July 29, Day 27 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014
A conversation that I overheard at breakfast in Livingston today made me glad that we chose not to go through Yellowstone National Park. A man who drove through Yellowstone on Monday mentioned how a bicyclist was run off the road and suffered severe road rash. That was confirmation that we chose the right road to travel. Even though today’s route had its issues, we are far away from a mad crowd of tourists who are huddled in the corner of Montana and Wyoming, awaiting their next bear sighting.
Not all roads are created equal, especially when you are on two tires with no shock absorbers. Since we left Missoula last Thursday, we have swathed our own trail, but it hasn’t always been pretty.
We should have known the name “Convict Grade Road” might indicate some kind of challenge. We were warned that fugitives hide from the law in Montana, but this road was hiding something else: pavement! We started out just fine, with pavement and no traffic, and with wonderful scenery as the sign indicated. About a mile or two down the road, we were riding on gravel…for not one or two miles, but for twenty! Two roads started out pleasant enough, enticing us with no traffic, beautiful scenery, and (of course) pavement, only to turn on us once we had taken the bait. Neither the map, nor any signage, would steer us clear of this slow and, at times, treacherous form of travel.
Google maps for bikes must be for mountain bikes. These gravel roads were bumpy, and required endless concentration. When I did take my eyes off the road, I saw more of what Montana is about—gorgeous scenery. We entered the short grass prairie region and ran alongside some deer several times during the day, as well as bulls and horses. We even sighted some predatory birds we thought might be eagles. My lesson for the day was to remember the big picture in life. Don’t simply focus on the dirt and gravel in the immediate line of sight, but look up and out periodically to see the beauty all around.
We had a Divine encounter toward the end of the day. We were forced onto I-90 for several miles due to lack of frontage roads. The map was unclear where the frontage road resumed, so we exited the interstate to investigate. (After today’s gravel roads, a portion of interstate travel was actually a welcome relief.) No one was around except for a couple who were out in a field, with their car parked nearby. We beckoned to them and they came over to talk with us.
They warned us of the construction on I-90 and the two-way traffic we would encounter on the bridge that crosses the Yellowstone River. The eastbound bridge was all torn up and impassable even by bicycle. They offered to help us across the dangerous stretch. We heeded their warning, gladly accepted their offer, and headed toward the highway. As we awaited their arrival at the bridge, they signaled for us to go, but a speeding truck prevented them from slowing down…and they passed us by, along with many other vehicles. Regardless, we rode through safely. When we exited the interstate several miles later, there they were. They had stopped on the next frontage road to see if we were okay.
They handed us both a bottle of Perfect Water (check out http://kirchers.mychoices.biz/Home.aspx) and we chatted for quite some time. Talking to another woman encouraged me. She was inspired by our bike adventure and wanted to get back into exercising. Meanwhile, Tim was discussing TheHopeLine with her husband. They were fellow believers, which seemed too coincidental. We had that same feeling of camaraderie that we experience whenever we are with like-minded folks. The encounter was a smooth way to end a day that started with rough riding.