Day 26, Havre, MT to Malta, MT: 90.3 miles, 1,240 ft. elevation gain, 13.2 mph average speed.
Trip Totals: 1,202 miles (60.1 daily average), 63,701 ft. elevation gain, 11.5 mph overall average speed
Four days behind schedule.
Some of you might think that our ride recaps can be a little long. For anyone that has that opinion, here is the abbreviated summary of today:
Hot. Long. Hot. Prairie. Hot. Happy ending.
That’s the day in a nutshell. Now for a little more detail.
We’ve been doing much better at getting an early start over the past few days. It’s amazing how willing and eager Dani has been to wake up at 5:00a. It’s way out of character for her, but a few rides in midday heat and the fear of potential headwinds have overcome her fierce desire to sleep in.
All that being said, we got a really late start today. In many ways it was out of our control. Our new tent didn’t arrive when it was supposed to, so we had to wait for the post office to open at 8:30a. But then we slept in a little too late and we didn’t end up getting on the road until a little after 9:00a.
It was already getting uncomfortably warm, and the late start also ended up creating a bit of a psychological challenge as well. We’ve been pushing ourselves to see how many miles we could ride before 9:00a, 9:30a, etc. as a way to keep ourselves motivated. Yesterday, for example, we were stoked to finish the 42 miles between Shelby and Chester before 9:30a. So when started off at 9:00a, it felt like we were already 40 miles off pace and we were intimidated by the prospect of our 90 mile ride for the day. But intimidated or not, we had no choice but to ride, so off we went.
A couple of miles down the road I noticed a truck with flashing lights veer into the shoulder behind us. Before I could even start freaking out properly, the truck started honking. They honked long enough to make it clear that they were honking at us, so I yelled up to Dani and we pulled over.
“I got a 30 ft. load coming up, and y’all aren’t gonna want to be on the road. You better get down into the ditch until it passes.”
Uh, OK. We got off our bikes and headed down into the ditch, and then this passed us.
This was a bit of a continuation of a theme. Yesterday (during the rumble strip shoulder part of the day) we were passed by a couple trucks carrying houses on their beds that were as wide as the entire road. After the second or third time being forced off the road, Dani started (fruitlessly) yelling at the passing trucks, inquiring why people don’t just build their houses where they want to live.
Anyway, we got back on the road and pedaled on. It was approaching 90 by 10:00a, and well beyond by 11:00a. We spent much of the late morning and early afternoon counting down the miles until the next town so we could get (at least two liters of) cold drinks, snacks, and fill up our water bottles with ice at the fountain machine. Those insulated water bottles Dani talked about have been absolute lifesavers. We pack them full of ice and just top them off with water. Then, when we’re riding through the 95 degree heat, we’ll drink the cold water and reuse the ice to chill more water. We generally get 3-4 cold refills out of each bottle of ice. The cold water is manna from heaven. There is nothing worse than having to drink 95 degree water on a 95 degree day.
Cold drinks were our main focus as we pushed through the prairie past Chinook and Harlem. The drivers this morning weren’t the friendliest and the shoulder wasn’t the widest, so Dani took a break and took a picture of this whimsical sign to cheer herself up.
The group is called Cycling 4 Change. Two brothers and their families started a nonprofit and are riding across the country to raise money to fight human trafficking. The families consist of a mom, dad, and four kids each (four boys and four girls), and they have two unrelated college students riding with them. Three people are cycling the entire route, and everyone else is biking sections. They gave us cantaloupe, chocolate milk, sports drinks, and bananas as we chatted, a welcome treat with 10 miles to go! They are wonderfully generous and kind people who believe deeply in their cause. It was wonderful to meet them and we wish them the best of luck in their endeavor.
After we said goodbye to the Cycling 4 Change folks, we finished the last 10 or so miles into Malta, where we are staying with a couchsurfing host. More kindness. More generosity. Terry welcomed us into her home and had lemonade waiting for us. And puppies. The cutest Boston terrier siblings who cuddle like they’re posing for a puppy calendar. We jumped through the shower, and then we feasted.
Steak, baked potatoes, asparagus, grilled mushrooms and onions, macaroni salad, green salad… so much amazing food!! We ate until we thought we would burst, and then we headed off to sleep in a super comfortable bed.