Some of you that have been reading my ramblings have been asking me if I am safe and OK, as I have not been doing my daily updates for a few days. I can assure you, everything is just fine. I am still in Montana and it is hot here! Yesterday I saw the 40 degree Celcius mark and today it got to 43. This put an extra weight on the travel and at night I am not even able to remember what I experienced that day and even if I did, I have simply been too tired to write about it. Then add the often poor cellphone connection and lack of good wifi in the small town joints I drop by on my way through the rugged land of the Wild Wild West. Things are pronouncedly different here. Vast open spaces, huge skies and almost no people. The landscape does something to you for sure. For all these three days I have been biking along the Yellowstone River. This river originates within the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and meanders its way through Wyoming, Montana, before it empties out into the Missouri River at Buford, North Dakota.
As mentioned earlier this river valley was once home to the Crow people, before it was settled by europeans in the 1800s. Eastern Montana is fairly flat highland, with its lower eastern part still being at 650-850 meter above sealevel. The lands are dry and arid, almost desertlike in many ways. Montana people are hardy folk, as they see extreme conditions in both winter and summer,no wonder so many Norwegians chose Montana as their new home. Here is the Yellowstone River, the lifegiving body of water that makes farming of various crops in the valley possible. There is corn, hay, alfalfa, sugar beets ans barley as main crops. You will see quite a bit of cattle and some sheep on the fields. If it were not for the water from the Yellowstone River, distributed to large systems of man made canals, to irrigate the riverbanks, agriculture would not exist here, apart from maybe ranching of sheep and cattle, which still goes on to a great degree. The sheep are brought in large herds up to more remote summer pastures in the highlands. Along the roads and the on the non irrigated land there is large amounts of Sage bush and other plants that thrive in arid conditions. The farmed riverbanks are huge. Alot of the land seem quite fertile, but not to the same extent as the dark soil areas in Dakota and Minnesota. Some of the land here is sometimes too rich in sulphour and in other areas it is simply just too alkaline for much to grow. Travelling down the river I biked on the Interstate 94 and on smaller roads like the Old Highway 10. Even though the traffic on the Interstate moves faster it still feels safer, due to extra wide road shoulder. Along the highway the cellphone usually stays fairly good.
Coming here I stayed in a campground in Miles City, to which I was guided to by Jason with the Miles City PD. He also suggested a good place for food and beer in town. With all the talk and news about bad cops, brutalizing the people they are hired and paid to serve and protect, it is nice to firsthandedly experience and talk to a real good cop. Jason here is also interested in bicycling. A great guy with a hart in the Force! The people buried here sure chose a remote and barren place for their resting. I am starting to see more rock and even some pine trees, as I move westward. There are huge fields of barley that is getting yellow and closer to harvest. Most of the barley here goes into the beer brewing industry. Montana Highland Barley is a well known source this vital ingredient in beer. It is generally harvested on the early side, when the fields still have streaks of green in them. I am guessing this has to to with the sugar composition and content within the grains. This picture is from the town of Custer, with a population of 145, at the time of the last count. Custer had a nice saloon, with decent food and a few good local craft beers. I was able to sleep within the town park facilities building. Essential to this area, for settlers point of view, is the expedition of Lewis and Clark in the early 1800s. Here is what wikipedia has to say about it:
The Lewis and Clark Expedition, also known as the Corps of Discovery Expedition, was the first American expedition to cross what is now the western portion of the United States, departing in May 1804, from near St. Louis on the Mississippi River, making their way westward through the continental divide to the Pacific coast.
The expedition was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, consisting of a select group of U.S. Army volunteers under the command of Captain Meriwether Lewis and his close friend Second Lieutenant William Clark. Their perilous journey lasted from May 1804 to September 1806. The primary objective was to explore and map the newly acquired territory, find a practical route across the Western half of the continent, and establish an American presence in this territory before Britain and other European powers tried to claim it.
The campaign’s secondary objectives were scientific and economic: to study the area’s plants, animal life, and geography, and establish trade with local Indian tribes. With maps, sketches, and journals in hand, the expedition returned to St. Louis to report their findings to Jefferson.
At the town of Pompays Pillar there is a nice museum that goes into details of this expedition. They also have a rock in which Clarks signature is inscribed. This apparently is the only physical evidence of him having been here. I wish I could spend more time at this museum as the story is very interesting and essential to understanding how the west was opened up to developement by the settlers and how this came to affect the lives of the natives, the Crow people, described in detail by Joe Medicine Crow, a very interesting person and a real old school badass!
On my way to Billings today I was again met with some Norwegians, fourlegged ones even. These dun colored horses are so called Fjording or Fjord horses. It is an ancient norwegian breed of horses that has ultimate physical features for the harsh terrain on the west coast of Norway, for pulling snd riding. It is actually one of the oldest breed of horses around. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fjording The Fjording has a playful, trusty and jovial character. They both came closer and after a little sniffing around, they trusted me enough to accept a good scratching. There are a lot of mosquitos in the area.
After a gruelling day of riding in the heat of 40-50 degree celcius, I was able to stay with this friendly couple, friends of Deb, who I met and stayed with in Jamestown, North Dakota. Freddie and Chuck are as Norwegian as it can get, they even speak a little. Orginally they are both from North Dakota, where they met in church 42 years ago. Chuck has retired from his job as a lawyer and Freddie recently retired from her job as a professor in the field of physciatric nursing. They lived in Tromsø for a year, as Freddie was teaching at the college there for a year. Their son even learned to speak the language fluently during that year. Freddie has written several articles and coauthored books in her field of study with several norwegian colleagues. All around their house are little trinckets of Norway. Chucks family is from the Stavanger region, hence his/their lastname Gilje. Freddies norwegian ancestors came from Telemark.
A true pleasure to meet these people. A highlight on my trip and I hope I get to meet them sometime again.
Today I will move west towards Missoula, Montana as my next major destination, on the I90 through towns like Bozeman and Butte. It is a total of 550 km, so I am guessing I will be needing about 5 days, especially in the heat that surrounds this area now and there will be some elevation coming into Missoula as well, as I will now start my entrance into the Rocky Mountains. A change of scenery will be welcomed.
There are so much to be told, but time restricts the ramblings. There are so many episodes and people you meet along way that deserves a place in a diary like this, like the guy that showed me the way to the campground in Custer. He was just drivin down the street in is old stationwagon, with both rear windows down. Out of both of them were to giant Siberian Husky/Wolf mixed dogs stickin their heads out. A sight for the eye and again a man of generosity and friendliness. I was even invited over for a meal if I wanted to.
Well, a new day is starting as I finish this update to the blog. Its amazing what healing the body and mind does during a few hours of sleep, making you ready once again to tackle the miles ahead.