Open Road Press

Rough Riding

July 29, Day 27 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014

Yellowstone River


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.

Rocky Road

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.

Beautiful sceneryWe 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.

Deb on seemingly endless gravel roadGoogle 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. Tim cycling on gravelDon’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.

Divine Encounter

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 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.

6 thoughts on “Rough Riding

  1. kathy

    hi Tim and Debbie,
    you sure had me fooled. I’ve been following along and had you traveling through the Dakotas. I thought you were taking an alternate trail of the Adventure Cycling Lewis and Clark trail. By the way, the description said there were gravel roads! I sure hope you guys have plenty of spare tires/inner tubes! Glad to hear about the good Samaritans helping you. Safe journey. love you guys, k and t

    1. Tim Bishop

      We’re working on routes ourselves for now…will join ACAs maps down the road. Wyoming has been very unique and beautiful in its own way .

  2. nancy downey

    it has to start getting easier. you seem to always end up meeting good folks which is a blessing indeed. glad you are missing Yellowstone w/bears and tourists. hope Deb’s foot is OK-if it isn’t one thing, it’s your mother as the old saying goes. you are in my thoughts every day. lots and lots of love, Mom

    1. Tim Bishop

      Her foot is looking better by the day. Not sure which would be worse: bears or the mob scene clamoring to catch a glimpse of one.

  3. Jim Burns

    Hey Tim and Deb,
    Gravel roads and touring bikes, oh my! From all I’ve heard, they don’t go well together, although that’s not from personal experience. My feelings are that “older” bodies need shock absorbers-as many as will fit the situation as a matter of fact. My old mountain bike needs a few more now that I think about it. I’m also thinking Yellowstone is not a great place for bikes; narrow roads, bears, bison, elk…all not so friendly to two-sheel pedal power…just my own personal opinion.
    Beautiful, beautiful country. Good Traveling, my friends….Jim

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