I Know I Am in Montana; The Question Is Where? … The 10,000-Mile Bike Trek

They call it Big Sky Country for a reason. The heavens seem to stretch on forever. But the enormity of the sky is matched by the state's mountains and rivers and valleys. Even this single tree has a statement to make.

They call it Big Sky Country for a reason. The heavens seem to stretch on forever. But the enormity of the sky is matched by the state’s mountains and rivers and valleys. Even this single tree has a statement to make.

I don’t really know if you can make a wrong turn in Montana. Almost everywhere you go the skies are big, the mountains high, the rivers clear, and the views forever. With that said, I am not 100% sure about my bike route through the state. For most of my 10,000-mile journey I had maps, or my journal, or letters, or even just logic to retrace my route of 27 years ago. Many of the roads I traveled down were the only roads available or at least the only roads I could use and get where I wanted to go without a major detour.

And often there were significant events that reminded me where I traveled. Many of the views I saw in Montana could have played this role— except those views were just about everywhere. The two events I do recall happened on my first day. One, I bicycled 120 miles with the elusive tailwind I had hoped for in North Dakota. Two, I found a restaurant that offered a free pancake to anyone who could eat the whole thing. It was a yard across, two inches deep and took the whole griddle to cook. I passed. But I watched a giant consume one and go on to eat a second. I thought he deserved a standing ovation, but hesitated with the thought that he might not like standing ovations. I try not to irritate mountains.

But my memory aids were unavailable for Montana. Still, I know most of my route. About 250 miles are in contention, which in Montana isn’t a big deal. Now if I were talking Rhode Island or Delaware… Anyway, if you are a map fiend, I either traveled from Malta on Highway 2 to White Sulphur Springs, or from Havre on Highway 2 to White Sulphur Springs. Both seem logical choices. Since the former route came first, Peggy and I drove it. Sections seemed quite familiar. Others not so much. One of these days, I will go back and start from Havre. Anyway, here are some views Peggy and I saw along the way.

Another perspective on Big Sky Country. This one along US Highway 2 as it makes its way through northern Montana.

Another perspective on Big Sky Country. This one along US Highway 2 as it makes its way through northern Montana.

Fence showing Montana cattle brands at Culbertson, Montana museum.

If ever there was a modern catch phrase in the writing, art, and business world, it is “branding.” Over and over we hear about how important it is that we establish our own unique voice or product. Well, there was a time when the concept of branding was a lot simpler. 🙂 We found this fence at a small museum in Culbertson, Montana. These are cattle brands from the region.

Cow weathervane found at museum in Culbertson, Montana.

We also found this fun weather vane at the Culbertson Museum. Somehow, it reminds me of the recent election. (grin)

Old beauty parlor hair curlers on display at Culbertson, Montana, Museum.

Another photo from the Culbertson museum and another bit of post-election humor: After the election, Mrs. B decided to head for the beauty parlor to have her hair done— and her brain rearranged. (Move on Curt.)

Whoa! Another roadside attraction.

Whoa! Another roadside attraction. Dinner? We came on this unlikely pair along with another  20 acres of other such creatures along Highway 2. There was no sign to tell us why they were there.

Sign for the Malta, Montana museum.

Here’s a cowboy with high hopes, “high in the sky apple pie hopes.” The Native American is saying, “Go get him guy. I’m behind you all the way.”

Peggy and I came across this derelict old house with its life-affirming message along Highway 2. It's a great message for these troubled times from a poem by Sam Walter Floss: "Let me live in a house beside the road/ Where the race of men go by/ The men who are good and the men who are bad/ As good and bad as I/ I would not sit in the scorner’s seat/ Nor hurl the cynic’s ban/ Let me live in a house by the side of the road/ And be a friend to man."

Peggy and I came across this old house with its life-affirming message along Highway 2. It’s a great message for these troubled times from a poem by Sam Walter Floss: “Let me live in a house beside the road/ Where the race of men go by/ The men who are good and the men who are bad/ As good and bad as I/ I would not sit in the scorner’s seat/ Nor hurl the cynic’s ban/ Let me live in a house by the side of the road/ And be a friend to man.”

Petroglyph from Sleeping Buffalo Rock along Highway 2 in Montana.

Another Highway 2 site featured the Sleeping Buffalo Rock covered with carved petroglyphs. This symbol is usually interpreted to represent a badger.

