Sunday, September 9, 2012

Good Times, Great Falls, MT

Havre, MT to Augusta, MT
Friday, 9/6 -9/9
117 and 57 miles

No, my advertising genius did not come up with the title of this post. It is the ACTUAL town slogan of Great Falls, MT. And believe me, if we had a dollar for every overly-cheesy phrase we've seen etched into a town's welcome sign, well, let's just say we might be able to finally afford enough Chinese food to kill this crazy craving we've had all trip.

So we departed Havre, MT (slogan: "Havre: It's the People!") shortly before 8 am with our sights set on reaching Great Falls that evening. We were off-route and our best bet of getting back on the trail was getting on Highway 87, buckling down, and cranking out the 115 miles all in one day. As an added incentive, David's sister Stacie had volunteered to make the 3 hour drive from Bozeman to meet us for the night. We had plenty of motivation and lots of rest, unfortunately a mild but persistent headwind on top of a very steady uphill climb were not going to make things easy for us.

Nevertheless, we made hourly goals (ok, ok, those of you who know us at all can guess that it was mostly me making the goals) and seemed to be making good progress. When we checked in with 70 miles by 2pm (what may be a new record), it finally dawned on us how much stronger of cyclists we finally are. With 70 miles already under our belts, we still felt great and knew we could push out another 45 easily despite the less-than-ideal circumstances. We were pumped!

Our final hurdle was an empty water supply around mile 75 with only a tiny blip of a town on our map in the next 40 miles. Experience has taught us that tiny towns are wildcards, with fluctuating populations and transient businesses that can very easily fall into ghost-town status. We neared the edge of Carter, MT with high hopes of a water spiget and a restroom but we didn't let ourselves get too excited at the sight of a bar until we confirmed that it was in fact OPEN!

With pro-gun paraphenalia plastered on the walls and country music blaring, we sat at the bar and drank a Rainier, then ordered warm blackberry rhubarb pie with ice cream and washed it down with lemonade in a mason jar. Longmire would have been proud! And so would Katee Sackhoff, a good friend of mine who happens to star in that show :)

We were 100% rejuvenated and despite overall fatigue, we still made it to our motel in Great Falls by 6. Stacie brought her rat terrier, Dori, and a few Montana gifts for us as well! Huckleberry taffy and gummy bears and two local brews to try. It was the perfect Montana welcome.

Our must-see tourist stop of the night was the Sip 'N Dip, a post-WWII era tiki bar that probably hasn't seen many updates since. The main attraction is a large tank behind the bar where a woman dressed as a mermaid swims back and forth, waving to the customers. Yes, seriously. She even has a hoop that she can swim through. You might not believe this, but it was actually quite awkward and a tad bit overrated, but you can check out the pics below to decide for yourself.

The next morning was a trip to the largest Farmer's Market we've ever seen besides Pike Place, which was quite impressive for Montana. We bought Flathead Cherries and (spoiler alert!) scored some pretty sweet gifts for Dez and Rita, so look forward to those, ladies!

We took Dori to see the Giant Springs and not-so-great-falls. We are now officially on the Lewis and Clark Trail, so it was the beginning of being able to read up on their notes as they passed through the same places we are, including the Giant Springs. Who knew history could be interesting!

We had to say goodbye to Stacie and Dori (one of them has some studying to do), and we spent the rest of our day watching a local-access televised lecture about Thomas Jefferson and none other than Lewis and Clark - so interesting! And yes, then we watched more Big Bang Theory reruns.

Today we continued our gradual climb towards the Rockies. There are a number of small fires in the mountains here so we are sadly unable to see much to the west besides a thin veil of haze, but we know we're close. We are staying the night in a dorm-style bunk house used mainly by hunters and firemen, but it suits our needs and the price is right. The last pic is of David on our balcony overlooking "downtown" Augusta, MT, where he fried me a steak and even made garlic mashed potatoes.

Tomorrow we cross the Continental Divide for the third time in our lives. We'll end up in Lincoln, MT at another bunkhouse before coasting our way into Missoula the next day.

In Montana, we've seen more horses than people, we've mostly been passed by cars with dogs riding shot gun, and in the newspaper we found a quote by the governor using a hunting analogy to express his distrust of Mitt Romney. Never change, Montana, never change!

Our lovely sponsors of this section of the trip are our friend from Resonate and fellow cycling tourist, Erika Ottenbreit; our church friends and David's comrades in music, Nathan and Amy Yost and their family; and David's co-workers Scott and Carla Gustafson, who are some of our best followers and encouragers :)

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