As the keen reader may note, my favorite mornings often rely on the availability of a good breakfast. This morning was no different. The “rancher’s delight” at the Horse Prairie Stage Stop restaurant was billed, unapologetically, as a pile of food. Two biscuits, hash browns, gravy, over easy eggs, and four slices of bacon in one pile of mush. Here was an ode to the calorie, in all its greasy, fatty, carb-loaded glory. Armed with just a fork knife, and some hot sauce, I finished all but a morsel of biscuit and a slice of bacon.
My riding companions at the moment, Zach and Josh, were perhaps put off by this display of zeal. It was either that or the fact that I had way too much coffee, but at around 9:00, they left me to my glutton’s nap for the open road - I can’t blame them. That said, the laid-back morning is thoroughly enjoyable, as long as it does not become a habit. And so, I was not terribly upset when, at 11:30, I finally set off.
It was particularly hazy this morning, but I was in a great mood. The first five or so miles of riding were on rural interstate. I didn’t see more than one or two cars headed the opposite direction. Wide open spaces and the thrill of the road elicited a grin. That, and I had a particularly strong music set to open the day: Muswell Hillbilly, Losing My Religion, and some Kurt Vile. However, underpinning this elation was a tinge of melancholy, as I had read this morning that the U.S. recently surpassed 200,000 COVID deaths. In that light, the smokey haze could easily be construed to have more of a post-apocalyptic atmosphere, surrounded by dry earth. As my friend remarked yesterday, the wide open spaces out here are the kind of place the government would do nuclear bomb testing. I felt a subtle guilt when the thought arrived that while I was enjoying so much so many were enjoying so little. I did not linger on this idea.
The day’s remainder of the ride: 50 miles of gravel scenic byway, a very gentle 3,000ft climb over the first 30 miles, a 2,000ft descent for the back 20. Turning away from the expanses of the highway, I saw no mountains, confused about the elevation profile. Soon that confusion vanished, as an ethereal landscape of smoke covered shapes poked out from the horizon. The green and yellow from the thick brush on either side of the road popped in the relatively low light, and particularly against the arid, sandy soil of the region. There was pasture aplenty, too, as I reveled at my luck to be moving.
The real fun came, however, during the descent. The road carved through steep, craggy canyons, close enough not be obscured by smoke. Plunging down this road, a full river materialized, the flora becoming noticeably better developed. With just a few more days of riding in Montana, today must have been one of the scenic highlights. The rocky outcroppings and sheer cliffs are without peer for the first two and a half weeks.
A late departure begets a late arrival, which I was alright with. 6:00 saw me rolling into the Deadwood Gulch BLM campsite, just a few miles from I-15, and another diner breakfast tomorrow. I had time to shoot the breeze with Zach and Josh, go for an icy bath in the confidently moving waters of Big Sheep Creek, and set up my tent in a good fashion. Tomorrow morning may hold the promise of a two diner breakfast, but I will be sure to set off earlier, as the road never grows tired of those who travel upon it.