I depart at dawn. I’m trying a new range-extending technique: ride slowly with minimal electric assist when the road direction and wind allows for maximum solar energy harvesting. Ride quickly with maximum electric assist to get through stretches of road where the sun is in front of or behind me, meaning I get less than half the solar power because the solar panels do not tilt forward or backward.
I run into road construction which consists of 5 miles (8 km) of single-lane traffic through oil-slicked, chewed-up roadway. I can’t keep up with the pilot car and end up dodging construction vehicles and oncoming traffic. “Are you sure you want to be on this road?”asks one of the workers. No. I really don’t. At least I have these bright flashers on the bike. It’s a bit chaotic but I manage to make it through without incident.
Second breakfast (elevenses?) is a fresh baked egg and cheese pocket thing from an independent bakery in Lewiston, MT. The owner fills me in on how the whole town is suffering because it’s been a poor crop year.
Outside, a local man monologues at me about how Chinamen are ruining everything what with the personal computers and the Internet and what not. He suggest that I visit a local high school and talk to students there to help inspire the next generation. The latter idea is not entirely terrible.
The shoulder disappears. Boo! But traffic is light. Yay! The road has its own grammar and syntax. I ride in the middle of the lane to let cars coming up behind me know that it’s unsafe to pass without crossing the centerline. As they approach, I pull over to the side… because texting.
Most drivers are courteous and give me plenty of room when there is no oncoming traffic. Others pass much too close at 70 mph+ (115+ km/h) even if we’re the only two vehicles on the road. Even the worst drivers believe they are above average.
At solar noon, I have already covered 61 miles (98 km). I decide to try for 65 more miles in the second half of the day. A metric double century (200 km). That’s a thing, right?
The day ends at 205 km with a shower, pizza and beer with a campsite behind a small general store in this rural part of Montana. I pull up as the sun is setting and the owner comes over to open the store two hours after closing time to get me settled in.
She has a logbook of bikers who have come through. The last entry is three weeks old. It looks like I’m closing out the season on the ACA Northern Tier route.
As I climb into my tent for the night, a skunk munches loudly on a bowl of cat food not 3 m from my tent. I take all my food and garbage inside the tent with me hoping we won’t need to have a standoff in the middle of the night. Bear spray versus skunk spray. It’s mutually assured destruction. There would be no winners.
PS: If you are a teacher or you know a teacher who is along my route, feel free to reach out to me to arrange for a presentation to students. If you have a backyard where I can pitch my tent, even better. I’m currently in Itasca State Park heading towards Walker, St. Paul, Muscatine and Odell.