Day 2 - Augusta MT to Near Ovando MT (97 miles)
After enjoying the sleep of the dead I woke up at 06:00 and felt raring to go. I was surprised at the absence of pain or stiffness as I hadn't done much cycling before starting the trip. Normally, it takes the first week or so of a trip for the body to adapt to the rigours, but since my fitness was already quite high from lots of running I was optimistic that this would not be an issue. Only my backside was slightly tender, but even that wasn't too bad.
I went across the road to the cafe and ordered pancakes for breakfast. These are my staple when cycle touring as the servings are always generous portions in America. In fact, the cafe was populated by very overweight people so I should say overly-generous portions, unless one is burning 5000 odd calories a day cycle touring!
The waitress had a foreign accent and it transpired she was from Glasgow. I asked how a Glaswegian ended up in outback Montana and she told me how her husband had joined the navy and they met in Florida. I asked the logical question why someone who had never seen the ocean would join the navy and she told me that was exactly why. It was apparently not uncommon for mid-wester's to join the navy for a few years, before returning to the prairies.
She kindly filled my hydration pack and water bottles with ice cubes and water. Normally I eschew these, but it was going to be another very hot day. Already it was in the high 20's, and it wasn't even 08:00.
While yesterday it was very flat, today I was heading into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The terrain was therefore slightly rolling but one could still see forever. There were a few cattle grazing next to the road, but otherwise it was total wilderness. At one place there was a stream next to the road and I surprised some elk who ran across the road and off into the distance. There were prairie dogs, rabbits and other signs of life. Including lots of roadkill which one often smells well before they come into view.
The solitude of cycling in outback Montana is hard to describe. There was virtually no traffic, probably 15 minutes between vehicles, and no farms or towns for many miles. Travel like this means that you needs to enjoy your own company and solitude!
At the intersection of Highway 287 and 200 I turned west on 200. There was a road house which was closed but I stopped for a rest and used my cell phone to check in with my parents. Even though she is now 80, my mother still worries about me when cycle touring so I check in every few days to let them know I'm not roadkill yet. My father enjoys following my trips on maps. I've inherited my wanderlust from him.
The road began to climb and in the distance I saw the first challenge of my trip: the Rocky Mountains. They don't look like much from a distance, but they are a bit daunting on a bicycle. Unlike last year, this time I was at least on paved roads for my Continental Divide crossings, so it was quite a lot easier.
In spite of liberally applying sunscreen yesterday I picked up a bit of sunburn so I regularly stopped and reapplied sun screen. It was quite ironic since I'm always very careful about having proper sun protection, and in my previous two long trips I never got sunburned once.
There was little traffic, but there was a preponderance of heavy trucks. The shoulder was narrow (for the USA) and I got quite buffeted by the wind as they zoomed past. Heavy trucks don't really worry me when cycling, it is the RVs that are the real danger. These are usually driven by retirees with limited peripheral vision and little sense of just how much road space they take up (especially width wide). It is a paradox that at a time in life when ones physical abilities are decreasing people take up travelling with these huge vehicles.
The road became rolling as I got closer to the Continental Divide and then there was a moderately long climb up towards Roger's Pass with an elevation of 5,610'.
To celebrate my crossing the Continental Divide I parked my bike and got the photo below. It was a 'tradition' Sean and I started last year. We didn't cross at this point, but somewhere not too far from here. There was an RV at the top who was trying to fix something. I offered my assistance but the driver declined my offer and so I began my enjoyable downhill run -- the one benefit of battling to the top of a hill is the joy of a downhill run.
Even though it was very hot, which is much to my liking, this place is not somewhere where I could cope with. They have very long, cold winters in Montana. Especially so in this area, where the coldest temperature ever was recorded: -70F which is about -55C. I'll stay in the tropics, thank you very much.
After crossing Roger's Pass I made my way to the town of Lincoln, which we had visited the previous year. At that time we came from the West and ate at a very mediocre cafe, only to find more options further into town. Coming from the East there was a cafe which I found with vegetarian hamburgers so I had one of those. Then went further into town and had a Subway vegetarian sandwich. One works up an appetite cycling across the mountains.
Ovando was a town we passed through last year, stopping at 'Trixies' which was a very eclectic bar and grill. This time I headed into town and, once again, God was good to me. I had been craving an apple juice and sure enough, the store was still open and they had one left. It really helped!
I chatted with two women at the shop as I filled my water bottles. They were from Seattle, although originally from the area. They told me how every summer they head back to Montana to their parents farms so that their children can experience a different life to the hectic, urban life of Seattle. They also complained about the heat -- Montana was having one of its hottest summers every -- although I begged to differ as I found it much to my liking. They couldn't fathom how I could be out there on my bicycle being baked. To each their own.
After viewing the sign describing the 'Lewis Without Clark' expedition (they separated on their return leg to explore country) I headed west. At the intersection with Highway 83 there was a cafe/motel where I stopped for the night. I wandered over to the petrol station/grocery shop but it was closed due to a fire.
The woman at the motel was most helpful and I stoked up on lots of water. No vegetarian food but I snacked on what I had brought with me. I entertained myself by playing pool (on my own) and watching the Mariner's game on TV - the (male) owner had told me that I wasn't allowed to change the channel. I asked her how she came to be out back of beyond and she said that she was from Texas and moved to Wyoming before Montana. I was surprised that she had gone from desert to snow, but she said she liked the winters. To each their own. After a nice hot shower and a read of the paper I crashed for the night.
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