Day 44: 4th of July in Missoula, Montana

Many of you know me as a farmboy that is not shy of cowdung, the sound of large diesels and grunting sounds of pigs.  After riding for weeks in surroundings dominated by country style livin’, with all that that implies, in form of huge Cummins powered pickup trucks, high (really High) Wrangler jeans, cowboy boots and beltbuckles the size of dinner plates, it’s nice to roll into the town of Missoula, where they care for values other than the aforementioned, in form of Matters of the brain and scholary traditions. And, in any place where brains are in use, Bicycles!! Missoula has a thriving bicycle scene, with lots of effort put in to bring that forward. You’ll spot moms hauling kids in large trailers or businesswomen pulling their produce along in cargotrailers on wheels. A little Miracle in this huge rugged Highland called Montana.   They all look fairly stoned I know, and I guess there is little  wrong with that, they for sure seem to be having their moments of bliss and are in no command to hurt one another.  Afterall Montana is known for their high quality marijuhana. They were among the first states to legalize the medical use of this ancient herb of so many interesting uses, other than chillin’.   Every weekend Missoula has a Farmers Market going on underneath the bridge, as did they today on their National Day of July 4th. Among the good people sharing their hopes for the future and edibles, were the beautiful Montana Mamas and their custom scones! “Everybody must get sconed” is their motto! Gotta love the vibe!  Of equal caliber was Michael Dean and his hindu inspired trailmix of different grains and seeds all mixed with honey and Camelina oil. Camelina is apparently very healthy and common in ancient eastern Europe. Michael sources his Camelina from a small local community of organic Camelina farmers! Music to my ears! Love this stuff!

  Lotsa good stuff goin on here in Missoula, as you can see! In this local joint they pay homage to the Bison, the guns that helped do away with them and the hard drinks that helped people cope with the drama, then and now. 

      In one of the local bars I get talking to Zachary, almost fullblooded Danish. A real good guy to chat with, that shared alot of insight into many things Montana, among the fact that the University of Missoula being the first major school in the country that offered access to higher education to people regardless of their socioeconomic status. This had people from North Dakota and Montana send their kids here, in hopes for a better future for their offspring, apart from their own hardship of homesteading in a rather barren climate, with extreme summers and equally extreme winters. A place where you had to rely on your fellow human being for survival. At age 32, Zach comes down as a being with lots of wisdom and humor. He told me the three states of Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota is populary known as Mondana, Norway Dakota and Minnesweden. According to Zach, Montana folk is the tallest, the happiest and the longest living in the Great United States, so there must be some good things going on here. Missoulians and yours truelly resorted to the river today for a much needed cooldown. Meter today was showing a good 97 degree Fahrenheit. I am literally and in other ways really warming up to this place.    Wishing you Peace Profound! Happy 4th of July!

Day 41-42-43: Billings, MT to Missoula, MT: 550 km

When company is good, it is hard to leave. So hard in fact that I stayed another day with Freddie and Chuck. Chuck volunteers once a week as a driver for the Meals on Wheels program in Billings. This is a community kitchen that makes and deliver food to those in need. This is a good way to help other people, and of great mutual benefit.        Chuck had 17 deliveries on this day.   The next day I was invited to go their friend’s 80th birthday party at the Grand Hotel in Bozeman.    

This is lively wife Jan to the left, with the birthday boy, Bob, sitting, and their daughter Connie and her husband Eric. 

The food was absolutely delicious and presented very carefully. Thank you so much Good People for inviting me along. 

          Here you see how smoke from the wild fires up north fills the area. I was generously offered to stay with Connie and Eric for the night. I even got to meet their fourlegged friend Gunnar, a 8 yr old Weimaraner.   Here are some photos from my ride from Connie & Erics house in Big Timber to Butte. I took the old Highway 2 all the way. It offered some real nice views of the countryside and into the mountains. Unfortunately due to the wildfires up north, the area is effect by hazy smoke. This makes it hard to see the really far away high mountains.       This level sits at about 1300 meters. Still, the farmers are able to grow lots of different grains.                 All sites of trafficdeaths are marked with a white cross.         It is amazing to see such dense green vegetation at this altitude of almost 2000 meters.   I rolled into Butte, my target for the day. Butte is a old and historic miningtown. There are huge open air coppermines in the area. In this part of Montana there are quite a bit of mining for different minerals, among them rare noble metals in form of palladium and platinum. 

