Week Two: Cut Bank to Wolf Point, Montana on Electric Bicycle

Week 2: August 30th – Sept 5

Cut Bank to Wolf Point, Montana

Total Miles: 354

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Off-Road On the Electric Bicycle

The highlight of week two of our world record family adventure was definitely our stay with Dylan’s uncle Mark and his wife Christi who are farmers and ranchers on a piece of land that has been in her family for generations. The farm is located a few miles from Chester, a small town on US Highway 2, and right off the only dirt road in the United States that accesses a border crossing (Whitlash crossing, 30 miles to the north). This proved to be our first chance to test the electric bicycle off-road as Tomas pedaled eight miles across thick gravel, dodging grain trucks spewing dust and flying pebbles the whole way. Thanks to the otherwise impractical mountain bike tires the e-bike handled just fine, though we found about 20 mph to be the highest safe speed on that terrain.

Fortunately we arrived at the farm one day after harvest was done, otherwise we’re pretty sure we’d have been helping in the combine. Luckily we able to spend some time  with Mark, Christy, and their son Grant, and as always were fascinated to learn about life as a farmer and rancher. For Dylan it was a nostalgic walk down memory lane as her family had spent many summer vacations on the farm growing up. We got to see the original one-room homestead house that her grandfather was born in, and hear humorous family antecdotes. We were even treated to lunch by Dylan’s second cousin Shila and her family, who live in Inverness, a few miles further east down Highway 2. Visiting with family and friends is always a welcome break from our rigorous travel routine – too bad we couldn’t stay longer, but we had to press on!

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The little ones explore the family farm where tiny wooden shacks slowly fall back to earth

Further east on Highway 2 we found ourselves crossing through high rolling plains dominated by wheat farms and Native American reservations. It was beautiful country with a sad history of battles between natives and soldiers – and often outright slaughters of entire tribes. Numerous historic markers dot the highway in this region and signs tell the sad stories of these battles. Unfortunately, tensions still exist today between the native communities and the families that settled this region from the outside even though generations have passed.

Meeting the Penny Farthing Guy

In Malta we stayed two nights to catch up on work and let Tomas’s muscles recover. After checking pricing on a few different roach motels, we chose one close to the train tracks based on pricing alone. We couldn’t believe the rates the motels in this region were charging – $70 for a dated, dusty hole in the wall. But since we were on a budget, we had to make due. As luck would have it though, we met a fellow bicycle tourer staying at our motel who was actually going on year two of a round-the-world ride on his penny farthing bike! We wished we had more time to chat but he was anxious to get started with his day as we was trying to make it to Glacier before the snows did. We felt a bit sheepish on our electric bicycle after seeing his ride which was quite clunky and had no gears (no gears up Going-to-the-Sun Highway???). We wish all the best to Joff on his ride, you can check out his blog here.

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Tomas meets Joff from PennyFarthingWorldTour and we are humbled.

A Misadventure in Which we Again Curse Garmin

As we left Malta we stopped at the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge for lunch. At this point we realized that we were the ones that were actually on the menu as a relentless swarm of mosquitos pecked and hovered around us the entire time. Though we would have loved to birdwatch here, a huge storm was blowing in from the west and we knew we needed to get going to stay in front of it. Unfortunately Tomas’s Garmin bicycle GPS steered him wrong (again) – he thought he could reach Highway 2 by continuing east through the refuge and connecting, but we were only met with ominous “Road Closed” signs and barriers blocking the way. Thinking we would find the connecting road a bit further on, we continued around the lake and ended up circumnavigating the whole thing as a giant thunderstorm unleashed it’s first few giant raindrops upon us. Unwilling to go back to Malta, Tomas decided to press on through the rain and lightning.

Once we reached Highway 2 again by backtracking to our starting point the storm was in full force. It would prove to be the toughest stretch of the trip yet as he pedaled 25 miles through horizontal rain getting splashed by passing vehicles and freezing his fingers and nose off. We had hoped to make it to Glasgow that day, but found a motel in a tiny TINY “town” called Saco that was so run-down that we weren’t sure it was open (no lights on, no furniture in the lobby, missing ceiling tiles). A handwritten note on the door instructed us to check in the bar next door, which we did, and the bartender called the owner of the motel who was there in 5 minutes to let us in to our surprisingly clean room. We had never been so thankful as rain continued to pour down!

