Havre to Glenwood Springs via Black Hills
Denis Kertz, ©2019
Like last year I caught the 8:33 Metra Train to get to Chicago Union Station. I got to Union Station with 4 hours to kill for my Amtrak Empire Builder departure at 2:15 pm. There were several bicycles for the train and we were asked to get on first so we could get our bicycles to the baggage car. When I handed my bicycle to the baggage guy he warned me to make sure I got my bicycle when I arrived in Havre, MT, my destination. He said something about Havre not being a normal baggage station, which I didnít understand. I figured I would have to check with the conductor later to make sure everything was handled right.
As usual, I hoped for my 2-seat row to myself so I could stretch out when sleeping. However, a guy was assigned the other seat but I was okay with that because he said he was getting off at Minneapolis-St Paul at 10 pm. Usually I head for the observatory car but it was packed until we got to Milwaukee and then space became available. At that point, I was actually glad to have a seatmate so no one would be taking a seat with me.
The train was about 40 minutes late getting to Minneapolis-St Paul and then I had the two seats to myself so sleeping was okay.
I got up around 5 am and headed to the observation car where I spent most of the rest of the day. When I saw the conductor around noon I asked him about my bicycle and he said everything was taken care of. Apparently there was no baggage handler in Havre so they moved my bicycle some place else that was accessible by the train personnel.
The train was due in Havre at 2:39 pm and it arrived at 3 pm, which was pretty good. The train actually had two stops in Havre, the first stop for refueling and the second stop for passengers. When I got off the train, I was relieved to see my bicycle leaning against the train station.† I attached my 4 panniers and duffel bag which I carried on the train and rode about 7 blocks to my motel - the Hi-Line Motel. It wasnít anything special but it was a good value at $60 and it was in a great location where I could walk to food and groceries.
I ate at a Subway and then spent the rest of the evening getting organized and packed for heading out in the morning.
I went to bed early and slept very well, probably at least in part since I didnít sleep particularly well on the train. I walked to a family restaurant for breakfast and had the 2+2+2 special that was good but not quite enough food. There were only 2 other guys in the restaurant at 7 am so I got served quickly. I packed up and left at 8:30 which was pretty good for the first day. It was low to mid 50s so I wore my tights, a long sleeve jersey, and a light windbreaker. I headed west on 2nd Street for 1.5 miles then took 16th Ave south where it dead ended at country road 650.† I took it west to US87 which I rode the rest of the day south towards Fort Benton.
I had two options for the day. Fort Benton was 73 miles away or I could ride half way to Big Sandy. I was inclined to stop at Big Sandy, which would make two fairly easy days. It would also give me about a half day of sightseeing in Fort Benton. The wind was projected to pick up 20-30 mph in the afternoon starting from the west and moving to northwest.
There was a little climbing leaving Havre and then essentially flat to Big Sandy. After 25 miles, I approached Box Elder, headquarters of the Chippewa-Cree tribe, hoping I could get a cold drink. The very small town had a small store so I was able to get milk for my second breakfast.
I left Box Elder at 11:30 with another 10 miles to Big Sandy. It was noticeably warmer when I left and the wind was starting to pick up as forecast. When I reached Big Sandy, I stopped at the small motel and found the office was staffed only by a young girl who could only quote me a $70 price. She couldnít contact anyone so I decided to check out the downtown and come back later.
Turns out nothing in the downtown was open on this Labor Day. The grocery store was open but closed at noon. There was a convenience store near the motel but it was closed for the day. I decided to check out the rest area along the road hoping it would have water. It had a water fountain but apparently it was closed for the day too. It did have a vending machine so I figured I could at least get a cold drink. However, it wouldnít take cash but it took credit cards. So I gave it my credit card and pushed the Pepsi button and got a 7UP. At least it was cold.
I finally decided Big Sandy wasnít big enough for me so I rode on to Fort Benton. That would make it a longer first day than I wanted but at least there would be services open.
The wind really started picking up. It was mostly a crosswind. The road had a 3-5 foot shoulder with a rumble strip. The rumble strip was narrow and next to the white line so it didnít bother me earlier. However, with the cross wind I started hitting the rumble strip occasionally.
After Big Sandy there was some moderate climbing. A couple of miles from Loma, which was 11 miles from Fort Benton, there was a lookout that provided a panoramic view of the surrounding area where the Missouri River forked. Supposedly, Lewis or Clark climbed to this point to view the area to decide whether the Marias River or the Missouri River was the real Missouri River. Fortunately, they guessed correctly and the rest is history.
It was a fast mile or two descent to Loma where I hit a max of 42 mph. There was a convenience store in town so I had a large, cold Gatorade. Then I noticed it looked like there was lodging across the street. I checked in at the cafe and got a cabin for $64. I figured that was better than I was going to do in Fort Benton plus I wasnít going to get to Fort Benton until almost 6pm. And the cafe was conveniently located next door.
After cleaning up, I walked to the cafe, which was filling up. I had a burrito xl which was almost more than I could eat. The WiFi didnít reach my cabin so I used the WiFi at the cafe to record the dayís notes.
