Friday, September 23, 2016

Day 22--So Different From Yesterday...Mostly

Okay, so it was still raining, but this was a much different day than yesterday.

First of all, we left Merry Widow at 9:15. That was our earliest start in a long time! As our karma usually goes, there was no rain while we took our tents down. In fact, even though it had been raining last night, our tents were dry. We said goodbye to Antony and Alex. They weren't quite ready to go yet.

We were only slightly off the route, so it didn't take long before we reached the "cattle access trail" that ran along the freeway. Curiously, on this trail, we saw no cattle. It was raining, and I had already decided to start in my full rain gear, including my waterproof socks (might as well, I've got them). We rode alongside the freeway (I-15) for a few miles or so, then we crossed under and headed back into the hills. I say "hills", because today's ride was not nearly the elevation gain of yesterday's ride. 

We had a few miles of pavement that the map said was gravel. I think I remember reading an addenda for the map saying the road was now paved. Anyway, it was pretty easy. We turned to get onto the gravel/sandy mud, and were off pavement until the last 8 or 9 miles.

Along the road we saw lots and lots of free range cattle. Derik was going along, and this one cow was following him. I tried to get my camera out to take a photo, but...well, there were mud puddles and cow pies to dodge. Later, however, I got this photo when I was herding a few cows myself.
Yes, I know, there's water on the lens. I didn't stop to take the picture.

The climbing was very gradual. I was in my big ring more than any day so far. The mud was a little annoying, and because it was sandy, it kind of sucked the wheels a bit. I could really tell when I hit a patch of firm dirt. It was so much easier to ride on. 

Another big difference today was that the guys didn't have to wait for me at all. Okay, so part of that was because Connor's legs were tired today, so I was usually able to stay ahead of him. However, it was also just an easier day. I even got to wait for Connor, instead of him waiting for me!
Waiting for Connor whilst overlooking Manny Lake.

From Manny Lake, we only had another 4 miles to Continental Divide crossing #5. Again, it was pretty gradual climbing with bits of downhill thrown in.
The top for today. We ate lunch here, then before beginning the descent, we added a layer. I put my warm jacket on under my raincoat. That means, counting my wool bra, I had 5 layers between my skin and the cold cold air! It was great! 

The only thing nerve wracking about the descent was the mud. It was rather steep in places, but that's what brakes are for.
Going down into the canyon. Note pretty fall colors...

At the bottom, we popped out onto pavement. There I came upon Derik with his front wheel off. He was adjusting his front brake. Apparently, he didn't have much of one coming down (personally, I never thought he used his brakes). That done, we rode the rest of the way into Butte on paved roads. There were still some hills (Orofino Gulch Rd especially), but we finally came out just above Butte.
Thar she blows...Butte, Montana!

It was a swift ride into town, where we are staying at the Butte KOA. The gal gave us a cabin for just $5 more than a campsite, and Derik's military service got us a military discount! Instead of arriving at 7:00, we arrived at 2:45! So much nicer!
Derik replacing his worn brake pads at our little cabin in Butte!

We walked up to dinner at a restaurant that used to be a bank. One can even dine in the old 64,000lb vault (we did not). The food was very good. Afterward, we went to Hennessy Market (kind of a Butte version of Trader Joes, or Whole Foods). 

Walking back, we passed the Butte Bulldogs HS stadium. It's Friday night, and that means small town football. We listened to a gal sing the national anthem, but then continued walking back to the KOA.

Except for the rain, it was a great easy day. Tomorrow, the weather is supposed to be better. We have 35 miles, so we're thinking of doing the Butte Underground tour before we leave. Derik says it's really cool.

Day 21--The GDMHR!

After taking photos, and saying goodbyes, we set out from Helena in misting rain.
Bene and Griffin
Me and Griffie
Griffin took this of me.
Yvonne and Andy. Yvonne rode with us for awhile, before she had to head back to work. 

We climbed for a long time, but it wasn't too steep. Because it continued to rain, and we just kept climbing into the clouds, there wasn't much to see.

I caught up to the guys where we had to turn and go up a steep and rocky trail. We ate some lunch sitting in the cold (even though I had my full rain gear on, I was chilled). This next bit of route is why they developed the Boulder Alternate. This part said it was one of the most difficult sections. Yay! Before too long, the trail started its nastiness. I was walking.
Tricky business
Steep and very rutted

Derik and Connor would ride up to a flat spot, then come down and help me with MC (I hauled her up quite a bit before they would come back down). Well, really, they would just take her and go on up. I would come trudging along behind. This went on for a very long time. In fact, I was beginning to think the route should be called the Great Divide Mountain Hike Route! 
Connor and heroes!

