FLASH! RUDI MAKES IT HOME SAFE AND SOUND, BUT WORN DOWN TO A NUB! DETAILS TO FOLLOW AS HE REGAINS CONSCIOUSNESS AND COHERENCE (Bob note: Coherence is relative, we mean what passes for it in Rudi’s world).
Visions of Alaska dance in Rudi’s head as he takes leave of his lovely wife and mother-in-law on Friday, August 6th, for the 2,700 mile jaunt home to Atlanta. It is the 46th day of his journey.
This is the last leave-taking event of the seven week trip, for which all are grateful. Throat lumps and nervous moments on the bike are not the way to stay safe, says Rudi. The beautiful mountains of Glacier turn immediately into the rugged high plains of Montana as the first few hundred miles roll under Bertha’s might. It’s not long before the cold weather clothes come off and the riding jacket is unzipped, letting in a few of the hundreds of tiny grasshoppers that keep hitting Rudi and Bertha in their eastern passage.
The duo has elected to stay north on highway 2 across Montana and North Dakota. Why see the same scenery on I-90 that they saw coming up? Besides, the Canadian riders use this route and like it. Rudi wonders why there are wind socks on the side of the highway heading into Cut Bank, Montana. The answer hits him like a kick in the side of the head as Bertha lurches to the left and the double yellow line! Close call.
The road turns northeast and the wind effect moves aft, and Bertha gets close to 60 miles per gallon on the first tank of gas. Rudi is flying high and feelin’ good, you betcha’! He decides to see how far he can go on a tank of gas, and since he has an extra gallon on back for emergencies he thinks it will be pretty far indeed!
Remember that wind sock back near Cut Bank? It isn’t the only one on the route, and for a very good reason. The road changes direction and so does the wind. Rudi gets less than 40 miles per gallon and runs out two miles short of the next gas station, and right on the one spot in 100 miles that has a very narrow shoulder.
Humility is a heavy load for Rudi to carry, but he carries it often enough to stay in pretty good shape. A cross country bicycle rider rode past as Rudi was emptying the last of the fuel into his trusty steed, and smirked, “Need anything?” as he peddled past a fuming Rudi. “Eat Grasshoppers!”, our hero thought, but, for once, kept his mouth shut.
It feels like you are visiting Europe as you slide across these plains. The names of the towns: Kremlin (“The American Version”), Havre, Zurich, Glasgow as well as the home grown Sweet Grass, Box Elder and Wolf Point. In tiny Saco, Montana, you can see the replica of Chet Huntley’s one-room schoolhouse right on the main drag (Chet Huntley was a prominent network news anchor in the 1960’s).
The girls are on the train heading back east and only a few hours behind Rudi. The train tracks are not more than 100 yards away from the highway for most of the day. Will we meet in the middle of the North Dakota plains? Oil wells appear in eastern Montana and western North Dakota, lots of oil wells. Not since Bob was a kid growing up in Texas in the 1940’s has he seen so many gas flares and lighted drilling rigs dotting the landscape in all directions. This will have consequences for Rudi today. Bad consequences.
The highway follows the Milk River for hundreds of miles. This is actually the ancient riverbed of the Missouri River that past Ice Ages forced south into its present course. Great sheets of ice, thousands of feet thick ground their way through here several times leaving behind rich glacial till and huge rocks, called “errata”, for future farmers to deal with. Rudi likes geology: It rocks! Gotcha’!
The oil boom up here means there are no motel rooms available. There are plenty of casinos and strip joints with full parking lots too. The campgrounds cater to RV’s and are flat, treeless and hot. Rudi rides on through the growing dark to Minot, North Dakota, and a motel that opened literally hours earlier. He has to dirt bike his way to the door, weaving between heavy equipment and reeking Porta-Potties to get to the front door … where he notices the driveway is open on the other side of the motel!
The TV doesn’t work, they have no ice for grog, and the toilet and tub were recently used by a gang of orcs, but the manager cheerfully informs Rudi, that a full rate will be required since they are the only hotel in town with empty beds! This is a Comfort Inn, for those who travle our highways. Beware.
Rudi gets a phone call as he eats his envelop of tuna (no eateries within a mile of this place and Rudi won’t ride after a grog). It’s Celeste and she’s standing on the station platform in guess where? Minot, North Dakota, not five miles away. An ironic ending to the first day on the road. Celeste and Scottie will sleep in their berths through the night to Minneapolis where they will then fly to Atlanta tomorrow. Rudi still has over 2,000 miles to go, and the weather is setting records along his route … heat records.
Tomorrow Rudi is going to get “centered”. If anyone needs it, he does.
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Rudi G & Jesse