This was a fairly hard first day but finding accommodation in Loma was a pleasant surprise.
The cafe opened for breakfast at 7 and I was there shortly thereafter. I had 3 pancakes which were good. Back at the cabin I packed up and checked my tires just before I left and saw that my rear tire was pretty low. I pumped it up expecting it would get me the short distance to Fort Benton and then I could decide what to do.
It was 11 miles to Fort Benton with a gradual slope and then a 200-foot climb. I crossed the Marias River as I left town and rode through a fairly scenic valley, certainly more scenic than most of yesterday until I got near Loma. There was a fair amount of traffic and about half of it was large trucks. The shoulder was only about 2 feet wide but it was all useable since there was no rumble strip. The traffic was courteous, moving out to the center lane when there was no oncoming traffic.
After 9 miles I completed the short climb which carried me out of the valley. Then I took 387 into town with a short, steep descent just before town. As I rode through town, I noted the Fort Motel, which I guessed would be the least expensive option. I followed the road as if I were going across the bridge but turned just before the bridge to see the downtown area. I noted the Pioneer Lodge was more of a hotel than a motel. I assumed it would be more expensive and I couldnít just roll my bicycle into a room. Then I also realized the Fort Motel wasnít as far from downtown as I thought since I could take 18th Street downtown.
So I rode 18th Street back to the Fort Motel and was able to get a room. As I expected, the Loma cabin was less expensive at $64.90 compare to the Fort Motel at $65. The room was fine and the check-in guy made eating suggestions. When I asked about breakfast he was less certain. He was about to suggest the Loma Cafe but realized I wouldnít want to ride there on a bicycle. He said there was a Wake Cup Coffee House but thought they were overpriced.
After settling in I walked back downtown. There was a river front trail along the Missouri River with signs explaining the history of the area. Fort Benton was initially a trading post but branched out into a key commerce point. Fort Benton was the last stopping point for steamboats up the Missouri River since they were blocked from going further by the falls near Great Falls. So Fort Benton ended up being a commerce conduit for the northwest and the gold fields of southwest Montana.
After a couple of hours I walked back to my room. I debated what to do about my rear tire. I could hope it was just a very slow leak and get by pumping up the tire every other day or so. But when I checked the tire it seemed to be a little softer already. The problem was I had to replace my rear rim since the rim had cracked on last yearís tour but this rim was made for tubeless use. I didnít realize that when I had the rim replaced but tubeless requires a tighter fit. This tight fit made the tire very difficult to remove. I couldnít use plastic tire levers since they werenít strong enough and had to get metal tire levers that were stronger and thinner to allow getting under the tire bead to remove the tire.
I decided it was best to deal with the tire as this was going to be the most convenient time and place. Surprisingly, the tire came off relatively easily after I got the first tire lever under the tire bead. Then I pumped up the tube and put it in my washbasin where I found a fairly slow leak and one that needed to be fixed. I patched the tube and remounted the tire and was glad I took care of the problem.
I took a short nap and then walked back downtown. I walked the rest of the river front trail heading west. After that I walked back to my room and reviewed tomorrowís route.
Essentially a rest day that enabled me to see Fort Benton and take care of my rear tire.
I rode back to main street from the motel, a 1⁄4 mile, and then to the Wake Cup for breakfast, another 1⁄4 mile. It opened at 7 am and I got there shortly after that. I had their pancakes and bacon which was good. The motel guy pooh-poohed this place saying they acted like they were in Seattle. He seemed to think the prices were too high but they werenít much more than the Loma cafe. However, when I wanted to pay my bill and get on my way there was a lineup of folks waiting to get their coffee specialty drinks, which was probably what the guy was talking about. I had to wait 10 minutes or so because there was only one person to handle the line.
I left just before 8 am and immediately crossed the Missouri River and started a little climbing. The road climbed about 800 feet over the first 10 miles. After that it was fairly level but slightly descending to Geraldine. The road was gently rolling as was the land which was mostly huge wheat and hay fields with no trees and the High Mountains off to my right.
Geraldine was a small town of 261 but it had a small store where I got milk and a pastry for my second breakfast at 11 am. It was already in the 80s with a projected high around 90F. I topped off my water bottle, removed my tights, slapped on some sunscreen and hit the road.
In another 7 miles I stopped at an even smaller town, Square Butte, for a cold drink. I didnít really need it yet but it was the last opportunity for a cold drink until I reached my destination. The town was name for the Square Butte not too far away.
When I left Square Butte there was an obvious obstacle ahead - a ridge of the Highwood Mountains that blocked the way. So the road bent to the right for 5 miles until there was a gap that provided a way to get through the ridge. This was the big climb for the day, a 2 mile 600 foot climb. I used my lowest gear most of the way. I climbed at 3.5 mph for the first half of the climb. Then there was a short stretch for a breather and then climbing resumed at 4 mph. I had a head wind for the first half and mostly a tail wind for the second half, which was probably why the second half was faster.
