If any of you have studied the map of the Great American Rail Trail (GART), you probably noticed that that there are several rail trails in place that stretch from Seattle almost to Missoula, MT. Then, with the exception of a five-mile stretch here, a ten mile stretch there, another two-mile stretch there, there are several hundred miles of no GART segments through the balance of Montana and Wyoming. Thus, Shevonne and I had to make an executive decision about how to address this huge gap.
To get through the rest of Montana and Wyoming on our bicycles would have entailed riding several hundred miles of two-lane highways, such as US 12, where vehicles, including large trucks, typically travel at 70 miles per hour. Some portions of these roads have very narrow shoulders. There are also many stretches where there are no towns for 40 miles or more. Most of it is prairie land with no trees to provide any cooling shade. And the temperatures this week in Missoula have been hovering around 100 degrees.
Considering all these factors, Shevonnne and I made the hard decision to fast-forward our trip to Spearfish, SD, in the Black Hills. From Spearfish, we will resume our ride eastward, picking up the Mickelson Trail, a 106-mile long converted rail bed that has received rave reviews since opening in 1999.
Fast-forwarding our trip to Spearfish necessitated some logistical challenges. First, we had to make arrangements to get our bicycles shipped. Thanks to Joe, at Spotted Dog Cycles in Missoula, we learned about shipbikes.com, a service that specializes in transporting bicycles. We paid Joe to disassemble our bikes and pack them for the trip to Two Wheeler Dealer, a bike shop in Spearfish.
And then we had to get ourselves to Spearfish. We found one bus that runs from Missoula to Spearfish and we bought two tickets. Sounds simple enough. Then, we had to deal with the bus ride, which became its own adventure. The daily bus to Spearfish leaves Missoula at 10:20 PM and arrives at Spearfish at 10:30 AM the next day, and it includes a transfer in Billings at 4:30 in the morning. Trying to get decent sleep on a bus is difficult enough, but when other riders are carrying on conversations, making calls on their phones, and playing music, it becomes nearly impossible. Add to that an inebriated man who boarded the bus in Butte and started yelling things out and a near fist-fight and the ride became downright terrifying. Needless to say, when we finally got to Spearfish, we were glad to be off the bus and we have sworn to not ride any more overnight buses. It’s a different world on those. Our first driver was struggling and very out of breath and our second driver was 80 years young and after retirement as an airplane pilot took up driving buses.
As I write this update in Spearfish, we have just heard that our bicycles have arrived at Two Wheeler Dealer. That means that Mike, the store owner, can get to reassembling them. We are hoping to be “back in the saddle” by tomorrow or the next day.
Spearfish is a very attractive and vibrant town of some 10,000 people, located at the northern fringes of the Black Hills of South Dakota. It houses Black Hills State University, has an opera theatre, is home to two micro-breweries and features artisan galleries. It also hosts a beautiful municipally-owned campground, where we have been very happy to spend some nights, waiting for our bicycles to be reassembled. It certainly has been a nice place to be “marooned” for a little while.
Follow us as we spin our wheels.