Monday, August 5, 2013

Butte, Montana to Gillette, Wyoming

As I write this I'm in Gillette, Wyoming. By tomorrow, if all goes well, I will be in South Dakota. It's hard to believe that only a week ago I was in Butte, Montana, almost 500 miles away...

It's hard to believe that, as of yesterday, I'm a month into my trip. It's hard to believe that I've already ridden my bike 808 miles..

After the Montana Youth Conference, I stayed an extra day to do some sewing on my panniers, then got a 225 mile ride to Billings with Benjamin Waymire

Having a folding bike has been quite an asset on this trip so far. I've folded it now three times to put into one vehicle or another.

In Billings I recovered my bike, and was sent off by Benjamin and his father (who had brought my bike over the day before) to Harden, approximately 47 miles away, with a key to the fellowship hall of the SDA church there. I thought I could make it in the 7 hours of daylight I had with no problem, but with a little over an hour of sunlight left, I was only half way there. Suddenly, a pickup pulled up behind me, and.. surprise! Mr. Waymire was offering me a ride into town. He was going out to his son's place, and thought he'd take the road I was on to see how I was doing. Before he left me that night, we made a washer out of a quarter, as one of the hooks on my panniers had torn out.
A burned out cove on the way to Hardin
Tuesday I was busy catching up my blog, and didn't get going till mid afternoon, making only 18 miles. I stopped at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (seriously, they need to add a few words to their name), planing to stay only half an hour, but turning into about an hour and a half. But I got an invitation to New Jersey when I get there!
I never realized before just how spread out the battlefield is. This concentration is around Custer, who's marker is the one with black outlining. You can't tell without zooming in, but there are little grave markers all over the hill below.
On the back side of the ridge. More people died here. Off in the distance, towards the middle of the picture, there's another heavy concentration of graves (the soldiers were buried where they fell), and scattered sites here and there...
The Custer National Cemetery. Not sure the exact range of dates of people buried here, but it includes people from Indian wars, and I think into the early 1900's, but I could be wrong.
It was getting late, and not being able to find anywhere to sleep, and darkness falling fast, I finally "crashed" in the ditch next to the frontage road, next to the interstate, next to the (busy) railroad. There was a thunder storm going on, so all in all, I didn't sleep too wonderfully.
Taken with my phone. Not sure what the deal is, but this is the second time I've seen a load of these airplane fuselages.
Riding through the Crow reservation, a part of me felt at home, in a way.. Having lived on a reservation most of my life, I've gotten quite used to things such as drums, visual signs of poverty (GDP per capita is 1/6th that of the rest of the US), and native Americans everywhere. And it was beautiful as well.
I've never seen a combination horse trailer/flatbed before. The peaks far off in the distance (you can almost see them), at another point I was able to see what looked like snow patches. 
I stopped in Ranchester, Wyoming for the night. I stopped at a convenience store, and while I was there an older gentleman, who sounded like he was from somewhere further south, asked about my trip, told me to be wary of people, asked if I believed in God, and told me to be safe.

That night, again putting off finding a place to sleep till the last minute (I really hoped someone would just invite me to their house or something), I ended up sleeping behind a school building. As it turned out, there was a crew doing work on the roof, then some people came to play in the school yard. But, while I was seen by several people, most people didn't seem to know what to think about my presence.

Riding through Sheridan really wasn't bad. The road downtown was busy, but everyone gave me plenty of space. I felt much safer than I had in some towns smaller. At a left hand yield turn I had to make, I ended up shadowing a vehicle through the intersection. Sheridan's a place I'd visit again. One the way through I stopped at two places - at the first a local rancher came up and talked to me. Said he'd passed me twice on the road the day before. Inside was the same Pepsi driver who I'd talked to about routing that morning. At the next place I stopped, on the other side of town, the guy who'd spoken to me the night before was there, and again wished me luck.

If you zoom in, you can see that the field is full of prairie dogs, and there's an antelope to the right of center. Wide angle lenses tend to obscure wildlife...
All week long I'd had grand plans of how far I was going each day, and failed to meet them each time. Where I'd been hoping to make it past Clearmont by night fall, I ended up camping in a park next to the only store in town. There was another bicycle tourer there, so I thought I'd have no problem.

Robert, 71, said he's been cycle touring most of his live, and has over 120,000 miles logged since the mid 90's when he started keeping track. He was on his way to Whitefish, Montana, though Yellowstone. He's the first bike traveler I've actually had the opportunity to talk to, who I met "on the road" (as the last one I talked to had been stopped for a few days). He also said leaving at 7:30 was a late start for him.
Some people say my bike is heavily loaded...
I've never seen "Dry Weather Road" signs before.. 
Friday was interesting. I started out, with what I thought was plenty of time - over 10 hours. But after 7.5 hours on the road, I had only made 33 miles. I stopped in at the only business between Clearmont and Gillette - a bar. I stepped back out, but I was so hot, and not wanting to go right then, so I stepped back in. The bar tender, a woman who looked 60 something, gave me a cup of ice, then asked about my ride. She'd seen me the day before, and had wondered if I'd stop in. After a while three bikers stopped in. (I'm in route to Sturgis, which is going on right this moment, I've been passed by dozens of motorcycles, many of them more than once). We talked about my ride, and they told me how brave I was doing this trip - that they wouldn't do that long distance on a motorcycle.

After resting half an hour, I finally got back on my bike - with two hours till sundown. Somehow I caught a remarkable second wind, and was making record time! I ended up riding another 19 miles in the remaining 2 hours of daylight. Part way along the bikers I'd met at the bar honked and waved..
Coal mines are common in this area. Apparently they have a moving pit type system - they have to fill in and reclaim the land behind where they've already mined. Oh, and those dump trucks are huge. I got passed by a truck carrying just the bed of one - it took up both lanes. 
Sabbath morning I had 15 miles to ride to church. I was quite looking forward to church, for fellowship, and the opportunity to get invited to someone's house more than anything.. I was so excited I had difficulty sleeping. I skipped breakfast in order to get there as early as possible, setting off at 8 am - the earliest I've started from anywhere.

After church, and potluck, and the talk after church, I was invited to the home of Lyle and Raelyn Wortman, a blended family, who also run a daycare. Only two of the many children that at times live in the house were at church. On the way to their house we first had to stop at the fairgrounds where Lyle's daughter Hayley had a couple cows she was showing. She wanted to be sure I mentioned that, though I imagine she wanted a more glamorous portrayal of the experience. It was a barn, filled with animals. Hundreds of cows, pigs, chickens... that was all I saw, besides hundreds of people.

After the fair I was informed that there aren't many vegetarians in Wyoming, but they were quite accommodating.
Blake, always ready to have his picture taken.
Brady, one of the babysitting charges.
Glow in the dark bubbles. The glow in the dark part proved to be more entertaining than the bubbles, which had difficulty not popping, but also glowed quite dimly.  
The one time when putting handprints on the house is considered quite acceptable.
On Sunday I rested up, patched my tires (no flats, but losing pressure faster than I'd like), fixed another seam, processed the above (and below) pictures, caught up with a few friends..

Ok, I should get this post finished. As difficult as it is for me to believe, I should still ride 45 miles this afternoon..