The climb just got me to a higher elevation. In a couple of miles I turned off on 81 heading east. At that point it was 13 miles to Denton and the tail wind was pushing me almost effortlessly along. Then after 2 miles the road bent 90 degrees to my right and I could feel how strong the wind was since it was a crosswind. A little later, the road bent back and the tail wind pushed me along again.
I reached Denton, pop 255, at 3 pm. I made one pass through town to see what was there. There was a city park at the east end of town, where I could have camped, but there was no water in the park. So I retreated back to the lone motel in town. I had to check in at the bar a few places down the street for a room for $54.50. The motel was a cinder block motel with 5 rooms. I got the power room, room 4, since the sign inside said the thermostat also controlled rooms 3 and 5. There were 3 beds in the room, 1 large and 2 small. There was also an adjoining room that shared the bathroom.
After cleaning up I walked to the lone cafe for a hamburger and fries that was fine. Back at the room I tried to access the WiFi but couldnít get in. I wasnít sure the bar check-in person knew what the motel WiFi situation was and I saw some weird network name that showed up. So I retreated to the bar where they had WiFi access and knew what the password was too.
This section of my trip was part of the Lewis & Clark route. When I stopped at the grocery store, the checkout person said a couple rode through yesterday. They had started from Fort Benton, stopped in the store for lunch, and were headed for Lewistown, which would have been a little more than a century ride. I was impressed but then remembered I used to do that too not too long ago in my younger days...
A very warm day with a strong tail wind and the first big climb of the trip.
The cafe opened at 7 am and I got there about 7:15. The pancake offerings didnít look so great so I opted for the ham and cheese omelet which was good. I left at 8 am on what promised to be a short riding day - it was only 40 miles to Lewistown.
The 30 miles to the intersection with US191 was up and down the whole way. It was a continuation of huge wheat and hay fields with little traffic and no shoulder. MT81 dead-ended
at US191 where I took a right for Lewistown. There was an initial climb for maybe a mile and then the rest of the way was mostly descending. I arrived at Lewistown at noon.
I rode the main street east until I found the 3 motels that looked the most promising. There was a Town Pump nearby so I stopped there for a sandwich and a cold drink. Then I checked in at the Trails End Motel for $70, a little more expensive than the previous rooms which I expected.
After cleaning up I walked downtown for a half mile or so checking out the area. I found a bakery that had pumpkin muffins so I had to have one and it was very good. I stopped at the nearby library to read a couple newspapers and then walked back to my room, checking out the Pourmanís Cafe as a possible breakfast place.
Later I walked to the Central Montana Brewing Co for a burger and a beer. I had wanted a chicken sandwich but their menu only had a fried chicken fillet so I passed on that. The burger was good but on my way out I saw the special for the day was a chicken wrap which I would have opted for had I known.
It was another warm day but I missed the worst part by arriving by noon. Now the weather was supposed to cool off somewhat but that brings the threat of rain into the picture for the next several days.
I was torn between eating at the Town Pump for a quick get away or eating a regular breakfast at Pourmanís Cafe. Rain was predicted for mid-afternoon so I wanted to get on the road quickly to try to avoid the rain. I finally decided on the regular breakfast and rode the 3⁄4 mile back into town. The Pourmanís Cafe was scheduled to open at 7 am so I got there 10 minutes early and was pleasantly surprised to find it was already open. Again, it didnít look like they had much in the way of pancakes so I opted for the ham scrambler which was okay. The good thing was it was quick and I was off and running before 7:30 am.
My destination was Winnett at 53 miles. The route climbed for about 8 miles, mostly gradually, and then was mostly downhill the rest of the way, losing 1730 feet over 45 miles.
A few miles outside of town I noticed a wallet on the shoulder. Initially, I was going to pass it up because I wasnít in any position to try to find the owner. Then I realized no one else was likely to find it unless they were riding a bicycle. So I stopped and picked it up. It had 3 credit cards and a driverís license but no cash. My guess is someone found or stole the wallet, took the cash, and then tossed it. Since the driverís license had a name and address, I figured I could mail it to the owner.
After the climbing over the initial 8 miles, the rest of the way was easy pedaling. There was some traffic and it was mostly pickups and large trucks, all who gave plenty of space on the mostly shoulderless road.
After 33 miles US87/MT200 split with MT200 continuing east where I needed to go and US87 headed south. I took US87 south for a mile to Grass Range, which had a small store where I got some milk for my second breakfast. Often these small stores donít have small milk sizes and this place was no exception. Except for some seemingly strange reason, it had soy milk in a small sipping container with a straw. I decided that would work for my cereal although I had to add a little water to get the volume I needed.
I left again at 11 am, making my way back to MT200 heading east, which now had some shoulder for the remaining 23 miles to Winnett. The road was mostly flat at this point and there was a little headwind. I stopped in Winnett, pop 182, at 1:30 pm since the next place was Jordan, which was another 76 miles and a trip for another day.
