Day 16 Hardin, MT to Wyoming Border

Posted by cgiblin2 on July 10, 2011 in Day 16 |

Day 16 Hardin, MT to Wyoming Border
Riding time today: 5:57
Riding time total: 99:16
Distance today: 63.40 mi
Distance total: 1,188.37 mi
Average speed: 13.2 mph
Top speed: 32.6 mph
Average cadence: 67 rpm
Max cadence: 100 rpm
Calories burned: 3,629

After checking out of my room in Hardin, late again I should add, I was off to ride an 85 mile day. This day was going to be quite different from the rest because there was essentially nothing except rolling grassy hills between Hardin, Montana and Sheridan, Wyoming. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to this day because of how remote I was getting. Let’s just say that the traffic on the I90 was substantially less past Billings, then substantially less again past Hardin. There were a few small towns that I located on the map, such as Wyola, however they were nothing more than a barn, or an abandoned barn…

Another concern of mine was riding through the Crow Agency. A lot of people I’ve met in Montana told me to get through that area as quickly as possible. I knew that I wanted to get through there quickly and in doing so, tried to keep a low profile.

Fortunate for me, the eastern winds had died down again, so at least i didn’t have to battle another headwind. But, what did slow me down was how much extra weight I was carrying in water and Powerade. I loaded up with four big bottles of Powerade and one big water bottle. All I could think about as I was riding was pacing myself with drinking. There could be no mistakes here in no mans land. If I didn’t conserve, it could be big trouble.

Roughly 20 miles in, I arrived to the museum of the battle of Little Bighorn (located in Crow Country). I thought it would be a good chance to take a 10 minute break before continuing on. At the museum, they had some vending machines with some ridiculously overpriced juice drinks. Although, it didn’t matter to me, I was more concerned with saving my own packed drinks.

Outside the museum, I met Jason and Lindsey from New York. They were on a road trip across the country and would eventually end up in Missoula, MT. They were seasoned travelers, so it was nice chatting with them about various destinations to see and experience. I would have liked to hang out with them under that nice shady tree for a while longer, but my destiny was in the 95 degree weather on the road with next to no trees.

Just as the motel owner from this morning had warned me, the hills were to get a lot steeper and more frequent than compared to Helena to Hardin. I didn’t know if he was exaggerating, or being completely truthful until I was at the 27 mile mark. Yeah, he wasn’t exaggerating, the rest of the way to Sheridan was going to be a long haul up the countless hills.

It got to the point after: being scorched by the sun with no shade whatsoever, seeing the same rolling hills again and again, watching the trip calculator barely move up due to slowly climbing the hills, and listening to the same techno music on my iPod, that I began questioning why I was doing this trip in the first place. It just wasn’t fun anymore. I had to use strategies such as staring at the pavement because looking ahead and seeing what I had to climb would be too unnerving.

Finally, I reached the Wyoming border and saw the moat gigantic state sign that I’ve ever seen, check out the picture below. As I was nearing the sign it began to sprinkle, however I completely disregarded the rain and the looming clouds as any sort of threat. I was in victory mode, and nothing could distract me from how nice it was to finally make it to a new state.

No more than 200 feet in front of me a semi truck makes an abrupt stop at one of the turnouts. At first I was thinking how bad his timing was because his truck was going to block my shot of my bike parked next to the sign. Meh, it wasn’t a problem. The driver got out of the passenger door holding a small dog. I greeted him with a simple “how’s it going?” After saying “hi” back, he proceeded to ask me if I knew about the impending hail storm that was moving 35 mph south (in my direction). He explained that there was a severe storm advisory on the radio station he was listening to warning people to get indoors. “I can give you a ride to Sheridan if you’d like” he said.

Hmmmm, I was now facing a moral dilemma as I was supposed to riding my bike across the entire country, not get rides here and there. One the one hand, I could risk getting caught up in a hail storm with hail the size of quarters, not to mention the lighting that went along with the storm. On the other hand, I could take this guy’s offer and play it safe. It was a tough decision in which I couldn’t answer right away. After a minute of deliberating on what choice I should make, I agreed and told him that I would love a ride. (Thanks again Mike for saving my bacon back at the border!)

I hoped up in his super cool Volvo truck and introduced myself. He introduced himself as Michael. We shook hands and we were on our way. Little time had passed when the storm was drawing closer to Sheridan and becoming more and more ominous. Looking back at the storm though the side mirrors, I sign of relief washed over me in knowing that I had made the right decision in accepting his offer.

Michael was going to be on I90 all the way until Sioux Falls, SD. He mentioned that I could ride with him the entire way there. It was a generous offer, but I should be riding my bike, not hitching a ride with him. As a veteran truck driver, he had also mentioned that severe storms in Wyoming and South Dakota can sneak up on you very quickly. Riding my bike through these plains with 70 to 100 miles in between towns, what was I to do if I were to get caught up in a hail storm with lighting? There is no shelter whatsoever. The only plan I had, which wasn’t much of a plan at all, was to layer up my windbreaker and my rain jacket and hope it absorbs the pounding of the hail.

I asked if he wouldn’t mind taking me to Gillette, where I could get a Motel 6, and start off tomorrow riding towards Spearfish. Michael agreed, and before I knew it, we were in Gillette. It’s amazing how much faster a motorized vehicle seems, after riding a bicycle for two weeks straight.

After having nice dinner at Pizza Hut, we were both ready to call it a day. He made it clear that his offer still stood in that he drive me to Sioux Falls tomorrow. I told him that I would sleep on it.

Back in my hotel room, I had weighed all of the pros and cons to traveling through the rest of Wyoming and South Dakota on a bicycle verses riding in Michael’s truck. Did I really want to face more of those freak storms that could crop up in the middle of nowhere? What would be my plan for being 50 miles from the nearest town in a giant hail storm? The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to ride with him through South Dakota. Once in Michigan and then Wisconsin, I would have towns much closer spaced together that I could seek shelter in if a severe storm were to occur.

What decision did I make?? Tune in tomorrow and find out! ;)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

1 Comment

  • stuart says:

    Just out of interest… have you ever watched a psycho thriller? Dude, it’s always the big rig driver!!!
    Haha… Hope you’re able to cover the miles without too much bad weather mate. And remember, when the times are tough, it’s just gonna make it that much more worth it when you get to the end. You’ll really feel like you’ve achieved something.

    And I mean that with or without a lift in the truck. You’re covering a whole country mate. A short ride in a vehicle to stay safe isn’t gonna get people saying you’re cheating or not doing it properly, cause the thing is, you’re out there doing it, they aren’t!

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