Day 31 – July 1st – Final Day – Ashby, MN to Avon, MN – 78 miles – The Home Stretch

I arose early this morning to the thick dew covering the tent and grass. My clothing that I set on the picnic table to dry last night quite likely just became more saturated. Thankfully my cycling jersey and a pair of shorts were dry, so I would be fine.

Knowing time wouldn’t be an issue today, I biked at a leisurely pace along the trail.

Stops for the morning included a gas station in Brandon for a donut to compliment my on-the-go breakfast, the gas station in Garfield for an ice cream swirl, and the park by Lake Agnes in Alexandria where I had a religious conversation with an individual who had a slightly different opinion than myself.

In Osakis, I ate at the café downtown. There I met another cyclist going from Maine to Oregon. He was utilizing the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) routes which just recently were changed to incorporate the Lake Wobegon and Central Lakes trails.

From Osakis I continued on through West Union, Sauk Centre, and Melrose. In Freeport I met up with a friend at the park along the trail. In Albany, less than 7 miles from Avon, I stopped to visit some more friends. At the nursing home where I stopped for a quick visit, I wasn’t even able to go inside without individuals offering donations.

It was amazing to see the generosity continue all the way home.

I arrived in Avon at 5:47 p.m. to some family and friends.

1,993 miles is the official total for the journey. I have to tally up all of the online donations in addition to the $201 that was contributed along the ride. It should be right around $2,000. Thanks to all who supported this cause either financially, thoughtfully, or prayerfully. It has changed my life and the lives of many orphans. I hope this trip can inspire others to be involved in making this world even better than it already is.

Day 30 – June 30th – Fargo, ND to Ashby, MN – 80 miles

What a wonderful restful night.  After a day filled with uncertainty, and a much-needed night of rest, the sun welcomed me to a pleasant morning.  After a shower, I headed back to the tent to pack up the tent and the gear.  At the campsite, my fellow campers offered to cook me some breakfast.  I enjoyed the eggs and toast.  A bag of snacks for later in the day also accompanied the breakfast; I placed the bag in one of my panniers.

I gave my “good byes” and final expressions of thanks to all involved in my camping experience here at Lindenwood Campground before crossing the Red River, the border, into my destination state.

As I’ve progressed farther east, the humidity has become more of a factor.  Up until about Medora, ND or so, the air never felt heavy.  It never felt like the air was a constant obstacle that one had to plow or swim through (unless biking on one of my numerous days of headwind).  I felt that excessive humidity today as I entered the greatest state in the lower 48.  Because interstates aren’t an option for cyclists in Minnesota, I took highway 52.  With a great shoulder, good roadside scenery, and relatively low traffic, this road offers a great ride.

After Moorhead, I went through Sabin and Baker along highway 52 before arriving in Barnesville.  Subway was open and right along the way so I stopped in for a sub.  A phone call home updated the family of my location.  A 3rd refill of the fountain cup preceded my departure.  I hadn’t taken a picture in a while, so I photographed a sign in Barnesville:

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After Barnesville, highway 52 continued to be my path, but with a much less favorable biking surface.  The few cars travelling the road, and the wildlife I saw, however, made up for it.  This is a picture of a Bald Eagle nest just off of the road:

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While biking through Rothsay, the city with the world’s largest prairie chicken, I passed by a kid holding a sign that stated there was a lemonade stand one block ahead.  I proceeded to slow down and stop in front of a few kids, middle to late elementary school age, and purchase a cup of lemonade.  Because of the abundance of change my frame pouch was carrying, I grabbed half a handful of change, probably 75 cents worth, and gave it to the lucky lemonade sellers.  Their eyes lit up with the generous payment that totaled about 3 times as much as they were asking for the lemonade, and started to divide it up as they asked what I was doing and where I came from.  One of them said that their parents let a cyclist stay with them a few weeks ago, which was nice to hear.

Little stops like this never happen in a car.

Rothsay to Fergus Falls yielded little excitement, other than the fact that my miles of biking on roadway were over.  From here to Avon, the Central Lakes Trail and Lake Wobegon Trail would guide me home.

Coming into Fergus Falls, a quick stop at a café was the plan, but a missed turn led me off track from my desired path.  A brief stop to gain my bearings had me check my phone.  While examining the local eating options on Google maps, The Dairyland Diner was shown on the screen.  Approximately 600ft away, according to the maps app.  I turned around and saw it.  It looked good so I walked my bike over.

On the way in, my extroverted qualities shined through, probing the opinion of a customer leaving the establishment.  They gave an excellent recommendation, telling me this was a great place to eat.

