Welcome back to the now weekly updates of Gavin’s ride for Ecojustice. We left off with Gavin and Jenna seeking shelter from rainstorms. As we return to the road, we learn that Gavin’s reached another major milestone during Days 31 to 37. Read on to find out more.
Days 31 to 37: Monday, July 11 – Sunday, July 17
Bismarck, North Dakota to Miles City, Montana
Distance Travelled: 491.49 km
By the end of Monday I broke 2,500 km, which according to my best estimates is the halfway marker for the trip. On the same day we also saw Salem Sue, the world’s largest statue of a cow.
The scenic byway heading to Medora was incredible. Big sky mottled with grey clouds drifting along in pockets, leaving spots of shadows on grey-green fields that rolled around in all directions. The wind made everything ripple and the moving grass was really the only sound we could hear. Almost no cars, but everyone that did pass waved. It reminded me of the ocean in a bizarre way, in the sense that it gave a better perspective on how small we are relative to the world.
On Wednesday we hit the badlands. The plains disappeared almost without warning and we were biking along a huge bluff with giant gorges and peaks of eroded rock spires. The rocks contain lignite coal seams, which are ignited by lightning or grass fires and literally set the rocks ablaze, burning strips of the soil into a copper-red colour. The area had been a favourite of Theodore Roosevelt before he became president, so when the area was protected by a National Park in the 1940s it was given his name.
We stayed at the park entrance in the town of Medora, built next to the ruins of a slaughterhouse founded by a French entrepreneur in the 1890s. We crossed into Montana and found a microbrewery in the first small town, which was all kinds of exciting for me. That night our tent was hit by two huge prairie thunderstorms that lasted two hours. Not a lot of sleep.
After getting one flat tire in four weeks, I got four flat tires in two days. I only had three spare tubes and had given my last patch to Jenna. When I got the fourth flat I had to borrow one of Jenna’s tubes, which are much too small. We stretched it over the rim of my wheel to make the last 10 km to Miles City (during which time Jenna also got a flat). In Miles City we found a bike shop owned by a fast-talking, gun-loving, anti-government man who was extremely friendly. He gave us cherry cokes and chatted with us in the mercifully air conditioned shop as we fixed up our bikes.