Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Day's distance: 63.68
Average speed: 12.4
Max speed: 30.8
Overall distance: 799
On the way out of
, we stopped at
Hi-Country, a touristy shop and taxidermy site that the locals had recommended
because of the stuffed grizzly we’d see there. Even more huge and beautiful was
the stuffed Alaskan Kodiak Brown bear. We also saw (stuffed) long-horn sheep, cougars,
prairie dogs, squirrels, elk, and a Canadian goat. We got some huckleberry food
products and beef jerky and hit the road. Lincoln,
My dad and I started and we had eleven miles of deep conversation. We were riding through the “high plains” and I found it marvelous how flat and expansive the terrain was while we were supposedly in, and clearly surrounded by, the rocky mountains. Our roads were hilly but rolling. When he and my mom switched at the eleven mile mark, the landscape continued to be gorgeous. The winds were fairly strong and I continued to be a little spooked as they alternated between side and head. We stopped to refill water and I got to see Josh for the first time in a while. He wasn’t riding until the end of the day but I noticed that he was being unusually quiet.
My mom and I arrived in
Avon at mile 34 and I sent my dad ahead to begin our climb to the top of the continental divide with the hopes of catching him. I sat in the car and ate a peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwich and blueberry pie from the Avon Café for about 35 minutes. I left by myself to speed along and catch my dad. We were expecting an 11 mile climb from town to the mountaintop so when I hit mile 10, still on fairly flat terrain, I was a little confused. I stopped to check my gps and confirmed that I was on the right road so I powered on. Almost immediately after, I began a slow and steady uphill climb. It went on for 5 miles and I never caught my dad. He admitted that he was very pleased to have beat me.
When I made it to the top, my mom was taking his photo with the elevation sign and Josh was nowhere in sight. My mom told me that he was up a rocky road admiring the scenic view that he wanted us all to come up and see. She kept saying that he wanted to take pictures and that he had his tripod out. “Josh the photographer”, is all she kept saying. I wanted to ride up the hill but she said it was too rough and we had to all go together in the car.
The view from the overlook was gorgeous. I asked if this is what it feels like to be on the summit of Everest. Probably not but it was still wonderful. And we didn’t have to worry about frostbite or sudden death so that was a plus. “Josh the photographer” was wandering with his tripod and started guiding me away from the parking area. He never asked if I wanted to hike or take pictures he just kept saying “here, let’s go over here” or “this looks good”. I was like, “this looks good for what? What are we doing?!” Off the parking area was a steep, rocky hill onto a large grassy plain overlooking the mountains beyond and he told me to follow him down it. Why he thought I’d want to hike down a miniature cliff after riding my bike up the continental divide was beyond me. But he was excited so I followed him.
He found a suitable spot and set up his tripod for a photo of us. The fact that my parents could have just joined us and held the camera didn’t occur to me at the time. He took a while setting up and then began fidgeting in his backpack, looking for his camera remote, turning it away from me so I couldn’t see. It was then that I got suspicious. Something strange was happening.
He came up to hug me and “clicked the remote”. Then he reached for his leg which “hurt” and slid around onto one knee. He said amazing things that I blacked out and have since made him repeat to me multiple times because it makes me so happy to hear them. Then he said “will you marry me?” and opened a box onto a beautiful ring. I sat down and hugged him and said “YES”. We talked for a while, sitting in the grass, and I eventually ripped my sweaty bike gloves off to try on the ring. A perfect fit!!
It was the most special and perfect thing I could have imagined. It was so pure and simple and I was a disgusting, sweaty, tired mess but Josh couldn’t have cared less. We walked back to the car to hug and smile with my parents. They had known since early June and helped him hide the ring while he was here.
Josh and I rode down the steep mountain together at speeds of 10mph or less because we wanted to talk and be close to each other. Twenty miles from the site of our engagement, in Helena, Montana, we rolled into the backyard of a stranger from warmshowers.org where we’d be sleeping for the night. He was on vacation but offered us his shady grass so we had privacy. As Josh and I made calls to family and friends, we drank champagne and ate cheese and strawberries with my parents.
We changed and went to dinner at a Mediterranean Restaurant in
Helena where we ate delicious food and finished two bottles of wine. We drove to the capitol building and took a picture with the flowers that spelled out "Montana 2012". Montana is now a very special place for us and 2012 is a special year. At one point my mom said, “You have this constant smile on your face, I think that’s a good sign.”
It’s true, I couldn’t stop smiling. And Josh, though he was prepared to become engaged to me that day, said it made him so happy to see my smiles and giddiness. Though it will be sad to spend three weeks apart as a newly engaged couple, I couldn’t think of a better way to have become engaged to Josh. There was nothing fancy or dramatic about it. It was rustic and it was only us and I loved that. This trip had been made infinitely more special and I couldn’t wait to continue riding across
America prepared to enter this new stage of my life.
Note: There are more (better) pictures of our engagement, in the exact spot where it happened and afterward with my parents, on Josh's camera. When I get them on my computer, I will update this post with the added pictures.