Montana means "Mountains", and mountains mean the land reaches up, grabs the sky, and wrings it dry. In Hannibal, we felt so relieved to walk into Mark Twain Cave, where the temperature was 52 F. I suppose we should have felt grateful it was just that cold on top of our first mountain pass (unnamed; let's call it "Little Belt", for the mountain range it traverses). The drizzle and wind made stopping to enjoy sort of like catching your breath after skiing in a snow storm.
From Harlowton to the base of the pass was 30 miles, the mountains funneling us towards their low point rising higher on our horizon. On our left, a smaller range which my father used to call "Crazy Woman Peak", and has since, even in Montana, been politically corrected to "Crazy Mountains". The story is, a woman on an early emigrant train went insane (understandable after traversing the Dakotas and eastern Montana at 20 miles a day), and was found wandering around at the base of these, the first real mountains they would have seen. I think she was the sane one, trying to find some water and greenness after all the treeless stretch and dryness of the plains.
On our right were the "Little Belt Mountains". I don't know the story of their name, but there is a "Big Belt" range to the west. Cheryl and I tandemed through this funnel, dressed for wind if not for rain. Small, infrequent drops were blowing around, just like home. So we wore our homie clothes.
We were greeted at our lunch stop by mountains rising up high enough to creak our necks, and Shaine, covered from the mist, playing her violin. Just as she stopped, real rain fell for 40 minutes, just enough time for lunch, and the switch to singles. We anticipated a steeper ascent, but the road gently rose for ten more miles, from about 4500 to 6000 feet. Along the way, we spied a red fox in a field with sleeping steers, and a pronghorn herd in a fenced off refuge. The ten miles went quickly, all in the middle chain ring, between 13 and 18 mph.
Downhill was not much faster. I put Annie on the back of the tandem, and she cruised along with me, a real trooper learning just how cold it could be on the back of the bike. Her reward: as we pulled into the campground, our friends from Gig Harbor, Rod and Joan and their seven-year old, Dani, drove up with bikes on the roof and shorts on their legs.
"Hey, it's summer, it's my vacation, and I'm going to enjoy it", Rod said.
Joan pulled on her rain gear and went off for a run, after being cooped up in the Honda for 2 days. Dani and Annie went off and played house to make up for two months of absence. And we all prayed for the weather to clear. (It will tomorrow.)
**Next Day's Journal**
Miles: Al (Tandem&single) 57; Cheryl (Tandem&single) 57; Ann (Tandem) 16.
Total Miles: 2790