Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Oh Mountains, Where Art Thou?

So for over two weeks now, this has been our view.

Beautiful? Absolutely! But draining. It's no fun being able to see 15 miles ahead of you, just the get there and be surrounded by the same scenery. We did have a pretty amazing day into Miles City, Montana, but besides that, we've been on flat ground.

The heat gets to you by 9:00, so an early start is necessary. It's a good thing we like riding in the cool morning hours. One thing we used to love was stopping every 15 miles or so for a break. Getting off the bikes and into AC or sitting on a picnic table in the shade was a great way to relax before hopping on the bikes again. Only problem out here is there are really no places for that. The towns are so far apart that we're only passing one or two a day and they usually don't have any accommodations. Sometimes the town's population doesn't even reach 100. No gas stations or convenience stores there.

The saving grace the past few weeks has been the history we've been learning and the people we've met.
This is me helping Clark as he navigates his way through the Lewis & Clark Trail.  He was pretty lucky to have so many paved roads and wi-fi access spots along the way.  I wonder if he updated his Facebook daily, too?
Clark's signature in Pompey's Pillar from 1806. Pretty cool.

In Miles City, we were introduced to Jen who had also hosted Bike49, a group of touring cyclists who biked the 49 states to spread awareness for sustainability. Jen invited us to stay in her home for a day or two and we chose to take the day to recoup from all of our early morning riding. Jen was a plethora of information and taught us all about the area. She even brought us to a bar that had a bullet hole in the glass from the wild west days.

She let us use her home to get some work done while she went to work the next day. We stayed in, focused on our computers all day except for the hour we got out to grab some ice cream. It was at the ice cream shop that we met Jesse. He was making Goulash for lunch the next day and he gave us a heaping sample. Yummy! We shared our story with him and he was so interested, that he decided he'd ride us out of town the next day.

So we exchanged numbers and headed back to Jen's for a great dinner of Antelope steak (from one of their hunting trips) and sugar snap peas and cucumbers from the garden. Talk about local food!

The time in Miles City was relaxing, but we were on the road bright and early the next morning with Jesse by our side. He had stayed up until 2:30 the night before, getting his bike ready for our 6:00 ride! What a trooper!

The ten miles he rode with us seemed to fly by and we had made a good friend by the end of it. He had to turn back to get to work in time, but this wasn't the last we'd see of him.

Turns out he had a soccer competition in Billings a few days later when we were passing through, so even though we missed the soccer games, Adam did head out with him to see Horrible Bosses while I slept peacefully in our grungy motel room.

In between Miles City and Billings, we had the opportunity to meet plenty of other people. We felt homeless in Forsythe when we finished our 65 miles by 11:30. Our plan of hanging out in the air conditioned library all day before heading to the campground was thwarted when we found out the flooding had shut down the library and the campground was underwater. Without a place to go, we wandered aimlessly around, finally parking ourselves under a tree near the courthouse to enjoy lunch and a nap.

Under this tree we met Dave from Nutcase. No, no, no. Dave isn't a nutcase himself, he works for the helmet company, Nutcase. They are based out of Portland and we will try to link up when we get there in October. Looking back on this encounter, I can't believe how random it was that we would meet Dave in the little town of Forsyth, MT, who lives and works in Oregon. Must have been fate.

With a huge hail storm coming in that night, we forked over the $30 for a little motel room in town and I cooked dinner while Adam grabbed some shots of the incoming storm.

The next morning was clear, and we rode early again to Custer, MT. Custer was just big enough to have a gas station, but no grocery store. We pulled into the gas station asking about camping at the park when we were informed about the wedding happening there later on that day. The clerk assumed it would still be fine if we camped there and she was right. The bride, Loree, even invited us to the wedding and Adam became their wedding photographer! I wrote all about the wedding in this week's Madison Patch article.

With a wedding to add to the list of interesting events we've experienced, we retreated to our tent as the band continued to play through the night and got some good sleep before heading out early again the next morning towards Billings.

This was the day that broke us. Hot sun, flat ground, headwind, no shoulders, and building traffic. When we finally made it to Billings, we needed some AC and a place to rest. It hasn't been easy finding places to nap. We got yelled at the last time we napped in a library so a motel room was needed. Once we were indoors, it was hard to convince us to head out again, and after a Warm Showers host called us back and invited us over for the next night, we decided to sleep in and take another day off getting work done at Starbucks before heading over to Woody & MJ's.

Woody and MJ had just gotten in from a trip to Glacier, but they already had a room waiting for us in their cool basement, a snack of apples and cheese, and dinner in the oven. They were travelers. They loved adventure and we shared stories of our travels as we sat on their deck and listened to bugs dying in the bug-zapper. We told Woody and MJ of our need to see mountains soon and they both smiled. "You'll see 'em tomorrow," Woody assured us and we went to bed excited for the next day.

After an early morning breakfast that MJ made for us, we were on our way to Columbus, hoping to beat the 100 degree heat. Woody was right. Only a few miles into the day and we could see the snowy peaks of mountains in the distance. What a sight!! It was breathtakingly beautiful and scary at the same time, knowing we'd be climbing those mountains soon. But for now, we were happy to be on flat ground, heading towards the mountains.

It took us two days to get to Big Timber where we spent the day at the library, like we do often to run away from the heat.  With all this time in a library, we've been able to come up with a fun contest to raffle off one of Adam's Photos.  Our challenge this week is to post a picture on our Give a Bike Facebook page of yourself on a bicycle (you can see the directions here).  Here's what Adam's family posted from the family vacation we're missing!

Once we spent enough time in the library, we were headed out to find a camp spot when we met D'Jeane who invited us into her home for the night. D'Jeane was interning in Big Timber for the summer for the USDA and thrilled to have met us. I guess the 20-30 year-old population in Big Timber is pretty limited. She called the one 21 year guy she had met in town, invited him over, and the 4 of us shared a yummy dinner of burgers from her parent's ranch, rice, and corn.

check out the Temperature!

We did take a walk down to the Fairgrounds to try and get pics of the mountains but we couldn't find them.  Instead, we found some pretty horses and some interesting clouds.

We all woke up early, D'Jeane headed to the pool to get her morning triathlon training in and Adam and I over Bozeman pass to Bozeman. Little did we know that the wind would keep us from our final destination. The 35 miles to Livingston took us double the time we had intended and we were so exhausted from battling the wind that we decided it would be best to stop here for the night. We've eluded the mountains for one more day, but tomorrow we head over Bozeman pass and into the start of some crazy climbs.

Wish us luck!!


  1. At the risk of sounding like a broken record: Awesome pics and stories! Big Sky country is amazingly open - I had no idea. . .it's hard to get perspective when you just fly over ;)

  2. every time i read your blogs i become more inspired to get off my lazy ass and ride my bike !! The photos are beautiful and i cant wait to do my 50 state trip !!! I wish you all the best xx

  3. Bon courage! We are with you in spirit! Xoxo ash m&m

  4. Hooray, Mountains in site. Loved all the post.

  5. New Favorite picture of the trip is that Casino.

  6. Adam and Christy,

    Sounds like a great trip for a great cause. We're always looking to work with photographers who know how to shoot bike travel. Would love to follow up.


    Michael Deme 
    Publications Department Director
    Editor, Adventure Cyclist Magazine
    150 E. Pine St., Missoula, MT 59802
    (406) 721-1776 x 222

    Adventure Cycling Association
    Inspiring people of all ages to travel by bicycle

  7. Little did you know that Jesse isnt as sweet as he appears to be.