Inside, a friendly, talkative staff welcomed me.  I ordered a burger, fries, and a drink.  Conversation continued (about my biking of course).  One of the waitresses mentioned I should talk to the owner, for he greatly enjoys cycling too.

My seven and a half dollars for lunch was reimbursed to me and given back as a $20 donation to my cause.

The owner told me that I’m “Living his dream”.  I know that he is not the only person who wishes to do something like this journey that I’ve been on for 30 days now.  Yet again, reinforcement for this decision that I’m so glad I made.

We had a great conversation, mid-afternoon, along with the rest of the staff there at Dairyland.  Great food, great conversation, and more contacts here in Fergus Falls.

It’s amazing what a missed turn or a detour on your route can yield.

In addition to Dairyland, Grotto Park is a must stop when going through Fergus Falls.  Otto the big otter is always ready for another picture:

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I then made it to the trail head of the Central Lakes Trail:

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My road miles were over, and the remaining miles of the trip began to dwindle.

Average speed increased as the trail provided a smooth, flat riding surface and no traffic to worry about.  I made it to Ashby, one of my favorite small towns, by early evening and set up camp at the campground on Pelican Lake in Ashby.  All new territory for the trip has ended, as I’ve biked to Ashby and back before from Avon.  I can now say that I’ve biked every single mile of the Central Lakes Trail and Lake Wobegon Trail.  Tomorrow I’ll hopefully be able to say that I’ve biked to my destination.

After setting up camp, hunger convinced me to eat.  I opened up my pannier containing food and saw the bag of snacks the fellow campers in the RV packed for me this morning.  I opened the bag to see what they packed.  I was happy to find a granola bar, a banana, and an apple.

Accompanying the snacks was a $100 bill in a plastic zip lock bag with a written message “God bless you”.

I sat on a picnic table by the shore of Pelican lake, eating one of the last bags of the box of goldfish crackers that I’d found on the side of the road in Montana, while watching this sunset like a movie in front of me:

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God is good.  And he has been with me every day of this journey.  Tonight is my last night of this life-changing bike tour.

Day 29 – June 29th – Jamestown, ND to Fargo, ND – 116 miles

After sleeping on an air mattress in the back of a Chevy truck last night, I was greeted by this:

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A full rainbow never fails to impress.

I slept pretty well, despite the fireworks. People were likely getting ready for the upcoming holiday.

Due to it’s proximity, McDonalds provided breakfast. Hotcakes, eggs, sausage, and a biscuit are pretty cheap here and there are plenty of calories which is exactly what a cyclist needs.

Around 8:00 a.m., I departed “The Buffalo City” and also the birthplace of the novelist and short story writer Louis L’Amour (for more info on either check out the links here: http://www.jamestownnd.org/ and http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_L%27Amour )

The weather was favorable and my time was good, making for a good morning ride. I decided that Valley City would be a good place to have lunch.

Valley City, a college town, was aptly named. I approached the city from the west going downhill, able to see the uphill climb on the other side of town, but I decided to worry about that after lunch.

Roby’s treated me well with a quality burger and fries, but the reason I chose this place, from reading the online google reviews, was the free ice cream bar with every visit. The well-deserved (at least I thought well deserved) ice cream made me happy before I continued back on my way.

The gradual climb out of town wasn’t bad. After awhile, I noticed a cemetery/memorial just off the upcoming freeway exit; it would be a good place for a break.

And it was. The trees offered good shade. I looked at some of the grave markers, watched some of the traffic go by on the interstate, and moved on after taking a picture or two:

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Fargo had a couple possibilities as far as hosts were concerned. I called one individual in West Fargo, but he was in the process of moving and had to be up early in the morning.

I messaged the other prospective host, but she was out of town and unable to help. One other message that I sent went unanswered all day.

There still remained one option however. A bike shop in downtown Fargo along with a community partnership of cyclists had a hosting description for cyclists. The phone call there went unanswered, but the description said to just stop by, even on weekends. So I figured I would do that.

Hunger pushed me along the West Fargo bypass to another Pizza Ranch. It was busy, but the food was fresh and once again did not fail to impress.

Ahead of me, I had what I knew would be one of the busiest areas of traffic volume on the entire tour. Rambow led me back along I-94 heading east, through the road construction (Which is much easier to go through on bike than by car. Biking past cars provides one of the most gratifying feelings while on the road). I-94 interchanges with I-29; I took that north until taking the exit to head into downtown Fargo.

After about 40 blocks, I found the bike shop. But, much to my dismay, I found the bike shop empty and locked.

A new predicament arose.

