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By meriwether, Jul 16 2017 11:28PM

She was just a girl . . . a young Shoshone girl of 16 years, living so far from her Rocky Mountain home along the banks of the Knife River hundreds of miles to the East. 

She remembered the day well four years before at the Three Forks of the Big River near her mountain home  when the Hidatsa warriors came and took her. She and her friend had been gathering berries for the night’s meal when she saw them. They were upon her as swift as an arrow loosed from a bow it seemed. Her friend made good her escape, but she was their captive.  And then they began to ride - for days it seemed -  toward the land of the rising sun. 

She told the warriors her name was Sacagawea . . . they called her Sakakawea, or Bird woman. In her new home at one of  the Hidatsa Villages on the banks of the Knife River she was purchased by the Frenchman Toussaint Charbonneau to be his wife.  Her soul was gentle and kind, but Charbonneau treated her and his other wife roughly at times. But she persevered.

She remembered the day, too, a few years on when the white men appeared in their large canoes, and how different these strangers seemed; but they were friendly, and gave many gifts,  and she liked them immediately. The two leaders, Meriwether and William, wanted her and her husband to act as interpreters and accompany them toward the setting sun and the Great Western Sea of which they spoke, even though she had just given birth to an infant son.

She would become significant to this Corps of Discovery on their voyage to the Western Lands and back, demonstrating  a courage and bravery equal to that of any of the men of The Lewis and Clark Expedition.

There was the time when the canoe she was in overturned and she calmly gathered the captain’s  journals and scientific instruments out of the swift Missouri currents while hanging on to her infant son. 

Or the time she barely escaped a flash flood with William Clark, her husband, and her baby just seconds from being swept away by a raging torrent. 

She fell ill at the Great Falls  of the Missouri and almost died of a putrid fever, but the Great Spirit smiled on her and brought about her recovery. 

Her spirit soared as they approached her native land in the Rocky Mountains and she was able to point out familiar landmarks to the men of the Corps. 

Her value proved inestimable when translating for William and Meriwether with her own  Shoshone tribe in The Expedition’s  desire to secure horses to cross the mountains. What surprise and emotion overcame her when she realized that the Chief of her Shoshone tribe to whom she was speaking was her own brother. 

Not shy about speaking up for herself, she had wanted to see that big fish (a whale) that had washed up on the shores of the Great Waters. 

Her presence and that of her baby with The Expedition was a sign of peaceful intentions to other Indian nations who may have been wary of the white strangers. 

And her voice - that soft voice around the fire at night, and the cooing of the infant, Little Pomp, must have been a pleasing sound to the men of the Corps of Discovery, and a reminder of home and loved ones who had been so long absent from them.  

Returning to the Knife River Villages after their long and arduous voyage, Meriwether and William took their leave of Sakakawea and her family, and there must have been a true sense of sadness without them as the Lewis and Clark Expedition proceeded on down the Missouri to St.Louis  . . . and eventually to their  homes which they longed to see.

William Clark, writing to Charbonneau, would say the following of Sakakawea:  "Your woman who accompanied you that long dangerous and fatigueing rout to the Pacific [Ocean] and back diserved a greater reward for her attention and services on that rout than we had in our power to give her.”  Charbonneau had received $500 for his services, while Sakakawea received nothing.  I think it can be said though that the value of this young Shoshone woman to The Corps Of Discovery was far more than any amount of money.

I had the great pleasure to revisit the Knife River Indian Villages which I had seen on my Lewis and Clark journey back in 2005. When Lewis and Clark arrived in this area close to today’s Bismarck, ND, there were about 5,000 Hidatsa and Mandan people living in five villages - two Mandan and three Hidatsa. Sakakawea was living in one of the Hidatsa villages on the banks of the Knife River which fed into the Missouri. They lived in earthen lodges 30 to 60 feet across constructed of timbers and covered with earth. Each lodge could accommodate  about 15 to 20 members of an extended family, including their best horses and dogs - most likely very cozy during the long and brutal winter months.  The lodges were so close together, there was barely room to walk between them. 

Today, you can clearly see the depressions left in the ground where the lodges once stood.  And a recreated lodge gives you a sense of life in a Hidatsa or Mandan village. Standing in the middle of one of the depressions where a lodge once stood, I thought to myself that this could very well have been the lodge where Sakakawea and her family slept, prepared food, played games, and carried on their lives. 

Not far from the Knife River Villages is the reconstructed Fort Mandan. This was the fort that The Corps of Discovery constructed in order to shelter during the brutal winter of 1804/1805 when at one point the temperature dropped to 42 degrees below zero! Imagine attempting to stay warm within the fort that you will see in the photos below.

