Route: Fort Benton to Great Falls, MT
Saya’s (age 6) quote of the day: As we cycled along, I pointed out a striking bird soaring overhead. It was about the size of a Robin, brown with mostly white, almost translucent wings and a long, slender, beautiful tail. Saya said, “That’s nice, but I really miss the pigeons in New York City.”
After breaking down our tent beside the Missouri River, eating breakfast and buying lunch and extra drinks at the local grocery store, Sho, Saya and I pedaled out of Fort Benton around 9:30 a.m. and spent the next eight and a half hours on the road to Great Falls. It was around 90 degrees and sunny, and we had no shade throughout the ride, so we took care to stay hydrated. We ate lunch on the grass at a random spot by the road surrounded by flowing fields of wheat and chirping grasshoppers. The route included several long climbs, two of which were gravel. We pushed our bikes up the gravel climbs to keep the wheels of our heavily laden bicycles from slipping out from under us. I worried that today’s ride might have been too much for Sho (age 12, carrying about 30 pounds of gear on his bike), but he never gave up. I know many adults who would not have been able to complete the long, hot, hilly ride Sho did today.
We continued to receive kind treatment from strangers. A few passing cars stopped to ask if we were okay, including one driven by Heidi LePard. She and her young daughter had seen us at the pool in Fort Benton the day before, and she gave me her phone number in case we needed help. And once we arrived in Great Falls, we enjoyed the generosity and good company of Terri Rogers and her boyfriend John Nelson (who met us 10 miles out in his truck and trailed us the rest of the way in). Terri and John let us pick vegetables and fruits from their garden – potatoes, tomatoes, cucumber, onions, raspberries, etc. – and treated us to a homemade dinner of hamburgers, wurst, grilled veggies and pudding. Their food is fresh, home grown and from a local farm cooperative: excellent for bodies that have exercised all day! Terri told us stories of the many people from all over the world she has hosted, and John regaled us with tales of riding a bicycle through sub-zero temperatures in Yellowstone National Park. We will stay in their home for two nights, spending tomorrow in Great Falls visiting the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and a local water park. We are lucky to have met them and honored that Terri was kind enough to offer the use of her home.
Finally, we had a call tonight with my wife Eiko. She just arrived in Tokyo to be with her 21-year-old niece, Arisa, who has acute lymphatic lymphoma and will undergo a bone marrow transplant this Thursday. I think of Arisa frequently when I’m cycling – I’ve known her since she was a baby, and she rode with us for two weeks when we cycled the circumference of Iceland in 2011. The ride wasn't easy, and Arisa rose to the occasion, cracking jokes as we all struggled to ride through the winds and challenging terrain. She is strong, beautiful, funny and full of life. I’m sending her all my strength to kick cancer’s ass. Arisa: when you recover, come to NYC for a visit, and we will ride bikes to the Brooklyn Bridge to celebrate your health and watch the sun rise.
Here are some pics from today:
Can you spot the grasshopper in the wheat?
Saya helping Sho push his bike up a long, gravel climb
Saya and John picking vegetables for our dinner
Sho with some onions he just pulled from the ground
Dinner with our generous hosts, Terri and John