Because the bike shop was my last resort, the hopes of finding an arranged place to spend the night were growing dim along with the daylight.

After attempts at contacting 3 of the local hotels and motels, only to find them fully occupied (this was a Saturday night after all), my attention turned to campgrounds. Lindenwood Campground looked to be one of the only ones, so the trek began another 30 blocks or so south.

Two stops for directions and many views of the Red River later, Lindenwood Campground, and the line of campers waiting to find a camping spot in the campground was in sight.
Because of the location right on the river, and due to the healthy rainfall in the last month, many of the campsites here at Lindenwood surrendered to the unusually high waters of the Red River, unfortunate timing for the campground because of the peak camping season and ideal weather conditions.

Stealth camping immediately entered my mind as there were no camping spots left, with the exception of a single site but it contained a reservation slip on it. “No camping” signs dotted the areas and trails leading out of camping area “A”, the only area high enough to avoid the floodwater, giving me reservations on doing that however.

The darkness began to cast itself; I decided to ride along the river and consider my options.

Scouring the areas for good stealth camping spots, I pedaled Rambow around a picnic shelter. Abruptly, a man, coincidentally wearing the same Minnesota Wild hockey shirt I was (it was the only time I wore a t-shirt on my bike the entire trip because I figured it would be a short jaunt after the Pizza Ranch), stepped out from the picnic area.

I stopped.

He seemed a little surprised to see someone, let alone a touring cyclist. After some time, and finding him to be a fellow Minnesotan here for a hockey tournament with his daughter’s team, we continued a good conversation. Before telling him about my predicament, he asked me if I needed a place to stay.

As it turned out, he and his family ended up switching campsites with another family. Due to some unforeseen circumstance, they were unable to show up and the campsite (the one with the reservation slip I immediately concluded) was vacant.

This man told me he would consult his family and see if they still had the campsite, if so he would let me have it for the night.  If not, they would let me camp on their site.

Relief poured inside of me, flooding me like a campsite along the river.

Minutes later, I found myself as the center of attention, surrounded by the family and a few members of the girls hockey team. The openhanded generosity continued after a donation and a campsite reservation slip that they refused to take payment for.

Someone was watching over me again this evening.

While setting up my tent, an older couple in an RV next to me offered something to drink. They wouldn’t let me refuse, so I enjoyed a nice Coke while preparing camp. But, before the tent was set, an RV pulled up and a guy, who looked to be in his younger 30’s and slightly stressed, understandably, opened his window and asked if he could park his RV on the concrete pad.

I felt bad only using the grass portion of the campsite, so I willingly agreed.

He, and his family, were grateful, and they even offered to make me breakfast in the morning.

The day ended with a shower and a few mosquitoes in the tent, but it was alright; I had a place to stay :)

Day 28 – June 28th – Bismarck, ND to Jamestown, ND – 104 miles

I started the day off right with breakfast at Denny’s, about 10 blocks from where I stayed the night. My eyes remained fixed on Rambow while I ate inside the busy establishment. After the great breakfast, when paying at the cash register, I was surprised when I heard the hostess processing the payment make the remark “Oh! You donate too?”

“Yes I do!” Remembering that there is a Biolife Plasma donation center in Bismarck after she looked at my Biolife debit card, I put the pieces together. We talked briefly, including why I was wearing a cycling jersey, before I departed. The conversation, though brief, added another element reminding me of the decreasing distance to home.
Hwy. 10 paved the way for a wonderfully peaceful morning ride in rural North Dakota. This route, once again suggested by locals, not only offered a better view of nature’s beauty, but it also featured the low traffic volume I had forgotten after the last few hundred miles on interstate highways.

Backroads are the best way to tour (as long as the shoulder is decent). I would have missed all of these trees on the interstate:

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As the day progressed, crosswinds became a huge factor. By the time I stopped in Steele at a gas station to purchase overpriced gas station food, the wind was blowing a solid 25 to 30 mph at an almost perpendicular direction to me. It was still slightly at my back, but more of a crosswind nonetheless.

While sitting on a chair at table outside the gas station eating the food I overpaid for, a guy walked out of the gas station with a student council shirt on. Given my passion for this student group in high school (a member of the high school council for 3 years, attending 3 state conventions and 2 national conferences, and being elected president of our state association), I couldn’t let him just walk by without asking.
I stopped him and asked about his involvement. He turned out to be a senior at the local high school. Pressing farther, I asked him if he had attended any national conferences, only to be shocked when he said he was in St. Louis in 2011 at the STAR conference, the same one I was at with a delegation from MN. Here is a montage video of the conference: http://www.schooltube.com/video/cd630a66fdfa60a2da24/2011%20Star%20Leaders%20National%20Conference.

