Saturday, September 26, 2009

Day One Hundred Ninety-nine, 090915 - Ekalaka, MT

Day One Hundred Ninety-nine, Date Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Time in Saddle: 8:00
Distance for the Day: 73.18 miles From Rhame To Ekalaka, MT
Accumulated Trip Distance: 9957.3 miles
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 2998’/3139’, Highest: 3257’ Accumulated: 3002’
Speeds: Avg: 9.1 mph, Max: 33.4 mph
Weather: 53° mostly clear with high cirrus
Expenditures: $33

I woke up at 6:12, and got up at 6:26. A beautiful crescent moon and bright Venus were visible, and I’m happy to report that leg extension exercise really works good! Usually, when I woke up in the morning, my knees would be stiff and sore, but not now. As Cati would say, “Yoopie!” I did get hit by skeeters once in the evening and once this morning, though. By 7:17am, the Sun had still not risen, as I continued on towards the next town, Marmarth, ND. Along the way, I saw three antelope off in the distance in a cow pasture, with the white, teardrop-shaped fur behinds, and they all had antlers – that was pretty cool. By 8:39am I saw the last corn field, and saw and smelled my first sagebrush. The terrain changed pretty rapidly from farmland to desert plain, with mesas, sage, and even oil derricks. I could see a bit of the Badlands off to the north, with its river-carved landscapes – I was sorry I didn’t get to see more of them – they definitely looked intriguing.

I stopped in the tiny town of Marmarth 9:30am had a real breakfast at the cafĂ© of eggs, hash browns and sausage + a soda ($9). I left at 10:14am, and crossed over into the great state of Montana at 11:02am, still on course for Baker. I got to Baker by 12:15pm, where I stopped for lunch (sandwich and soda - $6), while sitting outside in the shade of the grocery store, charging up my laptop at an outside outlet. I then continued south on Rte 7at 12:45pm. I hit a section of road construction, where I chatted with the flag person, Molly, about my trip. She arranged for me to get a lead car escort from Bert, and Molly even gave me her radio so I could keep in comm with Bert, so he could tell me what he was going to do. It was only about a quarter mile or so, and once the way became clear, again, I handed Bert back Molly’s radio, thanked him, and continued on (now at 2:41pm) towards the next town, Ekalaka. The road, SR 7, was very straight on the map, but it was still very hilly. I would get to the top of one of the higher hills, and could see down the road at the next series of hills all the way to the next largest hill – hill after hill – I love it.

I finally made Ekalaka by 6:15pm; that was a long haul of semi-serious up and downs, dancing between 3k and 3.2k, but I survived. From here, I had to carefully assess my food and drink supply situation, because the supply points were going to be far between for a while. While sitting outside the grocery store, I got mobbed by a handful of local kids (Austin, Jonathon, Cameron and Jordan) who asked tons of questions, which I was happy to answer. I then got a bunch of sodas and food items ($18), and then checked the route on Street Atlas. It would be 63 miles to the next town (Arvada) with services, but, I also found out from a local guy that the route between Ekalaka and Arvada was a rough gravel road, and the better alternate would be SR 323 to Alzada – it was mostly paved, but there was a 16 mile segment that was gravel and the last 6 miles of that 16 was under heavy construction. The sun was getting a little low by now, so I thought I’d check out the gravel road, first, before making any final decisions. I went down that gravel road for a mile, and nearly had my teeth knocked out from the washboard surface. I tucked tail and returned to town. There was no way I, never mind my trike, could take 63 miles of that.

I found the local church just after sunset, and the pastor Steve DeForest (I hope I got that right – I asked him twice, but am still, now, unsure) in charge of it. A very nice man, I got his permission to camp on the back lawn (N45 53.331’ W104 33.068’), and he even gave me access to the restroom inside for all night. I was able to take a quickie sponge bath – how nice! He also gave me a pamphlet on why it’s good to find Christ, but as usual, it left me unmoved – one of the arguments ‘for’ was, “it couldn’t hurt,” which I found to be a little specious. If you’re going to believe in God, I don’t think the reason should be, “just in case he’s for real,” or, “you can cover all your bases if you do.” I’m glad he and so many others find comfort and guidance from that style of religion, and I very much appreciate their help, and support the good services they provide to their communities, but their basic, binding premise is just not for me. If I were them, I’d take that ‘reason’ out of the next version of that pamphlet.

There were a few mosquitoes, but they weren’t very aggressive, and I escaped getting hit. I set up my tent just before it got dark at about 8:30pm, and read, munched, and drank my orange soda until about 10:30pm. They had that odd 11pm town horn, too, but since I wasn’t at ground zero this time, I wasn’t affected nearly as much. As to my route, I would have to figure out how to reconfigure it in the morning.

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