Forsyth, MT → Hysham, MT
Net Elevation gain: 20 ft. (2598 ft. to2618 ft.)
Average Speed: 7.0 mph
Top Speed: 33.6 mph
Time spent biking: 4 hours 30 minutes
Total time for the day's travels: 10 hours
Miles biked today: 31.4
Total for trip: 2483.3 miles
The tent got hot as soon as the sun came up this morning. We had both slept fairly well, and felt much more rested than the day before, but would gladly have slept a bit longer. We were disappointed that it looked like it was going to be another scorching hot day. We spoke to our friendly neighbor in the next campsite, and traded her 120V electricity for the news that there was free Internet to be had at the campground.
We had some food with us, but weren't excited about eating it, or staying around for a while, so we packed up and left by 9:30, even after we installed the new bike computer. We had wanted to leave earlier to avoid the heat as much as possible and get a bunch of miles done before it got too hot, but when it was already hot when we got up, that slowed us down. We biked into Forsyth again, and stopped at the IGA supermarket there. We ended up hanging out there for an hour or more, drinking fluids, listening to Brett's whining and distributing ice into water bottles and zip lock bags in the cool sack.
Finally leaving the grocery store around 11:00, we decided to take our chances with Frontage Road which parallels the big highway, rather than get on Route 94. We had seen parts of Frontage Road the day before while we were riding the highway, and it often looked nicer. The map wasn't helpful, but we figured it was worth taking a chance on. Hopefully it would be paved the whole way to the next town.
We are so glad we took Frontage Road! It was SO much quieter and more pleasant than the noisy highway. There was hardly any traffic, and even though there was no shoulder to speak of, traffic moved around us because there was nothing coming the other way! Unfortunately, the wind was against us and this was no light breeze. It was pretty strong, so the going was very slow. We weren't sure how we were going to make it through. Every pedal stroke seemed to be a huge effort. There wasn't a whole lot of talking going on, and it was too hot to sing.
Two trees growing out of a cliff.
Today was the first day that we passed fields being harvested. Pretty amazing.
Today was the first day that we passed fields being harvested. Pretty amazing.
Not too long after we left the town and choose Frontage Road over the highway, we remembered we had a new bike computer! Brett looked down and we didn't believe that we'd really gone 6 miles already. That boosted our spirits a little, and it was a good distraction for a little while.
We were looking for signs for a recreation area that was listed on the map. We were desperately hoping it would have swimming, because the heat was really getting to us. We scoured the sides of the road, searching for the elusive sign, but we never did see one. Onward we went, battling sinking morale and the brutal heat. At last, we found something worth finding: a pair of trees that shaded a patch of high grass underneath them! We didn't have to ask each other to know we were stopping there. For two hours we lay in the shade of those magnificent trees (and they were big), eating, drinking water, and resting. We actually had fun in the shade, taking pictures and lounging about on our tarp. The temperature difference was remarkable.
When we would have had to move the tarp for the second time to follow the shade, we instead opted to brave the sun's heat once more. We pushed on at 3:15, and a few miles down the road were excited to see prairie dogs! We were sad to have left North Dakota before seeing any, but here in a Montana cow pasture there were so many! We were amused by their chittering. They would stand up near their holes into the ground, and every so often dash for a different hole. Usually several would dash all at once, essentially trading spots. It was really fun to watch.
Before we forget to mention it, there are so many trains here! Every little while, there is another freight train rolling by in one direction or the other, hauling coal or oil or who knows what else. We love seeing them still, just like we love seeing birds of prey even when we see them all the time out here. Sometimes we even wave to them, bracing ourselves for what usually yields a very loud toot of the horn.
We have enjoyed reading about the history from these signs along the road. (Don't forget, you can click on the photo to make it larger so that you can read it better.)
Still, we wanted to go swimming. We wanted to just jump in the Yellowstone River that we were following the valley of, but it just wasn't the right spot ever. A few miles east of Hysham, we spotted their water tower, and saw their little airport that probably only exists for the crop dusting planes. The last few miles into Hysham were still slow, but at least we knew we were approaching something.
We thought of a new plan: quit early today in Hysham, get a good night's sleep, and get up really early to beat the heat. If we followed this pattern every day, we should be able to get just as many miles done, but not be so hot!
In town we found a gas station at which we got some ice and directions to a park to camp at, as well as a recommendation for a good place to eat at in town. The restaurant didn't have an Internet signal, but there was one from the bar next door. We went in and asked for the password and the bartender willingly punched it into our computer for us. Then we went back to the restaurant to eat. The food was good and it was fun to listen to the large group of red hat ladies in for dinner.
When we found the park the sun hadn't quite gone down yet but the mosquitoes were starting to come out already. There were bathrooms that were unlocked and a large undercover pavilion with a switch that cost a quarter for an hour of electricity. But the mosquitoes were pretty bad, and after a few minutes of tag team writing, we headed into our tent for the night. Just when we were settling down though, a very annoying thing happened: the sprinklers popped up out of the ground and started their nightly ritual, including one right next to the tent.
The automatic rotating sprinklers make a very loud sound when the water hits the outside of your tent in rhythmic spurts that are reminiscent of gunfire. We were under attack! Tck-a-tck-a-tck-a-tck, pht pht pht, pht, pht, tck-a-tck-a-tck-a-tck! Yeesh. So much for a restful night. We weren't sure what to do. We considered moving the tent under the pavilion, but we'd have to move tables around and it might not be easy. Plus, we were tired. Jenny valiantly went out and stepped on the sprinkler attacking us, which stopped it temporarily, but it didn't stay off. Brett tried next, but he also failed to disarm the sprinkler, because it only stopped if you put a lot of weight on it constantly. We didn't have anything that was heavy enough to put on top of it, so he just put a gallon water jug between the sprinkler and the tent. It was just about as loud, but at least the tent fly wasn't getting quite as pummeled.
The tent wasn't actually getting wet, but weren't actually getting much sleep. After the sprinklers stopped around 10:30 P.M., we tried to get some sleep, but we couldn't relax. The sounds of trains seemed nearly constant. A motorcyclist pulled into the park to camp, too. A few local boys walked into the park yelling, “Wake up!” but they were just passing through and weren't really interested in us. Finally, we did get to sleep, only to be awakened by sprinklers going on again around 3 or 4 for another round.
Brett's alarm helped get us up at 5:00, but it took a few minutes to get any enthusiasm going. After that, we got up, threw the wet stuff on the back of the bike, ran around dodging the incredible hordes of mosquitoes, ran out of the park, and jumped into our seats.
To be continued...