Friday, July 19, 2013

Day 17 - July 19 - Almost done with Montana- but not quite yet

Day 17 - July 19 - Miles City, MT to Baker, MT - 80.3miles (129.2 kms) - total so far 1310.0 miles  (2108.2kms)

Distance: 80.3 miles (129.1 kms)
Total time: 6hrs45mins (including  lunch) 
Average Moving Speed: 13.6mph (21.9 kph)
Maximum Speed: 30.6 mph (49.2kph) 
Calories burned: 3901
Elevation gained: 2970 ft (905.3 meters)
Weather:  sunny and coolish in Miles City when I left about 8:45am with temperatures about 64 degF (18C).  Quite warm in Baker when  I arrived with the temperature at 85F (30C). Wind from the north mostly and quite light all day.  It did not hinder, cool or help me much, so a draw today between me and the Montana winds. 

Powered by:  Breakfast 1 bagel,  2 slices of whole wheat toast, small bowl of Raisin Bran and a banana; 2 liters of Gatorade and 4 liters of water, 1 protein bar, 2 bananas, 1 GU gel and lunch of peanut butter and banana on 2 whole wheat rolls.

My last full day in Montana called for an 80 miles (130 kms) ride up from the Yellowstone river onto the plateau and onto to Baker. I knew that a) there were no services of any kind between Miles City and Baker, and b) that there were some tough climbs along the way ranging up to 8%.  This called for a lot of liquids on a warm day. So burdened like a mule, I set off with over 6 liters of liquids at 8:45am and after leaving the interstate in a couple of miles, immediately faced a big hill. It seemed as long as some of the climbs in the Bitterroots and as steep and was followed by one other significant climb.  My load got lighter as I consumed the water and Gatorade and I was careful to parse it out so that it would last as far as Baker.  For the first 40-50 miles, I could not have approached a farm for water since there was not a solitary ranch in sight.    As I left the higher ground, the scenery changed to a more Great Plains aspect and irrigated lands with wheat and hay became the norm.

Always an unwelcome sight - it means that there is a grade in excess of 5% ahead

Always a welcome sight

I'm following the "Yellowstone Trail" on US Highway 12. This was a boosterist achievement in the 1913-1916 period by local communities in Montana, South and North Dakota, and Minnesota to put together an automobile route out of local wagon roads and to hock it to adventurous motorists as a way to the Northwest.  I've seen some old parts of the highway and now, yellow signs mark its heritage.  I'll follow it all the way through the Dakotas to Minnesota and then head southeast towards Chicago, avoiding the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Abandoned bridge on the old road over the Powder river

Good road, wide shoulders, lots of rollers

If this is the best cowboy poetry, what is the worst? (Well, that was an unkind cut).  The fact that cowboys could compose some rhymes at the end of a hard day might be the most admirable aspect of the effort - sort of like a talking dog

Definitely the Great Plains

Plevna, MT - a very empty town of trailer homes, abandoned buildings, two churches, and an open post office.

I got a long and razor-sharp piece of wire stuck in the front tire today and if I did not have the resolute Continental Touring Plus tires, I'm sure it would have resulted in a flat. (Thanks, Jody).  While these tires don't roll as fast as the earlier ones, their stout tread compensates for this deficiency in speed.

The winds cooperated by staying relatively calm all day and were felt mostly as crosswinds.  What was interesting about the road is that about 1/3 of the traffic were enormous construction trucks hauling cement and other materials to the booming Bakken oil fields just to the northeast of Baker in North Dakota.  I've seen quite a few construction and oil crews in the hotels and bars, and the contribution of these new wells will push the US to the top rank in global oil production over the next few years.  Of course, the arrival of this boom has led to vastly increased prices in hotels, rental accommodations, food and restaurant prices, and even gas  (petrol) prices at the pump. I want to get away from this heavy truck traffic as quickly as possible, hopefully by Tuesday.

I have seen hundreds of these crosses erected by the local American Legion posts at the scenes of fatal accidents in Montana.  The number of crosses indicates the number of fatalities in each accident.  Based on a non-scientific sampling, it seems that the markers tend to be disproportionately located at bends in straight roads, on the outskirts of towns and cities, and of course, at road intersections. Montana has the 4th highest traffic fatality rate in the country (Wyoming is 1st)

At the end of each day's ride,I have worked out an efficient schedule to get ready for the next day.  Check into hotel, plug in various chargers, wash out bicycling clothes and squeeze them as dry as possible in one of the many towels that hotels provide (by squeezing as tightly as possible, one can absorb a lot of the water in the clothes and they are dry by morning after hanging out), look for a place to eat (not hard in small towns with 1-4 options), and be asleep by 10:30pm.  I don't set an alarm and get up when my body tells me it's time.  I like to walk for a mile or more each evening as it feels good to stretch the legs and muscles in a different way than bicycling.  My legs are not tired or heavy and only my back gets a bit stiff later in the day.  This requires some stretching on the bike or a brief stop to work out the kinks.

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