We got a bit of a late start this morning, but the tail-wind was so great that we got through the first 50 miles of today’s ride in just three hours! We stopped in Wolf Point to pick up groceries, not knowing what would be available in any of the following towns, and ate lunch in a park. The winds were really starting to pick up, but at that point, we had to head south, rather that east. This directional change is due to the effects of fracking in northern North Dakota, where apparently, bad traffic and a real “wild west mentality” have taken over as young men flock to the region for the lucrative jobs. So American Cycling Association’s maps take us a bit south to avoid that. While we are happy to take another route, today’s directional change turned that lovely tail-wind into a scary cross-wind, threatening to push us out into traffic with each gust, and often pushing against our intended direction. The last 53 miles took us over 5 hours, and we were thrilled to finally reach Circle, Montana.
Unfortunately, the only place to stay there is a trailer park where the owner — let’s call him J — lets people camp next to his propane tank for $10. J showed us to the “shower,” a hose suspended over the sump pump in the basement of the laundromat, where we could clean up. This was tolerable though (we didn’t have showers at the churches, so we were happy to clean up any way we could) — it was his politics and social skills that were unfortunate. When he saw us, J exclaimed “I like your kind!” We thought he meant he liked to welcome cyclists. It quickly became clear that he was happy to see that we were a man and woman that were together. J talked at length about two women that he thought were lesbians that had stayed there before us, and about how unnatural he thinks it is. We made it as clear as we could that he was making us uncomfortable, but given that he seemed a bit off, and had had quite a few beers, we didn’t feel comfortable arguing with him. No matter how we tried to change the subject, he kept going on, saying that “thinking of S-E-X for them makes me feel dirty, you know?” We came up with as polite of statement of disagreement as we could, and finally managed to get out of the conversation. He eventually moved on to misogynistic jokes. If leaving that campsite didn’t mean another 50 miles of cycling in the evening, we would have left. There was just no where else to go. The experience made us intensely uncomfortable, but it also reinforced the privilege that we have as we pursue our goal of crossing the country by bike. In this case, the owner was happy to host us because he perceived us as a straight couple. Presumably, some of the good will we have received on this trip has been easier to come by because we are perceived as white, straight, cis-gendered, middle-class, able-bodied, and so on. This trip is obviously physically challenging due to the miles on the bike. It is psychologically challenging also due to the miles on the bike, and miles of monotony in certain stretches of the country, the mosquitoes, the wet tent from camping repeatedly in the rain, etc — but no matter what, we want to keep in mind that we are incredibly fortunate to have the time and ability to do this trip, and to be aware of our privilege in how we are perceived across the country.
today’s ride: 102.9 miles
time in the saddle: 8 hrs and 10 min
total distance: 1405 miles