin, Montana

Saturday 18 July 2015

It was 62° with a cool northwest wind, when we finally left the comforts of our hotel.  A quick navigation through town,DSCN3782over the Yellowstone River DSCN3785and we were in the middle of the country.DSCN3791Small farms were scattered about.DSCN3795

Even with the nice tailwind, we slowly crawled up the mountain.DSCN3807  Wide switchbacks and our 1,000 foot higher vantage point offered gorgeous viewsDSCN3805 and a shot back to town.DSCN3801  Many more rocks DSCN3826and a lot less treesDSCN3819 on our long downhill run.  Around a bend,DSCN3820 stark trees told the story of a bad fire years ago, though brush had began to bring green back to the hills.DSCN3815We had another smaller climb that dropped us by a thriving farmDSCN3828 and only our second cornfield since our start (Marck, this one’s for you).IMG_0269On our first straight stretch, we met Don and his kids, Anders and Julia from ChicagoDSCN3832 and their friends Mark and Pat from Glendive, MontanaDSCN3833heading to Portland, Oregon.

This straight stretch of road went on forever, again revealing a beautiful soft palette of field grassDSCN3838and beautiful sky.IMG_0271  Prairie dogsIMG_0273 greeted us for miles, as we biked along our long road.  We saw no people, one ranchIMG_0274lots of wide open spaceDSCN3849 and ample wild life.IMG_0279It was an absolutelyDSCN3866 beautifulDSCN3873 rideIMG_0291in the middle of nowhere,DSCN3880 made that much more enjoyable with our cool northwest tailwind; but still lots and lots of nothing out here!

Twelve miles from town our flat ride became a little more rollingDSCN3892 and signs of civilization once again returned.DSCN3893Our stop for the night was a straight shot into town.DSCN3897A few hours rest and then a bike into town for dinner.  Oddly enough, it took us a while to find a place in this two block town, but what a find.  Yes, the Greek salad is Really this bigDSCN3903 and the pizzaDSCN3907 can easily compete with Reginos.  It was a wonderful find!

Though this is the lowest altitude (2900 feet) we have been in since arriving in Montana, think we’ve finally adjusted to the thinner air; not so much to the climbing, however.

Fifty three miles done….Good Night!  One last thought(s) for the night….DSCN3900

 

Day 9. Sunday, July 19 – Hardin, Montana to Ranchester, Wyoming

Sunday 19 July 2015

Fifty seven degrees and sunny when we pushed away just after seven this morning, with a nice breeze coming out of the south; unfortunately, we were heading south; it was going to be a long day in the saddle; maybe a wagon train isn’t such a bad idea.DSCN3912  Picked up our frontage road just out of town, sandwiched tightly between the interstate and railroad.  This would be the day of few pictures, as we were blocked from anything to see by traffic lanes.  We crossed the Big Horn River,DSCN3917lost our pavement for a bitDSCN3923then made a quick switch to the other side of the interstate, which afforded us better views DSCN3925and took us by a very sobering monument.DSCN3929  The Apsaalooke Veterans Park tells the grim story of an Indian heritage lost.DSCN3931  Shortly down the road was the Battle at Big Horn Museum.DSCN3944

DSCN3945  It was a good time to take a break from the wind, soak in more historyIMG_0295 and get refreshment at the last food stop before the end of our ride.  Shortly before ten, our road and the railroad unexpectantly split from the highway; DSCN3956the quiet and sceneryDSCN3961 returned!  This slight turn in the road also served to put the wind just off our right, so the onslaught was slightly tempered; perfect, since the wind had turned up a notch.  We were able to relax slightly and take in the vistas.DSCN3974