I continued on after a short rest break at the gas station.

The ride to Jamestown proved to be peaceful:

The stiff crosswind shown by the flag here at the rest area.

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This area flooded with water looked Like a few locations along the route today.

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Birds make their homes in these trees, probably knowing they won’t need to deal with as many carnivores or pestering squirrels.

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In Jamestown, I met up with the guy my hosts from last night put me in contact with.

The Pizza Ranch, located just blocks from where I was starting the night, offered a wonderful dinner for me after a windswept day on my bike.

Day 27 – June 27th – Richardton, ND to Bismarck, ND – 80 miles

My hosts provided food for breakfast and some to bring along with me, of which I was very grateful.

The first stop of the day was a few blocks away at the Assumption Abbey church. When riding to Richardton yesterday, the twin spires were visible from miles away. Up close they did not fail to impress:

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Some pictures of inside the church:

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I visited with one of the monks there. He explained the history of the Richardton area and the monastery there. As it turns out, during the Great Depression, the monastery here closed. Later on, the pope ordered some monks to go to Richardton to start the monastery back up again. And, to do that, he sent monks from none other than St. John’s Abbey, just a stone’s throw from my backyard back home.

Very interesting.

From Richardton I continued east across the expansive, monotonous territory I have come to know as North Dakota. Early afternoon gave sighting of the largest holstein cow in the world, Salem Sue.

I ate at the café next to the motel. It proved to be great food. As I was eating, the waitress starting talking about another biker who came through a couple weeks prior. He was going from New York to Oregon. I took a shot in the dark and asked if his name was Stephen. Strikingly enough, they nodded in disbelief as I explained to them that he stayed at my place overnight in Minnesota.
After the conversation of disbelief, I snapped a picture of Salem Sue from my booth and took off:

My destination for today would be the capital, Bismarck. I contacted Broken Spoke bike shop from my list of places to stay there, and they agreed.

I made it to Mandan (bordering the west side of Bismarck) in the late afternoon. This picture was taken at a wayside overlook of Mandan/Bismarck:

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After getting a quick bite to eat, the time arrived to bike through the heaviest traffic North Dakota had to offer and find Broken Spoke. Broken Spoke bike shop, located in a residential area of Bismarck, is run out of a garage by a son and his family as a hobby and a business. Interestingly, and thankfully for me, they also host cyclists in a camper they have right next to the shop. Many of the cyclists they host need bike work done when they stay; I was no different.

Back in Sandpoint, ID, and again in Livingston, MT, I checked the chain stretch of my chain to find that it would need to be replaced right around the eastern Montana to western North Dakota area. If one doesn’t replace their chain, the cogs on the cassette of the bicycle start to wear down and causes problems when trying to shift gears, resulting in a much more serious problem when out on the road, and an expensive fix.

Broken Spoke put a new chain on for me at a very reasonable price. After taking a shower, placing my things in the camper trailer, and paying for the chain, this wonderful family lit up the charcoal and proceeded to grill burgers, of which I was fully welcome to. I joined them for a grillout in what seemed like a backyard back in Minnesota. It really started to feel like I am closer to home today.

After the delicious burgers and watermelon, I headed back to the camper, wrote in the cyclist log book for Broken Spoke guests, and prepared for bed, ready for another long day tomorrow.

Day 26 – June 26 – Glendive, MT to Richardton, ND – 124 miles – Another great century ride

I departed from the campground early, along with some other oil workers.

Rambow continued to roll on despite the worsening rear wheel. Multiple spokes were loose now. At the final Montana rest area, in Wibaux, I discovered that a bike shop existed in Medora, ND, just 34 miles from the rest area.

After the rest area, I saw my final two Pronghorn, and entered a new state:

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Medora really surprised me. After Dakota Cyclery bike shop took care of my bike, I looked around North Dakota‘s biggest tourist trap. This “Old West” town, bordering Theodore Roosevelt National Park, is an interesting stop for anyone passing by on I-94. I took a few pictures here, but didn’t stop for long as my sights were set on Richardton, ND for the night where I had options of a monastery, host family, and camping for the night.

I contacted some hosts in Richardton around 3:00 in the afternoon. They were very willing to host me for the night.

The outlets outside the gas station off the Richardton exit gave me a quick cell phone charge to tell my hosts I’d arrived, and gather info as to the location of their dwelling place.
Passing through town, I spotted other touring cyclists. The couple from France started in Canada and were riding the Trans-America trail to South America. I love meeting other cyclists like this. Everytime I talk to some, I can’t help but think that it will likely be me in another country on my bike at some point in my life.

