July 7: Harlem to Havre, Montana - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

July 7: Harlem to Havre, Montana

The Northern Tier follows the railway for weeks. The drivers grow bored and will toot their horn at the slightest wave.
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THERE ARE DAYS - just a few - when not one moment justifies description. This was one of them.

We are getting mightily bored with Montana. It is, as Steph said, Montanotonous. We are stuck on the US2, the only road across the plains that will link with the forthcoming excursion into Canada and Glacier national park. The road is quiet and busy by turns. It does nothing but

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reach from one place to another, none of them worth seeing except as relief, with nothing in between. We ride narrow and rotten shoulders - cyclists in America are second-class citizens not expected to ride on the main carriageway they have helped pay for - and as often as not with a headwind.

Even the service in our mid-morning cafe was so poor that we left without leaving a tip - a big statement in America, where generous tipping is seen as polite and even obligatory.

We were glad to reach Havre - pronounced Have-uh - in early afternoon not just because it put the day's tedium to an end but because we planned to take the tour of the underground city. The story is that the centre of town burned down in 1904 and the merchants, without timber to rebuild, started selling from their basements instead. Pretty soon the idea came to knock doors from one basement to another and an underground city was born. It had all the things you'd expect but also a brothel and an opium den.

Two local men opened it not long ago after many years' restoration. Much of what had been down there had

Under the city streets
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The brothel: numbers on the wall above the beds showed customers where to have the fun for which they'd paid
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vanished over a century, of course, but what is on show is both of the era, of the town and sometimes authentic. There's no pretence that what you see is precisely what was there but as a picture of this extraordinary early shopping mall, it's pretty good.

BOTTOM LINE: Havre is a well-nourished community. If there is truth in that Freddie Mercury song about fat-bottomed girls making the rockin' world go round then Havre deserves a Nobel prize for astro-physics.


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