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.