I will start by concluding our bike wheel mishap story. As I stated in my last post, the systematic perfection of our roadside rescue was incredible, and undoubtedly divinely directed. It continues to be. Mr. C., the man who offered us (complete strangers) lodging and coordinated our transportation to that lodging, was conveniently already planning to drive to Bozeman (nearly 100 miles away) the following day to run some errands. He generously let Old Man tag along so he could go to a bike shop to get his wheel repaired. The bike shop could not bring the wheel back to 100%, but got it to 95%, assuring Old Man that it was sound enough for many more miles. Mr. C. and Old Man returned to the house, we stayed another night and enjoyed another evening of great conversation. Old Man restored Frank to two wheels the following morning and we left. The wheel held, but the front rack remained bent and was rubbing. So we ordered a new rack and had it delivered ahead of us to Bozeman. Once the new rack was on we planned to reassess the state of the wheel. We arrived in Bozeman, installed the new rack, all seemed well and we continued on our way. A couple of days later the wheel regressed. Old Man was able to rehabilitate it back to 95%, but the questions of how long will it hold and how many times can it be brought back to life remained. We were reluctant to replace it because its hub dynamo (power generation for charging devices) was pricy, but perhaps our regular days of packed gravel and rough-surfaced shoulders with our uber-heavy load could be more compromising than the bike shop guy may have understood or guessed. With the bleak plains ahead, we need to be tip-top. So, Old Man called ahead to a bike shop in Billings, The Spoke Shop (isn’t that so apropos?), to seek its replacement. Enter: Memorial Day Weekend and all of the associated staffing and shipping obstacles. I’ve already established that a hub dynamo makes for an expensive wheel, now add expedited shipping expenses. When the woman from the bike shop called back to give Old Man quotes on the prices with the expedited shipping she surprised him with an alternate proposal. One of the employees from the shop just built a wheel to these exact specs for himself a month ago and has only used it a few times. Having heard our story, he offered to sell us his wheel and he will order another for himself to spare us the expedited shipping expense or risk of delivery outside our intended duration in Billings. Really?! Again?! Another seemingly insignificant act of kindness that has a tremendous impact on us, complete strangers, that keeps us chugging along? Unbelievable! So many tales of blessings and good fortune filling our time in Montana have us ruing the end of it as it rapidly approaches. Anyone in Montana hiring an analytical chemist?
Our final night in the mountains along the Yellowstone River, at Bratten Fish Access site, was warmly received by a family congregating for the holiday. Our kids had other kids to play with for the first time since Dillon. Adult conversation was had (and possibly commandeered by us!). One of the adults asked Lil’ Mo what she thought about this bike touring business, to which she responded, “I am the only one who pedals.” Of course. And, opportunely, one of the families runs a brewery and a cidery and was well-stocked with the chilled fruits of their labor! They even sent us on our way the next morning with two of Old Man’s favorites (which accompanied him on his Mission Impossible described next).
In conjunction with all of the joys that Montana has given us in the last month, the only source of heartache was our continued fishing failure. We bought a fishing license to sate the boys’ desire in anticipation of how long we would be in this massive state. While it discounted our stay in many fishing access campsites, it did not magically grant us prize catches. At every opportunity, the boys were digging for worms and proudly displaying their muddy, writhing handfuls, to convince the Old Man to get out the rods, while assuring me of their intentions to supply dinner. Never was dinner supplied. I pointed out to the Old Man that our time in Montana was dwindling and that it seemed rather pathetic to have gone to the expense of a fishing license, to have taken as long as we have to cross this state, and to exit it without catching a single fish. Nothing like a nay-saying wife to convict a husband to achieve the impossible. Here is his prize, caught after the kids were in bed (and they are now genuinely in awe of him):
Following the repeated laments of leaving Montana, I will redirect this to non-emotive statistics. We have logged over 1,300 miles so far, averaging 22 miles per day. Now that we are out of the mountains, physically conditioned, and on flatter ground, we should be able to increase our daily average. That will help us expedite our journey across North Dakota, which many people we have engaged on the subject have consistently assured us is rather barren (“After Miles City, there’s just nothin’”).
Despite the Debbie-downers, we move forward with optimism. Our stokers have high expectations of FLAT ground relieving them of the physical and meteorological burdens of mountain passes. And by all accounts, Midwesterners are also rather friendly. At a minimum, it appears promising that the remainder of America will also be well-supplied with RVs for the kids to ogle. We spent some time researching the different models online last night to eliminate the constant debates of vehicle capacity and how it will accommodate their future family plans. Otter has plans for a big family, so he is convinced he needs the top-of-the-line full-size Zephyr. When I pointed out that new ones sell for around $500,000, he assured me that his farm will be lucrative with all of the goat milk, cheese, and manure he is going to sell. Possibly, his wife will sell their garden produce and her baked goods at a farmer’s market to fill any financial gap. I then attempted a lesson in depreciating assets, pointing out that a used Zephyr is nearly $200,000 less than a new one after only four years, but it did not land. Otter is convinced he is going to be a rich farmer, so these minor details are irrelevant, while Tango upped his desires from a more conservative motorhome to a used Zephyr, since $300,000 is such a steal. The ever-pragmatic Sissy aspires to have a far more economical fifth-wheel that sleeps six. Curiously, not one of them has bought in to our propaganda that Frank and Eleanor are the RVs of non-motorized transport with a much cheaper price tag. Clearly, more miles are needed to convince them of this. Onward we go.
P.S. Tango informed me that our hotel room has a spare roll of toilet paper in the bathroom shortly after our arrival. I acknowledged that was a true statement, to which he replied, “Should we take it?” Shamefully, I did not rule out the possibility.