In that whole section, I think I was able to ride about 200 yards. The map said it was about two miles, but I think it was longer than that. Even the downhill was really tricky. Derik would just come back and ride MC downhill I continued my GDMH. At one point when Derik had taken MC, I was walking along, and two British guys, Antony and Alex, came up behind me. They asked why I was wearing a bike helmet, but had no bike? Seems they started slightly before us, but Alex had to fly back to England for 10 days. 

We finally got to the main road. There was still more climbing, but it was much easier. It was getting late. Fortunately, the last 5 miles or so were downhill. We pulled into Merry Widow Health Mine campground at 7:00. Apparently, there is a radon mine here. Of course, all we had time to do was set up our tents and cook dinner. Antony and Alex are here too. While they cooked steak and mashed potatoes, we had a hodgepodge of small amounts of food. I made a "soup" of pasta, quinoa, ramen, and dehydrated veggies. Derik cooked up his backpacker meal he's been carrying since Banff. We also had quesadillas which did wonders for warming our hands!
Pasta, ramen, quinoa, and veggie soup. It was pretty good.

The rain is supposed to continue tomorrow. At least the climbing is not supposed to be as bad.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Day 20--A Productive Day Off That Started With Breakfast and a Soak

Today was our second day off since we started (the first was Whitefish). We started the morning with breakfast at The Sweet Spot (not totally sure that was the name). I had French toast made with Ezekiel bread. It was delicious! 

After breakfast, I rode MC down to Big Sky Cycle and dropped her off so Andy could replace her bottom bracket. Turned out she also needed a new chain. From the shop, Yvonne, Derik, Connor, and I headed to Boulder Hot Springs to have a nice soak.
It used to be a fully functioning hotel. Now part of the hotel has been refurbished, and it is open. The pools are open to the public.
The history.

I didn't bring a swim suit on this tour. No problem, they rent them for $1. I found a suit (so did Connor). Turns out the suit fits better than the ones I have at home! After our soak, I actually bought the suit for $5! We may have more hot spring opportunities. 

Anyway, there were two pools (three counting the men's hot pool). An indoor hot one for the women, and an outdoor warm pool. Yvonne and I soaked for awhile in the hot pool.
Not a good photo because my camera kept fogging up.

Then we moved to the outdoor pool. Derik and Connor joined us outside.
The lady to the left of Derik is Lynn. She's from Boulder. We had a nice chat.

After we prunified ourselves outside, we went back for another dip in the hot pool to get toasty warm again after walking back inside. Then we showered, and met the guys in the lobby. When I asked the gal if I could purchase the suit, she said no one had ever asked her that before (I had warned her I had a weird question to ask). She asked how much I wanted to pay for a used suit. I offered the $5, and she said, "Sure."

We drove back into Helena to complete our other errands. We went to an outdoor store in search of filter cat ridge replacements for our Platypus gravity filters. No luck there. Next to the outdoor store was a natural foods market. We restocked our groceries, and ate lunch there too. After lunch we dropped Yvonne back at the house so she could do some work, and proceeded to another outdoor store called Base Camp. They, too, did not have the filters we needed. Since filtering water is pretty important on this trip, and almost a daily occurrence, I decided to buy a whole new filter. We noticed all the shops we've looked for filter replacements have carried the Katadyn brand, so I got a Katadyn gravity filter. I'll send the majority of my Platypus filter home. And the big news is that Derik was able to finally find some pants that fit! His other pants were too big. So, we'll send a box home with a few things (Derik is relinquishing his saw).

When we were in Seeley Lake, I called Great Divide Cyclery and ordered a new tire. I would have gotten one from Andy's shop, but at the time, Derik didn't know the name of the shop, and the other one was the only name that came up when I googled Helena bike shops. Unfortunately, they didn't order the tire I wanted, but it will do. At least the guy forgot to charge me the shipping to overnight it.

That completed our errands, so we returned to the house. We got our laundry done, I changed the tire, and I patched the tube from the flat I had yesterday. 

For dinner, Yvonne ordered something pizza, and we picked it up and took it to the Blackfoot Brewery next door. 