It was during this winter that The Lewis and Clark Expedition forged significant bonds with the Mandans and Hidatsa Indians whose villages were close by: the men of the Corps and their Native American hosts traded, formed friendships, played games, entertained each other, hunted together . . . and the men of the Corps even came to the defense of the Mandans and Hidatsas against their traditional enemies, the Sioux.

It has been so exciting for me to retrace some of the journey that I made in 2005, of course now following their homeward bound journey. I consider this to be one of the epic stories of our American History. So many fascinating and colorful characters, so many exciting tales, and so much hitherto unknown information about the vast expanses and native peoples of the Louisiana Purchase that resulted from the voyage of the Corps Of Discovery. 

When the Lewis and Clark Expedition returned to St. Louis on September 23 of 1806, hundreds of people lined the shores to catch a glimpse of the explorers who had been given up for lost by almost everyone. They had been gone for 2 years, 4 months, 10 days, and now they were back.

When my buddy Tim and I did our Lewis and Clark re-enactment program for schools, historical societies, and libraries, we always closed the program with this entry from the journal of Sergeant John Ordway because it just expressed so well what the men must have been feeling:

Tuesday 23rd Sept. 1806 . . . . about 12 oClock we arived in Site of St. Louis fired three Rounds as we approached the Town and landed . . . the people gathred on the Shore and Huzzared three cheers . . . the party all considerable much rejoiced that we have the Expedition Completed and now we look for boarding in Town and wait for our Settlement and then we entend to return to our native homes to See our parents once more as we have been So long from them.

Folks . . . what a tale of Undaunted Courage!  

So I’m leaving the Lewis and Clark Trail now, and heading due east toward Fargo, and the Minnesota border. 

A few miscellaneous notes:

I’m well past the halfway point of this last leg of my journey. I’m now over 1500 miles into it, with possibly 11 to 12 hundred miles to go until I see my front door once again.

Have now received over 50,000 hits on my website, which I’m happy to see. The more the better. Once again, don’t be shy about spreading the word to friends, family, work associates, golf or tennis buddies, etc. about my ride, and more importantly, the two causes for which I’ve been riding. I’ve had a number of donations  come in from people who don’t know me, but were just told about my ride by someone on my Updates list. Many thanks to you for spreading the word!

With that in mind, we’re on the road to $31,000 in combined donations to Habitat For Humanity and Save The Children. I say “we” and not “I”, because it is you folks who have made this possible!

I am Proceeding On

By meriwether, Jul 11 2017 10:16PM

It happened on August 11, 1806, not too far from where I am writing this in Kill Deer, ND . . . Meriwether Lewis was shot in the butt. You may remember that I mentioned in a previous Update that the Corps of Discovery had divided into separate parties on their return to the United States in 1806: Lewis and 9 men were returning by way of the Missouri and exploring the Marias River in the process, while William Clark with the rest of the Corps was down on the Yellowstone exploring that major tributary of the Missouri. The idea was for the Corps to reunite somewhere around the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers. On the day before this joyous reunion occurred, it happened.

Meriwether and Frenchman Pierre Cruzatte went ashore to hunt after espying a herd of elk. Pierre . . . or St. Peter as the men liked to call him . . . was one of the best river men in the Corps of Discovery, but probably not the best shot. Problem was, he just couldn’t see that well . . . blind in one eye and nearsighted in the other. They shot one elk and then separated to shoot another. Just as Lewis was about to discharge his rifle, a bullet tore through his left thigh just below the hip joint. Lewis cried out, “Damn you - you have shot me!” But after hearing no response from Pierre after repeated calls, he feared it was an Indian attack. Limping back to the canoes in severe pain, he sent out the men in preparation to give battle and save Cruzatte. But not long after, the men returned having seen no Indians, but with them was none other than St. Peter, who swore up and down that he had shot at an elk, and not wanting to admit what everyone knew: with his poor eyesight, he had mistaken Lewis for the elk!

The next day the two parties of the Corps of Discovery were joyously reunited after a separation of over four weeks. But Captain Clark was extremely alarmed when he saw what had happened to Captain Lewis. William Clark would dress his co-captain’s wounds daily, and for the next couple of weeks, Meriwether Lewis would spend most of his time lying on his stomach in the bottom of a canoe as the Expedition raced down the Missouri River toward their celebrated homecoming in St. Louis.

I bade goodbye to Montana after almost three weeks of cycling in Big Sky Country, and crossed the state line into North Dakota. And now I’m roughly following the course of the Missouri River once again as I did 12 years ago, except heading in the opposite direction. The Missouri River . . . The Big Muddy . . . that roiling, powerful, 2,341 mile long major tributary of the Mississippi that drains the whole of what used to be the Louisiana Purchase from the Rocky Mountains eastward. It was the road of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and now my road of sorts, at least for a time.

