August 15 -Into the Mountains: Roundup to Harlowton, MT

I woke this morning feeling better than when I went to sleep. No joints stiff, all muscles functional, but tired. I did sleep an extra 90 minutes, though. I only woke up when the rain on the roof became louder than my dream.

"Great", I thought. "Yesterday the Outback, wind, and distance. Today, rain." I seriously thought about just not riding. "Why am I doing this, anyway. It's pointless, outside of the artificial context I've created with goals and time lines and dots on the map.Who would know?" The point being, of course, that I would know, and I would define myself by what I did and didn't do. I started to gather cold/wet weather gear, all the time thinking I could just not do it, or wait out the rain, or something, while I methodically put it all on, down to the front fender on my single.

The first 15 miles were in a steady, heavy drizzle, made worse by a headwind. The only hope was the crescent cold front shown on the weather map, slowly moving south during the day, bringing Canadian air, cooler and drier (but still unstable) with it. Evidence of that front could be seen on my right, where a disc of blue sky was emerging, like the moon after a total eclipse. The rain stopped for a bit, leaving the roads wet, and my feet (despite the fender) totally soaked thru my Gore Tex socks.

I entered the RV, singing out loud, "Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain, telling me just what a fool I've been." I tried to dry out as best I could, but it was hopeless, so I put Cheryl's neoprene booties over my soaked shoes, replaced the neon orange vest for visibility (giving the truckers a clear target?), and went back out.

By the time I hit Ryegate, the sun was out, and we had lunch at the local park, named in honor of "Bonnie" McMurtry, with no explanation of why or who she was. But, her park did have a picnic table which was under a shelter, and thus was dry. I stripped to bike shorts and shirt, turned everything else inside out, and let it dry while Annie and I played Go Fish, and ate lunch. The others, less hardy I suppose, remained in the RV.

Cheryl, who has two obsessions on this trip, biking 2000 miles and getting daily exercise, offered to ride the last 30 miles on the tandem. The first 15 mile leg was under blue skies and sun. I had to take off my vest and rain pants, and use darker lenses in my glasses. Far off on both our right and left, we saw under halos of heavy clouds, mountain ranges. Tomorrow, they'll be getting closer, and we'll go over our first pass, from the Musselshell River valley to White Sulfur Springs, across the Castle Mts. on the Smith River. There are mineral baths there, and the RV park brochure offers "free shuttles to the spas".

At Shawmut, our final stop, we parked beside a '58 DeSoto up on blocks, with only a bit of rust infecting one door. I hadn't seen a DeSoto in at least two decades, so I thought it was worth a picture. No one was around to query about why it was there, exposed to the elements, and yet still so fresh looking.

I felt so warm, I dropped off my vest and pants with Cody in the RV, and headed out with Cheryl in only my shirt, shorts, short socks, and sleeves. Ahead of us, I saw the line of a squall, black against the horizon dead ahead. It was cutting diagonally from SW to NE (we were headed more or less west), and moving SW and W. I hoped it would move by before we got there.

Lightening z'ed ahead to our left, but no thunder came with it. The winds, already strong, picked up and became gusty and variable. After 7 miles (of a 15 mile leg), the drops started. I stopped to put on yellow lenses, take a picture of the cloud, hide my camera in my pack, and put on the only other piece of clothing I had, a fleece head band for my ears and upper neck. It worked. While I fiddled, and Cheryl (who had a jacket and long pants) complained of the cold and delay, the rain passed south of us, and we scooted into Harlowton with warmth and still air.

Our camp this evening is in Chief Joseph Park, by the Rodeo Grounds of Harlowton, MT. Every July 4th, they hold their round-up/rodeo, and I suppose the place is bustling then. The grass has signs, "No Livestock. $100 dollar fine." Today, we don't have to worry about cattle or horses in our tent; we have the place all to ourselves. We wandered around the stands and corrals. It looks like every other rodeo yard I've ever seen, except for an iron sculpture above the chutes, depicting various rodeo activities, and a mysterious man named "Doc", smoking a Marlboro and wearing his cowboy hat.

We finished up with "Lawrence" tonight. I was a little dissatisfied, not really knowing the outcome of the political struggle among the Arabs after taking Damascus under Peter O'Toole, but then the movie is not called, "Arabs in Arabia", is it?

**Next Day's Journal**

-Al Bikrutz

Miles: Al (Tandem&single) 69; Cheryl (Tandem) 29.

Total Miles: 2733