My hosts, once again, were wonderful. When I arrived, they offered food, a shower, and gave me the extra bedroom in the basement. The hospitality never ends.

The husband of the family and I found ourselves talking late into the evening about or mutual interest of baseball and the baseball card collections we have.

The terrain may be rather boring out here in North Dakota, but the generosity of people and the interesting conversations that happen make up for it.

I was told this evening to check out the Abbey church just a few blocks away in the morning. From experience, I’ve learned to listen to the locals. And, by lack of other things to do or see in this state, I had nothing to lose.

Day 25 – June 25 – Miles City, MT to Glendive, MT – 80 miles

I utilized the McDonalds in town for a quick breakfast before getting up to the freeway exit to start the day of cycling. My route continued northeast on the freeway alongside the Lewis and Clark trail on Old Highway 10 and the Yellowstone River.

Dizzy Diner provided a good lunch in Terrry, MT. I had the special, attracted by the price and not the food itself. The bacon-wrapped beef hot dog was better than expected however, and the fries were of good quality. A caramel roll topped off the meal, and I left after taking a picture of the fine establishment:

Nothing surprised me all of the way to Glendive as the landscape continued without change.

Getting to Glendive, numerous options concerning where to stay confronted me. Makoshika State Park was an option, but it was still on the southwest part of Glendive and it would include a bit of a trek off of my intended path.

I looked on my phone and found a campground on the east side of town. After haggling over the price of my site for the night, I landed a considerable discount. The campground, close to the western border of North Dakota, was quite full for it being mid-week. Then I realized many of the campers there likely housed people in the oil industry. The oil boom even had an impact out here.

My campsite was nestled between two guys working in ND and a mother and son from Canada who were visiting relatives down here in the states. The Canadiens offered me some of their food, which I gladly accepted to compliment my chili, while the two buff oil workers offered nothing but loud music and obnoxious shouting between them.

This is my last night here in Big Sky Country.

Day 24 – June 24th – Forsyth, MT to Miles City, MT – 50 miles

After getting packed up and the tires back on Rambow, I stopped at the workplace of my host to give a final good bye. While I was there, a lady from the local newspaper stopped by and jotted down info for a newspaper article.

I was told of spots I could eat and camp along the way east of Forsyth, said goodbye, and headed off.

The new 28mm tires that I put on really felt good on the ride.  The decreased surface area of the tires on the road helped my speed and coasting ability despite the crosswinds and headwinds that I fought with east of Forsyth.

I noticed a broken spoke on my tire and some loose ones just 7 miles out of Forsyth. Thinking that this likely came from my whole ordeal the previous 2 days, I became nervous not knowing how well it would hold up for the next 200 miles til the next big town, Dickinson, ND. I rode on.

The 2nd dog attack of the trip happened just west of Rosebud, MT. About 100 feet before passing the driveway, I noticed a dog get up from it’s perch on the deck next to the house. It proceeded to bolt toward the road. I sped up and made it to the intersection of the driveway and the frontage road just before the dog made it. No harm done.

My route parallelled the Yellowstone River all of the way to Miles City where I decided to spend the night. At the Dairy Queen, one lady donated $15 to the cause. Multiple other people inquired about the trip, as usual, and one couple also looked at my bike and talked to me about it as they themselves did some cycling too.

3.7 miles separates the Miles City Dairy Queen and the Big Sky campground where I stayed. Big Sky campground has been the best camping experience so far. They gave me a great break on the camping rate. $5 got me a tent site, shower, pool access, wifi in the entire park, and a porch area by the clubhouse. Not to mention the wonderful people I would meet.

I lounged at the porch by the clubhouse, eating my goldfish crackers and cookies from church yesterday morning. As I typed away on this blog, I met a couple from Belgrade, MN. After chatting with them for a while, the owners of the park offered me some free food and drink. I politely declined as I was still full from Dairy Queen, but I did accept a can of Coke.

On the way back to my campsite, in the corner but still with good wifi reception, I struck up conversation with a couple who were camping at the site next to me. They were very nice. We talked for over an hour about their travels and mine. They gave me more inspiring words to keep on my mission, not just for this trip, but for my life. I will always remember them.

The day came to a close in the northeast corner of the half-full Big Sky campground in my tent. I was ready for another day.

Day 23 – June 23rd – Rest day in Forsyth, MT

A relaxing, hospitable day followed yesterday’s crazy night.

