43.9 Miles / 1416.85 Total Miles
1460 Ft. Elevation Gain / 61.820 Ft. Total Elevation Gain
If you don’t like reading, I suggest you skip this post.
You know, lots of things happen that never make it into this blog. Like this: While hanging out at the bike shop, yesterday, a gal named Sue, from Ohio, came in to buy a water bottle, and I was noticing that her purse was actually a handlebar bag, and that she had an Adventure Cycling map in a clear sleeve on the top of her bag. She was about my height and looked to be about my age. Turns out she was riding a section of the Northern Tier—from East Glacier to Fargo. So later, at the Medora Musical, when people stood up for the intermission, I noticed her in the next section over, and waved until I got her attention.
Roll the clock forward to today. I awoke early, packed up all my gear and walked down a few campsites to fill my bottles at the communal water spigot. And there she was again, camped out right by the water spigot. So we talked for a few minutes, and she told me that she was getting a ride into Theodore Roosevelt National Park at 8 AM, with a friend named Paul, who she met on the route, a few days ago. I asked her if it was Paul the doctor (the one we met in Dutton, then ate dinner with in Great Falls), and it was. Paul was staying with a friend of his who lives outside of Medora, and the friend was letting him use one of his vehicles to see the park, today. Sue’s plan was to sight see for a few hours, then put in a short day of riding, which would get her to Dickenson, just 38 miles away.
I headed back to our campsite to tell Ed about Paul coming to our campground to take Sue into the park, but before I could get to our campsite, a couple of guys in another campsite accosted me and wanted to hear about our ride. They invited me and Ed over for breakfast, and this happened to be one of those days where we were out of breakfast food, so a breakfast offer sounded really good. I told them that I had to check with Ed, and headed over to our campsite, where I told Ed about Paul and the breakfast offer. Ed shot a message off to Paul to see if we could get in on his trip into the park, and we started revising our plan, for the day, to ride 38 miles to Dickenson, instead of 60 miles to Richardton. This would make our next day a 74 mile day, but that was doable and totally worth it for a chance to ride into the park with Paul and Sue and possibly see bison in the area we were not able to ride our bikes to. Meanwhile, Paul was driving to pick up Sue, so he didn’t see Ed’s text message, but we were counting on him to let us come along, because he’s that kind of guy, so we were proceeding with changing our plans for the day, as if we had heard back from him.
We were all packed up, so we had time to head down to eat breakfast with the guys in the other campsite, Paul Lindstrom and Steve Birch, and they impressed the heck out of us. They had cobbled together a couple of mismatched bowls, cups and spoons, and put out all the breakfast food they had—coffee, granola, Pop Tarts and yogurt. They offered to make us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and tried to get us to take some trail mix and granola bars of theirs, and would have basically given us the shirts off their backs to help us out.
We enjoyed our conversation with them immensely. They have quite the story: Being best friends since 3rd grade, after high school, they joined the Army and went to basic training together. Both guys love history, but their wives are not quite as enthusiastic about it, so they take vacations together to the places their wives wouldn’t be interested in, which I think is really cool. (I need to find myself a friend like that.) Paul is a high school history teacher, and Steve is a retired US Army Colonel, which Ed and I can both relate to, with our military backgrounds. We had to get going to get ready to meet Paul, but wished we could stay back and camp near them another night, just to hang out with them. Thanks for the wonderful breakfast and conversation, Paul and Steve. You made our day!
Back to our campsite, we checked out of it and locked our bikes to some railing, them sat out front to wait for Paul. When he pulled up in a Jeep, with plenty of room for us, no words were needed. We piled in and another adventure began. Non stop conversation was the background for all of us scanning the terrain for bison and eagles. We saw a zillion black tailed prairie dogs, never saw an eagle, but did see a few bison on top of distant buttes. Paul turned off on some dirt roads that weren’t on the park map (maybe the bison were hiding there), but still no success. When we reached the end of the park road, we turned around to double back on our route.
As we rode along, Paul noticed off to the right a large herd of bison. We stopped to take photos, and that’s when we noticed 2 very large bison on the left hand side of the road. They were behind the leafless branches of a dead tree, so we advanced to where we were maybe 90 feet from them, so the leafless tree wouldn’t be in our photos. And that’s when the bison decided to move—closer to us. And they were moving very quickly. We backed off toward the Jeep, but they were advancing on us more quickly than we were backing away from them. We ended up having to run for the Jeep. They crossed the road right in front of our vehicle and headed off to join the herd.
Our need to see wildlife had been satisfied, so we headed back to town to pick up some lunch together, before parting ways. We probably won’t be seeing Paul or Sue again, on this trip, but we sure did enjoy spending time with them.
Now it was time for us to high tail it up the route. At 1:30 PM, we had 38 miles to cover, with potential headwinds. But we had a strange form a adrenalin powering our legs up hills and through the wind. We still stopped to see things that caught our eye, like the Painted Canyon Visitors Center, with the best views of the park we had seen yet. Spectacular.
We passed wheat, corn and hay crops; a couple of oil well sites; cattle; and an invitation to bikers for cold drinks, from a place that was closed. Way to hurt us. When we pulled into town, we came up on what looked like a cheap motel and were able to get a room on the ground floor. The lady at the front desk gave us cold water bottles and offered to do our laundry for us (Wow! Amazing people!) All in all it was an excellent day, from start to finish.