Winnett was just off the main road. I rode through town to see what was there. A sign directed me left for a motel/RV Park. Somehow, I missed the motel sign and continued a loop through town. On my second pass, I found the motel sign and was dismayed to see it had a No Vacancy sign. However, the owner was outside and approached me and assured me they had a room. I got a room for $57 which was a great deal. It had 2 beds, a large bathroom, and a nice tile floor. I was surprised to find this level of quality in such a small town and at a great price as well. Clearly the value of the trip.
After cleaning up, I walked to the post office and sent the wallet on its way to its owner in Bozeman. I then stopped at the bar/grill and had a chicken wrap sandwich that was good. Unfortunately, I found that the bar/grill didnít open until 8 am. Jordan, my next dayís destination, was 76 miles and I needed to get on the road early for that. So I bought some milk and a pastry at the small store across the street which I could do since my room had a small fridge and microwave. It was drizzling as I walked back to my room.
It was interesting to learn that the motel proprietors had bought the motel/RV park complex last December. They had no idea that they were on the Lewis & Clark route for touring cyclists. Winnett was probably a mandatory stop for most touring cyclists since there wasnít really anything else between Lewistown and Jordan.
A relatively easy day where I was able to avoid the rain. The temperature was in the 60s all day, a big change from the high 80s/low 90s of the previous several days. It was a good day for cycling with the cool temperature and overcast sky.
I was prepared to leave in the morning but I did a final weather check. The one bad thing about this motel was the weak WiFi, at least for my room. I lost the WiFi signal a couple of times since yesterday and had to reconnect.
The weather forecast was for showers in the morning and cloudy skies in the afternoon. If tomorrow had been a good forecast I probably would have opted to lay over but I was reluctant since rain was in the picture for the next several days.
I made breakfast in my room with a couple of egg sandwiches heated up in the microwave and a banana. Then I dressed for rain. At first, I was going to wear my usual and just put on my rain pants and coat but the temperature was supposed to stay in the 50s, about 10 degrees colder than yesterday. So I put on a heavier long sleeve jersey and a short sleeve jersey over that. Then my rain pants, rain coat, and helmet rain cover completed my setup.
I left right around 7 am. It was 76 miles to Jordan and likely a very long day so I wanted an early start.
It was already drizzling when I left and windy but the wind was out of the north so at least not a head wind. The drizzle turned into light rain and that lasted about 1.5 hours. I thought I had lucked out and the rain finished early but that wasnít the case. It rained off and on throughout the day.
After 25 miles near 10 am, I stopped at the Mosby Rest Area which had a great indoor area, more than big enough for my bicycle and a bench to sit on. So I had my second breakfast at the rest area.
Shortly after I left the rest area it started drizzling again and the off and on drizzle continued the rest of the day. It wasnít much fun riding in this weather although I was fairly comfortable in my rain gear.
Near 1:30 I stopped in Sand Springs where there was a single building that served both as a store and a post office. There was camping possibility behind the store but with 32 miles to Jordan I opted to continue on.
Much of the route to Jordan was a continual repeat of descend a little, ride on a flat road, ascend a little and do that over and over again.
I knew this was likely going to be a long day and I didnít get into Jordan until almost 6 pm, averaging barely 8 mph.
I was somewhat concerned that maybe I couldnít get a motel on a Saturday evening but there were 2 motels in town. The Garfield Motel was the first and most conveniently located but when I checked in there was a notice that someone had to run an errand and expected to be back by 6:30. So I stopped at the second motel and there was a notice there that no one was at the office with a number to call. So I rode back to the first motel and was about to call the contact number when the check-in person showed up. However, there was only one room available on the ground floor so it had to be made up. That was okay with me since I just put my bicycle in the room and walked to a nearby bar for a pizza. The pizza wasnít great but it was filling and thatís what I needed most.
When I got back to my room it was all made up and ready. Unfortunately, the WiFi left something to be desired. I had the last room so the WiFi signal was weak. I couldnít get my weather site so I walked to the office where the signal was a little stronger. The weather forecast looked reasonable so I figured I needed to take advantage. The route to Circle was 66 miles, about 10 miles less than today.
A pretty miserable day with intermittent rain and some head wind.
I wanted to get another early start since the ride to Circle was similar to yesterday only 10 miles shorter. However, I woke up at 6:41 so I slept longer than expected but probably because I needed the sleep. I checked the weather and no rain was forecast but wind was predicted 10-20 mph from the southeast which wouldnít be helping for my easterly route.
I had my cereal breakfast in the room with milk from the store last night and saved in my roomís small fridge. This along with a pastry would be good enough to get me going.
I left at 7:45 am dressed similar to yesterday except no rain pants and a windbreaker in place of my rain coat. It was cool in the low 50s and already somewhat breezy.
Like yesterday, most of the route was continual up and down. The road had a shoulder with the rumble strip almost in the middle of the shoulder. After 18 miles a road sign warned of a narrow, rough road. Narrow meant the shoulder disappeared. The rough part was less clear. There were some small sections of the road that had been repaired and that was a little rough. Otherwise, the road didnít seem all that rough if not exactly smooth.