I attended church at Immaculate Conception Catholic church at 9:00 a.m.  After mass, snacks were served in the gathering area on the way out of the church.  Making my way into line to be served, a sociable, older man started conversation.  Soon after, a small group of people were talking with me.  Before getting any food, someone donated $10 to the cause and many were fascinated with my trip.  The servers of the snacks were quite interested as well.  At the table, I talked with the friendly people of the church before leaving.  Getting ready to go, a surprise gift consisting of the extra snacks packed up in a box for me on my journey was presented to me from the servers.

I couldn’t move without experiencing hospitality.

I walked back to the host’s house, not far from the church, taking in every breath of warm, refreshing, Montana air.  The temperature, sunshine, and lack of pestering mosquitoes really allowed me to enjoy this time off of my bike.

My hosts, wonderful as they are, continued garnering support from the community and really became an ally to raising awareness and support for my cause.  Before we left to Billings, a stop at Top That Eatery yielded me free lunch (I know you economics buffs out there will dispute this and it’s true, there is no such thing as a free lunch).  The workers there knew who I was through the Facebook vine even before I set foot in the place.

Everyone in town knew me.

The 100 mile drive to Billings retraced the route I traveled just the day before. This time, however, much faster and without incident.

The Spoke Shop was open today and offered what Rambow (my bike) needed to get back on the road again. I knew the tires I had were a large part of the plague of flat tires I’ve had so far, so I looked at tires as well as getting extra inner tubes.

I left the Spoke Shop with 2 new tires and 4 inner tubes. My gracious, generous hosts ended up purchasing the tires to contribute to my cause and the guy assisting with the purchase gave me the inner tubes for half price.

The generosity continued.

After enjoying some cookie pizza and ice cream to celebrate the birthday of one of the daughters of my hosts, we drove back to Forsyth.

I put one of the tires on my bike before it was time for the showing of Man of Steel at the Roxy Theatre in town.

The hospitality continued with free concessions for me.

The evening ended with some pizza and the installation of the new tires on my bike.

Day 22 – June 22nd – Billings, MT to Forsyth, MT – 92 miles biking, 8 miles via Rosebud county squad car

The title might lead you to believe that this has been the most interesting day of the trip so far.

It has been.

Leaving from Billings, I took Old Highway 312 through the small towns of Huntley and Worden. Stopped at a small grocery store for some fruit and a can of chilli, waved to a few people at the gas station, and went back on my way.

Went past the historical marker at Pompeys Pillar, the site where a skirmish took place between a few Lakota Native Americans and a surveying group led by George Custer:

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About 1/3 of the way through the day, while at a rest area, ominous, dark clouds began approaching from the west. I proceeded to check my phone radar and confirmed my suspicion that it was going to rain. I hopped on my bike and pedaled 9 miles to the small town of Custer.
At the gas station, I was notified of the covered park shelter a few blocks down. The park was very nice. It even offered electrical outlets and an extension cord to charge my phone at the picnic tables sheltered from the wind and rain.

The cafe at the top of the hill just east of Custer provided an astoundingly affordable and delicious fish sandwich and chips. A local park ranger eating at the place gave me some information on places to camp for the next few miles, but I wanted to make it farther. The Hysham hills were a terrible surprise. I figured the hills were over long ago, but these rather steep slopes proved the landscape still didn’t lay flat.

I made it over them somewhat easily and decided to carry on after passing Hysham. Forsyth was my new goal for the day.

I glanced at the beautiful sunset behind me a few times and watched the full moon risefrom the horizon:

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10 miles from Forsyth, disaster struck.

The second flat of the day happened just as it began to get dark. That was okay, I would just change it and still make it to town at a reasonable time, for I was moving at a pretty good pace. At the semi-dark 10:00 p.m. hour, my new inner tube was filled, tire in place, and my gear was getting packed in the panniers, when a surprising Pop! sprang from my tire.

I watched it happen.

The tire, the one that I had folded in my bag for 2 weeks, likely wasn’t set on the rim properly. It was forced out of the rim from the pressure, putting stress on the inner tube and causing it to blow.

Nice.

Optimistically, I reached into my bike bag for another inner tube only to realize that was the last one.

If cyclists have a nightmare that doesn’t involve crashing, it is either this or running out of water.

I began walking in the dark at 10:30 or so. After 2 miles, the mountain lions came out to play. Hearing them less than a mile, probably only a half mile away, really started to make me nervous.

I ended up flagging down a car at about 11:00. They were the nicest people. They called the local deputy and I would get a ride to town. They also offered me a place to stay for the night.

