Montana

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A pick me up Pt. 1

Friday, October 1st, 2010

I have to say, once I got over missing Glacier, I’ve really been enjoying our trip a lot more.  Even the train ride wasn’t so bad.  We were treated to one of the most amazing sunsets right as we approached Glacier which we would never have seen had we decided to bike there.  After that, we mostly tried to sleep the rest of the way to Spokane.  Unlike New York where life outside is always visible from a train window, out in God’s country it’s pitch dark.  In a way, it was probably best this way so that we could forget all that we were missing and focus on what lay ahead.

Our train got in to Spokane at 2:30AM which left us with very few options for lodging.  We were downtown which meant all the hotels were expensive and I didn’t care to spend money on a 5 hour hotel stay before they kicked us out in the morning.  Nor did either of us relish the thought of finding a campsite at that forsaken hour.  So, a night in the train station was what we settled on.  For better or worse, it was not long before we were awoken by the security guard and sent off the discover what the city had in store for us.

As I would later acknowledge, Spokane was good for the soul.  The weather was excellent that morning as we searched out a nice place to grab some breakfast.  We quickly decided on Satellite Diner but were none pleased when they didn’t open till 8AM and it was only 6:30.  So, to burn time, we played on the giant Radio Flyer wagon in the park.  Good times.  Also, it gave Marissa time to look up an old friend who lives in Boston but grew up in the city and was able to make some great suggestions.  Better yet, he called up his parent’s Lisa and Steve on our behalf and arranged for a lovely home-cooked meal and a roof over our heads.  Thanks Blair!

After a great breakfast, we stopped by the local bicycle shop to pick up another rear tire for my bike.  The Continental Touring Plus tires have only lasted exactly 1300 miles each before going bald.  They haven’t given me a flat yet so I should be thankful but that seems awfully short lived for a touring tire.  I replaced the rear with a Continental Top Contact folding tire which was half off from $90 and was handmade in Germany, not Taiwan.  We even got Marissa’s bike tuned up for free as well as another offer for a place to stay, which we had to turn down.  Thanks to everyone at Two Wheel Transit!

With most of the day still ahead of us, we took Blair’s advice and headed up the hill to Manito Park for a nap in the sun and then a stroll through the Japanese and formal gardens. Before we knew it, we were off again to his parent’s house for a great dinner and a lot of good company.  It felt so good to have a nice, warm, home-cooked meal after all that time cooking in the cold through Montana.  We both felt incredibly refreshed and ready to hit the hills ahead of us.  It was such a huge turn around in a very short amount of time I think we were both a bit surprised.

Of course, we got a late start the next day after eating a massive breakfast and pulling all our gear back in from where we had scattered it about the house.  We only managed 60 miles the next day but it was an incredibly gorgeous ride through some back roads before linking up with RT 395 on our way to Colville.  I wanted to go further because the more we did that day the less we would have to do before our first major climb of the trip, Sherman’s Pass.

Change of plans

Friday, September 24th, 2010

I’ve been stressing this decision a lot over the last state or so. We really don’t have much time left to bike before I’m due back in Ohio for my friend’s wedding and we still have a whole lot of hilly miles to go. On top of that, we are still in Shelby, MT with 40mph winds. Marissa and I are both feeling a bit down and at least I am starting to feel like the trip is losing it’s appeal. Maybe it’s the deadline that’s looming over us or maybe it’s the frigid and windy weather. I feel like going east to west might not have been the best move after all. It’s hard to say and I guess there’s no point in second guessing ourselves because we are here now and it’s time to move again.

With that in mind, I’ve decided that we would be better off booking a train from Shelby, MT to Spokane, WA and fast forwarding the trip by a bit. From Spokane, we can bike north again and meet up with the rest of the Adventure Cycling North Tier route right before it hits the Cascades. This will leave us all of the major climbs west of Glacier and hopefully still plenty of time to do them. Depending on when we get out, we’ll then have to decide whether or not we go to Seattle or Vancouver from there. Our end point on the Northern Tier is Anacortes, WA which is about halfway between the two. Maybe we’ll have to look at which flights are cheaper.

Needless to say, I’m really bummed that we have to do this. I so wanted to bike the entire country from coast to coast, especially the western side which I’m least familiar with. I guess we just didn’t bike fast enough or long enough each day. I’m not sure what the solution is to that for next time. Earlier starts and lighter bikes is probably the first start. We’ve gone through all of our bags and tried to cut them down to the bare essentials for this last leg now. We managed to cut out at least 5 pounds each with Marissa cutting much more than I was able to. I’ve got the computer and digital gear that weighs so much plus the cookware. She was carrying a lot of the personal items like suntan lotion, bug spray and a lot more clothes that are definitely not needed in the mountains. Hopefully this leaves the last 400 miles a bit more managable.

