Thursday, July 12, 2012

Day Twenty-Five: Montana Hospitality

Today's ride was a planned 67 miler from Fort Benton, Montana to Stanford, Montana. I say "planned" because...well, wait and see.

Bob and I got an early start because the forecast was again for 90+ degree heat, plus a 30% chance of thunderstorms (with possible hail) starting by 2 p.m. Learning from yesterday, we packed as much water as we each could carry, but also took some comfort in there being a town along the route (Geraldine, at the 30 mile mark) where we could replenish supplies.

The ride was a straight shot on Montana's Route 80, which was wonderfully un-trafficked, with some decent landscape variation (at least compared to the Highline) -- although, don't get me wrong -- it was still, for the most part, dry, arid and empty. But we added a new category to our wildlife spotting -- a rattlesnake in the middle of the road (very much alive, but maybe not for long).

So the ride was proceeding apace, with us making good time in terms of the weather forecast until we began climbing Arrow Creek Hill. Not only was the climb a toughie (and marked with its own "historic site" explanatory post), but the Montana black flies became ferocious as we slowed down, biting us straight through our clothing (and, ironically, helping us speed up again).

Exhausted, we summited at around the 50 mile mark (and approximately 1:00 p.m.) and were ready to continue on into Stanford (a final 17 miles) when we saw humongous storm clouds rolling in, West to East, ahead of us. Also lightning. Coincidentally, we just at that moment were coming across one of the rare ranches within shouting distance of the road, plus, even rarer still, someone in a pickup actually coming out of the ranch and turning our way.

I made a quick executive decision and, again learning from yesterday, stopped my bike this time and aggressively waved down the truck. And the driver, Christi English, stopped. My hope was that we could simply wait out the storm, which seemed to be moving pretty quickly, for an hour or two somewhere on the ranch, out of the rain.

But before I could even get the proposition out of my mouth, Christi was scolding us for riding in such heat. And, although she was headed for town, she was going to turn right around instead and serve us some cold iced tea. She was pretty insistent, so who were we to resist?

So we sat around her kitchen table, drank our iced tea, and exchanged stories as people do in such circumstances. When Christi heard ours, she was again ready for action. No, you're not staying at some crummy motel in Stanford, she said. You're staying at my cousin Joe's, who has a ranch 2 miles outside of Stanford, with 2 extra beds upstairs. And, with this storm and heat, you're throwing your bikes in the back of my pickup and I'm driving you there! Again, there was not much room for protest. Even Joe was introduced by Christi to the presence of two strangers in his home as pretty much a fait accompli.

How to describe the afternoon and evening? We talked. We drank beer. Joe dug out some lamb chops from deep in his freezer. Bob and I took Christi's pick-up into town and got some fixins (that's how they say it in Montana, I think) for dinner. And some wine. And then Bob proceeded to prepare a gorgeous gourmet meal, with the lamb cooked to perfection, taziki yogurt sauce (Joe was dubious at first), fresh grilled vegetables, and roasted potatoes (as Bob's Facebook followers all know, he is quite a chef). And we ate it outside and talked some more. And maybe drank a bit more too.

We exchanged a ton of stories, which don't all bear repeating here -- and I certainly won't mention that Joe showed us his gun safe (and loaded contents) after dinner. Suffice it to say we went to bed well fed and entertained. And only slightly nervous about the guns.

In the morning, at around 6:00, Joe was doing chef duties, frying up fresh eggs and sausage for all of us. He then gave us route tips for our day's ride to Lewistown, Montana, and promised to do his best to avoid sideswiping us with his truck if he saw us on the way (he did and he did).

Thanks Christi and Joe! Your hospitality was fantastically caring, generous and well-timed, and a wonderful respite from our daily biking routine. We hope to see you again -- or at least in the blog comments along our journey.

Here are today's route (truncated -- no smart comments please, we've still ridden over 1200 miles at this point) and metrics:



  1. What a wonderful story of Montana hospitality! That kind of neighborliness must have given you guys a real boost.

  2. mark becker10:36 PM

    wow. what a fantastic story and great people!

  3. Christi English10:37 PM

    Holy cow, what a pleasant surprise I received yesterday afternoon to find Bob and Roger along their journey biking through Montana in this “blistering heat”!! Welcome to Montana. What a colorful impression you left in this densely populated community here in Montana. Thank you!
    I wish you both a safe and wonderful journey across the states, please feel free to contact me if you should any trouble and I would be happy to help you out within my power.
    ¸.¤•º°´¯ ♥ ¯`°º•¤. ♥♥~GOD Bless You!~♥♥¸.¤•º°´¯ ♥ ¯`°º•¤. ¸ ¤¯`°º•¤.
    ¤•º°´¯ ¸.¤•º°´¯ ¸.¤•º°´¯ ♥ ¯`°º•¤.¸¯`°º•¤. ¸¯`° ¯`°º•¤. ¸ ¤ ¯`°º•¤.
    PS. Lewis and Clark would be envious of your journey, did they even have bicycles back then?