Roosevelt National Park to Fort Benton, Montana: long day on the plains into Montana

Statistics for today
Distance 703 kms 437 miles
Statistics for trip to date
Distance 6,052 kms 3,761 miles
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Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

My appointment for an oil change in Missoula is Wednesday, today is Tuesday which means... long day in the saddle. The buffalo do me the favor of waking me up early with their grunting. They pass about 100 yards behind my tent but they are loud enough to get my attention. When I first wake up I'm thinking: what the hell is that noise? I never heard buffalo groaning before. I get out of the tent to go have a look.

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The buffalo wander by behind my campsite. They wake me up with their long, low grunting.

I get coffee and gas up in Watford City. I'm looking at a long stretch of plains today...

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Quite the coffee selection in Watford City.

I pass the time by, well, passing things. Trucks, cars, tractors, buses -- I'm not particular. I cross the North Dakota/Montana border not far into the day. The last time I was in Montana I was 15 years old. My uncle and I had done a camping trip in Wyoming then we drove over a pass into Billings for me to catch a flight out.

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I go through a big reservation. I stop to get gas at a store in the middle of it; there are some rough-looking characters around. I'm a little uneasy on reservations having had a few run-ins in the past. No issues today, however.

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Entering Montana.
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Some people in bad shape on these reservations.
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Late in the day I encounter road crews. They are putting down chipseal...not my favorite stuff, it kicks up all over the place and gets stuck to the motorcycle. The flagger tells me to move up to the front of the line, at least I won't have to follow anyone kicking up stuff in my face. I'm shooting for Grand Falls but I'm tired so I get off the road and ride into Fort Benton. It's a nice town set in a river canyon, all green and pretty, a stark contrast from the plains above. I'm sold. I get a motel room for $60 from a nice, old gentleman who can't hear a fucking thing. We manage through the check-in process regardless.

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The river running through Fort Benton.
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Fort Benton old bridge, now a pedestrian walkway.

After a long, hot shower (been awhile); I ride to the river. It's an idyllic setting with the fading sun, water, and greenery. My mood is up, I decide to treat myself to an actual restaurant meal. I find a place and order steak with all the trimmings. The bartender/waitress is a forty-something local woman with really bad teeth. I suspect meth... She's friendly, I chat away with her while I enjoy my surprisingly good steak. She works in the city in the winter at group homes for the mentally disabled. We talk about how people get parked in institutions. I had a girlfriend from Montreal who is an ergothérapeute (occupational therapist), she told me that retirement homes are full of people that never get a visit. Among other topics I get a history of each one of her (many) tattoos. She gets a kick out of my story about flying out of Billings when I was 15: I had never had to walk on the tarmac to board an airplane before. I remember there was grass growing up through cracks in the pavement where we walked to the plane... I was like: seriously? Are we actually going to take off from this hick airport in a jet?

After my meal the shift changes, out goes the waitress, in comes a guy in his 70's who says he's had 3 Harley Davidson's, of the old variety. I sit outside shooting the shit with him and another guy who is the owner of the local ice-cream parlor. A relaxing evening. It's getting dark though, and those without headlights should not be dawdling. I make it home without incident but I have to hold down the high-beam flash switch while a cop drives by in the other direction. I'm nervously checking my rear-view but he doesn't notice anything amiss. Early to bed tonight.