Mostly, it was another grind out the miles day for the 67 miles to Circle, my destination. At least today, you could see the scenery and there was some interesting sights along the way. There were some areas that resembled the Badlands and some areas somewhat desert-like with sage brush.
I was half way to my destination by noon which was encouraging. On the other hand, the road was more up and down than yesterday. There was a rest area that I reached after 37 miles. Like the rest area a couple of days ago, the restroom building was large enough to roll my bicycle in and I had a late second breakfast. The building was fairly warm which made me realize how cool it was outside. With the wind it felt like it was still in the 50s although the forecast was for somewhat warmer than yesterday.
I left the rest area at 12:45 with 31 miles to go. From the rest area, the riding was somewhat harder than earlier with more ups and downs and it looked like the ups were winning. I did see a deer at one point and that was the first wildlife sighting of the trip. Then some hay fields and wheat fields showed up for the first time today.
Along about this time I started really dragging. This was undoubtedly the cumulative effect of yesterdayís hard ride and the continuation of todayís hard ride.
Earlier the narrow rough road warning warned for the next 40 miles. However, towards the end of this stretch there was some new asphalt pavement. At first I thought this was a good thing until my front wheel slipped off the side of the 4Ē high pavement. I skinned my left leg a little and sprained by little pinkie but no major damage was done other than to my psyche. I realized I had to stay far away from the shoulder to avoid the same fate again.
I wasnít that unhappy to see the new pavement end and the old pavement return where I could run off the shoulder without risking a crash. With 12 miles to go the ups and downs quit and the road was fairly flat the rest of the way with a slight downhill. However, by this time I was pretty well spent and it was a drag the rest of the way.
I arrived in Circle just before 5 pm. I rode through town looking for the only motel and not finding it. I expected in this small town of 615 that the motel would jump out. I was about to give up and check the address when I finally found the motel at the very far end of town.
I had to call a number at the motel office to get someone to show up and assign me a room. I got a small room for $50 that was just large enough to fit my bike. The shower itself was barely large enough for me and I had to go through some contortions to reach different areas of my body. Still it was functional and a good price.
Food was another issue. It was a Sunday so I learned most things were closed, at least by the time I arrived. However, there was a Cenex next door with a food mart. It had Hot Stuff Pizza, which is usually pretty decent. I found a large pepperoni pizza with my name on it that I grabbed along with a large fountain drink. When I got back to my room I commenced eating where I would normally clean up first, but my body was demanding food or threatening to go on strike. The pizza was thin crust so I had no problem finishing the pizza.
Another difficult day. Tomorrow looks like rain. If so I planned to take a needed rest day.
Yesterday the forecast was for rain all day so it was a slam dunk that I would be taking a rest day. When I woke up around 7 am it was raining as expected. However, when I checked the forecast for the day the rain was expected to stop in an hour or two and be okay except for a possible shower in mid-afternoon with a good forecast for tomorrow and then 2 rainy days with Wednesday looking particularly bad. So I decided it made sense to take a rest day today after two hard days and ride to Glendive tomorrow which would be a better place to hole up for a day or two as necessary.
The Cenex location next to the motel turned out to be very convenient. I ate breakfast there with two egg sandwiches from the grill and a cup of coffee. Better yet, there was a counter inside where I could hang out, which I did for a good part of the day. While eating breakfast I read the Circle weekly newspaper and I learned how to most efficiently store round bales. I was actually interested in that since I had seen round bales sitting outside in different organizations and sometimes the bales were wrapped in what looked like a plastic wrap.
The rain stopped by 9 am and never returned the rest of the day so it would have been an okay day to ride after 9 am. Instead, I walked downtown to check out the area and to buy some food at the grocery store. Then I hung out at the foodmart again while reading my kindle and watching the comings and goings of customers. This place seemed to do a good business from both locals and folks passing through.
In mid-afternoon, I walked to the motel office and found someone was there and I was able to pay for another day. Then I walked back downtown to the Lunch Box which featured sandwiches and had a nice chicken wrap. By this time late afternoon the sun was coming out and it was a fairly nice day.
Now the plan was to ride to Glendive tomorrow and be prepared to hole up for a day or two before leaving Montana and entering North Dakota.
I ate breakfast at the foodmart next door - 2 egg sandwiches, a pastry, and coffee. When I left at 7:30 am I noticed 2 other cars in the motel parking lot so it looked like 3 of us stayed at the motel last night.
The dayís ride to Glendive figured to be relatively easy at 48 miles. The first 17 miles were uphill, climbing modestly by 700 feet and then the rest of the way was downhill, losing 1100 feet in elevation. It was a great day for riding. The sun was out and it started cool in the low 50s.
It was fairly nice scenery, mainly fields with some hay bales and some grazing cattle with low lying hills to the south. The road had mostly a good shoulder with modest traffic. After 25 miles I stopped at Lindsay where there was a convenience store but it was closed. I decided there was no need for a second breakfast. I also had 2 bananas that needed to be consumed as they were over ripe so that was easily good enough to get me to Glendive, the first place with a triple digit population at 4935 since Lewistown.
