7/1/2021 – Conrad to Great Falls, MT

62.47 Miles / 925.63 Total Miles

1404 Ft. Elevation Gain / 45,468 Ft. Total Elevation Gain

Did anyone notice that we are 22.7% of the way through our miles and days for this trip? But who’s counting, right? We are! Ed and I are both into numbers, and we met another rider today who enjoys looking at the same numbers we do.

The alarm went off at 3:30 AM, this morning, and I thought I was going to die. Why would any retired person my age want to wake up that early? Here’s why: We had a goal to be out the door by 5 AM, including cooking, eating and cleaning up after our breakfast. I was ready on time, and this time, it was Ed who was just a couple of minutes late. I can’t let it go to my head, though, because I’m not sure I can beat him getting ready more than once. It was still dark, when we hit the road, so when the sun came up over the hay fields, we stopped to watch it.

Sunrise over the hay field.

We spent most of the day riding on a frontage road to US Highway 15. Up here, frontage roads often don’t even run along the freeway–they could be 1/2 mile away, and, at least where we were, there were very few cars and trucks on the frontage road. I thought farmers were up and at it early, but there were no signs of life for 2-3 hours, as we passed miles and miles of crops, silos and farmhouses. We blew through the town of Brady, just 14 miles out from Conrad, where there were only a couple of vehicles on the road and just one farming related business open. I was shocked.

Another 16 miles up the road, was a little town called Dutton. We were needing our morning break and snack, so we decided to look for a place to get second breakfast. There was a diner right on the corner of the frontage road and the town’s Main Street, but it wasn’t open yet, so we headed into town.

Dutton’s American Legion hall had its own Air Force jet. Don’t know how they scored that, and forgot to ask the locals.

And that’s where we noticed a business on the left with several cars parked out front–obviously a breakfast spot. When we pulled up, another fully loaded cyclist was getting ready to leave–a fella around our age from Virginia named Paul. He’s been on the road for 29 days and is taking a more random approach to his ride than we are. He just retired and is taking his time, which means he has time to wing it on when and where to stay and for how long. He arrived in Dutton yesterday, in the heat of the day. But the town doesn’t really have any lodging, so he planned to camp in a park. So he went to the public pool to cool off, and that is where one of the locals found out about his camping plan and hooked him up with a gal who has a 5th wheel trailer she rents out to visitors. Don’t know if Paul paid for a night in the trailer or got a free stay, but he was sure happy to have been so nicely accommodated. It turned out that his host was Lily, the owner of Lily Bean Coffee, where we planned to eat. We exchanged a few stories with Paul, then headed in to order some food.

The people we met both inside and outside Lily Bean were all so friendly. Word had traveled to everyone in town that Paul had spent the night in Lily’s trailer. On our way out the door, we met a young family that was out for a walk. The father is a teacher at the Dutton elementary school, and he was wanting to hook us up with his Dad in Great Falls, because his Dad lives in a really nice home and is a Warm Showers host (and his Mom is the lieutenant governor). Sounded interesting, but it was 5 miles off our route, so we had to politely tell him no thanks.

I fell for this sticky bun, but when Ed ordered a breakfast burrito, I asked for a togo box for the rest of the bun and ordered up a burrito too. It was super delicious and really hit the spot!
There were multiple of these community grain elevators in town.
The primary scenery of the day: Crops, crops and more crops.
After Dutton, we rode along the Teton and Sun Rivers, as we made our way down the road.

As we approached Great Falls, the traffic worsened immensely, and it was getting hot. We high tailed it to our hotel, and as we pulled in, there was Paul again. He was also staying at the Travelodge and had just arrived, so we exchanged phone numbers so we could meet up later for dinner. It was only 11:20 AM, but thankfully, the hotel was willing to give us an extra early check in.

,After getting our bikes and gear situated, we showered then headed out for lunch and a little sight seeing. The History Museum, covered the early history of Great Falls, and was nicely executed. And from what we saw, Great Falls is a nice little town. Some things I really liked about it: The Missouri River runs through the downtown area and has parks and both bike and walking paths adjacent to it, so people can enjoy it; they have butterflies, bees, fish and other creatures painted in their crosswalks; there is a Trail of the Painted Bisons installation, where larger than life fiberglass bison statues are painted by various artists and installed in different locations throughout the downtown; and there are several museums to explore. Unfortunately, when we finished checking out The History Museum, we had reached our daily heat quota, and had to put an end to our sight seeing.

We met Paul for dinner at a diner named Tracy’s and enjoyed sharing stories about our bike travels, gear, difficulties on the road, families, careers, etc. You never run out of things to talk about with a fellow bike traveler, but at some point, all 3 of us had to head back to the hotel to work on our blogs and get things ready for the morning.

We’re moving at a faster pace than Paul, so will probably not see him again on this tour. Safe Travels Paul. We enjoyed meeting and spending some time with you.

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