It was almost noon and we were suffering from the continuous uphill and battle against the wind.  Almost like a mirage, we saw a grocery store through the trees.DSCN3975  It was a wonderful break for food and cold drink.  Sorry we did not take a picture of the incredible fresh fruit bowl of raspberries, strawberries, bananas and blueberries, but it was consumed too fast to focus.  Leaving from this stop, our course turned a bit more to put the wind just at our shoulder.  With no trees to break the wind, the slight turn was what we needed in order to continue; even the occasional train DSCN3982was welcomed for it’s wind buffering effect.  Our usual afternoon cloud cover did not happen; shade was sought after by all.DSCN3989

At 50 miles, we found a lone treeDSCN3992 to take refuge under to enjoy an orange before the gradual climb became much more noticeable.DSCN4002We enjoyed the quick down only to climb again relishing the idea of the next drop that took miles to come.DSCN4010We were jazzed to cross the border and enter a new state,IMG_0312the rain on the distant Big Horn Mountains looking very refreshing.IMG_0318Once again we were saved by an honest to goodness old time bar,IMG_0328proof;IMG_0327not sure we would have made it our last ten miles without it.  Finally we reached our downhill and wind so strong that on the flat road, we were doing 22 mph without pedaling; the wind was howling.  We were still exhausted.  After almost 7 hours in the saddle and 73 miles, we were hungry.  DSCN4018 Fried pickles, salad and DSCN4024Chicken Fried Chicken (with gravy) was just the ticket!  On our walk back from dinner, the wind had completely died.

Bedtime!

Day 10. Monday, July 20 – Ranchester to The Ranch at Ucross, Wyoming

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Sorry, this is a Long post with too many pictures, today!

A beautiful, sunny 64° this morning with no wind.DSCN4029  It was a wonderful start to the day as we biked away from our little town and out into the country.  The flat frontage road this morning was elevated from the railroad,DSCN4032 so views abound.DSCN4037  After seven miles, we crossed the interstate to pick up our course on the other side. IMG_0347Though scenic,DSCN4045 it was much hillier than our other frontage road and turned to dirt two miles out.  We had to decide to continue on dirt or turn back and ride the interstate.  Not knowing if the flat packed road would deteriorate, we backtracked.DSCN4047  The six mile stretch on the highway was quieter than some of the roads we’d already traveled and the wide shoulder made it comfortable (safe).

We pedaled through the historic town of Sheridan; with plenty places for the tourist to shopDSCN4061 and the cowboy to wet his whistle.  We spent far too much time in this cute town,DSCN4062 but did manage to gather food supplies for the next day’s ride and grab an early lunch.  When we finally pulled out of town it was really beginning to warm up and there was a breeze coming out of the southeast.  This is when the climbing began, too!DSCN4063  We snaked and climbed,DSCN4071 climbed and snakedDSCN4100 our way around the hillsDSCN4067 in the stupendouslyIMG_0354 beautiful valley.DSCN4102With all the climbing, it didn’t “seem” like a valley to us, but that is what the locals call it.  Wildlife abound, can you spot the two deer?IMG_0376Here’s a hint.IMG_0378The snow capped Big Horn Mountains were majesticIMG_0357 on the western horizon.   By 1:00 it was 100° in the full sun; we relished the breeze in our face, just for it’s cooling effect and tried to distract ourselves with the lush landscape.DSCN4138  We could have used some of this horse power DSCN4093as we slowly climbed to 4800 feet.  After 18 miles, we were blessed with a cooling albeit short downhill then a flat rideDSCN4145 along the Tongue RiverIMG_0395 to our stop – the only place to stay in a over 100 miles.  And what a treat after our hard fought 50 mile day.IMG_0397  The Ranch at Ucross is a beautiful cowboy oasis with the purr-fect hostess! DSCN4162Meet Evil or as LynnBug would say, E-Val.

We tied up our steeds up to our cabin for the nightDSCN4218 and relaxed like cowboys after a hard day’s work.  When the dinner bell rang (literally), we were ready.  Well fedDSCN4188(Trout Almondine and London Broil) and with proper nightcap,DSCN4194 we retired for a long night’s sleep….tomorrow will be a day off!