I dropped down into the the Missouri’s valley to visit Fort Union - a fascinating National Historical Site that I had visited on my Lewis and Clark Ride in 2005. Fort Union was the most important fur trading post on the Upper Missouri established in the 1820’s at the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers by John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company. (And yes, it was Astor who gave his name to Astoria, Oregon.) Thousands of plains Indians from 5 major tribes would congregate around the fort each year, set up their tipi’s, and spend weeks there trading their furs for European manufactured items. It was a place of peaceful trading, gaming, and a mingling of cultures - Native American, American, French, and English. The fort there today is a reconstruction, but some of the original foundations are still visible - a neat place to visit!

But i paid the price for that visit . . . for if you drop down into the valley, then you must climb up out of the valley, and it is a major climb. The Missouri has cut its meandering channel over the centuries, changing its course and cutting new channels numerous times . . . and the valley is expansive, sometimes miles across. Doing these climbs in 90 degree plus temperatures is just draining. and I try to remind myself: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Some of you may wonder what I’m thinking about while riding all these miles. Thank goodness for my iPhone - although I curse it regularly. Often I’ll be listening to NPR while I’m riding, specifically WNYC out of New York. And then there is my Audible app. I just finished my Audible book “The Nazis Next Door”, a fascinating account of how thousands of Nazis and war criminals were allowed into the United States after WW II through the cooperation of the CIA and FBI, because they were supposedly anti-communist and willing to save their skins by working for our government against the Red Menace. And now currently listening to Dead Wake -The Last Crossing Of The Lusitania. Also excellent, although I’m just at the start.

So there you have it. Miles and miles in the saddle, and ear buds in my ear - a way to pass the time as this country passes beneath my wheels.

Proceeding On

By meriwether, Jul 7 2017 01:07AM

I was dreading the next day’’s ride. Temperature’s are soaring in eastern Montana. Back when I was cycling the southern perimeter in January and February of 2016, the cold penetrated to the core. But it was more a matter of discomfort . . . chilled to the bone . . . cold feet and hands a constant bane. But now . . . here in eastern Montana in July . . . it’s the heat . . . and the heat can be a killer. I knew it would be hot, and the day before I was harried by mosquitoes that attacked me even as I cycled at 10 and 13 mph. Dive bombing me, landing on my exposed back and biting with a vengeance.

And the wind - the forecast for the next day was for an east wind . . . damn!

At Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs Campground near Saco, MT, the mosquitoes continued their bombardment and I prepared dinner at my picnic table fending them off . . . the heat of the day refusing to let go. It goes without saying, I had no desire to take a dip in the natural hot springs. Luckily the campground’s small bar with AC provided a refuge - not much AC in my tent. I hung out there until the sun gave way to the evening’s cooler temps. Crawling into my tent, I was distressed and just wanting to stay there.

But arise I did at 4::30, knowing that it is the only way to survive the next day’s solar onslaught. Expecting the mosquitoes to greet me as I unzipped the tent, they must have been sleeping in. A bit of breakfast at my picnic table in the sleeping campground, and I mounted up and headed off into an early morning headwind, cussing all the way. But then it changed, and the wind slackened, and by 11 I had 40 miles with only 13 to go until Glasgow, MT, my night’s destination. The vast expanses of Montana extend in every direction, with nothing to block the view. From the rolling grasslands to the Little Rocky Mountains off to my south - a favorite hangout of Butch Cassidy and Kid Curry - these wide open spaces are captivating and awesome in their scope, but also intimidating as I roll across them atop buddy Floyd.

Seeking escape from the heat in one of Glasgow’s motels is a good idea, but even venturing out of the motel in late afternoon a blast of heat washes over. It’s in the mid-90’s, and temperatures are forecast for 100 and above this coming week. What to do?

And speaking of Lewis and Clark, which I wasn’t, this bears mentioning. A few hundred miles to the south of me near Billings, Mt, is a National Monument - Pompey’s Pillar. You might remember from my last Update that I mentioned that on the return journey of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, The Corps of Discovery had spit up into four different groups. While Meriwether Lewis was exploring the Marias River and having that unfortunate battle with the Blackfeet Warriors, Co-captain William Clark with some of the expedition’s men as well as Sacajawea (Sakakawea) and her infant son, was down exploring the Yellowstone River (View a Google Map), a major tributary of the Missouri River. From the river Clark took note of a sandstone monolith rising from the Great Plains. His curiosity aroused, he determined to visit the upthrust of rock, and upon doing so, noticed Native American inscriptions at the base of the monolith. William Clark, Co-Captain of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, then inscribed his own name . . . and the date . . . on the face of the rock. It is still there today, and . . . it is the only visible evidence remaining today of the voyage of The Lewis and Clark Expedition of 211 years ago. Why Pompey’s Pillar? Sakakawea’s infant son, Jean Baptiste, was a favorite of Captain William Clark, and his nickname for him became Little Pomp. Thus, Pompey’s Pillar is named after Little Pomp.