Shortly after Lindsay I met Ken, a touring cyclist who was riding the Northern Tier route and heading to Seattle. He said I was the first touring cyclist he had seen in over a month, which was surprising since he was on a regular touring route. He said that he had experienced a lot of rain in South Dakota and he didnít appear fazed by the forecasted rain for the next 2 days. I mentioned that the foodmart in Circle might be a good place to hang out tomorrow even though he planned to camp.
I arrived in Glendive just a little after noon. I was tempted to continue on to Wibaux, another 27 miles, since it had been such an easy ride. However, I just figured Glendive was a better place to lay over tomorrow or I almost certainly would have continued on.
I rode across the Yellowstone River on the Bell Street Bridge that was actually closed to traffic but not to a bicycle. I simply weaved around the arm that showed the bridge was closed. At the other end the bridge was blocked more effectively with a chain link fence but I only had to ride around the edge of the fence until there was a gap in the signs blocking the street.
I found the motel I had my eye on within a block. It advertised a single room for $43 which was surprisingly low. When I rode past the motel I saw some folks hanging around the rooms. This didnít look like the best section of town although the public library was next door. The whole downtown area looked somewhat decrepit so I decided this might not be the best place to stay. Interestingly, I stayed in Glendive on my 2003 Lewis & Clark tour where I followed the Yellowstone River. My report says I stayed in a motel for $22 so Iím guessing it may have been this same motel.
The other motels were at the north end of town by the I94 exit. I figured they would naturally be more expensive but a Super 8 advertised a $51 and up rate for a single. When I checked I was able to get a $100 rate for two nights using my AARP discount, which was hard to beat. Only problem was I had to take a room upstairs. That actually wasnít so bad since it was a half stairs to go up since the lower level was a half stairs down (but had a ramp for handicap use). I started to carry my loaded bike up the stairs but then thought better of it. I unloaded my 2 rear panniers and duffel bag with sleeping bag/tent and carried them to my room. Then I carried my bike up the steps with just the 2 front panniers.
My room was a good deal. It was the same price as my room in Circle with twice as much space. There was also a Cenex foodmart down the road, an easy walk, but it wasnít as good as the one in Circle - this one didnít have any counter/table for eating or hanging out. I got a small personal pizza for lunch.
Later I ate at the cafe next to the Super 8. They had an all-you-can-eat salad/soup bar for $9.50 so I took advantage of that for a change of pace. By the time I was done eating around 6:30 pm the rain was starting. The rain was expected to continue overnight and through tomorrow. The big question was whether I would be able to leave on Thursday.
A great day for riding and the easiest riding day so far.
The Super 8 had a surprisingly good continental breakfast. I didnít need a lot of food since I was staying put for the day but I could have easily had a big breakfast with cereal, oatmeal, pastry, toast, and toaster waffles. That made my $50/night rate an even better deal than I thought.
It wasnít raining when I got up before 7 am but it obviously had rained overnight. Rain was still predicted for most of the day and it started raining around 9:30 am. I didnít want to hang out in my room all day so I checked for coffee shops and found the Bloom coffee shop that was about a mile away and the closest one. So around 10:30 am I put on my rain gear and walked to the coffee shop in light rain.
I ordered an egg sandwich with coffee and settled in to read my kindle and a Montana monthly paper on arts and books. It turned out I arrived just shortly before folks checked in for lunch. This was a popular place and there was a waiting line of up to 6-7 for an hour or so. This coffee shop was also a little off the beaten path so folks werenít showing up just because it was conveniently located as they drove by.
After spending about 3 hours at the place, I walked back to my motel and picked up a sandwich from the Cenex foodmart along the way. I checked the weather again and it was depressing to see that the rain was likely to continue through tomorrow afternoon. I had hoped it would clear up in the morning and I could get a late start and ride to Beach, ND, which was only 40 miles away.
It was another miserable looking day. It wasnít raining when I got up but rain was forecasted to start around 9:30 am until late afternoon. I really didnít want to lay over another day. Fortunately, my destination for the day was Beach, ND, just across the border and it was only 40 miles. I also had the option of stopping at Wibaux which was a little less than 30 miles.
I waited until close to the 11 am checkout time before I left, decked out in my rain gear. It wasnít raining yet but it was just a matter of time.
I was right at the I94 entrance where I hopped on the Interstate for 10 miles before I was able to get on a frontage road. The scenery was pretty nice despite the weather and I got in a few photos before some drizzle hit. The frontage road was essentially my own bike path - I never saw a single vehicle for its 12-mile length. Thatís because the road didnít go anywhere. It just allowed the few ranchers to access the Interstate. Along the way, I spotted some white specks in the distance in the field. At first I thought they were sheep but then realized they were antelopes. There was at least 20 of them and they promptly fled when I stopped to take a photo.
After 22 miles, I was forced to get back on I94 for the 5 miles to the Wibaux exit. I stopped at a foodmart for a quick sandwich and then got back on I94 for the rest of the way to Beach, ND, which was just a mile past the Montana border.
