Thursday, August 12 we rode from Harlowton to White Sulphur Springs, MT. It was a 59 mile ride on Route 12. We climbed from an elevation of 4227 feet to a mile according to Squirrely, our bar maid in White Sulphur Springs.
Now, let's just say it was the toughest day of our trip. Not only was it uphill, but we had a constant 20 mph plus head wind and more rough road than Charlie Rangel has had lately. The scenery improved from brown grasslands to green forests, but it wasn't enough to quell the drudgery. Rosie, within the first five miles, was ready to abandon ship. At first she quietly said, "Let's hitch hike." That comment grew louder as the day progressed. I promised her things would change weather-wise or terrain, but it never happened. Just one mile at a time I'd say, "grin at the wind". It took us 5 1/2 hours to do the first 37 miles. The wind and rough road conditions were taking a toll. For at least ten miles it felt as if we were riding over rumbles.
There was one stop midway called Checkerboard. Rick, one of seven residents, owned and operated Checkerboard Bar, which is also a restaurant, the post office and town hall. Food helped mitigate our discomfort. Rosie's knee was bothering her and I started to wonder whether proctologists did rear end replacements.
We finally reached the Hot Springs Motel in White Sulphur Springs about 4 PM. Eight hours to do 59 miles is ouch in many ways. On the plus side, our motel actually had natural hot mineral spring pools. They promised it would cure our tender joints and after a couple hours we became believers, but the several beers beforehand might have been a significant variable.
Later that night, we had dinner at The Mint. Had broasted chicken and more beer. Our hostess was Shirley, nicknamed Squirrelly. She had a sparkling demeanor. A good sense of humor and someone who laughs at my jokes was definitely good medicine.
The day was summed up by a poster in the bar that read, "Life's journey is not to arrive safely at the grave, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting, "Holy shit, what a ride!"
Friday, August 13 the day began when Rosie looked out our motel window and saw wind and rain. I told her this wasn't some 40 days and 40 nights ordeal, that I put in a special order for sun. I checked the weather channel when Rosie was out of the room. Hmm, I guess things could get worse.
We went to the motel office to reconnoiter. We met Boris from Austria, who was riding from Alaska to Florida and Paul, a retired pipe fitter, from Kansas City, retracing his past.
Boris said he works in the computer field; that he'd work and save for five years, quit his job and do a bike tour. Said he rode all over Europe, New Zealand and Australia. He met a guy from Spain on this ride that was a teacher. He was riding from Alaska to South America and because their system allows them to take two years off without pay without losing their job he could afford such. I recall meeting policemen from Australia that can save up to two years leave and do the same. Politicians will do anything to protect their jobs, but I digress. With respect to the inclement weather, Boris said he just "smiles at the wind" and trudges onward. Rosie rolled her eyes. With respect to those that smile, tell me, do you not think they're crazy? Think again.
One of the stories I told was about my first ride across country in 1972. All I had was $150.00 and figured I could spend $5.00 each day and make it across in 30ish days. I was riding over 100 miles per day. When in Kansas, I met two older bike tourists from Belgium. When I mentioned my daily mileage one man said I wasn't touring, I was racing. I told myself if I should ever do this again I'd do half the mileage. Well, I didn't during my second ride in 1976, but we are now.
Paul said he related to that story; that he raced his entire life and missed too much. He said he grew up in Montana and was trying to visit his friends from yesteryear while he had the chance.
With respect to our route, it was 50 miles to our campsite and we had to cross a 6500 foot pass in our first 19 miles on a 6% grade road.
We waited until 10:30, hoping the rain would subside. Rosie "bagged her brain" and we got back on the road. The wind helped us the first eight miles. The first crest was at 14.5 miles followed by the 6,500 foot summit and downhill beginning at 19 miles. We entered Deep Creek Canyon. The rain increased and rock slides were a hazard. The rain let up about the 26 mile mark and it was clear the rest of the way. We came out into the flats to see one more hill before Townsend. It was a mile long and at least a 6% grade. Rosie said it was a piece of cake.
Just north of Townsend we rented a log cabin. The winds increased during the evening. We soon realized there was a crack between a couple logs because we were serenaded by whistles and howls throughout the night. We just shook our heads and "grinned at the wind".
Saturday, August 14 was a day off with miles. We rode 26 miles to Helena. Tomorrow we have a 60ish day.