The ride in the front seat of the Rosebud County squad car was much nicer than the back seat I figured. The deputy that gave me a ride ended up taking down the info for my blog and for the orphanage website. He dropped me off right at the host’s house with my bike.

I was ready for a good night’s sleep.

Day 21 – Rest Day in Billings, MT

My wonderful hosts insisted that I stay a day, so I did. The rest, well deserved, helped me learn more about the area.

Took a tour around the city, drove through Native American reservation land, saw a house that was built on Extreme Makeover Home Edition, and had a great conversation with the other cyclist.

My hosts provided great food and conversation. Despite not making it any farther physically on the journey today, the rest and history of the area made the day productive.

Day 20 – June 20th – Bozeman, MT to Billings, MT – 143 miles – A personal best single-day mileage total

Yep. You read that right folks. 143 miles today. I didn’t anticipate making it this far at the beginning of the day, but helpful tailwinds for the first couple hours of the morning and early afternoon really helped my cause.

Bozeman Pass was the first obstacle of the day. Not too hard, but a steady climb for sure. On my way down from the pass, severe crosswinds blew over a fifth-wheel and a truck into the ditch.

Bozeman Pass:

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At the top:

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In Livingston I stopped at a small bike shop for a little tune-up, and they said those blowovers are pretty common.

After eating at Gil’s Goods, just a few blocks down from the Timber Trails bike shop, I was ready to rock and my bike was ready to roll. Due to construction, I took Old Clyde Park road out of town. And, before reaching the interstate, had a nasty encounter with the forceful wind as I biked south across the Yellowstone River.

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Back on the road.

The wind pushed me along. Mile after mile.

Across the high desert of central-eastern Montana I went. In Columbus, surprised at the rate I was cycling, I was able to find a host in Billings, still a little ways to go, and it was starting to get late.

About 20 miles west of Billings:

After the sunset, two flat tires, and 143 miles, Rambow (my bike) pulled into the driveway of my hosts. I was greeted warmly and offered a shower and food.

Ended the day sitting around a campfire with the hosts and a fellow cyclist who was staying with the same hosts as well.

Day 19 – June 19 – Townsend, MT to Bozeman, MT – 65 miles

Sleep was rather difficult last night.

After the local riff-raff from the bar finished wandering the park and exchanging their “goods” (around 11:30 p.m.) I figured the rest of the night I’d be able to sleep easy.

The water sprinklers at 3:22 a.m. proved me wrong. Two sprinklers in particular had a direct spray on the tent every time they spun around. It would have been worse if I placed the tent over the top of one, which would have meant certain soaking, but the tent held up formidably, and all belongings stayed dry.

Other than that and the four trains that passed through the night two blocks away, I was able to sleep.

Laughing about the previous night, my eyes set sights on Bozeman. Three Forks, the halfway mark, offered a Subway that I utilized for lunch.

It was here in Three Forks that I began journeying on interstate 90. The faster traffic, flat roads, and wider shoulder provided a faster, easier means of cycling, but at the price of much less picturesque landscape to lay one’s eyes upon.

I utilized the facilities at the rest area near Bozeman and spent some time in the shade working on this blog until the rain clouds began approaching. I hurried off to get to my host’s house.

Thankfully he was off work early today, as my arrival was premature of the agreed on time. He showed me the fully furnished guest house where I could spend the night and suggested a co-op down the road in town for dinner. After showering, while a brief shower passed outside as well, food was priority.

I usually tend to listen to the locals when it comes to places to eat and routes to take. Listening to the co-op suggestion paid dividends. This place on the main drag in downtown Bozeman (one of my favorite cities) offers many different organic food and fresh food options. Today, Asian food was a special where you could fill your plate and pay by the pound. They also offered a deli and sandwich options. All of this was at a surprisingly good value.

The rest of the evening consisted of watching hockey, working on the blog, and conversing with my great host, who had been a park ranger for the National Park Service for over 20 years.

To me, Bozeman is one of those great cities I would like to live in. Maybe some day I will.

Not much to see today:

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Day 18 – June 18 – Helena, MT to Townsend, MT – 34 miles

After a free, pleasant breakfast, a long but gradual climb out of Helena and a brutal 15-25 mph constant slap in the face of a headwind created a nightmare. 34 miles is all I could bear today.

Slow climb out of Helena:

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Nothing has irked me more than the incessant ESE wind that I’ve been battling with for 3 days now. Today was by far the worst. Going on flat road east of Helena, and even downhill as I passed Winston in sight of Canyon Ferry lake toward Townsend, coasting at all was unthinkable. Cycling in a slight breeze is one thing, but on a touring bike with 35+ pounds of gear, extra wind resistance, and a 20 mph wind in your face, not to mention 90 degree temperatures, going any measurable distance is brutal.

