Day 66 – Malta, MT to Havre, MT – 90 miles
Flat roads & a tailwind are an awesome combination! Add to that, 2 great riding companions & we can’t think of a better day on this trip!
We told our new friend, Andrew that we were meeting for breakfast at 7 am at the Great Northern. He had responded that he may or may not join us, as he usually isn’t up that early. However, we had just received water & menus when he walked in to join us! We had our breakfast & were on the bikes shortly before 8 am.
Andrew was planning to go all the way to Havre today (90 miles), but we (with Tim) were planning to stop about halfway and camp outside the city offices in Harlem. After covering the first 20 miles in just over an hour, we were rethinking our plans! We took a break at a convenience store & enjoyed more of Andrew’s adventures working in the Middle East & the Congo. Back on the bike, we were feeling like quite the peloton, covering miles quickly with the tailwind assist. Even after stopping to fix a flat tire (our first flat since Ontario) and several other breaks, we made it to Harlem (46 miles) before 11:30. We enjoyed a great lunch and hopped back on the bikes for more tailwind-assisted miles.
Another fun thing about the day was experiences with other drivers.
1). Shortly after our break in the first town of Dodson, we entered the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and kept noticing a large truck passing us, pulling over in various yards (where we would pass it), then it would pass us again. We never saw the guy get out of his truck when he was pulled over and we kept wondering what he was doing. The truck looked like some sort of tanker but it smelled really bad, so at first we thought it was a septic pump out truck. The 4 of us noticed it and discussed various theories on what was going on with this truck. Finally at one of the stops, we saw that it was a side loading garbage compactor truck & he just pulled into driveways, parked & the truck picked up & dumped the dumpster. Mystery solved! Well, this went on for miles with him passing us, pulling into driveways and us passing him, (lather, rinse, repeat) to the point that we recognized the sound of him coming up behind us and we’d wave and he’d beep. Later in the day, we had forgotten about him and suddenly in the last town before Havre, he went by in the other direction and gave a friendly beep-beep & waved! We felt like we had a friend in these parts! 🙂
2). The other driver incident was with a train engineer! We’ve seen a lot of trains in Montana & ND but today the road ran alongside the train tracks for much of the day. Late in the day (shortly after going thru the last town before Havre) we could hear a train coming up behind us. We joked about racing it because well, we were feeling like bicycling gods (& goddess!) with our tailwind! And for awhile, it seemed like we were winning and then the train seemed to give up! (It probably stopped for a bit – not sure why.). We almost forgot about it when finally it came up beside us, so we all did that universally-known gesture (it is even done in Australia!) to get a truck driver / train engineer to blow their horn – and the engineer did just that! We were pumping our arms in victory! Felt like we were 9 years old! :-))
We had been warned of a 3-4 mile construction zone entering Havre & had hoped that the road might be in better shape by the time we arrived, but no. We were having such a great day, we knew nothing was going to dampen our spirits, but the construction zone came close. It looked like the road was being completely rebuilt including two new lanes. There is no other way to say it, this was an absolute mess of a construction site! The road was not shut down, traffic was allowed to flow both ways all the time. There were two main (loose) gravel lanes that wound thru the site carrying the ongoing traffic, but the gravel was not passable on bike. The side of the road was being graded, and was gravel free. This was the area firm enough for our heavy, road tandem. Jim was thinking it was good training for mountain biking, but this was not the time or place! Cars, trucks, construction workers and construction equipment were all around us. Andrew reminded us that running into a roller compactor would not be a good thing – but was the driver ever watching us? Meanwhile, we were riding over areas that had just been filled, but had not been graded, it was very soft sandy gravel. We had to keep reminding ourselves to keep pedaling (sometimes shouted by Jim!) the sand was tough to get though, but if we bogged down, we certainly would go down. Ugh, it was a frustrating 3 miles, but we made it! We were never so happy to be on real pavement when the construction ended. Another frustration was putting the bike in our middle gear on the front chain ring to get through the construction. We had spent the first 85 miles in our big, “go-fast” ring. It would have been so great to say we spent the whole 90-mile day in high gear, but ah, such is life, the construction was small potatoes compared to the great accomplishment of a 90 mile day!
When we got into town we checked into a motel, got our rear wheel to the Havre bike shop for more new spokes and some retensioning. Hopefully that will get us through the rest of the ride, we’ll see.
At the bike shop we met two east bound bikers – our first of the day. Steve was an older man who was making his third coast to coast crossing since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He was on his way to South Carolina, with a stop in Minneapolis to attend his mothers 102nd birthday celebration and his 50 year high school reunion. Unfortunately, he was getting some bike repairs after getting hit by a car, his trailer was trashed, but he ended up ok. It was a reminder to ride safe, and we were happy he was still out there riding! We also chatted with a young man that was riding from Tahoe to the east coast. He was making the trip with a large trunk bag like we have and a few items strapped to his handle bars. He was by far, the winner of the minimalist bike touring championship.
Turns out that our magical foursome is in 3 different motels in town tonight. Andrew is about a mile west of town and he has laundry to do and some long days of riding ahead of him (wants to meet up with friends this weekend & be to the west coast by end of the month), so he opted out of dinner with us. Tim is staying at a hotel about a quarter mile away, so he walked down here & we got a restaurant recommendation from the lady at the front desk and had a great dinner together. Tomorrow is a rest day for us, as we wait for our wheel repair. Tim is going to spend a few days here before heading south to meet up with friends down near Missoula. So, we made plans for one more dinner together tomorrow night before saying our good-byes. He has been such a fun riding companion! We’ve been prepping him for his next USA bicycling trip to the Great Lakes State!
Notable quotes from the day:
– “Who’d have thought sewers could take you so far?!” (Tim)
– Jim: “I might need to make use of one of your nipples. Spoke nipples, that is.”
Tim: “I’m glad you clarified that.”
Breakfast with Andrew & Tim:
Mountains in the distance (south of us):