US Highway 191 in Montana

In Malta, Peggy and I picked up US Highway 191, which runs from the Canadian Border to Mexico. Unlike most of America’s historic north-south/east-west blue highways, 191 is a combination of many north-south roads that were put together in the 80s.

Another view of Montana countryside along Highway 191

Another view of Montana countryside along Highway 191.

A Montana stream found along US Highway 191.

A calm stream…

The Missouri River in Montana along US Highway 191

And the mighty Missouri River— Montana style.

Cattle roundup in Montana.

This is Montana! Cowboys and cattle. Two cowboys rode horses, and one is using an ATV.

Tempting! A trout contemplates a lure in a Lewiston, Montana mural.

Tempting! A trout contemplates a fly in a Lewiston, Montana mural.

I found this town fun. The high school looms in the background. The vote for the 2015 commencement speaker was unanimous. Dakota Jolliff asked her uncle to give the address. She was the only senior. The principal lives across the road from the school. First thing in the morning during winter storms, she looks out her window. If she can't see the school, classes are canceled. The school is also haunted. Lights are turned on at night and locked doors opened.

I found this town fun. The high school looms in the background. The vote for the 2015 commencement speaker was unanimous. Dakota Jolliff asked her uncle to give the address. She was the only senior. The principal lives across the road from the school. First thing in the morning during winter storms, she looks out her window. If she can’t see the school, classes are canceled. The school is also haunted. Lights are turned on at night and locked doors opened.

You may have noted the windmills in the Judith Gap sign. Check out the cattle at their base. There are 90 of the 40 story high monsters. They proved electricity to the 80 homes in Judith Gap plus another 360,000.

You may have noted the windmills in the Judith Gap sign. Check out the cattle at their base. (Tiny dots at the fence line right center— they may be antelope.) There are 90 of these 40-story high structures. They provided electricity to the 80 homes in Judith Gap plus another 360,000.

The Rocky Mountains viewed from Highway 191 in Montana.

When it comes to mountains, Montana is not shy. These are the Rocky Mountains.

Rocky Mountains in Montana.

Another view.

Rocky Mountains behind lake in Montana.

And another…

View of Rock Mountains in Montana.

And another.

Wood cutouts of wild animals in Sulphur Springs, Montana.

Peggy and I stayed at an RV campground in White Sulphur Springs that featured wild animal cut outs. I really liked this moose family with its reflection.

Peggy fed this one. Don't do this at home kids, Don't ever stick your hand in the mouse of an elk! :)

Peggy fed this one. Don’t do this at home kids. Don’t ever stick your hand in the mouth of an elk! 🙂

Here is my mandatory old barn photo for this blog with its dramatic backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. I didn't feel that this barn was simply falling down. It looked like it was melting!

Here is my mandatory old barn photo for this blog with its dramatic backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. I didn’t feel that this barn was simply falling down. It looked like it was melting!

Mountain men played a key role in the westward movement, first as trappers and later as guides.

Mountain men played a key role in the westward movement, first as trappers and later as guides.

Did this guy just hear the election results? (Kidding) We watched this guy and another jump into the Yellowstone River— and come out alive. They had carefully waited for a policeman to pass.

Did this guy just hear the election results? (Kidding) We watched this guy and another jump into the Yellowstone River— and come out alive. They had carefully waited for a policeman to pass. I am reminded of a statement by Joseph Campbell. “When you find yourself falling, dive.”

The Yellowstone River in Montana.

The Yellowstone River

A final view for today's post. This one is near Bozeman, Montana. In my next post I will head south from Bozeman and into Idaho, another beautiful state.

A final view for today’s post. This one is near Bozeman, Montana. In my next post I will head south from Bozeman and into Idaho, another beautiful state.

 

 

54 comments on “I Know I Am in Montana; The Question Is Where? … The 10,000-Mile Bike Trek

  1. The jumping photo is alarming. I saw a some people push someone off a ledge in Monument Valley. I thought they killed him. He was bruised but okay. He could have fallen about 10 stories. They were from Japan and were laughing and apparently thought it was funny but I was terrified and the pushed person seemed to laugh it off reluctantly. Your photo spurred memories of this. All the photos are glorious as is the incredible Big Sky Country and your excellent and amazing adventure.

