Day 17 (92 miles)

Trip Start Jun 13, 2008
Trip End Aug 09, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Montana
Wednesday, July 2, 2008

julie, brad, and i awoke this morning to find everybody vanished without a trace. while normally that might be cause to worry, we were overjoyed. before today, breakfast was scheduled from 6-6:30 in the morning. usually i would stumble out of my tent around 6:25, try to shove some food down my throat and then assemble my lunch of sandwiches and snack foods. if any of the early risers were on clean up duty, they would be hovering over us and trying to put everything that we wanted to use away. it was becoming a big source of friction because they wanted to wake up at 5:00 and leave by 6:00 (ack!), and those of us who wanted to sleep in as late as possible. now, us young'ns are on permanent breakfast clean up, so they get the food out and we put it away. it's so much better!

eastern montana is starting to get a touch monotonous. we've been following highway 2 for days now, and the pattern is: go over some small rolling hills, descend to a plain, bike by farmland for about 20 to 30 miles, see a stand of trees, a water tower, and a grain mill in the distance, arrive in a small town that may or may not have paved roads that hopefully has a gas station for restroom and water bottle refill...repeat. we've been told that these towns were originally settled in the early 1900s when land was offered very cheaply (one man said $1 per acre) by the rail company in an effort to increase the amount of freight on a newly constructed line. that's why every town on this line has a stop at the large grain mill next to the tracks.

today's silly town name: malta

today was a little bit different because we traded the heat for slightly cooler weather a 10 mph headwind. the wind was fairly calm for the first 20 miles or so, but it soon kicked up and created a real nuisance of itself. around the time we hit the town of dodson after 25 miles or so, we ran into a huge patch of road construction. we had to ride our bikes through 5 miles of gravel where the crews had pulled up all the asphalt. meanwhile, there was a pilot car leading traffic through, and they were kicking up tons of dirt that the wind was ever so kindly blowing right at us. it was a mess... once we were through the construction, we pushed through 15 difficult miles of hills and wind before arriving in malta.

in malta, we decided to hunker down for lunch. even though we were about halfway, we were already pretty tired. we asked a local about a good place to grab lunch, and he pointed us to a little restaurant that we never would have found on our own (it almost looked like it could have been out of business thought it was bustling inside) that served up a super tasty meatball sandwich. the atmosphere over lunch more matched that of a rainy day...we all were taking our sweet time hoping for a change in the weather.

once back out into the elements, we had much of the same for the next 20 miles. around mile 67, we found velva and the van pulled off on the side of the road, and we took a snack/water/stare into space forlornly break before continuing on to the next little town whose name i don't remember. after one last ice/water stop, we pushed off on the last stretch to camp. the last 15 miles into hingham were actually quite pretty. although we were still pedaling into the wind, in the distance we could see the hills that marked the boundaries of the milk river valley.

apparently, the gnats and mosquitos in harlem weren't so montana standards. when we reached our campsite at the milk river city park in hinsdale, situated just along the bank of the its namesake (whose valley according to some is mosquito capital of the world), an enormous black cloud of gnats swarmed out to greet me. the second i was off my bike, they were upon me, doing all their gnatty things: being a nuisance in general and trying to make their way into eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. i had to forego my usual stretch routine. instead i did the gnatty dance (i.e. jumping around, running in circles, and batting at the air) whilst setting up my tent. i didn't even get the rainfly up before darting inside to get away from them. even then, at least 20 gnats got through the entrance, and i spent the next minutes systematically hunting them down and smashing them. the team was joking about how strange it would look if a casual observer were to witness us when we were outside our tents. we must have looked certifiably crazy doing our little gnatty dances. most of the rest of the evening was spent inside my tent. i'd grab some food for dinner and run back to my tent, lube my bike chain and run back to the tent, brush my teeth and run back to the tent, and get the idea. it was quite an experience...
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