After a calm night at the Charter Ranch, we had an early 7:00 wake up call. It started as a normal W.R.F.I. morning, and Whitney was our leader of the day. Everybody seemed to have a good nights sleep (definitely compared to the night before when we had an intense thunder storm roll through) and were joking around while waiting for the water to boil and during breakfast. Today we had a 35 mile ride ahead of us; going from the Charter ranch just outside of Billings to Roundup MT.
We ate breakfast, and started to get all of our gear rounded up. It took everybody a while to gather everything that we had strewn about. Luckily we had great weather, and were able to head down the the Charters gravel drive around 9:00.
Just after we hit the road and begin to get warmed up I hear something from behind me. It sounded like the scrape of plastic on the pavement. I quickly stop and turn around to see Gianna standing there with her bike, but her entire rear rack and pannier setup had hit the eject button and was laying right behind here. Luckily she was fine. We were also lucky to find all of the parts that had rattled loose going down the Charters rough and long gravel driveway. Being the resident bicycle mechanic, I was allotted the task of re-attaching the rack to the bike. Thankfully we had all the parts and I could quickly get Gianna rolling.
We had ideal conditions for the ride today. The sun was shining and we had bluebird skies. We were also riding on a road that had a large shoulder and minimal traffic. We also ended up taking a nicer side road, that had a good amount of challenging climbs, exciting downhills, and beautiful views. We rode all morning and ended up talking a lunch break around noon.
For lunch we pulled off the main road onto a small gravel turnout that lead right to a shady grove of trees. It was ideal to eat and relax. Eating with the W.R.F.I. crew is always a good time. Everybody is willing to share not just their food, but good humor as well. This trip has also vastly expanded my dining horizons. Every day it seems we learn some crazy new recipe form Jeff, or hear about some wild edible plant. With the quality of food we have been making for dinner, and the amount of food we have to eat while cycling there is no way I will lose a pound on this trip.
After lunch we were stuck riding on a larger highway that ironically had a smaller shoulder. Luckily we have a strong group of riders and were able to motor down the road and make great time. Unfortunately we did have one breakdown when Ruth got a flat rear tire. The culprit of the popped inner-tube was a broken beer bottle. Jeff and I helped Ruth get rolling again, and swapped out the old tube for a new one with the speed and precision of a professional pit crew.
Shortly after we got rolling again, we arrived in Roundup. It was easy to find the fairground camp sites, because the town was incredibly small. With just under 2000 people we were quite the site rolling down main street. Word spread quick about our crew as soon as we got into town. One of the first things we did once in Roundup was find out that the city water was not potable. Unfortunately the reason for the unsafe water was that the old coal mine just out of town had been leaching toxic salts into the groundwater.
As soon as we get back from the store and start cooking, we met a few of the towns many interesting locals. It seemed that since we had been there for about three hours the word of out arrival had spread to the point that everybody was coming down to the campgrounds to check us out. We had about fifteen different cars cruise around the campground to see the environmentalist cycling crew. But the standout gentleman we met was not what we were expecting to see. He was a rather outgoing man dressed entirely in woman’s clothes (including wig) and riding a vintage woman’s Schwinn cruiser. He approached us in interest of out bikes, and was a genuinely nice guy. He seemed to have an interest in our trip, but was one of the more crazy people I have ever met. It was hard to talk to him for more than ten minutes and we had to shush him away.
The first thing that jokingly came to my mind was “That is why you don’t drink the water in Roundup”. Although it was pretty fun to joke about the odd locals afterward, it was a huge hassle for us to get fresh water from the store. Having to get bottled water not easy on bicycles, and would not be a very sustainable way to go through everyday life. We had to use plastic bottles if we were staying longer it would have not really been a sustainable way to live. It is a shame that an entire town has to live that way because of an irresponsible coal mine.