Sunday, August 2, 2015

Day 18. Circle to Wibaux, MT

How big is the number 15?  When you measure it in degrees of temperature, it is massive.  

I did find my shade tree last night. I cycled into the Horse Creek RV park and saw a line of half a dozen RVs behind a building that was a laundromat.  I called Jim, the owner, and he told me he does not have an office, but he was in his RV, trying to keep out of the heat.  He told me that he would suggest that I pitch my tent next to the sign by the road.  It was in a corner of 4 scrubby trees that formed and "L" shape, but to his point, would be the best spot to try to grab some shade and have a bit of a wind break.  So, I followed his suggestion. He said he would be around in a bit, and that the charge for the night was 10 bucks.  

I set up my tent, but with the temperatures still edging up to 100, I decided to cycle the few blocks into to town to find a place with AC and some dinner.  After a burger and a few hours at the Round Towne where I apparently napped at my table, I went back to my tent and propped up my bed mat to relax further.  Must admit, the heat saps your energy and starts to tap into your will.  Nevertheless, the sun does finally set and the temps gratefully plummet.  With the cooling breezes and a call with my family, my spirits lift. I enjoy a restful night of sleep in my little corner of trees. With the sole exception of a cat who decided to attack my tent in the middle of the night.  I am not sure what that was all about, but a cat pounced from the tree to the top of my tent and then scurried off under a trailer.   My reaction was as if I was being attacked by a Lion, with a thrashing of my sleeping back and tent zipper to attempt to escape my fate.    When I saw the cat racing away, I was reminded why I like dogs.  

I awake at about 5:30 to a sunrise over the corner of a nearby house. I clean up a bit and pack my gear to head to the convenience store, about a block away.  

The store has a breakfast for $4 that includes eggs, bacon, and a biscuit. I get there just after 6, and it is not quite heated up properly, so I have to microwave my choices to make them edible. Digestively, I think I would have been better off eating my oatmeal at the campsite.  

While I was pondering the day, taking alternate sips of black coffee and chocolate milk, I met my first Eastbound cyclist of the trip. The Antrims: Josh, Ellen, and their daughter Lydia, are from just north of Boston and are aiming to be home by the end of the month.  They have been on the Northern Tier since about the 11th of July. It is good for the soul to sometimes commiserate over both the joys and difficulties of a trip like this. We spent a lot of time "commiserating" over the heat of the day before.  

I leave them as they are "nuking" their breakfast, so I set off in earnest about 6:45 or so for Wibaux, MT.  Leaving Circle, the first part of the route is about an 18 mile steady climb, followed by a long, gradual descent into Glendive, MT, where I plan to have lunch.   The landscape softens as I travel east with the terrain starting to smooth out as the sagebrush and rougher terrain give way to more rolling fields of grass and hay.  The fat Angus still break up the vistas with clusters of black dots. Trees are still rare, for the most part. 
Before the ride, I had some anxious thoughts about cycling by myself in the Middle of America, with nothing around me but miles. Truth is that I have come love the breaks where there is "nothing" around.  On the map today, the route takes me down I-94, so I will be off the byways and on the highways.  With that in mind, I take special care to enjoy the early breaks today.  Silently letting the sights and sounds wash over me. Fact is, I relish cycling by myself in the Middle of America.  

The wind shifts today, and is ENE early. So that creates some crosswinds and headwinds.  Fortunately, it is offset by the long descent to Glendive.  I find a recommended Mexican restaurant "Mexico Lindo" for lunch.  Just what the doctor ordered.  I enjoy a burrito Lindo and it is muy grande and muy delicioso. 

As I am leaving, putting my gear together and applying my afternoon coat of SPF 30, I hear someone call "Boyd". Startled, I turn to see Josh and his family.  They have just arrived and are looking for lunch. We conferred that today was a much better riding day and I confirmed that the Mexican food is very good. (Several hours later in Wibaux, I feel a tap on the shoulder: it is Josh, they have arrived.  We are again eating at the same establishments. Not that there are a great many options, truth be told.   My guess is we will see a lot of each other the next few days.  Either way, I wish them fair winds and safe travels to Boston.)

After lunch, I head to Wibaux.  It is a slow 20 mile climb followed by a 5 mile descent into my resting spot for the night. As I climb out of town, there is a short section where the striated, multi-shaded cliffs are close to the road.  They seem to me to be in stark contrast to the land before and after.  However, the landscape of Montana has been surprising for much of the 10 days I have been here. Quickly, though, they recede back to the smoother rolling grass and hay fields seen earlier in the ride.  

The wind shifts out of the north, which creates a helping tailwind as the route is now primarily south.   The stints of time I have to take on I-94 is easy enough as the highway has incredibly wide shoulders and obviously double lanes, enough for everyone to adequately and safely maneuver.  As I am able to jump off to the frontage roads, I am given a small treat that I would typically take for granted. Trees by the road. I take a break under a strand of cottonwood trees and am tempted to nap, as the winds through their spade-shaped leaves creates the sounds of soft rain, at least to my ear.  I do not, however, as I am eager to get to my destination. With the supporting wind, the final climb is accomplished without concern.  

I am staying in a hotel tonight and will take a proper shower, which is a couple days past due.  Many thanks are uttered by me and those that come in contact.  After a couple of days washing in a sink, and with a combination, Bio-Freeze, Skinners medicated vapor, chamois cream and sunscreen, I had been a potpourri of fine fragrances.  

So how big is 15? Yesterday the temperatures were 100 and the ride was taxing, to say the least. I cannot drink enough water to stay hydrated and feel fresh on these days with such high heat, it appears. The people in Circle said it was their hottest day of the year. I cannot confirm that, but I can confirm it was exhausting.  Today the highs were mid-80's, fifteen degrees cooler and the ride was magnificent. The Strava app I use to track my miles and effort, said today was harder than yesterday. The computer does not consider the heat.  It makes all the difference in the world.  I feel much better today than yesterday. 15 is huge.  

The winds will not be favorable tomorrow, but then temperatures should be. That matters. 

Tonight is the last night in Montana. This is 11th night in this State. Montana has been good to me, overall, but it is time to move on. North Dakota, here I come.