Friday, June 29, 2012
Day's distance: 101.19
Average speed; 15.5 mph
Max speed: 37.3 mph
Total distance: 978
Having rolled into camp at 7:30 pm the night before, we resolved to begin our days earlier going forward. So, on Friday, my dad and I set out at 7:50 am while Josh and my mom stayed behind to pack up and do laundry. We were off to a great start and we had no idea how much better it could get.
Leaving White Sulphur Springs, we rode up a series of long hills but were always rewarded with downhills in return. We began alongside the Castle Mountains, a small region of the Rockies characterized by high, jutting rock formations that look like far off sandcastles.
We were making wonderful time and were in great spirits. At mile ten, we stopped for a water break when we saw this sign commanding us to take a dip. At least that's what my dad thought. We considered diving in the lake but it was early and we were having too much fun riding to stop for very long.
We kept cruising and stopped again at mile twenty for trail mix and gu. It was an awesome feeling to have gone 20 miles before 10 am, especially since our day before hadn't started until almost then. Some days biking is hard and others it is just perfection. This was one of those perfect days. The weather was great, the hills were rolling and tremendous fun, and we had a pretty good tailwind.
A few miles later, we saw a sign for construction ahead. We rode downhill into the construction and, at mile 24, were stopped by a man in a hard hat and reflective vest. He looked at us quizzically with our bikes and told as that the construction zone lasted 5 more miles and was really dangerous. There was all kinds of large machinery, they were using dynamite to blow out chunks of the mountain, and the ground was covered in gravel and large rocks that had been blown out. They had several cars bust tires so we'd better be careful. At first he said we could navigate our own way through but then received word over his walkie talkie that we couldn't. They would send a pick up truck back to haul us and our bikes through the danger zone. At first I was unhappy with this because it felt like cheating to not ride every inch of the way. But that's just how things go. I'm sure I'll make up the miles easily in the next month and a half. When I saw how intense this project was, I was glad we weren't on our own with our bikes- our safety was much more important than three miles of riding.
When we began riding again, things continued to go smoothly. Our tailwind picked up and we had several mile long stretches where our speed never dropped below 20 miles per hour. By the time Josh and my mom caught us, it was only noon and we were 40.25 miles in.
At that point, my dad took a break and Josh and my mom joined me on their bikes. We rode fourteen speedy miles into Harlowton. Even with some steady uphills, we were cruising. Josh said he didn't change out of his highest gear once in those 14 miles. There really is nothing like a tailwind to make you feel like a champion on your bike.
My dad was waiting in an adorable cafe in town. We ordered lunch, a gyro sandwich for me, and hearty servings of huckleberry ice cream. We took our time eating and talking about our plan for the afternoon. We weren't sure where we'd be staying and knew we might have to go out of our way to find a place. There were three small towns between where we were and Billings, MT, our destination the following day. They were 15, 30 and 47 miles from where we were. But there weren't any campgrounds so city parks were our only option. We considered the fact that I could take advantage of the rocking tailwinds and ride my first century into the furthest town. Otherwise, we'd be staying in a city park at the town before, finishing the day at 80 miles. Josh and I set out with our plan still up in the air.
We hit more construction after only a few miles but it was minor and we rode through easily. We rode together for another five miles and then came to a sign that read "Construction Next Nine Miles".
This construction, like the last, wasn't too hard to navigate but it wasn't any fun. We had to ride slow, take several detours, and hug the side as cars passed us. We couldn't ride next to each other and talk. When we came out, we were in Shawmut which consisted of one store.
At this point, my mom and dad picked up and Josh called it quits. The three of us rode quickly and pleasantly, which was the theme for the day. Over the past week or so, we'd seen many signs, most hand drawn or painted, against the use of meth. "Not even once' and "stand united against meth" seem to be the common campaign phrases. I have regretted not taking pictures of them so I stopped when I saw this one. Behind it, you can see the type of cliffs and rock we had been riding along for a good part of the day. It was pretty spectacular.
In Ryegate, at mile 85, we stocked up on dinner provisions and beer in the local convenience store. On the ride into town, my dad and I decided to go the distance to Lavina, where I'd clock in over 100 and he would over 70. It should have come as no surprise when the scenery changed yet again in those last 20 miles. Suddenly it felt as if we were in Africa. Though, I should disclaim that with the fact that I've never actually been to Africa.
As we rode with a rocky, white hill/cliff on our right an animal bolted across the street and up the hill as fast as you can imagine. It was about the size of a medium dog, had a long, fairly full tail and was lightly tan colored. We decided it was a bobcat but still aren't 100% sure.
We rolled into town at mile 101.19 and came upon my mom and Josh making themselves at home in the city park. My mom had run into the town cop's wife and she gave us permission to camp there. We were without toilets but we had a lovely grassy field for our tents and covered picnic tables for dinner and lounging.
I felt awesome after my first century and continued to discredit it because of the tailwind that pushed me along most of the day. I averaged 15.5 miles per hour for the day and felt better than I had at the end of 77.7 the day before. Still, I was proud. We finished the day with grilled cheese, tomato soup, and harvest moon beer brewed in Montana.