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Lake Bowdoin Wildlife Refuge just before the storm

Visiting Fort Peck Dam

The next day blessed us with blue skies and we made it to Glasgow with the wind to Tomas’s back. Here we took a sunset drive down to Fort Peck dam, which is the largest earthen dam in the United States, and the tallest along the Missouri River. It creates Fort Peck Lake, which is the 5th-largest man-made lake in the US and was built in the 1930’s as part of the New Deal with the hard work of over 10,000 workers. After pedaling slowly through the arid landscapes to the west, it was refreshing to see so much water – though we were beginning to think we should have brought a Costco-sized jug of mosquito repellent at this point!

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Fort Peck Dam is the largest earthen dam in the United States

Going Native in Lewis and Clark Country

The following day we pressed on to Wolf Point, the last stop along the “Hi-Line” of Highway 2. After this, we would head south to avoid the heavy truck traffic from the Bakken oil fields. Wolf Point is the largest town in the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, and here we witnessed first-hand the sad state of affairs on the modern-day reservation. Bars and casinos were the most common business in the town as drunks roamed the street during mid-day. Children walked without shoes with no guardian to be seen. We were pretty shocked to see this standard of living in the United States – something we hadn’t seen since we crossed the border to Mexico.

But we made the most of our stay. Finally we had a chance to camp, and the sweet Native American owner of the campground we stayed at encouraged us to pick some of the ripe chokecherries growing around our campsite. Eva and Coco had a blast filling cup after cup with the juicy but bitter berries, and to our surprise Eva ate quite a few even though they had a sour-bitter flavor. Our host told us that many believe the chokecherry can cure cancer, and come to his property to pick them. Later we found out that the chokecherry was historically an important fruit for the Native Americans of the region and was a crucial part of their diet and medicine. Later in the day we visited the nearby Lewis and Clark bridge which was built in the 1930’s across the Missouri river. It is the longest steel-truss bridge in the state of Montana and is now being preserved as a historic site – a new bridge was built right next to it and the Lewis and Clark bridge is now fenced off so it’s a bit tough to take a nice photo up close.

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Ripe chokecherries beckon to us – wish we could have made jam!

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The Lewis and Clark Bridge near Wolf Point is the largest steel truss bridge in Montana

By the second week our travel routine began to develop: Tomas would pedal away by mid-morning, while Dylan and the kids would finish breakfast and packing. We would meet at an agreed-upon place for a picnic lunch (or fast food if necessary) – hopefully a place with a playground. The kids would continue to play after lunch as Tomas pedaled to the hotel or campground where we’d spend the night. Tomas is still pedaling no more than 4 hours per day, but we’re hoping this will increase as his stamina improves!

 
 

Detail Summary of Week 2:

Day 8: August 30th

Total Miles: 64

Start: Cut Bank, MT

End: Chester, MT

Lodging: Stayed with Family

 

Day 9: August 31st

Total Miles: 63

Start: Chester, MT

End: Havre, MT

Lodging: Siesta Motel

 

Day 10: September 1st

Total Miles: 92

Start: Havre, MT

End: Malta, MT

Lodging: Sportsman Motel

 

Day 11: September 2nd

Total Miles: 0

Rest Day in Malta, MT

Lodging: Sportsman Motel

 

Day 12: September 3rd

Total Miles: 44

Start: Malta, MT

End: Saco, MT

Lodging: Saco Motel

 

Day 13: September 4th

Total Miles: 43

Start: Saco, MT

End: Glasgow, MT

Lodging: Koski’s Motel

 

Day 14: September 5th

Total Miles: 48

Start: Glasgow, MT

End: Wolf Point, MT

Lodging: Rancho Motel & RV Park

One comment to Week Two: Cut Bank to Wolf Point, Montana on Electric Bicycle

  • Gary Thornton  says:

    Keep up the good work Camper Clan! I love seeing the beautiful pictures and reading the interesting travel stories. And your little ones are truly adorable 😉

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