Day 16: Aggravations

September 18, 2002
Belgrade to Livingston
37 Miles Google Map

Some days it doesn’t pay to get out of bed, much less get on a bike.

Having lost all confidence in the Weather Channel for its non-reporting of the morning rain back in Butte, I’d started relying on the local papers. The Bozeman — which my Belgrade hotel sold — had precipitation in the early a.m., then clearing. I waited until nine, then shoved off.

The first tentative drops made their appearance about a half hour later. I stopped and rummaged through my bags to retrieve my dazzling yellow rain jacket (which makes me look much like Sesame Street’s Big Bird). Soon the heavier stuff began coming down. This forced a second stop in order for me to break out the garbage bags to be used as covers around the panniers (it requires removing the pannier, inserting it into the bag, then reattaching it through the thin plastic). This was a halfway effort as I did not want to take the sleeping roll, tent and sleeping bag off the bike in order to get at the back panniers; I just encased the front pair since they contained my clothes.

As lunchtime approached, I received a second drenching, this time while navigating a tight, gravelly shoulder. My patience began to crumble. A mile or so up the road, just beyond a chaining area for trucks, I stopped and adjusted one of the garbage bags. When the pannier it was protecting would not then reattach, I let loose with a torrent of heartfelt invectives. Though it remained disconnected, the brief tirade made me feel a little better.

Bozeman Pass, which had loomed large on the day’s to-do list, turned out to be but a gentle three hundred yard incline. At the top was some info about how part of the Lewis & Clark Expedition had passed through here almost two centuries ago. Kind of inspiring to think I was following the path of history, though I doubt they had to worry about panniers that would not fasten. 

The sun finally appeared and a brisk wind blew with me as I sailed down from the top of the pass. Later I stopped at another historical site with more about the L & C story. It began to seem like things were looking up. In fact, I was within sight of the first turnoff to Livingston (the day’s destination) when my pedals froze. 

Back when the rain had appeared unrelenting, I had forced myself to stop and grudgingly enclose the back panniers in plastic garbage bags in the same manner as the front. Now a corner of one of those had somehow gotten caught between the chain and the teeth of the back sprocket and become hopelessly entangled, which is another way of saying I had a true mess to deal with. 

How to free the bag? Being more than a little frustrated, I began with the simplest solution: just grab hold and yank it out, but this only caused the plastic to stretch and tear, leaving me with a nice long strip still firmly entwined. Deciding to think for a change, I reversed the chain direction that loosened things up enough to where I untangle the plastic. But the accident had also caused the chain to slip off. I had to re-thread it through the front chainring, then get it back on the rear sprocket. By the time I was done, my hands looked like I’d spent the afternoon trying to change someone’s oil filter. I used some spit and the water from one of my bottles to clean off the worst of the grime, then rode the rest of the way trying to touch as few things as possible.

Finally arriving in Livingston, I stopped in at the Pizza Hut where I got some directions plus my money’s worth at the buffet. Since this had been such a rough day, I wasn’t keen on trying my luck at an unknown hotel and instead opted for the familiar and reliable local Super 8.

A curious thing happened when I checked in. For some reason, I made a comment to the manager about computers. Well, it turns out this fellow (Terry) was once in the computer communications business and had lost his job after putting in over two decades at the same company. Just two years short of retirement, he was forced out with no retaining benefits. A target of massive cost cutting which, according to him at least, targeted older workers. A cautionary tale for people like myself who are still employed (sort of) in the IT field.

We, or I should say he, spoke for about twenty minutes. Later when he got off work, he chatted some more with me out in front of the hotel as I cleaned my bike. It was here he confided that he’d considered working for one of the local manufacturing companies (which offer better pay than the hotel), but didn’t feel they properly looked after their employee’s health and safety. Finishing his cigarette, he went to his car and drove off. 

I felt sorry for the guy. Not because he was spending his retirement years working at a Livingston, Montana Super 8, but because there seemed to be so little meaning to his life.

    Today:       37 Miles
    To Date:  809 Miles / 1,302 Kilometers

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