At 4.24 pm on Sunday 20 June 2010, a tornado tore through downtown Billings, MT, leaving a trail of destruction together with grapefruit-sized hail and rain that pelted down, creating flash floods. The impact of the weather on the enjoyment of our lives in the saddle on a day-to-day basis means that we have been eating, sleeping and talking weather constantly throughout the 8 months of our trip to date. Will it be snowing, raining, scorching hot? What direction is the wind blowing at our start, middle and end point for the day, and how strong is it? These things seem trivial in comparison to the kind of event that hit Billings and, given that we will be arriving there tomorrow night, it’s a timely reminder of all that is truly important in life. Luckily, we understand that no-one was seriously injured in the Billings tornado, and the flood waters subsided miraculously quickly, but it’s given us a new perspective as we travel East through the plains.
So, it was with great excitement that we woke this morning in our motel, the Lewis & Clark Motel, in Bozeman, MT and found that our favourite weather man, none other than the talented Mr Al Roker, was in… Bozeman, MT. On hearing the news, Kat jumped up and down squealing with joy, and then started to turn circles, rather like a small, yappy terrier chasing its tail. Unfortunately, Al was somewhere on the edge of town, not on our route, and appeared to have done his broadcast before the crack of dawn, presumably 6am EST (i.e. 4am our time), but still, it was an event to behold.
Prizing ourselves away from the TV, and after a hearty breakfast, we made an early’ish departure, stopping to talk to a really sweet lady called Bonnie as we loaded the panniers on the bikes. We set off in the direction of the local bike shop, a Specialized Dealer called Bangtail Bikes, smack bang in the centre of downtown Bozeman. Mason had set aside some Specialized tyres that we needed to carry with us as spares; the only ones that we will put on Trusty and Steed these days, and not that easy to come by. Thanks Mason! And while we were there, we met some lovely ladies called Sherilee and Linda, who were fascinated by our adventure. Thanks Sherilee for the donation, which you will see on our “hall of fame” on the MS donation page.
Then it was onwards and upwards, and later joyfully downwards, in an Easterly direction for 60 miles, to the small but charming town of Big Timber (aka Big T), along the trail that explorers Lewis & Clark took in the early 1800s. For our US readers, Lewis & Clark will need no explanation. They will have learned in school that not only did “Christopher Columbus sail the ocean blue in 14 hundred and 92”, but also that “in the year 18 and 4, Lewis & Clark both went before, and blazed for us the Oregon Trail where we go now in ease by rail”. In our case, it’s bikes rather than rail… but for our non-US followers, we hope that offers sufficient explanation as to the significance of the route! In any event, we will be following the Lewis & Clark trail for the next 400 miles or so, and today were lucky enough to have the wind on our backs as we pedalled along. As a result, we spun through the day at a fast rate of knots, arriving around 3.30pm at our hotel, the beautifully restored Grand Hotel, where we also ate a tasty dinner tonight.
Another long ride tomorrow: 84 miles into Billings, MT, where we will see the effects of the tornado for ourselves. We’ll be continuing to pray to the Gods of the wind as we make our way across these flatlands, not only for ourselves, but also for others for whom the ravages of the weather are a fact of life. Oh, and of course we’ll be continuing to watch the great Mr Al Roker religiously along the way… Al, Al, give us a wave, give us a wave, give us a wave…
P.S. For those of you who are looking at the photos (shame on you if you’re not), you’ll hopefully have realised that we’re out of Wyoming and back in Montana again, so all new posts are in Montana for now (just one photo today).