At Yellowstone Kelly's breakfast bar I choose from a wonderful selection of goodies, indulging in: hot cereal (rather than choosing cold cereal, of which there is a grand selection) with a variety of toppings (raisins, coconut, chocolate chips, nuts, granola, brown sugar), waffles, bacon, and hot tea.
On the road, behind us the granite and snowy peaks of Glacier Park glimmer in the low morning sun. Mirror-calm Lower St. Mary Lake on our left reflects a mountain scene worthy of a Sierra Club calendar. Diane, Chuck, and I stop to absorb this early morning food for our souls. This is why I cycle tour. I can stop, nearly on a dime, to become personally involved in the people and the land. I'm able to smell the prairie, the flocks of sheep ( an odor with enough punch to knock you off your bike!), the brewing dark roasted coffee. I'm involved, not just passing through in a sardine can going 65 mph. Our route crosses the Milk River, vividly described in "Lonesome Dove." My imagination conjures up cowboys hunkered down along the banks, hiding from Indian scouts, ponies tethered to small green shrubs downstream.
Pedaling the plains: huge vistas of land punctuated by rolling hills and waving grass. These hills make for great downhill rides, my reward for the uphill sweat. This truly is Big Sky Country. I can't get the tune of "Oklahoma" out of my brain, "...where the wind comes sweeping down the plain, and the waving wheat...."
Browning (elev. 4,366'), a small town on the Blackfeet reservation, supports a nationally known museum, The Museum of the Plains Indians, a visit to which was recommended by Curly Bear. Inside are informative displays of Plains Indians' crafts and culture. The extensive collection of colorful beadwork by the Blackfeet is intricate and beautifully executed.
A long riding day...80 miles with shifting winds. The dominant smell is of newly mown wheat. My mind drifts in contemplative pedaling. The desolation of the plains stretch on as we parallel the eastern spine of the Rocky Mountains. The sign before me says "Next gas 79 miles." I wonder how the pioneers felt coming across these prairies, worried about food, water, terrain, weather, and Indians.
The Bike Centennial support van appears regularly with water and Ultra Sport(tm) to quench our thirst. In this warm weather, I am drinking 1.5 gallons of water per day. At 5:30 p.m. I "explore" Dupuyer (one is never lost, one is merely exploring), and a 7 year old boy on a bike sends me back across the bridge to our state park camping area. After dinner many of our group migrate the quarter-mile into town. This town (all two blocks of it) has two bars, a post office, small grocery store, and a general store, with all the important facilities -- bars, post office, grocery store, and public phone -- on the same side of the street. We invade the Ranger Bar to buy drinks, shoot pool, and socialize.
Jack, the bartender sets up drinks as fast as possible, but we have overwhelmed him. Bob, from our group, goes behind the bar to help. The mangy Aussie shepherd bar dog wanders in from a back room, sniffing crotch greetings along the way, followed by a proud calico cat which leaps gracefully on the bar. In a combination of long mileage, beer, and group gaiety, we collapse in a fit of hysterical giggles at this scene.
I leave to use the public phone down the block. It is an old fashioned black rotary dial phone which still accepts a thin dime for a call. Time stands still in Dupuyer, Montana. The sunset before me is awesomely western: fiery red clouds glowing in the navy sky, probed by mountain peaks. Rather than rush back to the bar, I perch on a wooden rail fence and watch Mother Nature unfold her evening palette. Inspiring.