We've had an awesome day off! Yvonne and Andy are really great people, and their boys are totally fun. Connor even got to play Magic and Legos! Tomorrow, we'll be back on the bikes continuing our trek south! A million thanks to Andy, Yvonne, Bene, and Griffin! I hope they come to Olympia for a visit!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Day 19--A Two-fer Day

We really enjoyed the cabin last night. We built a fire in the wood stove, and slept warm (actually very warm). This morning, Chef Derik made pancakes!
It's a little dark, but he is making pancakes, frying Spam, and scrambling eggs.

John and Barbara came down before we finished packing up. We reiterated our thanks for having the cabin available, and let me take this photo.

We headed out around 10:00. We had a small amount of downhill left before beginning our first climb up to Divide crossing number 3. The map said the climb was steep. I was hopeful because it didn't say "extremely steep". Although it was steep in places, it was doable because, unlike yesterday, there were some flat spots! 
See? Not bad!
I caught up to the guys at the old Empire Mine.

The steep climbing actually started after the mine.
Somewhere in the middle of the photo is Derik.

At the top, the map said to veer right. When I got to that turn, the guys weren't there. I was pretty darn sure that was the turn. Again, like before, I was tempted to just wait until they figured out they had missed the turn. But, no, I continued on climbing. Sure enough, a bit later, they came riding back. 

We made the correct turn, and crossed the divide.
We are pretty sure this was the divide crossing.

We came down, but then had to go back up again and cross Priest Pass.
That space in the trees is almost the top of Priest Pass, and the second divide crossing of the day.

Then we had an over 5 mile descent to Hwy 12. It was awesome!
The view from the beginning of the descent.

At Hwy 12 we got on the highway to ride into Helena. The guys got ahead of me, as usual. As I was riding along, my back tire started feeling bouncy. Uh oh...I pulled off, and sure enough, the tire was flat. There was a place that was under cover, so I pulled over and texted Derik. They rode back. By then, I had the wheel off, and the tube out. There was a staple (always with the staples!!!) in the tire. We got everything back together, and continued into town. 

Tonight and tomorrow night we are staying with some friends of Derik's, Yvonne and Andy. We are taking a day off so Derik can replace my bottom bracket, and we can generally have a rest day. Yvonne and Andy are great. They have two sweet boys, 4 and 10 years old. We will greatly enjoy our time here!

Day 18--Fascinating...or...I'm Done!

We made a good choice staying in Lincoln last night. The skies were much clearer this morning. We didn't really have too far to go, but today's ride included our second Continental Divide crossing (you'd think, by now, we would have crossed the divide more than just once, but no--the first was back in Canada when we crossed from Alberta to Bristish Columbia). 

The first seven miles, according to the map, were on a wide, potentially dusty road. There were no issues with dust, but there was a road grader scraping the shoulder. I caught up to him only because the climbing wasn't too bad. Although I saw him once in my rear view mirror, I managed to stay ahead of him. 

At about 12 miles (according to my computer which, as we know is not accurate), the map said to turn right onto FR 4134 up the South Fork of Poorman Creek. There was the option to continue on the main road over Stemple Pass, then rejoin the route near the Divide crossing. I maybe should have gone that way...but no, I went with the guys the way the map said. In addition to the directions to turn right onto FR 4134, it also had this to say..."Next 4.4 miles are extremely steep uphill, but they lead through fascinating (emphasis is mine) country with several stream crossings." Oooo, I thought, should be some good photo ops! 
Here's Derik contemplating the fascinating country we would be riding through (the road we took is behind him). 

After doing a few bike mechanic stuff (lubing chains, adjusting my saddle--trying to get rid of the numb hands, inflating my rear tire), we headed up the road to see what fascinating country awaited us. The first bit was horribly steep, but didn't last. I thought to myself, okay, that wasn't fun, but doable. The route flattened some. After awhile, I started seeing some of the fascinating country the map must have been talking about.
Fascinating, right?
Piles of dead wood...fascinating!
Have no idea what this is, but isn't it fascinating?
Fascinating tree, right?

Okay, so not terribly fascinating. Then the climbing really started. Oh, we'd been going up (of course the guys were way ahead by now), but it wasn't anything I couldn't first. Then, although the steepness wasn't too bad, the length of the steepness became an issue.
It just kept going!

I ran out of power about half way up. I couldn't just stop and take a break because I couldn't get started again. So...I walked, and pulled MC up the hill. 20 steps...take a my arms...keep going...up to that...sort of...but not really...flat spot...