On the upside, at least this will leave me with a good reason to get back out here sooner than later. Plus, now I know that I can book an Amtrak train that could take me all the way from New York to Glacier and bike this last bit whenever I wish, haha. We would have had to skip Going-to-the-Sun road in Glacier anyway so I suppose skipping it all together is not that much more of a sacrifice. Most of the terrain after Glacier was heading downhill too so maybe that was the easy part too. I am worried because I think a lot of the intermediary hills we are skipping would have been a good warm up for these big climbs ahead. This might be New York State all over again.

Hotcakes and cold rides

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Holed up in another motel in Glasgow, MT at the moment.  We had intended to take just one rest day yesterday here but the night before, after doing about 82 miles in a little over 7 hours of riding, we only made it to Nashua, about 15 miles short of Glasgow.  We ended the day riding for an hour after dark on Rt. 2 which was a little bit amazing and a little bit scary.  Figuring we could do the last little bit on our rest day and being very exhausted, we camped for the night with only some Triscuits and cranberries for dinner.

We woke to a very chilly, rainy morning that barely nearly kept us huddled in our sleeping bags for the day.  Starving and cold, we found ourselves in Bergie’s up the rode and with a menu that started with “Bike Trekker’s Breakfast.”  Pefrect!  2 jumbo pancakes, 3 eggs, 4 slices of bacon or sausage, and a pile of hasbrowns.  And best of all, it stated beneath it “If you finish, we pay for it”  Even better!  Of course, I quickly ordered this without even thinking while Marissa picked the Adventurer’s Breakfast just below it that didn’t come with hashbrowns.  I suppose we should have been clued in by that little offer to pay for the meal that something was amiss.  Turns out those 2 jumbo pancakes that we each got were a full 16″ hotcake, each.  Ugh.  We both managed to finish about half of each plus all our protein and my hashbrowns with lots of coffee, tea and milk.  So much for becoming competitive eating champions after this trip.

Zoom Zoom from Andrew Frasz on Vimeo.

the most perfect stretch of road

It was still raining and cold when we decided it was finally time to finish those 15 miles to our hotel (there were none in Nashua).  Thinking we were properly fueled up and bundled up as best we could, we set out for what should have been a 1 hr 15min ride.  What we didn’t take into account was that this was Montana and the weather is anything but predictable.  So, instead of a wet, sluggish ride, we got a snowing, freezing, windy ride from hell.  The snow was actually hitting us in the eyes!  Plus, no shoulders on the road meant it was anything but playful as the trucks and semis went whizzing by.  Needless to say, I got a lot of angry looks from Marissa.  By the time we rolled up to our little motel, neither of us could feel our feet or open our mouths for fear of saying something we might regret later.

So, having spoiled what was supposed to be our rest day, we are now on day two in the La Casa Motel.  It’s not such a bad place though and with all the extra time, we were able to go out and get some good waterproof gloves and do some really good meals.  And update this here blog, so lucky you.

The rest of our time in Montana, and North Dakota for that matter, has been pretty nice.  The mornings are chilly but within an hour of riding, we are quickly shedding layers.  It’s a lot of flat, endless roads with a lot of oil trucks and pick-em up trucks.  Oh, and an update from the end of the last post.  Feelilng pretty down about all the wind we were getting in Rugby, we started asking around the motel for a ride to Minot.  We ended up piling our bikes into the back of another pick-up owned by a man named Rory who worked as an oil pipe-line inspector.  What would have taken us all day to ride took us all of 60 minutes to drive.  Feeling more than thankful, we excitedly shared all the great stories so far with our new friend.  I don’t know what exactly stuck with Rory but, as we pulled into town, he suddenly announced that he was taking us straight to a nearby hotel and putting us up for the night.  That’s right, he payed for a $100/night stay in the local Holiday Inn before he headed straight back to Rugby.  Thanks Rory!  And best of all (well, not really but it was a treat), I got to watch the Browns game the next morning in restaurant next day.

Hitching a ride from Andrew Frasz on Vimeo.

One other nice little highlight worth sharing was two nights ago.  We were rolling through Culberston on our first day in Montana and stopped for groceries before trying to make it to Bainville for the night.  Outside though, we met Mary Lou who stopped to chat about our trip.  Upon hearing our final destination was inside the Indian reservation, she quickly steered us to her daughter’s house just shy of town where we could camp out behind their barn.  What could have been a sketchy experience turned out great.  Laurie and her husband Buzz were very welcoming as was my new best friend Monte, their German shepherd.  We slept great as Monte prowled the farm, barking at all the coyotes and then sharing our breakfast in the morning.