Day 37 Great Falls to Fort Benton, Montana: Well, blow me down! - Grampies on the Go - CycleBlaze

June 6, 2011

Day 37 Great Falls to Fort Benton, Montana: Well, blow me down!

We climbed up the escarpment and away from Great Falls with some misgivings about not having visited the city itself. The fairgrounds border the box store area, which itself is within an extensive light industrial zone. Still being sick, we lacked the get up and go to check out downtown, or the interesting riverside trails and parks.

Dodie actually was much worse today, and we had visions of more dollar bills being vacuumed into the maw of the American health care machine. Instead, we decided to make a break for Saskatchewan, birthplace of the Canadian healthcare system.

Unfortunately, at the top of the escarpement nature unveiled a new challenge: A stiff, actually - very stiff, northeast wind. This dead on headwind made it a struggle to almost move forward at all. Any downhills were still "uphill". Feeling weak as she was, Dodie still fought on, but slowly. Hours went by, and we were still basically nowhwere. Nowhere in this context means that we had not moved all that far towards our target, Fort Benton. Nowhere also means that around us were no houses, no shelters, no trees. Just stubble fields or newly planted wheat or flooded fields.

Wide open spaces.
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At least its not completely horizontal.
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Not much shoulder in garbage truck land.
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Matching house and car.
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Flags bend in the headwind.
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Also. for the first 15 km the road (Hwy 87 - the Havre Road) was infested with garbage trucks from Great Falls. It also featured a shoulder of 16 inches, max. So here our new easy cycling world in reality was scary and tiring as could be, despite the reasonably easy slopes.

It was not too long before I began eying the roadside for spots where I could put the tent and stash Dodie, to try to rest and recover for another day. This plan, though, had some deal breaking drawbacks: Our experience with the tent made it pretty clear it would not survive in the velocity of wind that was going on, assuming I could get it up without the parts blowing all over. Also, the general layout was a slope by the roadside down to a ditch and then a field of crops. No real place for a tent. Finally, the weather forecast had an 80% chance of rain, and our plan had been for an easy 70 km cruise to Fort Benton ahead of the storm, followed by a restorative motel stay to watch the rain.

So what we did was our usual. We just kept banging our heads against the wind, hour after hour. Dodie dug deep for the strength to do this, but still not that much forward progress.

Big blue sky.
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Big blue sky II.
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Approaching storm. Better hurry!
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Ca anybody identify this guy?
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Two things then went in our favour. First, the county broke its heart and gave us a half decent shoulder. Next Dodie had the idea that we should reverse the usual order of our parade, and put me in front. She would then draft tightly behind.

And this did the trick! With me breaking trail Dodie was able to follow. Mostly free of the wind, the flat road became mostly flat for her again. What's more, the thunderstorms, which we could see on either side of us, constrained themselves to some thundering, and never did try to drench us.

We rejoin the Missouri at Fort Benton.
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Or at least, we beat those storms and found shelter, just in time. We rolled in to Fort Benton at 7:30 p.m. and went to one of the two motels, the Fort. Ten minutes after checking in the skies opened and now, two hours later, it is still pouring.

Of course it's any shelter in a storm, but the Fort Motel is by far the bottom of the barrel for North American motels. Somewhere online the owners styled it a 50's motel. That is actually accurate - little between its concrete block walls seems have been renewed for sixty years.

Tomorrow's forecast is for the storm to continue, so we will get to tour Fort Benton. Last year we were here with our van and spent a half day. Perhaps this time we will check out things we missed. It is a vary historic place, on the banks of the Missouri. On the other hand, if the rain carries on, it could be a day of Animal Planet on the TV and coffees from the Cenex across the street. (In which case we might even splurge and press the "Cappucino" button on their dispensing machine!).

Historic courthouse. Tomorrow, maybe lots more histori-fying.
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Today's ride: 70 km (43 miles)
Total: 2,024 km (1,257 miles)

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