June 24, 2004

6/24/04 Fort Benton MT

106 miles (2221 total)

Went to sleep last night thinking just how thing the walls of this tent were with a raging thunderstorm outside. And it was a doozy. Maybe it's the mountains, but you could hear the thunder twenty seconds away. And see it too! The image that kept coming to mind was a cartoon of the Greek gods bowling and ever time they got a strike, you'd hear the thunder. I wonder what would happen to the bike if it got struck by lightning.

By morning it had eased up a bit. Got packing and found my rear tire was partially flat. I just had to laugh. Didn't even try to find a hole, I just put in a new tube and threw the old one away. Put on a full rain suit not only because of the threat of rain, but because it was still pretty cold.

Even with the cloud cover, it was beautiful scenery I was riding through, rolling valleys with mountains on either side. The mountains really alter your sense of scale. Usually the specks you see on the hillside are cattle, but now I see they're houses and outbuildings.

Now, there's transportation!

That's windy

Rural graffiti

Passed through the Judith Mountains and had a long climb up from the Judith River. Then the road took a long turn around Square Butte dropping down among the surrounding badlands. It was so deep, I couldn't see the butte above me. Thank goodness I didn't have to climb back out.

All of a sudden, I was back in flat wheat fields. Stopped for lunch at the Denton Cafe. Had a fun visit with Jamie before her lunch crowd came in. By the time I stepped back outside, the sun had come out and the temperature had started to rise.

Another nice ride along flat roads, very little traffic and No Wind! I can't believe I've had two days in a row without wind. Better not say anything to jinx it.

After 73-miles, got to Geraldine, MT, but after checking out the RV Park, a patch of yard with an RV hookups and nothing else, was considering my options. Popped into the Food Coop for a swig of sugary refreshment when I got talking to Sharlo. She's a school teacher and just started here at the Coop a few days ago. When I talked about camping, she really made a good argument for continuing on to Fort Benton, another 27-miles down the way.

75 miles down, 27 miles to go

With no wind and no major climbs, I just might make it, but I should eat at least a little something. Sharlo recommended Rusty's Bar next door. It was the only place to eat but she said it was good, especially if they had fresh pie. Had half of a cheeseburger. Any more, and I would have needed to take a nap. With renewed energy, I seemed to fly down that highway. What incredible scenery! Rolling wheat fields as far as the eye could see, with huge mountains lining the horizon. Still now wind but the slightest of breezes.

Came down off the plains to cross the Missouri River into Fort Benton. At the Visitor's Center I found out I had arrived just in time for the Spirit of Discovery Summer Celebration, the 28th Annual, with three days of activities planned. The woman gave me directions to the new campground at the fairgrounds.

Not a bad place, as it sits right on the river. But they're in the process of building showers so I'll have to find somewhere else to get clean, maybe at the city pool.

Camped nearby was Kristen, a geography major from Missoula who had a summer job working as a ranger on the river. This part of the Missouri River is protected as the “Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River”, probably one of the few sections of the river that looks like it might have 200-years ago when Lewis and Clark made their way here.

Kristen was nice enough to invite me over and share her dinner and have some conversation. I probably talked her ear off. She's planning on going to Mongolia next year to visit her brother who just left for the Peace Corps. As it got dark and the mosquitoes began to gather in clouds, we said our goodbyes. She had to be up for an early start tomorrow. And even though my mind was still pretty excited about my 100+ mile day, the body was demanding sleep.