The weather had been looking better but just as I approached Beach it started misting again. There was a motel at the exit but I wanted to stay at a motel in Beach, which was a mile south of the exit. I rode around town wondering why the motel didnít jump out at me when I realized I was thinking of Belfield. There was only the single Beach motel by the exit and I rode back to it while getting a little wet from the drizzle.
I got a $65 room at the Buckboard Inn. The elderly woman who checked me in was about the most listless person I have ever met for check-in. I couldnít tell whether that was the state of her health or her interest.
The motel was similar to the Super 8 in Glendive where steps were required for either the first or second floors. So I had to hand carry my rear baggage and was able to muster the bike with front panniers up the steps to the second floor. My room was similar to the Super 8 room except I noticed later it didnít have a microwave or mini-fridge, something that is pretty standard these days.
I walked to the Flying J Travel Plaza where there was a Subway and got a foot long. I ate half of it there and took the other half back to my motel for later.
A better than anticipated day but still somewhat miserable. Fortunately, the next several days looked pretty good.
I packed up and left at 7 am, heading downtown for breakfast at the Buzzy Cafe. I was a little concerned it wouldnít be open since I had seen a For Sale sign in the window yesterday but the motel proprietress assured me that it was open. I had a filling omelet with a sizable pancake.
I left at 8 am heading east on 16. When 16 turned south I kept going straight on what was called Old Highway 10. It may have been old but the road was in good shape with almost no traffic. The weather, in contrast to the last 2 days, was great, a little cool to start but plenty of sunshine.
Initially the road passed through big fields with Badlands to the north and south. Eventually the fields gave away to more Badlands as the route approached the Theordore Roosevelt National Park. After 22 great cycling miles, the route rejoined I94 and then exited a mile later to Medora, pop 112. Medora may have been a small town but it had big services and also hosted the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. The biggest draw for Medora was almost certainly the entrance to the National Park.
I stopped at a convenience store for a quick sandwich and then continued on. There was a 300 foot climb and then I had to get back on I94. The route climbed some more but more gradually. After 5 miles I took the Painted Canyon rest stop exit where there was a panoramic view of the Badlands that was well worth the stop.
In 4 miles I was supposed to exit and pick up Old Highway 10 again to Belfield. However, I misread the map which said exit #36 and was looking for exit #38. When I saw a mileage 38 market rather than an exit I figured I missed the previous exit 2 miles back. Fortunately, it was only another 4 miles to the exit to Belfield.
I stopped for a cold drink at a food mart at the exit and then continued a little further where I got a room for $65 at the Cowboy Inn which was at the northeast edge of town. I figured that would be cheaper than either of the 2 motels right at the exit.
After checking in it was only 1:15 pm so I took the opportunity to clean my bicycle chain for the first time. After over a week and 2 rainy days it almost certainly needed it. Then I cleaned up and walked maybe a half mile to downtown where there was a laundromat and cleaned my clothes for the first time on the trip.
Later I walked back to the exit for a hamburger at the Trapperís Kettle. The burger was fine but a little overpriced as expected at an Interstate restaurant.
A good day for cycling with some interesting scenery.
The only thing open for a sit down breakfast was the Trapperís Kettle restaurant where I ate last night. Folks out here donít seem to be big on pancakes. Usually you can get one or two but not three. It was strange that a single pancake cost $4 but I could get a second one for another $1. It didnít seem to make sense to go only for a single pancake - it was either 2 pancakes or nothing. So I went with 2 pancakes and oatmeal because this made a reasonably priced meal. The pancakes were okay but the oatmeal was good.
I left town about 7:45 am with overcast skies and 57F. My destination was Bowman which was 58 miles away. US85 was generally up and down with an overall gain in altitude but the uphills
were not difficult. If you liked scenery with gently rolling fields as far as you can see in any direction with an occasional homestead, some grazing cattle, and some round bales it was great scenery.
US85 was a major north-south route with a fair amount of truck traffic. The shoulder was okay. The road had rumble strips but the chip seal only extended to cover the rumble strip. That left about a foot or so of usable shoulder. Not great but it was smooth since there was no chip seal.
After 20 miles there was a warning that the road was closed ahead. Then there was a warning about loose gravel. That didnít look good for cycling. As it turned out the right lane was closed for 6 miles while it was being rebuilt. So they used the left lane in place of the right lane for southbound travel. Then they graded the left shoulder to be wide enough for northbound travel. This was fine for me since most of the time I was still riding on pavement. Occasionally, I had to pull off to the right to let traffic get by. The last 3 miles were being actively graded and I had to pull over onto the edge of the northbound lane to let traffic get by. None of this was difficult or dangerous. I probably had to allow traffic to get by about a dozen times.
Shortly after I got past this construction section, the road took a 90 degree bend to the west. This was because straight ahead were some buttes that were in the way, one of which was White Butte, the tallest point in North Dakota at 3,506 feet. After about 8 miles the road bent back to head south again.
