125 miles - Total: 2236 miles
I am back, with a vengeance. Today I fought a stubborn 15mph headwind the whole way but I still managed to get where I wanted. I can see the mountains from here. I am making up for lost time.
I am out of the hotel at 9am. Late but after yesterday's long and difficult day I needed a good rest. The air is cool and the sky is blue. The first 25 miles of the day are an absolute bliss. A small road all for myself, called Indian highway. It cuts through the Fort Peck Indian Reservation before leading back to highway 2. The next 20 miles to Glasgow are not as peaceful. As other cyclists would tell you, highway 2 is pretty high-traffic for a 2-lane road, some even call it the highway of death, which is a bit too strong but the bit from here to Browing will require my full attention. The road has no shoulder and it is the only paved artery going West, which means that it is used by all travelers, shape and size. Passing 18-wheelers make the air come alive, speeding by with a loud whooshing sound that's followed by a stiff smack and a sudden jolt that bounce me to the side before the air sucks me back towards the opposite direction. Every time I hear the engine of an approaching monster I brace myself, I flex my muscles, I grip the bicycle and hope for the best. Had I had more time I would have chosen a different route.
Faithful to the weather forecast, by noon the wind picks up and it becomes a strong headwind once again. I still have 85 miles to go if I want to reach Malta. Which I do as it would put me close to the mountains with at least two relatively easy days before I start climbing. I reach Glasgow, which seems an unattractive, tired-looking town with park trailers, truck stations and lots of dust flying around. Reaching the city takes the sting out of my concern about the traffic. Glasgow is a work town so the brunt of truck traffic will stop here. At 2pm, with a strong headwind and 71 miles to go I am pondering over my options. I sit by a dusty gas station while I much on snacks and sip water and I am back on the bike. I am going for it. Initially I regret the decision. As I leave town the road climbs, it rises steadily and the wind turns huge blowing a constant 15 or even 20 mph and gusting higher. It knocks me all over the road and turns my last 60 miles into a slow and agonizing fight. This should be freaking easier I keep yelling. I lean into the wind as I am turning right but I am actually going straight. I ride near the white line because the wind keeps pushing me towards the middle of the road. Dusts blow harder, I stop at times, I make myself smaller on the bike, I just ride and try to enjoy the scenery. I think about how great it will be to get to Vancouver, what I will do when I get therer. The wind dries out my throat and although I keep sipping liquids no amount of water can offset the effects of the wind. By the end of the day my lips are reddish and extremely dry. This time I don't get frustrated. The wind is stronger than me, it is the strongest force of nature I know and I just let it blow. It blows so hard that it seems to flatten even more the flat prairie of Montana, if that's even possible.
I stop in Hinsdale, a tiny town where surprisingly I eat the best ice-cream in the States. Fiona, the owner of the the joint "Sweet Memories" is keen to hear my story and as well as offering me the delicious ice-cream she extends her kind support for my cause and my personal fight and best wishes for a safe journey. If you are ever in Hinsdale make sure to visit this lovely place. I am back on the road and the refreshing feeling of the ice-cream is gone in about 5 minutes, the strain and the wind squeeze energy out of me like I am toothpast tube. I keep pushing hoping for the wind to stop but it doesn't. The scenery does not offer any respite, it looks alien and monotonous. I would normally enjoy it but the hardship of the ride is making me immune to the Montana allure. However, by 6pm, with 20 miles left, the road turns south west and the wind becomes almost a tailwind which pushes me fast like a giant invisible hand pulling a string from my front wheel. It is marvelous, another reminder of what a difference the wind makes. I enter Malta at 7.30pm after 10 hours on the road. I am extremely satisfied with today's work.
275 miles in two days despite three flat tires and a headwind. I want to take another opportunity to thank thsoe who support my fund raising ride. I have found the strength to pedal this far thanks to the support and encouragement that is conveyed in the comments and messages posted by those that believe in my cause. I am reading you all. Thank you.
Montana sells its mountains as its most valuable currency but actually the whole Easter Montana presents arid and huge landscape.
Some late night rambling. If you are reading this, if you are with me on this survival journey, welcome to the vast sweeping plains and magnificent emptiness that epitomize the frontier. If you drive through East Montana you will find nothing: an empty landscape of arid grasslands. This is a wide-open land lightly touched by humankind and still reminiscent of the old frontier. While the area was considered West and was at the heart of the exploration and settlement plans for generations, it was bypassed by most whites. Indians were silenced last here because the whites did not show too much interest in this tucked away corner of the country. After all this is a land that could never be; life does not proliferate easily here; nature does not breed easily around here. This is a land that has been discovered and has been abandoned. End of story.
I ride on a solitary road that runs on a straight line forever and then when it seems to turn it continues straight until the end of the sky, maybe the end of the world if you close your eyes. My vision of the world today is shaped by lines that define time and space geometrically, with a few colors, like Mondrian's paintings: the lines of the horizon, the lines of the sky and the lines of the road. But while the scenery offers geometry in its contours, nothing about the inspiration and happiness that come from a bike ride in this unreal landscape is geometrical and shapely defined. I am looking for words that are adequate enough describe the vast emptiness of a land that goes on and on like a rolling ocean. Instead of waves I see grass and gently rolling hills. Nothing needs to be said out loud in a place like this. The wind speaks, nature abides. The wind sweeps the land like a song ringing in the world's ears forever. It makes the land flap like a sheet. I ride alone for hundreds of miles but I don't feel alone in this open land. Maybe I feel small, definitely I feel small. I am a man, one of many, a tiny dot before this majestic work carefully woven by nature. Nothing will be the same. I take comfort from the rhythmic hum of the wheels reverberating from the impact with the road. My breath a slow chat, almost a whisper. The trajectory of the bike a tight rope that gets unravelled by the immensity of it all. What is what in this desert of burnt-out grass and abandoned farms? Where is where in a place where the streets have no name? People have left this desolation in search of cluttered spaces that could provide them with a reason to go. When did they leave? Ten, fifty, a hundred years ago?
An imaginary rider cycles next to me, spurs me on in this empty prairie. I am not alone.
Wolf Point downtown
9am: nobody in the streets, Wolf Point
My best buddy, the railroad tracks
And of course the long freight train
First 25 miles in absolute solitude
And more lines
Taking a time-out
People left for good
Not my turn yet! Another 1000 miles at least
Pretty church in Glasgow, Mt
The wind effect..
The tiny village of Saco
Malta, downtown. My destination for the day