6/26/13...way late type up and update
"I'm going to update my blog regularly," I said.
I know there is a decent sized following of people truly interested in following my blog. I am sorry that I have been so lame at keeping up with it. Since the last post I have ridden North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Washington, and completed my journey. In this post I will do the best I can to give an interesting review of that part of the trip, and I will make another post for finishing and follow-up.
My original plan to cross ND and MT was the "high-line," US Route 2 all the way. I wanted to avoid the interstate, and not zig and zag the entire way across the country. Route 2 seemed to be a good option. That was until I started asking some locals for some info. Turns out northern ND and into eastern MT is all oil country. So, they're drilling oil...whats the difference? Heavy traffic, bad roads, and worse outlaws. I was told point blank, "If you try to ride US 2 through northwestern ND, you WILL be killed, either by a truck on the road, or a dirt bag at the bar." At first, when I was told "Don't go north unless you are armed, I thought they were joking, and laughed it off. I heard it again from a completely separate source, and my eyebrows lifted with curiosity. More and more congruent reports led the the decision of staying alive and trying to parallel the interstate closely through ND. This was where the real adventure began. At this point in the trip, I was able to ride high mileage days consistently, and started making true progress. Knocking off 115 miles in a day began to be standard fare, and 140 wasn't insane or unachievable anymore.
North Dakota was actually much more enjoyable than I had expected. I did face headwinds, but I also had a few lucky days with tail winds. Perhaps the most adventurous, epic memory day, coincidentally was my longest day. From Valley City, ND to Bismarck, ND I rode 157+ miles in a single day. I had not yet discovered the magic of the interstate on a bicycle, so I attempted to run the secondary highways. This day I rode about 65 miles of gravel roads, a few of which would suddenly be closed without notice, and the bail out road was about 10 miles back. At one point, I was traveling a small path with two wheel line of dirt, grass in between, and a swamp surrounding. This path ended at a huge flood lake. I could see there was another road through the swamp, other the train tracks, and through a field, about 1/8th of a mile south of where I was. I shrugged my shoulders and went for it. A few minutes later I had successfully crossed over, and began westward progress once again. It was only about 15 minutes before this road also came to a close at the same lake. This time I could see the road emerge from the lake about a mile or so straight across the lake. At this point, I could see where the farmers drove through the field and started a new "road" for local access. I followed suit, and busted out some mountain biking motives and rode through the field, which seemed reasonable considering the situation. I then buried my bike to the axels in mud, so I "decided," I had to walk that section. Finally back on route, I made it to the next town. Local intel was I would be running into the same situation for at least the next 30 miles until the highway bypass became a paved reliable route into Bismarck. I timidly entered Interstate 94 for the first time. At first it was scary, but I got used to the 85mph traffic. I still used the secondary highway at first realistic opportunity. Having a good friend in Bismarck, I decided to take my first rest day in 3 weeks. Rest day, haha, good one... . Evan B. brought me to his local gym for my first session of Crossfit. For those of you that don't know, Crossfit is a high intensity workout program. It was a lot of fun, but I certainly felt like I had my 4$$ handed to me afterwards. We also went to a bike shop in town, and I tested out a really sweet 9:zero:7 fat bike!
I left Bismarck on June 13th, my 21st birthday. I got an early start and made slamming good mileage. I planned on riding to Dickinson (about 100 miles,) but I made it there by about 2 or 3, so I pushed another 40 miles or so to Medora, ND. Medora is in the center of the ND badlands, and was epic visually. I should also add that ND is not all flat. West of Bismarck, real hills exist! Feeling like a champ, I had decided to ride from Medora to Miles City, MT the next day, about 140 miles again. I was absolutely slammed with headwinds and had to call it for the day in Glendive, MT, at less than half my planned mileage. It took all of the next day battling the wind to eventually make it to Miles City. The first day in the wind was probably the most stressful day of the whole trip, both physically and mentally. The consistent 20mph wind gusting to 35 or so makes a horrid sound whistling through a bike helmet, eventually leading to a horrid headache. The side gusting literally blew me of the shoulder twice, and I was blown into a guard rail as well. Trying to counter the winds, my chest, shoulders, and arms were spent. I put in twice the effort as a typical day, and still came up with less than half of my mileage, it was depressing and crushed my spirit. The forecast showed the same thing for the next day. Being mentally prepared for it the second day, it was certainly still a struggle, but not nearly what it was the day before. These two wind days were the first time I had decided to utilize the interstate. Coming into Montana, the secondary highways were even less consistent than in ND, and the only other direct west route being the feared Route 2, the interstate became a decent option. After all I did have a 6-7 foot shoulder with a rumble strip separating myself and traffic.
As I entered Miles City, I was starving, but I had a few hours 'till dark. Not being pressed to set camp, I stopped in the local grocery store. I have to say, I am that weird guy who actually enjoys grocery shopping. I love to eat, and I eat a lot, even more while riding as much as I was. Grocery shopping and trying to eat healthy for a reasonable price is extremely difficult while bike touring. I would regularly buy a quart of strawberries, and a pint of blueberries, a hlaf- full gallon of chocolate milk and eat/drink them all in a single sitting. This particular trip to the store, hunger got the best of me. I had nearly a full shopping cart, and a huge smile on my face, just thinking about devouring my selections. That grin quickly turned to a frown when I looked at my bike, with very little space to spare for food. I bought a cake....a whole cake. I bought a quart of chocolate pudding, a half gallon of chocolate milk, a half gallon of juice, a big bag of mixed fruits, and various high carb snacks. I stuffed what I could into my panniers, and strapped on the rest in plastic bags. I also ate a lot of it right there in the parking lot. Now, looking like a hobo on a high end bike, I proceeded through town. A friendly hippy on a scooter cruised up behind me after a friendly wave. After a bit of small talk, I was soon camping in his backyard. He had to head to work, so I just hung out by a campfire and ate more food. He came back around 9PM with a to go box FULL of steak, potatoes, and pasta. We hung out around the fire drinking beers, talking about everything from hot rods, to UFO's, until about midnight. I woke up, an packed up. He was either up and gone for the day, or still sleeping, but I never saw him again. Thanks for everything "Uncle Craig," as he told me his name was.