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Ride across America

The Machines: Part 1

Iain Lauren Bike across America

  • Day 14, July 20th: 62 miles
  • Day 15, July 21st: 77 miles
  • Day 16, July 22nd: 68 miles
  • Day 17, July 23rd: 81 miles
  • Day 18, July 24th: 67 miles
  • Total: 1182 miles

July 25, 2023 | Today was a big day. We finally left Montana and entered North Dakota, and tonight we are staying in Medora.  Montana is a big state, just slightly smaller in area than Germany but long and thin, whereas Germany is more of a square.  We rode the width of Montana, so it feels like we have been in the state forever.  Very pretty and with much varied scenery.

By the way, if you ever wondered where the grass in ‘grass fed beef’ came from, I can tell you – Montana!  We have been riding through hay fields for days and they have been combining a lot of hay.  Beef is big up here. :-)

Iain Lauren Bike across America

Iain Lauren Bike across America

I could tell you that it has been hot and sunny and that we have been riding good roads and have met some fun people. All that is true.  But today I thought I would tell you more about the bikes we are riding and the gear we have.  You will notice that the title of this blog says ‘Part 1’. ‘Part 2’ will talk about the power plants on the bikes – us!

We are each riding a Trek Domane. I pronouce it ‘domain’ but Trek is a little more pretentious and likes you to day ‘domarn-ee’.  Either way, they are alloy bikes with carbon front forks. The advantage for us is that they are strong and have mounting points in the frame for the luggage racks, etc.  I bought my bike for this trip back in December and Lauren got hers a couple of years ago.  They differ only in the components, and we are both using Shimano gear sets.  This was a purposeful decision. Most bike shops in small towns can deal with Shimano and have parts in stock, so if we have problems, we can get help pretty easily.  Just today I bought new brake pads and a brake cable for Lauren’s bike in Medora, ND.

We have luggage racks on the back of the bikes and each have two Ortleib paniers and one dry bag on top.  I also have a frame bag.  My water bottles are mounted on the front fork whereas Lauren’s are in the usual position on the frame.  Lauren has a Garmin navigation computer and I have an Akaso camera taking a photo once every minute during the ride. (I plan to make a time lapse video at the end.)

Traffic has not been a problem; we find most people give us a wide berth.  This could be because we both have white flashing strobe lights on the backs of the bikes. You can literally see them half a mile down the road.  I know you are technically supposed to have a red light on the back but they do not show up as well.

The only real issue we have had so far is a bolt that fractured on my luggage frame after a few days, but I fixed it with zip ties and duct tape.  Then the same bolt broke on Lauren’s frame in exactly the same place a few days ago – same fix!  And we have had five flats so far, more than I expected, even though we got new tyres.  I expect we will change tyres in Minneapolis and also get new chains.

We are carrying a full set of tools, spare tubes, pump, camping gear, clothes, wet weather gear, small pillows that Jenny made us (one of the best ideas), first aid kit, and some emergency food.  We also have an emergency satellite beacon in case we have trouble out of cell service.

Iain Lauren Bike across America

All in, I weighed the packs at about 25 pounds each, but I think with some food and water we are close to 30 pounds.  While I have been told this is light, it does make the bikes heavy; cross winds can be an issue and you have to be careful.  Plus it means we have been crawling up the hills, of course.

OK, a little history to finish this out.  As I mentioned, we are staying in Medora, ND, which is the town right by the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  Jenny and I have been here before and the park is spectacular.  The park is actually comprised of Teddy Roosevelt’s old ranch.  Roosevelt first came to (what was then) the Dakota Territory in 1883 to hunt bison. He was already a New York state assemblyman by this point.

On February 12th, 1884, his mother and wife died on the same day, 11 hours apart.  His wife died after giving birth to their daughter Alice.  Distraught, Teddy focused on his work but then moved that summer to North Dakota to his ranch. (He left Alice with his sister.)  He raised cattle for two years just north of Medora (some remains of his original ranch are still there) but then in 1886 a harsh winter wiped out most of his herd and his original investment.  He moved back to New York.

Much of Roosevelt's image as a tough, western, independent man's man started on the ranch in North Dakota.  His subsequent political career and further adventures in Cuba and Manila, etc., all originated in Medora.  He held multiple positions in New York, including governor, and of course was Vice President and President of the U.S. Of all the things he did, he said he was most proud of his conservation work, including five National Parks and 18 National Monuments.

We rode through a valley into Medora today and commented that the only thing really different from when Roosevelt was here was the road we were on and a few power lines.  The railroad was built in 1884 and led to the creation of the town.  Not much has changed in 140 years. :-)

Iain Lauren Bike across America

Iain Lauren Bike across America

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