Any Road Tour: Day 38 – The Tour hits the breaks

I slept nine hours last night, probably recovery from whatever made my head spin.

Breakfast was late so I didn’t hit the road until 9. Into a headwind. But I didn’t care. I was rested and fed and I’ve ridden 2,700+ miles and I’m getting used to wind abuse.

The landscape was greener and less spectacular than yesterday. Field. Grain. Cattle. Butte. Repeat.

I confess to talking to the livestock as I ride by. I swear they understand English. Good morning! How’s it going? Wanna run?!

They said the cattle of central Montana are a lot less interactive than the ones in North Dakota.

I’ve seen some deer now and then. They bound like cartoon animals. You can almost hear the BOING BOING BOING.

After 20 miles I could see cliffs off in the distance. The Missouri Breaks. Here the Missouri, which I crossed back in Bismarck, cuts s deep gash in the land.

At 25 miles the road corkscrews steeply downward to the river at Fort Benton. Yowza!

The town has some historic buildings and an old river boat but I came for the French Dip and the tater tots, or gems, at the Club House sports bar.

What goes down must go up, but the way to Great Falls turns to the south. I had a tailwind for the first time in days. I still had to bring in granny for the climb but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought.

About 15 miles later I did another steep descent. My top speed was 39.9, feathering my brakes. The wind had become a cross wind and nothing says “wet your pants” quite like a side blast as your approaching 40 miles per hour in a runaway mule.

It’s a very zen thing. If you think about what might happen you’ll lock your arms and bad things will happen. If you just stay loose, pay attention to this specific instant, and breathe, you’ll turn fear into excitement.

But you may still wet your pants.

The 50+ miles from Fort Benton to Great Falls was pleasant but unremarkable. The last few miles were on a divided highway with strange rumble strips. They were on the edge of the paved shoulder instead of next to the white line. I ran over a few of them and they barely rumbled. Or maybe my ass was numb from so many miles.

I turned off the highway and stopped at the first gas station I saw. I asked to use the bathroom and the clerk laughs and handed me the key. I must have looked like a maniac doing the pee pee dance.

I followed my map to the river edge trail. The Missouri looked angry and muddy. The trail was well designed and seemed interconnect with neighborhoods and other trails. Wayfinding signs made it easy for me to navigate.

Water blasted through the dam near town. It was an impressive site.

After 82 miles I pulled into the Holiday Inn. It looks like an old Embassy Suites hotel with an atrium that appears to be stolen from a Cabelas.

It was a long hard day. I got my money’s worth. Tomorrow I ride to the mountains.

Miles: 82

Tour miles: 2,832.5

Any Road Tour: Day 37 – Dizzy heights around Square Butte

Last night’s dinner was a burrito and Mexicali fries. This is what the Mexican food chain calls tater tots. Head. Table.

The motel room was buggy but I didn’t care. I slept well and dried my camping gear.

I needed a jacket in the morning. Low 50s. No wind though.

I cruised the town, stopping to buy provisions at a grocery store. Then I found a coffee shop that Felkerino would have approved of. Fortified with coffee, bagel, and a jumbo chocolate chip cookie. (Andrea, I don’t have a jersey pocket so I ate it in the spot.)

On the road by a little after 8, I was on level ground with a 2 mph tailwind. I felt strong and cruised along above 10 mph with no effort. Finally!

The route trended downhill between North and South Mocassin Mountains.

I stopped in Denton for lunch, chicken legs, smothered mashed potatoes, and corn on the cob. Burp.

Approaching Coffee Creek, I could see Square Butte. I thought it was only a mile or two away but it never seemed to get closer.

The road turned directly toward Square Butte. I looked at my map and tried to figure out how I was going to get around it. I figured to the left. Then I saw the sign on the side of the road: 8% grade. Downhill.

Suddenly I was flying down a curving road into a canyon. No guard rails. Frequent white crosses denoting fatal crashes. A steamroller in the middle of the road. WTF!

I slowed to 25 mph as it pulled to the shoulder. Would the new asphalt it was smoothing grab my wheels?

Thankfully it held firm. I accelerated with no effort to 35 mph. Curbing down the hill like some crazy two wheeled bobsled. It was just plain thrilling.

At the bottom was a vast valley with Square Butte on my left and Antelope Butte on my right. The cave-like holes in the face of the butte caught my eye as did the defective longhorn steer in the field between the butte and me.

At the recommendation of Michael and Leonore I stopped in the town of Square Butte for lunch at the Country Club. It was quite the dive but the chicken Caesar salad I had was a work of art.

It took a long time to make and eat, using up time I wanted to spend biking.

Seven miles later I pulled into the town of Geraldine. I had booked a room in the B&B. I pulled up and three people were sitting on benches outside the restaurant/bar next door.

As I dismounted I suddenly felt lightheaded. Until I got off the bike I was seriously considering riding on to Fort Benton to take advantage of the perfect riding weather. My spinning head has other ideas.

I checked in and convinced the owner enter to let me do a load of laundry. I sat outside talking to a local farmer. He said the red grain I have been riding past is a kind of hay. He also mentioned how it and everything else is in bloom right now. Then it hit me; I ran out of antihistamines two days ago.

I went next store to the general store and bought some: 120 tablets for $6, about 1/4th the DC price. I asked the clerk to double check the price. $6. I bought some sunscreen. $6. If he sold scotch I’d have bought a fifth.

So I’m spending the night in Geraldine. The town. (Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.)

The only problem with this arrangement is that tomorrow will be an 80 miler with headwinds. I may end up splitting it into two days.

Miles: 75

Total tour miles: 2,750.5

I went over 6,000 miles for the year today.