Day 39 Fort Benton to Big Sandy, Montana: Farewell, Shep - Grampies on the Go - CycleBlaze

June 8, 2011

Day 39 Fort Benton to Big Sandy, Montana: Farewell, Shep

We could not leave Fort Benton without another visit to the Wake Cup, where after one day we are already well known. The quality of the cooking is excellent and we learned that the cook is the Mom of the young woman that started the project. Taking one excellent bran muffin for the road, we cycled back through all the now familiar historical placards and up the embankment toward the railway station, now abandoned.

Above the station is Shep's Grave. Shep is a local phenomenon. The story goes that in 1936 the body of a shepherd was shipped out on the train. A collie type dog attended, and then met every train for many years, presumably checking for his master's return. The story was popularized and lives on strongly to this day. There is a Shep statue by the levee in town, a Shep child's story book, and Shep's grave on a hill over the station.

We followed the Mullan Road and now are on the Old Forts trail. Soon we will be on the Red Coat Trail in Saskatchewan. We just love "trails".
Heart 0 Comment 0
The teepee made famous in Nick and Molly's blog.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Weird old boat/house
Heart 0 Comment 0
Shep's grave on the hill above the statioon
Heart 0 Comment 0
The station
Heart 0 Comment 0
Farewell, Shep
Heart 0 Comment 0

Back out on the highway we reencountered our enemy the headwind, except it was now a cross wind. Fortunately the road quickly falls in to following the valley of the Teton River, which is on its way to Loma, where it joins Maria's River and then both merge with the Missouri. Along the valley, the cross wind was mostly at bay, as we proceeded beneath high bluffs.

Colourful bluffs above the Teton River
Heart 0 Comment 0
Poor birdie. What type?
Heart 0 Comment 0
Maria's River, famous in Lewis and Clark lore
Heart 0 Comment 0

A long hill signalled our exit from the valley, and the cross wind shifted into high gear. We plowed along, until reaching nearby Loma. Loma has two businesses, a restaurant and what maybe looked like a convenience store. Both are highly nondescript from the outside.

I was interested in a coffee, because I knew I had that excellent bran muffin stashed, but Dodie correctly pointed out it was our only chance for lunch. So we took a seat in Ma's Loma Café. The place inside looked normal and I guess it was normal, with the usual selection of burgers and sandwiches.

Dodie chose what at home would be some pretty effective comfort food - beef patty with mashed potatoes and gravy. What came did in fact have a beef patty somewhere in there, but was mainly powdered instant potatoes drowning in a brown flour based concoction. At $7.50 it made any McDonald's selection look both cheap and nutritious.

Exterior of Ma's at Loma
Heart 0 Comment 0
Interior decor item at Ma's
Heart 0 Comment 0
Dodie's power lunch!
Heart 0 Comment 0

When we climbed a long hill out of Loma, the cross wind now shifted into hyperdrive. We had pushed the bikes up the hill, but only with difficulty, as we leaned heavily to keep from being pushed over. At the top, Dodie kept walking, because she felt she could neither mount nor ride the bike. I had to agree, and we pushed on for a while. Finally I decided we would never actually get anywhere like this, so I got up on the bike and found that I could somewhat ride it.

The county had helpfully put wide rumble strips in our shoulder, and the wind kept trying to push me onto them. Still I demonstrated the hurricane stunt riding to Dodie and encouraged her to try it. At first she resisted, finding it frightening, but finally hopped on and was away.

The wind bowed over our flags and I was concerned the wands would snap. They did hold, but one flag blew off and will never be seen again.

Fighting against this wind again sapped Dodie's strength, and aside from the flu which she still has, she now had a tummy ache from the low grade chow at Loma. Dodie, of course, never quits, but the whole thing was taking its toll.

After some hours of this a farmer in a pickup truck stopped to see how we were doing. He offered the fun info that recently the wind had blown from this perverse direction for seven straight days. He said it does that when storms are coming, and informed us that it was already raining in Great Falls. He offered us his driveway as a place to rest, three mile ahead, and suggested we take it, since Big Sandy, our destination, was 20 miles (36 km) beyond that.

When we passed the farmer's gate we didn't stop. Dodie's head was down, eyes fixed, in full gotta get this done mode. She did get it done, but a lot of hours later. On the way I had trouble getting snacks or water into her - too weak, which is a vicious circle.

Endless sea of grass, with vast currents of air moving over it
Heart 0 Comment 0
Not roadkill. Dodie had just temporarily had it. I lay down beside her to keep any passing ambulances from stopping, and planned to revive her in 15 minutes. However, she had to wake me
Heart 0 Comment 0

We had always thought that if the distances between services proved too much for us, we could just throw up the tent, crawl in, and worry about it another day. But here, with our first real experiences of this problem, the culprit is a wind that both stops us from going forward and stops us from stopping! So far I have no answer to this, so that bloody wind needs to change its direction in life, or go away, pronto!

The fact that I am writing this must mean that we did eventually get somewhere, although I am not sure that Big Sandy really qualifies as a 'somewhere'. This assessment is still preliminary. It is based on the Quik Stop at the entrance to town being out of business, on the Rest Area where we are stealth camped being closed, and on the main street being populated by three sleazy bars and little else beside a closed coffee shop, the post office, and the city hall.

One strange touch to main street is a Wells Fargo bank, in a pristine building that would look fine on Bay Street, Toronto. Also the coffee shop, the Bears Paw - named after the nearby mountains - looks pretty good. We will find out more about this town tomorrow morning. Right now, our stealth camp is actually pretty high class being covered and with a good picnic table. There is no internet (no cell signal, no accessible wifi) to keep us up, and of course you readers can not be with us now either, so it's lights out and tomorrow will be another day!

Stealth camp at Big Sandy
Heart 0 Comment 0
Overview of our Big Sandy hotel.
Heart 0 Comment 0

Today's ride: 70 km (43 miles)
Total: 2,094 km (1,300 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 0
Comment on this entry Comment 0