The Smorgasbord Day

Trip Start May 06, 2012
Trip End Jun 26, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Montana
Friday, May 18, 2012

What a day! It had everything: elation & depression, sunshine & snow showers, mountains & never ending patures, Bail Bondsmen & Dogs..... What a weird, wonderful, wacky day.

Having decided, or having had it decided for me by being so ill the day before, I set out on what was now Friday instead of Thursday. I had recovered but felt weakened from spending most of the day before in the bathroom - and not because I couldn't unlock it! Unfortunately, I knew I had my last major mountain to climb up, and if I knew that this would be part of the easiest bit of the day, I think I would have slept even worse than I had done given the worry of the last climb to come.

The weather was much colder, it is amazing how one day in the mountains it is a blistering high 80s and at night it drops into the 30s and this morning it hadn't climbed much out of the 40s. I set off and I have never faffed so much. Within the first 5m I had changed my seat height, altered the positioning of my cleats on my bike shoes and then had to stop to put on more cold weather gear as I wasn't warm enough. I think the nervousness about the climb had effected me. As it turned out there was nothing to fear

Unfortunately, I did spend alot of the rest of the day taking off and putting on clothes - I felt like a Jack in the Clothes Box, having to change at the whim of a child with A.D.D. My wardrobe change was precipitated by the ever changing weather and precipitation. I had everything from burning sunshine to rain, to sleet, to hail and even snow. And inbetween each wettening, the sun would pop out and I would need to derobe yet again. It was painstaking and sapping. 

In addition to every season, I also encountered every terrain from mountain to forest to never ending glade. I started, as mentioned earlier, climbing to the Marias Pass, which touches out at 5248ft. Fortunately, the purpose made road is a glorious path following a mountain river to its peak, which meant the gradient was constant and never too steep. With a trailing wind I managed to reach the peak in 2.5hrs having covered 17m, which was faster than I hoped and would be the last positive suprise for a few hours.

The Marias Pass also represents the Continental Divide. This Divide runs the length of the US and is best explained by the fact that every drop of water that falls on the Pacific side of the Divide will end up in the Pacific and any drop on the Atlantic side will eventually end up in the Atlantic - even though it is 3,000m away. Unfortunately for me, the Divide also lived up to it's billing because having crossed it my day was divided from delightful to hellish. 

I had hoped there would be a recuperative stretch of downhill but there was'nt because the 2,000ft of so I had climbed over 17m that morning would be given back to me over the coming 300 miles. And to add to this joyous discovery, my helpful tailwind reversed & blew straight and cold at me. So instead of descending at break neck speed I didn't descend at all and pedalled at brake speed. 

To add to this enjoyment it started to rain and I entered East Glacier 10 or so miles after the pass feeling a little sorry for myself. However, my disheartened state was nothing compared to the disheveled state of East Glacier. It is a sorry state of a town & that is too generous a description given there are only about 10 buildings each competing for the most delapidated award. This made me realise that I wasn't so badly off & so I soldiered on to Browning.

I came upon Browning from a hill so it was laid out fully in front of me. It houses 10,000 people and from the hill it looked like one of the most depressing places I have ever visited in the US. It turns out Browning is one of the murder capitals of the US with the rather disquieting distinction of having the most unsolved murders per capita in the US..... a fact I learnt a little later from a Bails Bonds Man - but more of that in a minute! 

Having passed Browning, which made the decrepid East Glacier look attractive, I headed on to Cut Bank. Which though better again was not a particularly welcoming place. I discovered that all 3 were part of the Indian Reservation. There are 5 major Indian Reservations in Montana and they are not renouned for their warmth, hospitality or prosperousness and Browning is renouned for being the worst of the lot. 
 My BailsBonds Man had only just had to return a TV and a Gun that he had bought from someone because they were stolen...... 

Having passed Browning, I had about 30m to go to Cut Bank where I planned to stop for what had become a long and arduous day. Especially given the wind was not being any friend of mine. Unfortunately, on my way there it started to sleat and then snow and directly into my face, as you can see from the pictures below. I struggled on but when I started to feel mightily cold and thought was cycling backwards given the wind I gave up.  And within 5mins I had been rescued by my Native American Bail Bonds man in his shiny pick up truck, who had responded kindly to my desperate thumbing and drove me to Cut Bank. 

He was a bear of a man, his left arm looked more knarly than an aged and twisted oak, which was unsurprising given he said it had been broken 7 times! This fact and his story that he had just had to return a Gun and a TV to the police because having bought them he had discovered they were stolen made me a little nervous. However, he was charming and interesting and on top of hearing about his 17 cars, he also told me that his business was booming given that of the 10,000 residents of Browning, 10 people on average are on their way to prison each and every day!

I arrived in Cut Bank with the sun now shining and a gale of a tailwind. This made me feel incredibly guilty about bailing out of the last 20m, so after an horrendous sandwich (I mean who accepts an order for a toasted sandwich and then when I ask it to be a bit more toasted answers that it is hard to toast it more because they only have a microwave!!!!) I decided I had to cycle to the next town, Shelby, a mere 24m away to assuage my guilt. However, with the help of the gail force wind I arrived just over an hour later and felt that my 100 mile (less 20) day had been extraordinary even if I had set off at 7am and arrived at 5pm!

I then checked into the Comfort Inn, and any roof and bed would have seemed comforting given how tired I was. After a greedily wolfed down full rack of ribs, I was in bed by 8pm. However, this was not before my last ying & yang moment. The view from my bedroom was hideous (though I did laugh to see a Bentley parked there!) but on the opposite side of the Motel there was an amazing Sunset to crown both literally and metaphorically a topsy turvy day. 

The mountain passes & open prairies, the sun & rain & snow, my 1st hitch hike it and my 1st dog chasing me down the road made my smorgasbord of a day feel like the whole 4,500m trip condensed into one amazing day..... and I would wake the next morning feeling like it had been!
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