A truly awesome day on US Highway 2. Tailwind the entire way and it was strong. I am averaging 15.4 mph. Flat country for the first 85 miles parallel to the Missouri River. Once again I can't see the river for the band of trees on either side of it. Not much traffic. Pickups towing campers and motor homes towing cars mostly. Hardly any truck traffic. I guess a lot of commerce rides the rails. A couple small towns, but mostly range land and grain fields. Hamburger country. A small group of forlorn domesticated buffalo sits in a pen. I come across a cattle crossing. They cross the highway on their own like a bunch of primary school children. Single file, look both ways before crossing. I don't want to lose momentum so I don't stop for a picture. Fort Peck Indian Reservation and roads to Canada. One of the towns is mostly Native American. They have a bike lane running alongside the highway. It's a nice diversion, but hardly seems necessary. There is very little traffic this Sunday. Rolling hills after Brockton for 20 miles drops my average speed to 14.6 mph. Peggy Hill's description of the route was very accurate: Wolf Point was the biggest town, Poplar was mostly Native American, Brockton was a tiny nothing, then the hills, then the hills end at Culbertson.
On one of the uphill segments a guy on a mountain bike towing a Yak passes me at incredible speed. I catch up with him at one of the flat spots. In a headwind this bike is like a parachute, but with a tailwind it's a sailboat. The other cyclist is going from Seattle to South Carolina. He tells me he's averaging 18 mph today with the wind. I catch up with him again at Culbertson and meet another cyclist going from Bakersfield to Chicago where his car awaits him for the ride home. While we're talking a couple on a tandem pull up. It's a cross-country bike jamboree. Where'd all these bike nuts come from all of a sudden?
I am not going to give up on this tailwind and decide to continue on to North Dakota. I've gone over 100 miles and Williston is nearly 50 miles away. How many opportunities do you get to do a century and a half in one easy day? A sesquicentury for the Wisconsin Sesquicentennial. It beats a commemorative license plate any day. The road just after Culbertson is incredibly flat. With the tailwind, it's like riding on the Bonneville Salt Flats. I cruise for a long time at over 20 mph. I hit a stretch of new pavement and maintain 25 mph with a few sprints up to 28 mph. Definitely a level ground speed record for this bike. The winds must be blowing just as fast as I am riding. The air feels totally calm. I'm beginning to think that maybe I can set an average speed record as well as a daily mileage record today. No luck. The hills come back. I fully expect the guy from South Carolina to pass me again. He said he was going to go for it after refueling. Maybe he changed his mind and decided to watch the Tour de France on ESPN.
One long uphill before the state line. I never expected I'd have to climb out of Montana to get into North Dakota. "Last Chance Casino". Like all the "casinos" in Montana it's just another restaurant/bar with video poker. Imagine James Bond jetting out to one of these dives for a round of baccarat with Dr. No. They're about as posh as an OTB parlor in Queens. I finally see a daytime speed limit for cars, "Reasonable and Prudent", and another Montana oddity, the state run liquor store.
The highway falls apart in North Dakota. Huge cracks filled in with tar, but the tar is extruding under the intense heat into ridges. It's like riding over a fire hose every 6 feet. Segments have been repaved, but were smoothed using tractor tires instead of a steamroller. This gives the repaved segments a rumble-strip texture. These two kinds of road alternate for the next 15 miles. Fire hose, rumble strip, fire hose, rumble strip. I'm afraid the stress could pop a spoke. I am still moving pretty fast when not climbing.
Just before Williston the road widens out into a divided highway. Up a bit and then downhill for 3 to 5 miles. No pedaling necessary. The ride is exceptionally easy. Williston is big town so it takes a while to find a convenient place to stay. Cruising around town puts me over the 150-mile mark, but it ruins my chances for an average speed record. I find a huge motel (huge in comparison to everything so far, that is) with about 100 units and a collection of business travelers: agribusiness and BNSF railroad, I assume. The clerk at the desk is driving me crazy with chitchat and stupid jokes. She knows she is in charge and is having fun torturing the other customers and me. I get a huge room at the commercial rate of $32. Two double beds and dressing room separate from the bathroom. Two days ago I was in a room so small I had to put the front wheel of the bike in the sink to get it to fit inside. There's a Chinese restaurant across the street. I order the egg foo yung. The thing is monstrous. It must contain a half dozen eggs. I feel I could use the protein, however. "Your present plans are going to succeed." The fortune cookie has spoken.
Heard a great bit on a comedy show on CBC Radio One out of Saskatchewan. The guy is complaining about how paper thin the walls are in his motel room. He had to ask the neighbors to turn down the brightness on their TV.