Temperatures rose substantially through the day and made me really thirsty. In the local brewpub I met this couple, Chelsea and Kristopher and their little daugther, 3 month old Paige. The fourlegged friend is Kleo. There were another dog and a cat in the house too, but they didn’t pose for the photo. Chelsea and Kristopher generously offered me a place to sleep in their house, as well as preparing both dinner and breakfast this morning. Fantastic hospitality. I am quite overwhelmed actually by all the goodness I have been met with lately. One doesnt see so much of this from strangers you meet back home in Norway.  I left their house early today, after a nice breakfast. I need to get to Missoula, preferably by sundown, about 200 km away.  The ride is fairly flat, so I should be able to pull it off, unless the heat get me. 

 

Day 38-40: Glendive, MT to Billings, MT: 390 km

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!

http://www.badassoftheweek.com/medicinecrow.html

  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. 

Day 37: Dickinson, ND to Glendive, MT: 160 km

Again, the coaltrains have been busy through the night, hunking and rumbling down the tracks. So eyes were open wide at 5 am. No storm and not a drop of rain during the night. I was prepared though, by having the tent up underneath the roof. Sadly I left my tentstakes behind up in New Salem. Too bad, as they for one are much needed and they were really nice, lightweight ones from MSR and to top it off, gifted me by Lynda:( I am going to have to source some new ones now. Will try the tiny town of Glendive. One would think that, with all the outdoor activities I should find what I need here, but I am not so sure. Anyway, the picture below shows how nicely campground is placed on Patterson Lake. The site was ok, but at $24 I think the owners should do a better job with the cleaning of toilets and showers, and do a better upkeep in general.  My riding got started round 7. It was nice to roll out that early. The forecast was showing sun and favorable wind, but that was the day before. It was cloudy and with a mild headwind/sidewind from the West/Northwest. Nothing like on earlier days in North Dakota though.        Even from Dickinson I noticed the landscape changing. There were some hills coming up and I felt a slight climb in altitude all day. My altimeter showed around 800 meters. After a couple short hours of riding the landscape changed suddenly and dramatically, into what is known as the North Dakota Badlands, named Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  Roosevelt first came to the North Dakota badlands to hunt bison in September 1883. During that first short trip, he got his bison and fell in love with the rugged lifestyle and the “perfect freedom” of the West. He invested $14,000 in the Maltese Cross Ranch, which was already being managed by Sylvane Ferris and Bill Merrifield seven miles south of Medora. That winter, Ferris and Merrifield built the Maltese Cross Cabin. After the death of both his wife and his mother on February 14, 1884, Teddy Roosevelt returned to his North Dakota ranch seeking solitude and time to heal. That summer, he started his second ranch, the Elkhorn Ranch, 35 miles north of Medora, which he hired two Maine woodsmen, Bill Sewall and Wilmot Dow, to operate. Teddy Roosevelt took great interest in his ranches and in hunting in the West, detailing his experiences in pieces published in eastern newspapers and magazines. He wrote three major works on his life in the West: “Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail,” “Hunting Trips of a Ranchman,” and “The Wilderness Hunter.” His adventures in “the strenuous life” outdoors and the loss of his cattle in the starvation winter in 1886-1887 were influential in Theodore Roosevelt’s pursuit of conservation policies as President of the United States (1901–1909). (wikipedia)      This picture shows various layers of sediments of different composition, hence the different beautiful colors.  I think it took me about 3 hours to ride through park. It was over as swiftly as it entered and I was met with more North Dakota open flatland. I stopped at a reststop on a hill for needed food and water.  After another 30 minutes or so I could check Montana on my list of states. When North Dakota feels crowded, Montana is the place! Mind you, Montana has the size of Norway, but with only 1 mill people.    Concert and outdoor venue, Montana-style.   Being a cow in Montana seem to be a dream come true for a cow anyway. It’s not like they are stomping in manure behind tight fencing, with little green grass to eat and roam through, like so many of their less fortunate brethren, elsewhere on this planet.Horses too have it real good here. These friends were just hanging out in the middle of a country road. The animals create the most perfect, tranquil atmosphere. The skies above are immense as are the lush green lands below! A glimpse into eternity in many ways. We all know geography helps make the people, so it will be interesting to find out more on how the Montanese people are.  My day ended in a nice motel in Glendive, a small  town of some 5000 people on the Yellowstone River. I might do an extra day of resting here, maybe back in my tent on a campsite by the river. I need the rest, clean laundry and access to a computer to do some exact planning of which routes to take from here. Biking here takes more planning, as the distances between towns are greater, cell phone coverage scarcer, etc.  So far i have ridden about 3100 km over a total of 32 actual riding days, leaving out the restday in Lockport and the days spent in urban Chicago. Rough calculations show that I have about 1400 km more to go. This means I am more than 2/3 into the trip. Looking at the map though it is obvious that there will be hills to climb!-) I love hills, so can barely wait. I am now to the very right in the state and plan to ride along the Yellowstone River, through Miles City and Billings, in Crow indian territory.        Now, my breakfast is being served. Thank you for taking time reading my story!

