Day 36 Simms to Great Falls, Montana: A New Dawn - Grampies on the Go - CycleBlaze

June 5, 2011

Day 36 Simms to Great Falls, Montana: A New Dawn

Dawn came to Simms and found us already up. We were eager to get going, and there were two reasons. First, having crossed the Divide and put the last pesky Pass and its foothills behind us, we looked forward to smoother (flatter) sailing and less rain.

A new dawn at Simms
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Butte near Simms
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Butte near Fort Shaw
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The mountains, behind!
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Second, in the restaurant last night, Dick and Debbie Gannon had invited us to breakfast at their place. The arrangement was to meet them at the post office in Fort Shaw, some 10 km further East. We would get together at 7, giving time for breakfast and then for the Gannons to attend church.

The 10 km cruise was the model for what we hope much of the trip to come will be. Quiet beautiful mostly flat road, pleasant scenery, quick progress. We came a bit early and had a look at downtown Fort Shaw. There are two churches, the post office, and one closed down store. The post office and churches are trim tidy buildings, larger and of better construction than surrounding structures. It makes sense that when a community pools its resources it produces things that are larger or better made than what individuals have. On the other hand, there are plenty of other societies in which public infrastructure is decaying while private wealth is ostentatiously displayed.

A man came along to pick up his Sunday paper, and as has always been the case he was both friendly and forthcoming about current concerns in the community. The biggest current concern is flooding of the Sun River. Everyone on the North side of the highway has had to move animals out of predicted harm's way. With the snow pack high as it is, and temperatures climbing, trouble is expected any day.

Closed for the year.
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Fort Shaw's only apparent store - closed "for the year"
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Neat public buildings at Fort Shaw
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Horses behind post office, Fort Shaw
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Dick appeared on time and led us in his car a short distance to the home of his friends Mona and Butch. Mona stashed our bikes in their garage for safe keeping. On the other hand had they stayed in front of the Post Office the chance that anyone in this community would have bothered them is basically zero.

Dick and Debbie's ranch is just a short car ride from the post office. The house looks out over wheat fields to one of several buttes in the area. This one is called Square Butte. Although winding down now and expecting their 17th grandchild in the Fall, they are real farmers. Dick had farmed thousands of acres, and now, I believe still has at least 640, with wheat, cattle, and grass.

Debbie and Dick Gannon, and their backyard
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Debbie had laid on pancakes, eggs, bacon, fruit, coffee, juice a proper breakfast banquet. To sit at the table with real farmers, to be invited into the home of local people, to be introduced to their friends, all these are a real thrill and an honour for us. Dick listened to our history of farming (11 puny acres) and why then meeting a real farmer would be a big thing for us. He gave the polite opinion what we were genuine farmers too.

Dick and Debbie's back yard
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Back Yard II
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Steve and Dodie at Dick and Debbie's
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Dick invited us to stay on, for a day, week, or month! But we were eager to go, having rested lots in Lincoln. If we wished to stay just a while while he and Debbie went to church in the other vehicle, we could just take his car down to Mona and Butch's. This trust, of course well placed in us, is still most impressive and touching. Dick and Debbie might well be good judges of our character, but these things we are describing are just as much measures of their own character.

These two, and many others mentioned in this blog, display values that you could easily come to doubt still exist, if you read the papers too much. Yet we have met so many, and as mentioned below, our experience is not at all unique.

Back at Mona's we discussed their impending move to a new house up the escarpement behind the river, Butch's collection of lovely (but crowded) shop tools, and lots of other things. We played with their two dogs, Rueger and Winnie, and generally had a fun visit there too!

Fran and Rueger
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Bikes stored safe by Fran and Butch
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Finally we sailed off down the flat road, through Sun River to Vaughn and finally Great Falls. This was an easy ride, but now instead of rain there was strong sun. We put on a fair amount of sun screen but still got quite red. When 'Summer' actually arrives on the Prairies, we will have to pay careful attention to sun protection.

Sun River - soon to flood?
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Mullan and Plummer revisited.
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Grand Falls next!
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Prairies ahead
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For Marius and Christian
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On the approach to Great Falls we encountered our first true 'Adventure Cyclists', Nick and Molly. See nickandmollysbicycleblog dot blogspot dot com It was of course great fun to compare notes, telling them what we knew of their road to come, and vice versa. Most importantly for us, they reported impassable construction on Hwy 2 East of Havre. We are changing our route as I write, jumping to Saskatchewan directly from Havre to avoid the problem.

Molly and Nick
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A Planet Bike that works!
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Looking at Nick and Molly's bike and gear was much fun, as we knew and probably had considered going with most of the pieces. Remarkably, Nick had a Planet Bike computer that was not an aquarium. Never had a problem with it, although he does take it in at night. Maybe Dodie's was just feeling unloved. Anyway, it got replaced with a $10 Walmart item today.

We wished Nick and Molly well as they headed for (god forbid) Rogers Pass, not to mention Lolo Pass later. We are happy it's them not us. On the other hand we see in their blog how glad they were to get off the Prairies (our 'new dawn' eh?)

Following a tip from the ladies in the Sinclair gas station in Vaughn, Dodie navigated us into the local fairgrounds, where camping is permitted, but at $25 with no picnic table, a bit pricey. One big advantage today is that the place is full of sheep. (We like sheep.) Another big advantage is that there is a power plug outside the washrooms in the sheep barn. With a table and chairs that we liberated from somewhere, we have set up our offices here. On the other hand, our attempts to collect washroom attendant's fees from farmers using the facilities have so far fallen flat!

Entrance to sheep barn office
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Campsite at the fairgrounds
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What we are buying and eating now - Oscar Meyer wins approval. Planet Bike get the boot.
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Office mates.
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This broadcast coming to you from in front of the Ladies
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Today's ride: 59 km (37 miles)
Total: 1,954 km (1,213 miles)

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