64.7 mi / 11.3 mph / 1534 ft. climbing
Home: Ryan’s WarmShowers Guesthouse
Yesterday we set a record for the fastest average speed of our nomadacy. Today, we would set another record, for the longest distance. And it wouldn’t be a cheap record either. We’d finish nearly 1000 feet higher than our start, and there were no giant tailwinds in the forecast, so we’d be earning all those miles. All that meant that we definitely did not maximize our motel time by staying until checkout. Instead we were on the road at sunrise, which had the advantage of putting us on the road with the Missouri valley at maximum gorgeousness.
Our route was initially southward, confusingly going upstream along the Missouri River, though at a certain point the road diverged from the river and we needed to ascend and descend a 600 ft. hill while the river wound through a narrow gorge to the east. About halfway through the day the route hit I-90 and made a left (eastward) turn. I’d noticed an “Old Town Road” on the map that short-cut diagonally across the turn. There wasn’t much evidence of cyclists using it, but I StreetViewed it, and except for a couple of short sections of gravel (that maybe kept cyclists off it), it looked like it would be a cool, rare, country-road alternate.
Well, I wouldn’t have written all that if it was in fact a cool alternate. We made the turn onto it, but immediately saw a “Road Closed” sign. Hmm. Is it really closed? And even if cars can’t make it through, maybe bikes can? Luckily we hadn’t even gotten into the hawing that normally follows our hemming when a pickup truck made the turn behind us. He stopped when we flagged him down, and told us that the road is definitely closed, because the bridge over the river is gone (and that’s why he was driving all the way around this way to access his property). Well, at least we got a quick, definitive answer!
Our “alternate” was to hop on I-90, luckily something we’ve done before out west, otherwise the debate over whether that’s safe/legal/wise would have definitely brought that unbloomed hawing to fruition. As usual the super-wide, smooth shoulder and relatively-low traffic made for relatively-comfortable Interstate riding. The only problem was that it added a mile or so to our already-record day.
We returned to our frontage-road target as soon as possible, that we’d essentially take all the way to Bozeman, on a low-grade 30-mile uphill. With most of the traffic on the Interstate, the frontage road was mostly-comfortable riding too. We had crossed the Jefferson River on I-90, and then crossed the Madison soon after we exited onto the frontage road. We never actually crossed the Gallatin (though we kissed its bank at one point), but all three join just north of the road (and just a bit further north of the appropriately-named town of Three Forks) to officially start the Missouri River, extremely far from the state of Missouri, and further still as the river flows vs. as the crow flies!
The first pre-Interstate no-longer-a-town we passed through, Logan, oddly had a fine-dining establishment, even more-oddly named “The Land of Magic”. Even if we were up for some $50 steaks, they certainly weren’t open before noon, so we instead made our PB&J sandwiches in the shade of a decaying tiny church next door, using a discarded cable spool as a table.
The next town, Manhattan, was actually still a going concern, with a small grocery store across the street from a nice linear park (we bought cold drinks in the former and drank them in the latter). By the time we got to Belgrade (even more of a real town) the cold-drink power had worn off, Rett began overheating, and we needed to pull off into the entrance of a storage facility, hugging right to the door of one of the units to find a slice of shade, while she sat and downed some cherries. When I moved her bike, her double-legged kickstand left a couple of quarter-inch-deep holes in the asphalt. Perhaps you’re understanding that it’s hot today. A little further we stopped at a gas station for ice cream and cold fountain drinks, and I joined the mob of kids at the splash pad and wet myself down.
We made it onto one of Bozeman’s suburbanized commercial strips with its unfamiliar everything (somehow we didn’t need to stop at the REI for anything, though I later made a run back out to Walmart). But Rett exhaustedly pulled over to one of several roadside fruit stands we saw advertising peaches and cherries. I walked over and asked the big fat guy if he had any peaches good to eat right at this moment. He looked at me, said “you’re riding bikes? Here.” and handed me two enormous peaches. In a clinical taste-test, we probably would have rated them as some of the best peaches we’ve ever eaten, but when they were given freely, generously, and in our time of need, it’s difficult to think of another food we’ve eaten that was as satisfying and restorative. Thank you Peach Man!
Since Bozeman is the 4th-largest city in Montana (and central city of Montana’s B-Belt), I’d remembered to look for an un-swamped WarmShowers option. When Ryan responded positively to our request and sent his address, I was a bit baffled when Google found a historic mansion-turned-bed-and-breakfast. Well, it turned out that even more recently, it had been turned into Ryan’s family’s house, though he was running the “guest house” (3000 sq ft on its own!) as an AirBNB operation. And so he simply set us up in one of the AirBNB suites, which is the second time we’ve lucked into such a setup in the last couple months! Upside was the great free room (and we were happy to change the bedding, the one thing he probably doesn’t ask his paying guests to do), downside was that he was having a busy weekend with other guests, so our social time was short. We did learn that he was a Bay Area tech worker who had done well (hence owning this historic mansion in Bozeman), so we had a bit more in common than bikes.
We had no problem entertaining ourselves though. Bozeman is filled with breweries, but seems to have only one “Rett beer” brewery. Oh, but it turns out that it’s just a short walk away. What luck! And it was also a night where a pizza food truck was serving there. So we got some great barrel-aged sours and other interesting beers at Bozeman Brewing Company, and then took a long meander back through the eclectic architecture of the Brewery District. Some houses were hippie weirdness, some architecture-school prize-winning attempts, and some were just personalized classics. A super-cool neighborhood that we never would have explored had Ryan not hung out his WarmShowers shingle. It felt like a place where we could definitely live (and be more of those “California” people ruining Montana). Hmm, though we might want to try a winter here first…