Thursday, July 3rd
East Glacier, MT to Shelby, MT
I think we found summer all of a sudden, 93 °
How do I know we're on the open range? See the first two pictures below.
And the obvious clue was the mountains rapidly disappeared in our rear view mirror. :《
But the reward was that "it was all downhill". Well, maybe not quite, but we did descend from 4700 feet at East Glacier to 3300 feet in Shelby.
For quite awhile during the morning it looked as if we were going to have thunderstorms so we were trying to get into Cutbank before they let loose, but when we reached Cutbank the clouds just disappeared! It may have been so dry that the rain never made it to the ground. But since it wasn't raining we kept going and did 73 miles.
The route goes through the Blackfeet reservation. The sign talks about their history but what I didn't show was the number of 12 packs of empty beer bottles by the sign. It must be a local party spot. The town of Browning looks poverty stricken. There were smashed beer bottles EVERYWHERE. It was really difficult to ride on the shoulder so Dave mostly kept us out on the highway and moved in when there was traffic. It took about 5 miles before we saw a change in the amount of broken glass on the shoulder. We did see many sheriff cars and trucks. They were out in force, maybe because of the holiday, so we felt safe enough.
The other thing we were dodging was prairie dog body parts. They have a habit of running out on the road and stopping to look around. Adaptive when scanning for a hawk, but suicidal when a car comes by. We did actually see a hawk catch one so I don't think they totally successful with that either. Ah well.
A problem with the wide open prairie is when I need to get rid of my morning coffee. We stopped at the only tree I saw anywhere in the landscape. It turned out to be behind a barbed wire fence so I carefully shimmied under it. The next time I wasn't so lucky. The hill I climbed had no drop off behind it. It did give a grand view for miles so I scanned for cars and was right quick about it.
Dave had less luck, he decided to go behind a handy bush and came out screaming (ok, maybe a manly yell) with a swarm of mosquitos covering his legs and flying all around him. We quickly smashed the ones we could get to and mounted the bike as fast as we could and got out of there. Luckily Shelby was only a few more miles down the road!
We're continuing to follow the railroad (or maybe it's following us. At least by staying in a motel tonight it didn't sound like the train was driving through our tent like it did the last two nights in the campgrounds. There are a lot of oil tank cars, probably from the Baacken oilfields. Our route will head south in a few days to drop us into southern North Dakota to avoid the oilfields in the northwest corner of North Dakota. Besides having dangerous truck traffic on the roads up there, there is also no housing for travelers.