I was finally able to get back on and ride...until the next looooonnnnngggg, steeeeeep, hill. Crap, off and trudging again! 20 steps...take a know the rest. How much more of this??? My arms were killing me!

Finally, I came around the corner, actually riding, and I could see the guys. Unfortunately, the road also decided to throw one more bit of steepness at me. By this time, I had had it, when I couldn't muster anymore energy, I stopped, started walking, then just laid MC down, took off my helmet, and said, through tears, "I'M DONE!" I left MC there. Connor came down and pushed her up the rest of the way. When I managed to walk to the top, Derik said he'd never seen me so upset. Was there a joke he could tell me? There was a pickup parked at the top. I asked why didn't they send the truck to get me?

Anyway, I recovered, ate some lunch, and then we went just a bit further (only one more short steep bit that I rode up) before reaching the actual crossing of the Divide.
Here's Connor taking a photo of the Continental Divide Trail marker.

The ride down was wild and rocky. It was also quite scenic.

Our destination was a cabin provided for cyclists only. Connor went by it, but I kind of knew what I was looking for from another cyclist's video. If you are reading this, Russ, thanks for doing that video!

Well, this is quite the full service oasis! The cabin is owned by a couple that live in the house across the field. They started offering the cabin to cyclists about 4 years ago. It really is amazing! Check out the photos.

The other bed across the catwalk.

Complete with antique toilet seat!
And there's llamas in the field!

John came down to tell us anything we needed to know, and even gave Connor a couple of Mtn Dew. Derik's had wine, and we're having pancakes for breakfast!!!

So, a tough day, but a great ending!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Day 17--All Night Rain Means Mud Aplenty!

Yep, it rained most of the entire night. The tents were muddy, everything was wet--it was delightful! It's so hard to get packed up when everything is wet. Derik and I were just standing there thinking how to proceed. We discovered my 2 liter platypus clean bag has two holes in it. Fortunately, I have two 1 liter bags. At least, by the time we were taking down the tents, the rain had stopped. Still, I started out in my rain pants. I figured the road would be messy.

We rode the two miles back to the route. From there we started the long climb up Huckleberry Pass. Since it wasn't raining, I stopped and took my rain pants off. I just put them under the bungy on the back rack to have them handy if it started to rain. At one point in the climbing, I was able to look down where we had been yesterday.
See the tiny little building down there in the center of the photo? We rode by that yesterday. When I looked at it, Derik asked if we should camp there. 

The climb continued. With a couple miles or so to go, I looked up, and could see a road up high. I thought, surely we weren't going on that road. But, yes, yes we did. When I was pretty close to the summit, Derik came around the corner with no bags on his bike. He was beginning to worry that something had happened to me. No, I was just chugging along in super granny gear. 

It was very windy at the summit, so we didn't stay there for lunch. There wasn't a summit sign, of course, but there was this trail sign (holding up Connor's bike).
The ride down was good, but didn't last long enough. There was another little hump to climb, and I was back to riding by myself. Then the road dropped down some more, and basically turned into a mud pit. I was sliding all over the place! I managed to stay upright, but after one particular hairy sliding, I had to stop just to get my heart rate back down from being so scared! I tried to find more solid places to ride, but wasn't terribly successful.
Looks wasn't!

Finally, I stopped because even though it looked solid, I was still sliding around a lot. Then I looked at my wheels. Oh my God, there was so much mud that I couldn't even see the tread on the tires! It was mixed with long pine needles making for a very sticky mess. I found a stick and scraped as much off the tires as possible. When I got going again, and went downhill a little faster, mud was flinging all over. I had mud in my shoes, mud hitting me in the face, and getting all over everything. Then, when I came out to better gravel, the wind was really blowing. It was blowing me sideways at times. I tried to use the DaBrim to help me, but mostly I was just trying to not get blown over.

I finally made it out to the highway where the guys were waiting for me. Derik was lying in the ditch to stay out of the wind. From there we rode into Lincoln to the Scapegoat for lunch. Here's a photo of some of the mud.
This is after I scraped most of it off!

At lunch we discussed our plan. We were supposed to double up on the book's days today. That meant we had another long climb (Continental Divide crossing number 2), and about 26 more miles. We needed to get groceries too. It was 1:30. We decided we couldn't do another long climb in the wind. So, we are staying in Lincoln at Spring Creek RV Park. They have showers!!!

Tomorrow the weather is supposed to be better. Hopefully no rain, and less wind. Sorry for not so many photos, but it was a tough day even though it was only about 25 miles.