We are over halfway done with our trip and have spent 60 days on the road. We are a bit behind in our posts (we are already in Montana), but, I thought I would write a post about what it’s like being on a bicycle for about 65 days.
I’ll start with answering the most common question we get – Our butts always hurt. You just get used to it. And some days it hurts more or less than others. And some days, other things (like shoulders, neck, legs, hands, etc.) hurt more than your butt.
Despite the butt pain, we are having a great trip! It is not always fun. Fighting a 20 mph headwind is never fun and getting bit by a dog was a real downer. But, overall, I am really enjoying our adventure. I love seeing the country by bicycle. It sometimes feels like we are in a foreign country (especially in North Dakota and Montana!) and the landscapes have been so different and interesting to see.
That being said, I am feeling a bit homesick at this point and having a hard time in Montana (more on that later). I am missing the comforts of home, like my own bed and bathroom and kitchen to make good food. I also miss the security and comfort that comes with home. Being able to lock a door or have protection from a storm. And I miss east coast storms! In the northeast, you don’t see thunderstorms building for miles and you also don’t have to worry about quarter size hail and tornados with each storm! As I lay in our tent in the middle of a public park in Harlem, Montana, hiding from the ridiculous swarms of mosquitos, all I want is to be indoors, in a home.
Enough of my whining. Here is a list of everything I like and don’t like on the trip (I’ve been thinking about this list for literally hundreds of miles!)
What I like (in no particular order besides what pops into my head):
– Tailwinds! I love tailwinds! We have not had too many and they have not been as strong as a big headwind, but they are just great. We recently pedaled 91.75 miles in one day because of a great tailwind.
– Smooth roads with big shoulders.
– Meeting some very kind and extremely generous people along our travels.
– Seeing the country from the vantage point of a bicycle. Sometimes it feels like we’re on a different planet. But, for the most part, it has been really eye opening and spectacular.
– Getting a clean and comfortable hotel/motel room after a long day. (Who am I kidding, it is great getting a room after any sort of day!)
– Finding places to eat with gluten free bread. They are few and far between. Although, I have had some really good gluten free pizza in random places like Alexandria, Minnesota and Glendive, Montana (one of the only good things about Montana so far)
– On the subject of food, just finding good fresh food. Like fresh (organic) veggies! We recently found our first farmer’s market (also in Glendive, MT) and we got a bag of cucumbers (my favorite!) and a bag of green and yellow pole beans. They were all so delicious.
– Quiet roads without big trucks.
– When I have to pee in the middle of the night and Dan will get up and come with me because I’m such a scaredy-cat.
– When it gets cool enough at night that I can coze in my sleeping bag.
– Cloudy days.
– Doing laundry.
– Meeting interesting people along the way. And especially meeting other bicycle tourers. We have mostly run into people pedaling east (it seems to be the more popular direction). But, we have actually been cycling with (or rather, not so much cycling with during the day but meeting in the town or wherever we’re staying) another west-bounder for about a week now. There is a really nice bicycle touring community.
– Staying in cyclist only lodging and meeting other cyclists. My favorite spot was in Dalbo, MN and it was an old barn that the owner turned into a bunkhouse for cyclists. When we stayed there, it was one of our first interactions with other cyclists. There were four other tourers there (all going east) and it was great chatting about our trips, giving and getting tips, and interacting with others who were doing the same things. I felt so energized by it the next day.
– Nice campgrounds with clean bathrooms and spacious showers.
– Showering at the end of the day.
– Beautiful views – like the Badlands in western North Dakota and Eastern (very eastern) Montana; wildflowers in Wisconsin; crazy landscapes and birds in North Dakota; the view on top of our only mountain (so far) in Western Massachusetts; Niagara Falls; Lake Erie; sunflower fields in North Dakota
– My favorite states have been Wisconsin and North Dakota. Many people warned us that North Dakota was just flat and boring. But I actually really liked North Dakota. It had a really interesting landscape, really nice people, and a lot of birds!
– Comfortable days off.
– Finding shelter from storms.
– The nicest people we have met were in Ontario (Les, Linda, and Phil, if you’re reading this, we’re talking about you!) and North Dakota. Overall, I think people out west are just nicer than people on the east coast.
– Pedaling on the interstate highway.
– Seeing wildlife – we saw a young black bear (!), snakes, bald eagles, lots of other types of birds (I try to look them up at the end of the day with my bird ID app), baby porcupines, foxes, a coyote, different types of turtles, so many deer, prairie dogs, and lots more!
– When Dan starts to sing.
– Long gradual downhills.
– Rolling hills.
– A good nights sleep.
– A cold soda mid-day.
– The look on people’s faces when we tell them we have pedaled from Boston.
Things I don’t like:
– Busy roads with no shoulder.
– Headwinds. And side winds. But headwinds are so much worse.
– Getting honked at (which luckily does not happen often, except in Montana)
– Montana (I’ll rant about why I don’t like Montana after this list).
– Steep uphills.
– Mosquitos and horse flies.
– Roadkill. Especially smelling (and gagging atkttu) roadkill. It’s really sad how much roadkill there is and that these animals are just left to rot.
– Camping in city/town parks that are not set up for camping. I.e. no bathrooms or showers.
– Rumble strips that take up the whole shoulder.
– Stop signs at the bottom of a hill, or at the top of one, or in the middle of one.
– When vehicles do not slow down or give us space when passing (this has been the worst in Montana).
– Being scared of thunderstorms. And not having easy access to shelters when there is a storm.
– When we can’t shower at the end of the day.
– Barking, biting, chasing dogs.
– When we set up our tent, unknowingly, under a bright light.
– All the styrofoam. If you have been living in a similar liberal, east coast bubble as I have than you might also think that styrofoam use has decreased significantly, so much so that I didn’t think many places (if any) still use such an awful product. I was wrong. Every where we go is styrofoam! We even bought a small reusable container to bring into restaurants for any to-go foods.
Now onto Montana. Montana has not been a enjoyable state. Except for our first day – when we explored band lands and went to a Farmer’s Market. The Montana landscape has been very boring – very flat with mostly cows or wheat fields. And everything else was just very brown or tan. We went from North Dakota with the nicest people and drivers (so many drivers gave us the right of way even when they didn’t need to) to Montana, where we get honked at daily and constantly zoomed past so close we are blown off the road (or close enough). We have also been warned about many of the towns we are pedaling through as being dangerous and to just go through quickly. I think a lot of this has to do with racism (as many of the towns are in reservations) but it is still very disconcerting to hear. This one woman actually told us that if we go through this one town we might get murdered or abducted! It is insanely hot in northern and eastern Montana. Most days it has been in the high 80s or 90s and has even hit 100 one day. On top of that, there is absolutely no shade in Montana because there are so few trees. So, we have been scorched. Another terrible part of Montana is the mosquitos! I have never seen anything like it. Through this one town, Saco, we were swarmed even when pedaling 16mph. I have not bought bug spray with Deet in over ten years, but we got some in Montana. And we were still bitten up! It’s really crazy. All this being said, I am just excited to get to the Mountains – even the Montana mountains 🙂
(After completing this post yesterday, I have to add that we got caught in a thunderstorm with hail (I’m shaking my fist at Montana right now) but we had a really great nights sleep last night and after the storm we ended up at a bar in a small town where the owner is a cyclist and we are camping in the backyard. Not all of Montana is horrible)