I had wanted to visit this site, but it’s 300 miles to the south down on the Yellowstone, so it will have to wait for another day.

On two wheels and limited as to how far I am able to journey each day, I always feel the pressure to keep moving . . . to make the next destination before it gets too late in the day. I must force myself to stop and breathe . . . to visit a place of interest . . . a see a beautiful sight. I did that with my Warm Showers host Jo who took me up to the majestic Two Medicine Valley in Glacier Park. I also did that In Havre by taking an extra day to visit the fascinating Wahkpa Chu’gn Buffalo Jump archaeological, and I did it again in Malta when I stopped to visit their small but wonderful Dinosaur Museum.

Wahkpa Ch’gn is a preserved archaeological buffalo jump site dating back 2,000 years. Before the appearance of the horse on the Great Plains in the 1700’s, Native American Tribes would hunt the buffalo using a jump or a high cliff over which they would stampede a herd of buffalo to their deaths. Then, at the base of the jump to the tribe would go to work butchering and processing the animals, using every part of the buffalo for food, clothing, and tools. Centuries of bones and tools accumulated here, layer upon layer, and it is a treasure trove of Native American culture. It was excavated starting in the 1960/s, and although no longer an active archaeological site, the dig has been preserved for all to see and marvel at.

At the Dinosaur Museum in Malta, I met Roberta and Robert, two local inhabitants who hung out around here 77 million years ago and 120 million years ago respectively. This IS dinosaur country, and this guy and gall wandered the shores of the shallow inland sea that covered this part Montana ages ago. Truly thought provoking to stand there and look upon these fossilized skeletons and imagine what the world was like when they roamed the earth.

Since writing the above, I pulled into Wolf Point, MT, after riding an early 50 miles on Monday, and checked into a motel. Venturing out later, I saw the temperature at the local bank flashing 104 degrees. Temperatures are forecast to be similar in the coming days. Not sure what I will do at this point - the distances . . . the sizzling temps. It’s impossible to ride with those temps. Only option is to get up before dawn . . . or just ride through the night.

On the bright side, I’ve clocked 1200 miles since leaving Portland, and made it almost all the way across Montana . . . North Dakota is just next door from Wolf Point.

Happy 4th of July to All,

Proceeding On

By meriwether, Jun 29 2017 01:29PM

This will be just a short Update. I wanted to share a few links to some Youtube videos that will give you a sense of what it’s like to be bicycling across the Great Plains. Just as the Rocky Mountains have such majesty and grandeur, the Great Plains also have their own grandeur in the vast and wide open spaces. It’s actually been quite exhilarating . . . scudding across the plains with a fair and following wind urging  me along. Yesterday and today at times I was cruising along at 17, 18, 19, 20 miles per hour.  Of course, if I was heading in the other direction. I might not be so enthusiastic. But I figure that I paid my dues on my trip up the West Coast as I battled the north winds. 

Here is a link to the first video:

This is “The Rockies In My Rear View Mirror” which was the theme of my last Update.

This link is titled “The Sweet Grass Hills” which are a small group of mountains that just pop right up out of the Great Plains. They are not part of the Rockies but stand by themselves near Shelby, MT. They were sacred to the Blackfeet tribe. See why:

And this third link is a little ride along that I did today (6/28) on my way to Havre, MT, where I am tonight:

During this ride along, notice that a white pickup truck passes very close to me - way too close. Normally I would have uttered some choice words, but since the camera was rolling, maybe not appropriate. Every day I have one or two of these Jerks - and that’s Jerk with a Capital J - who try to squeeze past me when there is traffic in the oncoming lane, endangering me as well as the oncoming traffic. Please take note everyone - when you pass a cyclist on a two lane road and there is oncoming traffic, please don’t try to pass; wait patiently to give the cyclist lots of space as you go around them. Now . . . down off my soapbox!

I will also include a few photos - as is my custom - to give you an insight to cycling the Great Plains.