Just before the bend to the south I rode into Amidon which advertised itself as the countryís smallest county seat. Looking at a state map it looked like there was only one other town in the county so there was a 50-50 chance that Amidon would win out as it did. I thought I would find a convenience store in Amidon but I only saw a single bar. It would have been a good time for a stop but I pushed on.
Shortly after the previous construction ended I was surprised to see that the road looked to be wet even though there had been no rain. I finally realized the road had been oiled. My front wheel continually picked up small rocks due to the oil and rattled them against my front fender which was annoying. The oil was also annoying because I hesitated to stop and get my sandals oiled. This limited my photo opportunities. I finally got an opportunity for a photo of White Butte from the west side when there was a short side exit to a field which was safe from oil.
I rolled into Bowman about 2:15 pm. I stopped at the first foodmart and got a Hot Stuff personal pizza which I quickly consumed along with a cold drink. I had to ride to the south end of town to find motel row where I got a room for $55 at the Budget Host 4U motel. It was a good value and a big room with an unfortunate quirk that the storm door opened opposite of the room door and that made it difficult to get the key in the room door.
The other unfortunate issue was that the restaurant next door, which I counted on for breakfast, had a small fire and was temporarily closed. On the other hand, there was a Frontier Travel Plaza on the other side of the road with a kitchen so I expected to be able to get an egg sandwich for breakfast.
Another good weather day for riding with a distasteful oiled road. Due to finding nothing in Amidon I pretty much rode the 60 miles to Bowman non-stop which was a bit too much.
I walked across the street to the Frontier Travel Plaza and grabbed 2 egg sandwiches, a pastry, and a cup of coffee. I also bought a liter of water. I rarely buy bottled water but the water at the motel tasted funny. I suspect the water was either accidentally or purposely soft since thatís the way it felt when I cleaned up. So I bought the bottled water to top off my large and regular water bottles.
I was on the road before 7:30 am. It was a great morning in the low 50s with sunshine, an ideal time for cycling from my point of view. I continued on US85 south with the same kind of scenery - wide open fields some of them now sunflower fields. The road continued its gradual ups and downs with nothing too steep. The road also had a great shoulder - 6 feet wide and smooth.
After 17 miles, I entered South Dakota and the shoulder went to crap. It was still wide but no longer smooth, sometimes cracked, and the ďpavementĒ was uneven. This made for a rather rough, bouncy ride. I quickly decided I had to ride in the traffic lane for a reasonable ride. Fortunately, on a Sunday morning there wasnít very much traffic. When traffic came along I just veered onto the shoulder until it was past and then moved back to the traffic lane. After 25 miles I rode into Ludlow where there was a church and a bar/grill.
The bar/grill didnít open until 11 am so I was an hour early. However, there was a picnic table that was partially in the shade so that was a good spot for my second breakfast. It was also getting pretty warm by this time so I jettisoned my tights and applied some sunscreen. I left again before 10:30 am.
Somewhere along the way I spotted 3 antelopes. Actually, they spotted me and I spotted them when they started running. They were far enough away that they ran aways and then turned to watch me - itís not every day they get to see a cyclist.
With 10 miles to go the shoulder became good again. It wasnít as wide as previously but the pavement was good and it was wide enough despite the rumble strip.
I made Buffalo by 12:30 pm. I knew the lone motel was at the north end of town and got a little worried when I saw the for sale sign along the road. I rode further to a foodmart and got my favorite hot stuff pizza and a cold drink. I was reassured the motel was open so I backtracked. The motel was a couple blocks west of the main drag and set back from the side street. Even though I knew about where it was I missed it on my first pass. I had to call someone to get a
room and was shocked to learn a room cost $85 plus tax for $91. I couldnít believe that this town was so special that it could justify that exorbitant rate. Later when I ate at the No 3 Saloon there was a table of about 8 hunters and I saw a couple of folks decked out in camouflage wear. So I guessed that this might be a hunting season rate. When I checked in at the motel there was a paper with the number to call for a room. Later I noticed this paper had been flipped over and it now said No Vacancy. So maybe I was lucky to get a room.
After cleaning up, I took a nap. Then around 4 pm I walked to the south end of town, about a half mile, to the No 3 Saloon for a bite to eat. Across from the bar/grill was Centennial Park. I thought this might have been a place I could have camped but it wasnít set up for camping although I suspect I could have snuck in. The park was laid out with a set of exhibits detailing various aspects of life including buffalo hunting, cattle raising, and energy production. It was well done.
I had a good barbeque chicken sandwich at the bar/grill and watched the 4th quarter of the Bears-Broncos game. It appeared the Bears had managed to blow a 10 point fourth quarter lead and were going to lose 14-13 after a 2-point conversion when they miraculously managed a fairly long pass to get in range for their rookie field goal kicker to win the game with no time left on the clock.
Although it ended up a warm day it wasnít that bad since I only had 46 miles to ride. Tomorrow was also forecasted to be a warm day in the low 90s but the ride to Belle Fourche is 71 miles so the heat will be much more noticeable.
Copyright Denis Kertz, 2019. All rights reserved.