Big Sky Moments

wp-1468683209741.jpegOn Sunday, I started my journey through the state of Montana and it has been impressing me ever since. Other than my first bleak morning in West Yellowstone the weather has been great.

And by great, I mean, really great. The temperature has been fifty or under every morning, and most days it never gets above seventy. Four days in a row, I began my ride each morning by warming up my legs on a good, miles-long climb. The bracingly cool air, paired with stunning views of freshly powdered, snow-covered mountains is a perfect way to wake up and get energized for the rest of the day.

And of course, after making it to the top of the mountain pass or ridge, the ultimate fun begins: soaring down at full speed. When I started doing major climbs in Colorado I was pretty cautious on the downhills but these mountains have taught me how to lean into corners without fear and without touching my brakes.

Since the temperature is low, bombing down hills robs my body of any heat I produced while I was climbing up the other side. I could put more layers of clothing on at the summit, but I love the adrenalin rush of feeling the cold wind bite into my arms and legs. Then the land flattens out and I sprint until the warmth returns to my fingers and toes. Warming up under my own power always feels great.

Montana held other surprises for me as well.

I rode through a herd of cows that were being driven in the opposite direction by cowboys on horses and border collies. The herd of bovines, about a hundred strong, were clearly not impressed their enforced trek down the asphalt road. The sound of their protesting voices was overwhelming. I stayed right on the tail of a pickup truck, which cleared the road of cows quite nicely for me. It also shielded the cows from seeing me and getting spooked. I did spook a few of the horses though. I guess they are not used to weird-looking cyclists.

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Which of these does not belong? Β You never know what you will find in a herd of cows!

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I saw three osprey nests.

The skies and marshlands have been filled with birds: ducks, geese, pelicans, kingfishers, osprey, bald eagles and noisy sandhill cranes.

The roads have been filled with friendly cyclists. There is a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the TransAm going on this weekend in Missoula, so many cyclists have been converging on Western Montana. Two Adventure Cycling groups have been riding to the same towns as I every day. They are really awesome and have given me watermelon, Gatorade, water and a map. Β We have also added another member to our motley little band. Mikey has joined Jenn, Karl and I, we have camped together for several days. It is fun to have people to hang out with after the riding is over for the day.

Yesterday, I ditched them and stayed in a real house with a real bed complete with pillows. My step-cousin, Erin, lives in Stevensville and graciously invited me into her home for the night. Spending time with her family was wonderful and the kids showed me their many chickens and turkeys. They also have a little kitten named Socks and we became buddies. I almost took him with me, but decided he might not enjoy life in a pannier!

After leaving Erin’s house, I rode up to Adventure Cycling’s headquarters in Missoula. It was hopping with a multitude of cyclists and their beloved steeds, due to the goings on of this weekend. It was so cool to see pictures and actual bikes of the folks who went on this ride 40 years ago, starting a trend of seeing the United States in the best way possible-on a bike.

While I was hanging out in Missoula, my Uncle Wayne drove several hours south to see me. Since we so far apart, I have only seen him a few times in my entire life. He took me to an amazing asian restaurant and gave me fresh, Montana grown fruit and a tee-shirt. It was stellar hanging out with him, my only regret is that I was so caught up in being excited to see him that we didn’t take any pictures together! But I will treasure the memory forever. It is really quite crazy: when I started this trip on May 18th, I was only planning to go to Colorado to see my brother but now I am almost to Idaho and meeting relatives I never thought this trip would allow me to catch up with.

I will ride across into Idaho today and into a new time zone and new adventures. But I will never forget my trek across Montana and the wonderful folks I have been able to meet.

And I will never forget the sky.

In small town of Wisdom, I woke up in the middle of the night with the need to use the restroom. I was so annoyed to have to wiggle from my warm, sleeping bag cocoon. I unzipped my tent and found that frost covered it like glass. Then I stepped out into the 28 degree air and what stretched out before me made me burst into tears.

The sky was glittering with more stars than I have ever seen and the milky way looked close enough to brush with my fingertips. The scene was so resplendent that I was instantly under its spell and in that moment, (but I think only in that moment) the thought that crashed throughout my entire being was,

“I never want to go back East again.”

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30 thoughts on “Big Sky Moments

  1. Love your posts so much!!! Your adventures are exciting and fun to read. BTW you would be missed very much back East. πŸ™‚ You are loved, prayed for and missed. Keep riding!

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    • Don’t worry, I will be back before you know it! I am just stealing a few mountains and the Montana sky to bring back to NY. Thank you for your prayers πŸ™‚

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  2. I remember reading about a time, someone timidly riding at 10 MPH going to work with seven headlights, 3 taillights, a sword, bear spray, 3 days worth of food and a flare gun, and that was only one way to work.

    The term big sky is really that,

    I still can’t believe I had the privilege of meeting you in Erie, In MAY… (That was this year ya know.) Your Awesome Bri..

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  3. You can forget that thought about never coming east, at least for a visit every now and then. You are a blessed woman Brianna.

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  4. Curious if you’re paying for campsites or free camping? It seems that back east there’s not a stitch of ground that isn’t owned to pitch a tent unless you pay.

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    • I always stay in some sort of campground or park, but once Noah and I hit KY many towns let you camp in their parks for free. Even when I do have to pay it is much cheaper than back east. In the beginning I was paying $25 a night most of the time, now $12 is normal.

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    • You should, Cindy! It is so much fun to go new places and meet new people!! The Erie Canal trail is only 45 miles south of us in Rome and has a great bike trail that goes from Albany to Buffalo…just an idea to throw out there πŸ˜‰ I am going straight across Oregon and then north along the coast for a bit until I reach Astoria, Oregon. Only 550 something miles to go πŸ™‚

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  5. Heh. We also just missed you in Montana. We were all in the little town of Choteau for a family reunion the week of the 4th-8th of July. We drove home through Whitefish and down to Spokane. Your map looks like you descended down 12 from Lolo pass to the Lochsha Lodge…if so, you whizzed right past the spot we had to stop on our way *to* Montana to clean my kid’s barf off the car seat…

    Sorry, was that TMI?

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    • Haha, I can definitely sympathize! I had some bouts of severe car sickness when I was a kid and I can picture how traveling on Lolo pass in a car would cause issues. It is a beautiful stretch of road but also super winding.

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