July 6: Saco to Harlem, Montana - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

July 6: Saco to Harlem, Montana

TODAY WE FOUGHT with Old Testament heroism. There's not much to say except that the wind blew us all the way to North Dakota and then all the way across it. Today in Montana we flung the chain up on to the biggest sprocket and kept it there all day. When the wind was judged insufficient, lightning storms gave a proper Biblical air to our passage.

Up, down, up, down - never gaining, never losing height
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The sole point of interest was where the Sundance Kid proved a dunderhead. The sign at the spot, beside the road and within sight of the railway, says Butch Cassidy was there as well. Other accounts say he wasn't. Given the way things turned out, he may have kept quiet about it.

We passed the train station in Malta. It was wooden and appealingly painted. Back on July 3, 1901, several men boarded the Coastal Flyer there. The train gathered speed and the men crawled forwards to the locomotive, where they threatened the driver and ordered him to stop beside a fire lit by an accomplice with the suitably criminal name of Deaf Charlie. He waited there with dynamite and horses.

Montana has an appealing style when it comes to describing its past.
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It took several attempts to blow open the safe on the train and the gang rode off with "eight hundred sheets with four notes on each, being three ten-dollar and one twenty-dollar bills." They also helped themselves to $500, a bag of silver coins, a roll of silk and a parcel of watches. They were after the sheets of notes, which they planned to cut to size, but they were worthless because they hadn't been signed.

Sundance and the rest were doubtless put out but they spent what they had. Their big-spending attracted attention, though, and their money was traced and they were all arrested. All except the Sundance Kid, who had ridden off into the sunset as any self-respecting bank robber should.

Losing money like that, whether it was yours in the first place or just what you took from others, is a theme of villages here along the High Line. In Dodson, where we paused for a drink, the owner looked up from the meal he was eating on the only other table and said: "Why don't you folks give up this travelling and come and settle down in Dodson?"

Like everywhere else, Dodson needed new blood. The grain elevators, those cathedrals of the plains, keep them alive. That and a couple of other employers now and then. But their days are numbered. They are waiting for the tumbleweed to blow down the street. The bars in Dodson, and there were a surprising number, have all closed. Where we were drinking, once a shop and a separate cafe, is now a couple of poorly filled rows of shelves in one half of the building. Young people can't find work, so they go. When they go, there's nothing left to attract work. It's a vicious circle.

Saco, down the road, was more Romanian than American. Only the US2 looked paved. Every road that led from it was gravel. Harlem is resisting. It has hope and hope changes the look and then the prosperity of a place. There is a black and silver sign on the wall of the combined council and police office that calls "Welcome to Harlem. Bicyclists camp here."

View from the tent: nice to know you're welcome
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Cyclists may not spend a fortune but, when there is no camp site and no motel, they are the only people to spend the night. And they buy groceries and perhaps a meal and the village gains a little trade and perhaps saves a job for just the price of a patch of grass that would have been there anyway.

A swimming club is enjoying itself in the neighbouring pool, where we are allowed to take a shower. The weather is now better and the wind has dropped. The sky is a mix of blue and white. I think I should write a poem...

AMERICAN FLAGS SEEN: 19

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