Helena to Bozeman (or, The Hills of Methtana)

Helena proved to be a fun little town. There was definitely a more rural feel to it than Missoula, but it still had some great breweries and bars, and our Couchsurfing host was amazing. She showed us around town a bit (took us to Blackfoot River brewery as well as Lewis and Clark brewery), and she graciously let us take over her backyard and house for a few days. I feel like Helena has a lot more for us to find if we had time to explore and dive in a bit. Maybe someday we will be back for an extended stay.

Higgs. Chillin'.

On Wednesday (5/20) we hit the road again. Our next major stop was Bozeman, Montana…another city we knew nothing about but shows up on a map. The day started out a little late for us, it is always tough to gather up and get moving after a few days off, but by 11 AM or so we were back on the road. It wasn’t long before we were greeted by our old friend, Headwind. Headwind sucks and I want to punch him in his cocky throat. The first hour or so was a little rough with Headwind plus a slight uphill, but eventually the wind settled down and things got a bit easier. The time passed quickly as we wound through the mountains, and we even saw some antelope (antelopes?) in a field!

The last ten miles or so of the day were pretty easy, it was mostly downhill. We are now coasting along the Missouri River which eventually finds its way to St. Louis (thank you informative sign at the campsite for that info). Also, Lewis and Clark hung out around here a couple hundred years ago, which I find kind of cool.

Home is where the tent is.

Our place of rest for the night was a little campground along the Missouri (Indian Road Campground). It was free, which is always a bonus. Also, someone left a full can of Coke on the table near our spot so we mixed that with some rum we happened to have. I don’t remember where the hell we got a small bottle of rum but I’m glad we had it. It was nice getting into the campground a bit early, I was able to plug in the solar system, get some work done, and even do a little reading. This camping thing is pretty cool when you have some daylight to enjoy it.

The night was fairly uneventful and our morning was calm and relaxed. We eventually hit the road around 10:30 AM and made a quick stop at a gas station in Townsend to get some water. The campground we stayed at was wonderful in many ways (including being free) but it didn’t have any potable water available. But, nothing a stop at a gas station couldn’t fix!

The route for the day was similar to yesterday, a gradual uphill for about two-thirds of the ride and then a downhill into our planned camping spot near Three Rivers. Despite an early appearance by Headwind (blast him), things went smoothly until about 10 miles into the ride. Then, we hit some construction. This wasn’t just normal construction with flaggers or a detour of a few hundred yards, this was serious construction. The entire road had been torn up and was basically gravel-covered mud for about five miles. Hardly ideal for a car, much less a bicycle. We didn’t really have a choice, as no alternative routes showed up on any maps, so we just continued through the construction zone cautiously as semis blazed past us at alarming speed. (It seems they really don’t care if there are no road markings or actual pavement to drive on.) About halfway through the construction, one of the workers stopped us and said we could ride in an area that was sectioned off from the main road. Apparently they weren’t doing any work in that area today so it was all ours. It was still gravel, but at least we didn’t have vehicles flying past us spraying us with mud and flying rocks.

Reluctantly crouched at the starting line. Engines pumping and thumping in time. The green light flashes, the flag goes up.

We eventually made it through the construction, got back on solid road, and were finally able to take a much-needed break. We saw a hitchhiker who waved to us, but that was about it. Then, a few minutes later, we spotted a bicycle chained to a piece of farm equipment. Sitting nearby was a bedroll, a backpack, and some other belongings. One of the tires on the bike was flat and we realized the hitchhiker may have actually been a cyclist who needed assistance. If that was the case, we wished he would have asked for our help! Regardless, Anna and I both promised to start explicitly asking any travelers we pass, especially those on foot, if they need help instead of just smiling and waving. One benefit of riding so heavy is that we generally have plenty of water, food, and electricity to share with anyone who might need it.

Peter admiring that world famous "Big Sky"

Eventually we got back on the road after our break, climbed to the top of our hill, and found ourselves staring at dark storm clouds right in our path. It was tough to judge distance but we guessed they were a couple miles away, coming our direction. There wasn’t much we could do so we just pressed on and hoped for the best. Luckily, we somehow missed the storm and made it to our campground without really encountering anything more than a few random raindrops.

Hmm, that doesn't look good.

