We woke up this morning with mosquitos swarming outside of our tent and insufficient water to make oatmeal or cream of wheat. Hence, we decided to get breakfast down the road in La Hood. I donned my rain gear for the first time all trip, cinching up my hood around my face, leaving only a small portion of my face and ankles exposed to the onslaught of mosquitos. We quickly tore down the tent after a Pop Tart breakfast.
Our map showed a road that followed a river to Three Forks, which we opted to take rather than the interstate with its known uphill. The back road was a nice way to wake up, with very little traffic and a quiet ride by the river.
La Hood is a small city of approximately two buildings, and really shouldn't even be on the map. The restaurant wasn't open so we were left with no choice but to charge on to Three Forks with dwindling water and growing hunger pains.
We reached Three Forks and rode straight to Wheat Montana Farms & Bakery, a local bakery that grows its own wheat. There we met a couple who took interest in our biking gear and offered us their place to stay in Billings. We told them that we didn't think we'd be stopping in Billings but that if our plans changed we would definitely give them a call.
We made good time along mostly flat terrain to just outside of Bozeman where Travis got a flat a mile before the exit and lunch. We had lunch at the Fresco Cafe in Bozeman, a town that's feel reminded me of Ft. Collins.
The pass out of Bozeman was our final big pass before the plains, it wasn't too bad except the downhill side was under construction so the interstate was down to two lanes of traffic with us riding on the left shoulder between the white line and the rumble strips. This left us inches away from the traffic, which for the most part was considerate but we had a few close calls. It was a decidedly unsafe and unenjoyable experience.
On the flat stretch beyond Bozeman Pass, I took a look at my max speed to see how I'd done down the hill and was surprised to see that it said 50.2 mph. The fastest I'd hit before was 41.3 and I didn't think I'd exceeded that on the two lanes of terror. I think maybe I was riding close to Travis, who is using the same wireless cycle computer that I am, and my computer was picking up both signals when we were going 25 mph.
After the pass we got some good downhill and a quartering tailwind that left us cruising to Big Timber. On the way, I spotted a dot in the distance and figured it was another cyclist, so we put it in high gear and poured on the steam to catch up to them. He had a decent hybrid bike with a ragtag assortment of panniers and other doodads hanging from it. His name was Billy and he had recently spent the night in jail because he was drinking and getting too close to the Buffalo in Yellowstone. He was probably certifiable from the way he talked and the stories he told Travis while I rode behind listening and feeling bad for Travis. Billy isn't going to go back to Yellowstone for his arraignment.
We rode passed Billy only for me to get a front tire flat a few miles later. I'd never gotten a front flat on a road bike and didn't like it one bit. Mostly it was unfortunate though because it gave batshit Billy a chance to catch up to us. We were a scant 5 miles outside of Big Timber but the flat stole all our momentum and the winds shifted as a storm brewed off to the west.
It took a while to make the last few miles into Big Timber and the effort left us feeling famished. We didn't wait for Travis' friend Kyle to meet up with us and went straight to the Big Timber Bar to fill up on grub. There, a friendly gentleman told us of two free and nice places where we could pitch our tent and even drew maps to them on his napkin. He even offered to come tuck us in at night, if we'd cover his gas cost. His wife recommended that in Montana we could just walk up to a house and in all likelihood be granted permission to pitch in the yard.
It rained on our bikes while we were in the bar, which was the first time our bikes had gotten wet. My plastic bagging of everything seemed to keep all of my belongings dry, and the storm was over after a few minutes. Hopefully we'll continue to have good luck with the weather!
We opted to take the woman's advice and knock on random doors in Big Timber to find a place to sleep. At the first house we knocked at we were directed to the pastor's house across the street. So we ended up spending another night in a church's yard. The mosquitos were out again, but after our experience in Cardwell this morning, we had decided to invest in some bug spray of our own, something that I would definitely recommend doing before starting a trip through Montana.
Kyle got into town after we'd set up the tent and hadn't eaten yet, so we went back to the bar. He treated Travis and me to drinks while we shared stories about college and women and fun. The people at the bar recommended that we not spend the night in Hardin, on account of it being on the Crow Indian Reservation, and not knowing any better decided to change our goal for tomorrow to Billings. We'll try to get in touch with the people from the bakery this morning and see about a place to stay, and maybe our second shower of the trip!