25 miles - Total: 1960 miles
Coming from Canada and heading off to the East, the storm came and went. It left rain, cold and most importantly for me, cold winds in its path. Today has been an extraordinarily frustrating day. I was ready for a long ride but nothing doing. 25 miles, what a waste of time but hey..I am safe.
I open my eyes, I stumble to the window and gingerly move the curtain. I knew it. I immediately slump back in my bed, resigned, dejected. It is raining and what's worst it is blustering with gales blowing at 25-30 mph from northwest. The weather TV guy was spot-on last night. He announced a cold front coming from the North sweeping through Montana and North Dakota. I was muttering uner my breath "we'll see about that".
Not very enthusiastically I get into my gear, check out of the motel and try to ride back to Interstate 94 which is the only "safe" route all the way to Glendive, my planned stop for today. I set out on the road and the headwind makes it almost unrideable. The bike gets knocked off from the side at every gust of wind and I must grip the bar with all my might to stay a straight course. There is no way I can fight this wind, it is blustery and at times I cannot even move my legs, all I can do is to get off the bike, crouch and wait for the gusts to pass. THe impossibly fierce wind has blown bad clouds away and the rain has gone temporarily becuase more dark clouds are coming in. I don't know which is worse, rain or wind. The wind carries this cold front from Canada, which becomes evident when I read the temperature in Medora, 58F. I try to fight for a little bit, I push on the bike, the chain falls off twice, the shoulder of the Interstate is rough and full of debris, the sky darkens once more. It is all going badly today and I am struggling. I am not feeling great, my feet are cold and my throat a little sore. I cycle 25 miles into the fiercest headwind I have ever challenged on a bike. Some cars passing me on my left slow down to see the face of this crazy man riding on a highway in these conditions. Who is this nutcase..they must wonder! I don't know how but I finally reach the inappropriately named town of Beach, the first town after Medora and there is no question about what to do next. I am forced to stop. If it had been just the wind I would have gone on another 20, 30 miles but it is the cold air that's the problem. It freezes my legs and numbs my ears, fingers, toes. After crawling for 25 miles at the average of 10 mph into a 30 mph headwind I decide it to call it a day. Which is just as well as I'd find out later that the one hotel in the next town is fully booked. I would have been forced to ride another 30 miles to find a place to shack. Riding on the interstate is a stressful enough experience without winds but in these conditions is close to suicide. In the afternoon the storm steps up a notch and I am glad I have stopped after 25 miles. I fight off the feeling of utter frustration and try to relax.
The other bad news is this motel. It's dark and grimy, the people that run it should be in the cast of a Ken Loach movie. They stand by the door chain-smoking wearing cheap garish jewelry and I cannot even look at the soiled carpet in my room. No complaints though, I am out of the cold wind. The guy at the grocery store says that today was the first day of rain in months. Again, great timing for me.
For tomorrow the weather forecast is better: sunny and with a 10mph wind coming from the North. Still a headwind but at least the temperature will be higher than today. They are expecting snow in Northern Montana..I cannot even think of that now. The weather is delaying my journey. Physically, I feel okay and I would be on schedule. However, the elements are turning this bike ride into a slow struggle. I am gonna make it in under 40 days to the Coast. Period.
As I enter Interstate 94 at Medora I see the only brief sunlight of the day
The wind-swept prairie
The shoulder of Interstate 94
The sky looks ominous