Peace Profound!

Day 36: New Salem to Dickinson, ND: 110 km

Day went by fairly uneventful. Woke about 6 from this lovely bedroom. At least it was shielding both myself and the bike from the rain. Seems like a everyday routine here…thunder and rainstorm in he evening. It is important to find shelter when his happens. There aren’t many trees out here. Nor was there every many according to locals. Again last night I was woken regulary through the night, by the frequent and endless freighttrains that haul huge amount of coal from the mines to the furnaces.   After a while of riding I had my lunch at a foodmarket. Shortly after my arrival this married couple rode in.  Jamie and Ronnie are Texans and are doing their thing on wheels! Big cheerful smiles on yet another happy longtime married couple. True inspiration for union and companionship. And man was it nice to hear some Texan accents! They do their own blogging at: 

http://jamieandronnie.blogspot.com

           Cattle and Oil, seems like that is what is going on here! Seemingly all the oil activity takes places in peaceful harmony with the agriculture on top of the land. Drillsites and oil/gas tanks are frequent. I am not so such about how harmonious these things are in nature below the surface though. There are a buzzing activity of tanker and trucks hauling all kinda of toxic fluids that are used in drilling, fracking and exploitation of all the wells that are scattered across the vast open land.   I made Dickinson my target for the day and as I rolled in I got to have a with this fellah. Looking at his features makes it easy to see his ancestry. Fullblooded norwegian from grandparents and on. Mr. Thorstad has just recently retired after years of working in land management. He has been involved in administering transactions involving landowners and the oil industry. He says that last 10 years have been quite crazy, somewhat a Klondyke. A lot of money is involved and being made. Alot of this money is gathered up by top folk in the cooperations. Business as usual! In town I was treated to free meal and I even got to talk to Alicia who works in the insurance business. She said things have been real busy and good for them, though they are seeing a dip as well, due to the recent drop in oil prices. 

This morning, on my way from Dickinson to Glendive I met this happy couple from Wisconsin. I was even able to converse a bit in Norwegian as Tom’s ancestors all came from there. His lovely wife Vicki, is of german heritage, but also spoke quite a bit norwegian. They were biking from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine on their tandem. After 42 yrs of marriage it is a good sign that they can pull such a thing off and wear smiles that big! Great couple and so inspirational! Godspeed!I will be moving into an area now, esp when entering Montana, where cell phone coverage will be more scarce. My updates to the blog will be less frequent and shorter, with less images. 

Peace Profound!

Day 35: Jamestown, ND to New Salem, ND: 220 km

Eyes opened about 5.30 this morning. Deb’s brothers left early and Deb was going to drive the 160 km to Bismarck, with me in her car. Her offer from yesterday was still too tempting to resist, given that I was again going to be on the 130 km/h highway, in the winds. We were scheduled to leave at about 6. Deb has many projects going at the same time, and I offered her my help with some of them. After about 3 hours we were finally ready to leave. According to Deb this is not uncommon, somewhat to her husband and kids’s frustation sometimes..:) 

After about 90 minutes of driving we reached Bismarck and we parted at the gas station. 
  I did a fairly big lunch and a couple really good local  beers at Blarney Stone, an Irish pub, recommended by Deb. I was able to sit down and do some blogging, before I got on the bike and rolled west. I had modest ambitions for the day in terms of biking miles. I ended up doing a shy 70 km as I reached the township of New Salem. Again there was rain and thunder in the forecast, so I figured the best decision would be to end my day here.  

 Coming into town I came across Cowboy Camp, a gathering for kids that want to learn rodeo and horsebackriding. As you can see, the attire is high Wranglers, boots and hats, for old seasoned, and young aspiring cowboys alike.       

 

 The local motel had no vacancies, so I found this shelter for myself and my bike. What I perfect place to end the day! I am well over half way in now. Should be entering Badlands soon. 

Here’s some photos towards the end of my day on the prairie.  

