24 – 26 July 2006
i swear montana, if you’re travelling south to north, is all downhill…..restored my confidence which had been beginning to flag after days of feeling too tired too soon. if it’s not 105 degrees, or a 5000ft climb or 90mph head-wind i can still do those miles!! the 30 miles out of big sky were horrendous. death valley! narrow, virtually no hard-shoulder. lots of heavy trucks (as in lorries) many with truck-length trailers and all driving as if on drugs or working peace-rates or both. reminded me of the bus-drivers on the road into bogota, all going totally flat-out and leaning at crazy angles. only this was worse. a sign at the beginning of the worst section
proclaimed accident reduction measures in effect – but what they were or whether they were having any effect was not at all evident. white metal crosses marked where they’d clearly failed. i didn’t feel fear, exactly, more an acute awareness that this was dangerous. and a determination to stay in one piece, focussing hard on listening to what was coming up behind, difficult given the noise of traffic coming the other way. the one that nearly got me was just coming up to a bridge, metal barriers on each side, narrower than the road, no shoulder at all. on some instinct i pulled over just before it and a double length truck blasted past, not slowing at all, missed me by inches even tho i’d pulled over.
i really think it would have smashed me into the metal if i hadn’t pulled over. stood for a bit absorbing, then cycled on, totally focussed on staying alive. the road widened out at gallatin gateway. a sign said pottery and award winning cinnamon rolls, 5 miles. Sat in a swinging chair drinking latte from a beautiful mug swinging gently in one of those setaside moments of peace while the highway blasted past just across the lawn. on a tiny road in the outskirts of belgrade a black subaru slowed alongside. ‘kate!” i looked into the car. it was marcia, a friend and housemate from fort collins days. i hadn’t seen her for 18 years and there she was! extraordinary coincidence – she and her husband, chris, and son, andreas, had just flown into bozeman and were heading for yellowstone on holiday, had taken a wrong turning when they’d past me.
marcia said, look, a woman cycling alone. then, that looks like kate! yes, yes, said, chris and turned the car to humour her…. we sat on some grass and tried to catch up 18 years…. weird and wonderful encounter. several days of big mileage, feeling that it was time to meet up with chris – resolved that my time alone on this trip, which has been such a great experience in so many ways, is about over – suddenly impatient to get to missoula, our meeting point. chris was arriving from vancouver by greyhound. our romantic reunion was to be co-ordinated by text message. since he’d made such a huge effort to join up with me i decided to shorten my route by missing a scenic section and doing 75 miles on the shorter, interstate route to ensure arriving in missoula early evening……i arrived at 7 ish, very hot, very tired after blasting the interstate in a headwind. my back derailer had mysteriously packed in in a way i couldn’t resolve there and then and i rode most of it with one gear, (a high one) stopping to turn the bike upside down if i needed a low gear for steep sections. no message from chris. i’d sent several, increasingly plainstaking. ‘ am taking the shorter route, see you soon, where are you by the way?
…’ ‘ am 16 miles away, where are you….? am here, where are you….? sat in a cafe and tried to figure out what could’ve happened. my best guess was that chris’ phone was flat. but if he was off the bus, why hadn’t he used a landline? if the bus delayed, wouldn’t he have borrowed a phone? if here, surely he couldn’t have been kidnapped in missoula?? eventually, nineish and still no word i decided to head for the greyhound station. went out to the bike. back tyre flat!!! so ended up driving to the greyhound station in a taxi and checking into the motel opposite, feeling extremely disconsolate. finally, just after i’d forlornly met the 10.40pm, chris-less greyhound, my cell-phone rang. chris! his (canadian) cell phone had stopped working after he’d crossed the border – but surreptitiously so that it appeared to still be sending messages. and he’d cycled 20 miles out on the scenic route to meet me, sitting by the road until dusk, assuming i was out of range in the mountains somewhere…..
a brief discussion about whose motel room was the nicest. i lost. stuffed my things back into panniers and the bike back into a taxi . . .