Any Road Tour: Day 39 – Detour

Today was supposed to be an easy 54 miles of relatively level terrain. Just the thing for my tired legs and bloated belly (I totally overdid dinner last night).

I found my way out of Great Falls and across the Missouri River on a bike/ped bridge.

along a nondescript highway to Vaughn where is was greeted with this sign.

This road is the last 20 miles to Augusta, my planned destination.

I decided to continue on to Simms at the beginning of that last 20 mile stretch and then consider my options.

It was a pleasant enough ride into a not-too-annoying headwind.

In Simms I consulted the local gas station for information. He said a couple on bikes made it through a few days ago but could not say I’d be allowed passage over a partially washed out bridge.

We called s couple of places in Augusta but nobody was certain I could get over the bridge.

We all agreed the safe thing to do would be to ride north to Fairfield then west then south to Augusta. This would be an additional 17 miles.

Off I went into a cross wind. When I made the turn west I got clobbered with one of Montana’s soul sucking headwinds.

Whatever. It is what it is. Just keep on pedaling.

Then, unlike the original route, it got very hilly.

This went on for 15 miles then I came down off the hill. Eek!

Then up again. Then down again.

At least the view was interesting. (There was actually a road sign that said Rocky Mountains got the geographically impaired traveler.)

Fortunately the wind died down and I could ride into Augusta with relative ease.

In Augusta I checked into the Bunkhouse Inn. I was expecting a dive but this place is beautiful. Here’s the lobby.

I don’t want to leave but the restaurant across the street is calling me.

The proprietor of the Inn told me that Lincoln MT is having some festival tomorrow. Lincoln is the first town over Rogers Pass. The next one is Ovando, about 80 miles from here. Let by story short: tomorrow’s going to be brutal.

Miles: 71

Total miles: 2,904.5

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