I am Proceeding On

By meriwether, Jun 27 2017 01:37PM

Greetings All -

The Rocky Mountains are in my rear view mirror. I’m writing the first part of this Update from East Glacier Park, the eastern portal to Glacier National Part, having  crossed over the Stony Mountains - as Lewis and Clark referred to them - and the continental divide on Friday through Marias Pass at 5,240 feet, actually the lowest of the continental divide passes in Montana.

I had been tempted to take on Going To The Sun Highway at 6,400 feet as I did in 1982, but I was so much younger then, and pulling a lot less weight. But Mother Nature did make the decision for me (stole that phrase from my Cousin Beth). Going To The Sun Road is not even open yet even though it is officially summer - a massive snow drift is still being cleared from the eastern approach to  Logan Pass. So the guilt of not taking that on has been lifted from my shoulders. Thank you Mother Nature!

Still . . .Friday’s climb to Marias Pass was a  very long and arduous ride - 56 miles and nearly 11 hours on the saddle, and most of it up. And to make it even more challenging, the wind gods decided it would be fun to throw their chilly breezes in my face. The ride down is always the reward and justly earned . . . and it did not disappoint. Make no mistake about it - bicycling any mountain terrain is a test of one’s physical skills and stamina, but there are sublime and amazing stretches  of the mountain highways  when the cyclist is surrounded by high peaks dressed in snow fields which  then give way to green carpeted slopes that descend to a pristine, alpine lake. 

It is thought that Marias Pass was so named after the cousin of Meriwether Lewis, Maria Wood. To the east of the Rockies is a northern tributary that feeds into the Missouri. Lewis and Clark explored it to determine whether or not it was the main branch of the Missouri River. Discovering it was not, Lewis decided to name the water course after his cousin - hence, the Marias River - and that name also came to be used for this pass. Along the entire course of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, many names of the expedition members are affixed to features of the land. And yes . . . just as my bicycle’s namesake is young Sergeant Charles Floyd - the only member of the expedition to die on while on the Expedition  -  there is a river in Northwestern Iowa that bears the name  of Floyd’s River.

Actually it was just Lewis and three of his best hunters who explored the Marias River on their return journey to the United States in 1806.  The Corps of Discovery had split up into four separate exploratory groups for a time - a dangerous move in Blackfeet country. The Blackfeet were fierce warriors and tenaciously protected their territorial hunting grounds from intrusions by other tribes as well as European and American trappers and traders. Lewis and his men met up with a band of 8 Blackfeet warriors, and spent an uneasy night camping together. The expedition members awoke to find the Blackfeet warriors attempting to make off with the expedition’s rifles and then their horses. A brief battle ensued during which two of the warriors were killed - one stabbed and the other shot through by Lewis. As a warning to the Blackfeet and with a bit of irony,  Lewis placed one of the expedition’s peace medals around the neck of one of the dead warriors. And then . . . they high tailed it out of there and rode non-stop over 100 miles back to the confluence of the Marias and Missouri Rivers . . . and only by a stroke of amazingly good luck, they met up with their canoes that were heading back down the Missouri. 

The site of that encounter is just to the southeast of where I am now in Cut Bank, MT.

During that nearly two and half year Voyage of Discovery, the Lewis and Clark Expedition would encounter over 50 different Indian tribes, and this  was the only instance when a violent encounter resulted. Without the aid and assistance of the many Native American tribes that Lewis and Clark made contact with, the Expedition likely would not have been a success. 

When I arrived in East Glacier around 7:00 P.M on Friday, my Warm Showers host Jo had a wonderful meal of fresh veggies stir fried with noodles awaiting me, and a couple of beers that went down with amazing ease.  Jo convinced me that I should stay another day, and it did not take long for me to see the wisdom of that idea. I have been riding straight for 3 weeks now,  and  a day off was much needed. 

I wandered over to the famous and historic 103 year old Glacier Park Lodge and soaked in the ambience of this amazing structure constructed of huge Douglas Fir timbers in 1913/1914. There was a half marathon taking place in East Glacier on this Saturday, and the finish line was directly in front of the lodge. After another fine meal prepared by Jo, we took a drive into Glacier Park up to the Two Medicine Valley, and what a magical place this is! It is easy to understand the Native American reverence for these natural places  - you can feel the spiritual power emanating from the mountains, meadows, and streams. 

And that brings me back to the Rocky Mountains in my rear view mirror. On today’s 45 mile ride to Cut Bank, MT,  under a cloudless sky, I had to stop several times to look behind me and snap my photos. It is such an awesome sight to see those peaks thrusting upward out of the Great Plains. And somehow it becomes even more dramatic as the distance from them increases and the panorama of the fading mountains stretches from horizon to horizon. 

Proceeding On

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