The campsite (Missouri Headwaters State Park) was a bit of a disappointment. First off, it is expensive as fuck. It is $28 for a tent spot (despite saying $10 online). Normally a campground will offer you some amenities for that price, like running water, electricity, possibly a shower and/or laundry facility on site, maybe a pavilion, or even just beautiful scenery. Unfortunately, this campground did not get the memo. It is miles away from any actual rivers or trails or anything you would come to the state park to see. There is no electricity, showers, laundry, or even trash removal on site. The bathroom is an outhouse. And the only place to refill water is about three miles away from the campsites…which meant we had to bike an extra six miles to fill our water bottles. We essentially paid nearly $30 for worse amenities than we had at the free campground the night before. Kind of disappointing, but not much could be done. (We were pretty beat at the end of the day and biking an unknown number of extra miles to avoid this campsite didn’t sound fun.) We set up our tent, ate some food, charged the solar battery for a bit, and went to bed. Soon, we would be in Bozeman.

Rainbow!

The road to Bozeman was fairly straightforward – we had some rolling hills with small towns and farms along the way. We met some friendly horses who ran up to their fence and eagerly snatched up a few baby carrots out of Anna’s hands. This might have been some sort of farming taboo, feeding horses that aren’t yours, but everything seemed to turn out okay.

Anna feeding some carrots to our biggest fans.

And, of course, we were surrounded by meth. Anti-meth signs were everywhere. The hand-drawn “not even once” posters dotted the landscape and every city advertised (bragged? warned?) that they were a “Meth Watch” community. I really never knew Montana had a meth problem and part of me seriously wonders why. Is it just impossible to get good drugs? I guess Montana is pretty far from the traditional drug pipelines of Seattle, Chicago, New York, Miami, San Diego, etc… but man, this is the age of the Internet. I know for a fact you can order incredibly clean MDMA online and have it delivered by the postal service, and all you need is an Internet connection, Google, a few hours of spare time, and a ninth grade level reading comprehension. Oh well, I guess out here meth is king, which is really kind of sad because MDMA is such a better experience. I’ve never actually done meth unless it was mixed with Molly to make it a bit speedier. Much like heroin it really doesn’t appeal to me, but I do know people who use meth recreationally and are functional parts of society.

I’m torn on these scare tactics. I could see them being effective in a limited way if only applied to certain drugs. If we had a comprehensive education program about drugs and ended the tyrannical war on drugs, then it could be effective to have a couple drugs (like meth) that are advertised as too dangerous to try even once. But clearly that requires us to stop putting weed, MDMA, cocaine, ketamine, 2C-B, LSD, shrooms, and everything else into the same category. If you tell students that all drugs are really bad (mmm-kay) and they end up smoking some weed and see that it isn’t that bad, then you undermine the entire program. If the government is willing to lie about weed, why should I trust them about meth?

Of course, the best thing to do is to legalize everything and put more money into health services like Portugal did. Further research into addiction is showing that the environment is a major factor, and people (or rats) don’t sink their whole lives into a drug if they have a community to be a part of. The research and work done by Dr. Carl Hart is really changing how we look at drugs and policy, but sadly not many politicians are listening because power is gained by blaming drugs.

Anyway…that was an unexpected tangent.

About halfway into Bozeman, we started getting some ominous clouds forming over us. I thought we were going to be luck out again, Anna wasn’t so sure. Anna was right. I should listen to her more. After lunch we ended up getting soaked for about 20 minutes. To be honest, sometimes that sucks more than it raining all day. Getting pissed on for just 20 minutes feels like a prank. Like Zeus and Poseidon are on Mount Olympus laughing at our happiness and thinking it would be funny if we had dripping wet socks, but not wanting the farmers in the area to actually get their crops watered. Fuck you Zeus and Poseidon.

Welcome to Bozeman?

Despite the downpour (and another one soon after that, which we escaped by hiding under a Safeway awning), we made it to our wonderful Couchsurfing host’s home in Bozeman around 6 PM. We chatted for a couple hours, despite all of us being pretty tired (she had early work in the morning). Our host is going to start a European bike tour later this year and it was fun to exchange experiences, talk about equipment, and hear each other’s plans. Sadly, we are only staying here one night and the rest of our time in Bozeman will be with someone we met off Warm Showers. She seems pretty awesome too so I am sure things will continue to be great. In some ways this bike ride is more about the people than anything. We meet such awesome fucking people. Hell, we even had a stranger offer to let us crash in his living room when we were buying supplies at REI. The world really is filled with beautiful, amazing souls who genuinely want to help others reach their potential and experience all this world has to offer. It is an inspiring thing.

**If you are interested in more photos of our journey we have a Facebook page you can follow (www.facebook.com/shiftsandhiggles).**

Helena to Bozeman - Map

Helena to Bozeman - Elevation

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