             

Day 34: Valley City, ND to Jamestown, ND: 70 km

Last night was loud, blinky, windy and wet! Heavy thunderstorms whipped through the skies about my tiny tent, pitched on a private campground right on the main street. I joined a couple of bikers already there. The bad weather was known in the forecast and the neighbor from across the street even came over to let us all know that if conditions became dangerous we were welcome to knock on her door. This lovely neighbor by the name of Karrie is an avid biker herself, a Surly biker even. So we had a total of four Surly riders all on the same patch of land, as the couple in the neighboring tent are also rolling on Surly bikes. Now here’s lovely Karrie, gotta love her top:) perfectly for a Surly rider! She an artist and she teaches art at the local college. I loved her line tatoo! Can’t go simpler than that. Thanx Karrie for just being who you are! Check her website out:

http://www.karriadieken.com

 Luckily none of us bikers on the lot needed to pick up on Karrie’s offer, though the tent was firmly shook by the winds and hammered by the rain. I remained fairly dry luckily.  

 Now here is a great married couple! Meet Peter, Anna and if you look closely you will spot their fourlegged companion, Higgins, a mixed mutt picked up from the streets of Los Angeles where they lived before they decided to bike the entire 48 continental states during the course of the a short 3 years. Into North Dakota they are into their 6th state. A ride of this magntiude is the ultimate lacmus test of their union. Godspeed! Their experiences are prolifically summed up at:

http://barelyfunctionaladults.wordpress.com

After the stormy night I finally was ready to take on the vast open space which is Dakota. I started by trying to source a good breakfast as it was going to be a long ride until I hit the next town. Sadly good food was hard to find, both in restaurants and in stores. I had to settle for some donuts and coffee at a fast food place. Not the best of starts. Quite quickly I was met with the harshness of Dakota winds!!! Coming in at 10ms from north/northwest, making it very hard to move along. I ended up battling these winds for the entire day, completely without any break. There’s no cover here on the prairie. I started on the highway, but it was a very uncomfortable experience, with large trucks coming down on two lanes at 130 km/h. So I had harsh winds on the right and raging traffic on the left. And if that is not enough, some brainiac within the road authorities decided to put rumblestrip on the road shoulder, from the white strip to the gravel on the side.  North Dakota welcomes bikers! Pure hell for anyone on two selfpropelled wheels. 

 After about 70 km I finally reached the town of Jamestown. Thirsty, hungry, short of hearing from the raging traffic on one side and howling winds on the other. I did try the country roads, but they were so soaked of water from all the rain lately that they made me move even slower. It is fair to say that this until then had been my absolutely worst day sofar. The words I was using in my own thoughts to describe my experience of North Dakota I will keep to myself, as they are part of a vocabulary that I don’t take pleasure in using. I talked to my dear Lynda and she soothed me and ensured me something would magically open up. I had a lunch at a place in town and headed out, not sure as of how to pursue my trip. I realized I had forgot to fill my waters up…mind you the entire day was in full sun and more than 30 celcius. I turned around and as I was locking my bike up outside my lunchplace to go in for water fillups, I am greeted by a woman coming into the restaurant. She comments my bike and we got talking. After a short while she had offered me a place to stay and even a ride west to the town of Bismarck the morning after. The forecast for winds of the next day was equally harsh. The combination of highway traffic, rumble strip and winds is potentially lethal.  Meet Deb, aka Jake! Deb is a true gemstone! High energy person, that does gardening and lawn work for other people in her summers. Outside of that season she throws kids around the classrooms as a elementary school teacher since years. Deb is half norwegian, add some swiss and german. Apart from that she is a sister of many and mother of two, of which I got to meet her last arrival, Andrew, age 16. I also briefly got to meet two of her brothers, all of which look way more Norwegian than I:)

     Deb loves her biking. As a matter of fact she just recently sold her celeste green Bianchi roadbike, as the paved roads in this state simply had become too busy and hazardous for bicyclists. North Dakota has seen a dramatic surge of change due to all the oil and gas activity that goes on, in and around the Bakken field. For those interested in this giant fossil fuel source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bakken_formation

Bakken acivities have changed many things in North Dakota, for good and for bad. 

After parting with gemstone Deb in Bismarck, I am finally able to start my bicycling, making my way west, toward Dickinson, North Dakota. Deb warmed me up to North Dakota, where Wrangler jeans are almost up to the shoulders, boots to match and cowboy hats to top it off. Pickup-trucks are a given! Country, vast open Country it is!

Thanx for listening in to my ramblings!