Day 12: A New TV Program

September 14, 2002
Missoula to Deer Lodge
83 Miles Google Map

Hello boys and girls. It’s time once again for your all-time favorite show: Sideswipe The Cyclist.

Brought to you by the Montana Department of Transportation.

As we all know, the U.S. Interstate Highway system usually features two lanes for traffic headed in each direction, plus a generous shoulder. It is this shoulder area where bicycle riders can be found and where drivers must focus their assault. The goal is to swiftly and stealthily approach from the rear (ideally in an SUV or Mac Truck), then abruptly swerve towards the cyclist, forcing him onto the embankment. Points are awarded depending on how far the mark has been forced off the road. A special bonus if the rider falls over.

Kind of like Roller Derby.

To improve the motorists’ chances, the Montana DOT has thoughtfully done the following work on the stretch of I-90 north of Deer Lodge:

— Red cones have been placed in the middle of the road, directing traffic onto the right lane. This squeezes the motorists and cyclists into close proximity, guaranteeing plenty of hair-raising encounters. 

— The shoulder asphalt has been scrapped, leaving a bewildering surface of etched waves and diagonals, not unlike a Picasso painting. These serve the purpose of slowing down and confusing the bicycle riders, making them easier targets. 

So start your engines, and happy hunting!

Despite the above anxieties, it was a well executed, record distance day. In the absence of those traffic-clogging cones, I-90 was actually a very pleasant ride, so much so that I decided to stay on and head towards Butte rather than following the original plan of getting off at the Helena exit. Of course there’s going to be plenty of traffic to contend with on a main thoroughfare, but the shoulder is wide and generally free of pebbles and glass. One can focus exclusively on pedaling. Which I did very well outside of the DOT interruption. 

Although I’m wiped out from it, today’s effort nevertheless put me in a good position. It’s now a short and hopefully not-too-demanding ride into Butte tomorrow where I’ll be taking a day off before going up and over the Continental Divide. 

Today’s accommodations are again courtesy of Super 8 Motels. My long, hot day got me into town a bit later than planned and I ended up with the last single room — a smoking one. I probably could have gotten a better deal elsewhere, but with a McDonalds nearby I lacked the will power to search any further.

    Today:       83 Miles
    To Date:  659 Miles / 1,061 Kilometers

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