by Max Feldman
— Part two
ED. NOTE: Max Feldman, 29, and his dad, Ken, 64, of Mt. Airy, rode their bicycles from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, 3,756 miles in all, from June 24 to Aug. 15 of this year. This is the second installment of Max’s record of the extraordinary journey:
For one reason or another, around 8 or 10 cars gave us the angry horn today (July 9). There’s a whole little language to honking, and I think we’re all familiar with it. What you might not realize is how scary it can be to be sped past with horn blaring while in a bicycle, especially if you don’t hear or see it coming. One man did that and then also gave a 10-second middle finger to boot.
I’m not sure what exactly makes them so angry. Maybe it is a territorial thing. We don’t belong in this state or on their roads? Maybe it’s that we are free to take such a trip and they aren’t. Whatever they’re so angry about, it makes me a little sad that their lives are such that they feel that way (and behave that way) towards strangers. (Oh, and we passed 1,000 miles early today!)
7/10/14 Day 16 – Malta, MT to Fort Peck, MT (90 miles): What a difference a day can make! Today the wind was blowing as strongly as yesterday but at our backs all day. Rather than struggling to go 12 mph, we were often cruising easily at 18 – 20 mph. (The average speed for the entire 90 miles was 17.2 mph, by far the fastest I’ve ever ridden at such a distance.) Along with the favorable winds came a new riding partner for the day, Roland, a man from Switzerland, riding from Seattle to NYC before returning to his job on a cruise ship.
He joined us for about 70 miles today, stopping with us in Saco, known as the “Mosquito Capital of the World,” and for lunch before our routes parted ways. We also leap-frogged with Sheila again, the woman who is riding slowly and steadily and impressing me. It’s been nice seeing so many other cyclists; they are invariably nice and want to stop to exchange road stories and advice or suggestions of where to go and whom to stay with.
7/11/14 Day 17 – Rest Day (#2) at Fort Peck: My goal for this rest day was to do nothing. Or at least not set foot on my bike, which I accomplished. We spend much of the day holed up in the Fort Peck Hotel, a building built in 1934 during the CCC days of constructing the Fort Peck Dam, which housed some of the at one time 10,000 workers involved in the construction of the dam. Now, the town has about 250 people left, mostly those who work in the dam/power plant.
Tonight we’ll see a live production of “Cheaper by the Dozen” in the summer theater in town. The theater, with almost 1000 seats, is a leftover movie house from the CCC construction days of the 1930s. This seems to be a common theme of the area, really; many small towns along the way are depressed, semi-abandoned remnants of what they used to be. Sad, but the people left behind are quite nice to travelers.
7/12/14 Day 18 – Fort Peck, MT to Circle, MT (101 miles) – Wrong Way: I had found a way to get to the next nearest town in 71 miles, but Carl, the hotel owner, quickly persuaded us not to take that route because half of it was dirt roads, “Real dirt roads,” in Carl’s words, which means none of that sissy gravel stuff, just a bed of dirt ravished by every rainstorm.
So we found the correct route, which would have been 89 miles. However, about two-tenths of a mile into our ride, we made a left turn when we should have made a right. Once we realized this, I made another mistake and miscalculated that our new total mileage would be 118 miles. It wasn’t until we got to lunch at Wolf Point that another diner told us we had 52, not 72, miles remaining, and our day went from daunting to merely the longest of the trip so far.
7/13/14 Day 19 – Circle, MT to Beach, ND (88.5 miles): After 10 days in Montana, we finally crossed the border into North Dakota in the last mile of today’s ride. It was a bittersweet goodbye. Strangely, our crossing happened on an interstate highway, I-94. Our route took us on the interstate for the last 35 miles or so, and it was surprisingly not terrifying. The cars were actually farther away from us than usual, due to the wide shoulder, and the traffic in the opposite direction was so far away that it was quieter than normal. Legality aside (and it’s legal to bike on the interstates here), you wouldn’t have the same experience trying to bike on I-95.
Tonight we are camping at the public pool here in Beach (they don’t have a beach here in Beach, but they do have a pool), where cyclists can camp for free, shower for a dollar and use the pool for $3. Tomorrow we plan to stay at a monastery with some monks, who we heard from a west-bound cyclist will put us up and feed us for free. After that, we should be in Bismark with another WarmShowers host, and by Friday we should be pulling into Fargo.
7/14/14 Day 20 – Beach, MT to Richardton, ND (88 miles): Today the winds were bad, but what’s much more interesting to me is where we are now — Assumption Abbey in Richardton, ND, where 32 Benedictine monks live and pray. Our host, Odo, is a 75-year-old monk who has been living at the abbey for 55 years, and grew up in this town (of 600 people) the son of a farmer. Odo told us they have been hosting travelers of all sorts since the Middle Ages.
This may not come as a surprise to those of you who know a lot of Catholic monks, but they’re really nice, warm people. Much more approachable and easy to talk to than I had assumed. I had absolutely no idea how to act in front of them when we pulled up, sweaty, dirty and wearing bike clothes, but all of them, especially Odo, were welcoming and kind. We almost joined them for dinner, a buffet line with ham, mashed potatoes, veggies, etc. Tomorrow, we are invited to a silent breakfast, which I think will be nice.
Right now we can hear them praying for their fifth and final time today before bed. We’re staying in a little basement room with two beds, one of which is an old hospital bed on wheels, and were given a warm shower, though the abbey is not listed on WarmShowers.com. Definitely one of the most foreign (to me) and welcoming places we’ve stayed.
Statistics: Total distance so far: 1525 miles; Average miles per day: 78.7 Love from the road, Max. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
— Continued next week