North end of Canyon Ferry lake in the distance:

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Arriving in Townsend and locating a park, I ate to replenish my energy supply and sat down to consider my options. 35 miles remained to get to the next town of Three Forks. That would match the distance today plus add an uphill climb as the route follows the Missouri River upstream. Noticing clouds building in the sky, wind continuing, I checked the radar on my phone to discover the area was in a thunderstorm watch.

That was the final straw. I decided to hunker down for the rest if the day and night. An elderly lady walked by as I sat in the shade of a tree on a park bench and asked if I would be camping the night at the park. Not knowing if that was commonplace, she went on to say that people often camp in Colonial Park. 10 minutes later I had my place for the night after calling the city office and verifying it was okay.

I feel financially this may work out better as I would have had to pay at my intended destination (Missouri Headwaters State Park) and I’ll still be able to make it to Bozeman tomorrow where I contacted and confirmed a host.

As I finished eating my chili and noodles in the park, two boys from town biked over to inquire my situation. They were intrigued at the thought of going hundreds of miles by bike. Our interesting conversation was cut short as their friend was anxious to get to their favorite pond by the river to catch snakes, a rather popular activity for the youth here.

Not long after, some members of the Rotary Club brought tables on trailers to the park. I decided to offer some assistance. They were grateful for the help, and I was glad that the leather work gloves my mother suggested I bring along finally found some use on the trip. Thanks mom!

One of the Rotarians turned out to be from Richmond, MN, little more than 10 miles from where I’ve grown up. We talked for a little while. It was nice to get some sense of home while still being 900 miles away.

Evening arrived and I found myself writing these words and charging my phone when an older couple walked from the gas station with some food. They sat at a table near to me. Before I knew it, I was once again telling the story of my adventure and cause. The couple, from Bozeman, found it fascinating and took down my blog site. They then left, but not before giving me the last two peices of chicken they had.

I set up camp as darkness settled over the park, ready for a night of sleep. Little did I know that’s not what was in store.

Very wide open around the west side of Canyon Ferry lake by the town of Silos:

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Day 17 – June 17th – Clearwater Camping Area at Junction of Hwy. 83 and Hwy. 200 to Helena, MT – 90 miles

Packed up camp relatively early this morning. A coating of dew lined the outside of the tent after a relatively pleasant night. I stopped at the rest area right off of Highway 200, one mile from where I camped to do a quick cell phone charge and water bottle refill.

I was off.

Two things really started to get to me today. First off was the climbing. Hills would take me up a little ways, but then, much to my dismay, they would go down again. One would think going down would be great, but when you know that crossing a mountain pass is on the agenda for the day, you don’t want to go down until you’re over the pass.

By far the largest inconvenience for the day, however, was the wind. I chose to go west to east for the principal reason that the winds are almost always from the west, making it easier for me to pedal along. The opposite was true today.
A perfectly horrible ESE wind blew into my face almost all day.

One event that could not be overlooked today was the dog attack. About 15 miles west of Avon, MT, I was passing a residence not too terribly far from the road. As I was even with the house and passing by, a sprinting, barking dog bolted from behind an old, rickety fence.
My pedaling rate instantly doubled.

I reached the maximum running speed of the dog as it was within 5 or 6 feet of my bike. The distance between the dog and myself grew slowly until the dog gave up about 1/5 of a mile from the house.

That was too close for comfort.

The turning point for the day was definitely reaching the pinnacle of MacDonald pass at 6,325 ft.

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From the scenic overlook just on the east side of the pass, the landscape opened up, and in the distance (and a long way down) was the beautiful capital city, Helena:

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The exhilarating ride down included passing semis and logging trucks at speeds up to 35 mph. I could have went faster, but knowing a little mishap would mean serious injury at best, I played it safe on the speed.

After exhausting all momentum at the bottom, 10 miles separated me from the discounted motel room at Super 8 that I reserved a few miles back when I was at the cafe in Avon (Ironically Avon, MT marked my halfway point of the trip to Avon, MN almost to the mile).

It seemed like a joy ride would ensue the next 10 miles until I looked behind me. A dark wall of clouds made their way over the mountains behind me :
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The rain drops began to fall as Super 8 was in sight.

I made it.

Today easily rivaled the day I went over Washington Pass as the most difficult day of cycling I’ve had.

Small town of Ovando:

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The Stray Bullet is an excellent stop:

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Saw an elk and antelope today:

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Picture of clouds in Helena:
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