    • Ouch, pushing, no thanks. I am no fan of jumping, Cyndie, even when I do it on my own volition. I had a friend (now passed away) who had done life long injury to his back from jumping off a bridge in Sacramento when he was a kid. I always feel that there are plenty of thrills involved in doing what I do without engaging in thrill sports. Peggy and I saw sky divers jumping off a bridge across the Snake River in Idaho a couple of days later. Even more scary. And thanks. 🙂 –Curt

  2. Great skies Curt. I spent one night in Montana in 1995 on my coach tour of the National Parks.

    Being a fan of Malta in Europe I was intrigued by the sign for Malta, Montana. I looked it up on Google there is a good story about how it got its name!

    • Andrew, I did the same thing with Malta, and I meant to tell the story! Just forgot. Here it is for those of you reading the comments: Malta was/is a rail town. The rail company man responsible for naming it spun a globe. He chose the name for the town from where his finger landed. It happened to be the Island of Malta. Thanks, Andrew. –Curt

  3. We saw plenty of quirky stuff driving through the Northern Plains and Montana one summer, but my favorite shots of yours here (and mine then) are those of the open road stretching out into that huge, blue sky. That’s pure Montana.

  4. What a beautiful part of your country!

    When I was 12 years old, my mom decided I should have a perm. (I have no idea why she thought that was a good idea for her tom-boy daughter.) The contraption was exactly like the one you showed, I can still smell the frizzling hair. Thanks, mom.

    • I am laughing out loud, Yvonne. I’d run so fast if some one tried to put me under a machine like that I don’t think anyone would ever catch me. It doesn’t sound like you had a second round with it! 🙂 And yes, the region is gorgeous. Photos don’t do it justice. Thanks. –Curt

    • Your comment on French roundabout art led me to jump on Google and check it out. What fun! BTW, AC, I haven’t seen any of your posts lately although I have been a bit distracted. Are you still posting regularly? If so, there must be a problem on my end. I miss my animals. 🙂 –Curt

  5. Thanks for another great post. Many decades ago, I had a low-level job with the Congressman from that area. One of my duties was to read the local papers from Malta, Judith, Culberson etc. and write appropriate letters to people congratulating them on weddings, births, naturalizations, etc. It opened my eyes to the fact that the U.S. on the coasts was not the same as the U.S. in the heartland. In 2014, we took Montana 200 across the state. Now I will have to go back to see 2 and 191.

    • And thank you Ralie. Yes, it is a very different world. I lived in Alaska for a few years and it was similar in many ways, including people, isolation, beauty and climate. I have never been disappointed by my visits to Montana whether by vehicle, bike, or backpack. –Curt

  6. Curt, so much in this post to like – the brain operating hair machine, the poem, the views, the cutouts animals, the diving man. Being a fan of run-down barns this ‘melted’ one must be my favourite Picture here and of all barns ever! Stunning location and eerily collapsed and terrifically captured photo. Love it.

    • I absolutely love old barns, Annika. They have so much personality. And I am continually surprised at how often their background seems so fitting. It is really, really hard to beat the Rocky Mountains peaking up behind, however. I had fun with the post. Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks. –Curt

  7. Another interesting installment. I love your B&W photo of the barn. And the mural of the fish. That hair contraption in the museum is truly scary weird. Was it early treatment for seizures or something?
    Alison

    • No, Alison, it was truly for curling hair. Can you believe it? 🙂 I was joking about the brain redo. And thanks. Can’t resist old barns… or turning them into black and whites. –Curt

    • Thanks Gerard. And I will! This series is drawing to a close, as it should after 50 + posts. I have Idaho, Nevada, and home left. I suspect I will continue to find old barns and streams to photograph, however. 🙂 –Curt

  8. So I’ve been there! Way back…’96, I believe. I stayed with missionaries who were translating the Bible into Cheyenne for those who were more comfortable in that language. I wasn’t by the Rockies, though. The Yellowstone’s gorgeous.

  9. Gorgeous scenery. Such vast expanses. I remember when one of my college professors, who was from Montana, told us how he once got a speeding ticket and when he saw how much it was for (very little $), he went right on speeding.

  10. Your photos of Big Sky Country definitely do it justice. And the one of Peggy feeding an elk is so much fun to see. I loved the comment about the one high school senior — don’t think I’ve ever been in a h.s. that small, but Idaho City, ID was close the year I worked there: only 5 seniors!

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