Friday, June 22, 2012

Montana: Days 5-8

In my last post things weren't going that well. Luckily for us the rest day in Seeley Lake must have been exactly what we needed. On day five we were able to ride from Seeley Lake to Lincoln. We tried to lower the pace to something more sustainable and were able to get in around 60 miles along with our first 6000' pass. It sprinkled on us several times but as we slowly ground our way to the top it started coming down harder. Joseph turned on his bike computer and it said it was 38 degrees. We had to don our rain gear for about the fourth time that day for the frigid descent. As we descended lower it warmed up and once again we had to complete another cycle of rain gear donning and doffing. :) In Lincoln we went to the campground and it didn't look that great so we decided to spring for our first motel room since Whitefish. We asked for a single room but the elderly lady at the Blue Sky Inn took pity on us and our bikes and gave us a double for the same price. Since we spent 45 dollars for a motel we decided to eat our noodles by the glow of an ancient TV that probably saw the inaugural  episode of The Brady Bunch.

Dan and Sharon, the couple who took us in at Seeley Lake

The restaurant in Ovando between Seeley and Lincoln

The rain clouds that followed us all day

Noodles and TV

We decided to eat a good breakfast the next morning so we pedaled a grand total of .2 miles to the Lincoln Hotel and Restaurant for some pancakes and the best bacon I have ever had. Sipping coffee and chatting about our route with the locals we realized that we might be in for a bit of a day; little did we know how bad it would be! Our plan was to ride to a campground west of Helena we decided that if the day went well we might push on to the town of Basin, about 30 miles further. Our first climb of the day, Stemple Pass, topped out at as makes no difference, 7000'. The turn off of the main road was easy to miss and before we knew it we had pedaled about two miles past the turn off, all which was uphill! Trying not to let that discourage us we turned around and hit the right road to the top. It started out fairly easy, I think I even remember saying the words, "Wow this is a really nice climb!" As if the mountain heard what I had said the road turned almost straight up. Bending over my handlebars with sweat dripping off my nose I kept wishing I had left my extra pair of socks in the trash can at the motel to lessen my load. Eventually we made it to the top of our first of twenty couple Continental Divide crossings. The descent down the other side was glorious but we both knew that the sooner that was over the quicker we had to climb up the next one. Luckily the next pass, and the next were easier that the first. We got to the campground we were planning on staying at around 4:30 and decided to push on to Basin for a nice meal. By now I was starting to suffer from not eating enough tortillas with peanut butter and honey which was the main dish for lunch. I tried to choke down some dry trail mix and a granola bar or two but everything was sticking in my throat. As we climbed higher our folly was becoming more apparent. We had already gotten in 60 miles and three passes over 6000', why should we push on?  There was no way we were turning back so we kept on, the whole time becoming weaker and weaker from lack of real food. The last straw was a jeep road which was the steepest and roughest road we had seen yet. There were some sections that were so bad we had to get off and push. Finally we crested the top of the fourth pass of the day at 7300' and started down the other side. Luckily there was little if any uphill on the way to Basin or we might have had to collapse off our bikes and wolf down what food we had till we could continue on. We struggled into Basin on our last legs and were devastated to find that the restaurant we were counting on for sustenance had closed a half hour before. The bar section of the restaurant was still open and we begged the barmaid to give us anything with calories. Luckily the fryer was still hot so we each had two sandwiches. Those were the best chicken and fish sandwiches I have ever eaten! It was getting dark so we threw our legs astride our bikes and pedaled into the darkness to the nearest camping spot. We set up camp in the dark and I was asleep before I could hardly toss once in my sleeping bag.

It might not look it but this is steep!



Just imagine views like this all day!

You know its bad when we swallow our pride and push!

We awoke the next morning, chewed on a cold candy bar or two and set a punishing pace to get to Butte for a real meal. We fought a headwind the whole way but that only made our breakfasts of omelets and pancakes taste even better. We went to the post office to retrieve some stuff I had my Mom ship me, extra biking shorts and a memory card for my camera, then went to the bike shop. They let me use their bike stand so I quickly replaced my rear brake pads which were shredded by now, and greased my squeaky pedal bearings. I was also able to clean my chain from the accumulated gunk from the last 400 miles of Montana dust and mud mixed with chain lube. We ordered a Papa John's pizza, ate most of it, then headed out of town for our fourth CD crossing. We ate the dust of I don't know how may trucks till we got to the top and headed down the other side. An hour or so later we pulled into Beaver Dam Campground for supper and some much needed sleep.

Old railroad tunnel

Climbing again

The descent

Joseph took some sleeping pills so I was hardly able to wake him when our oatmeal for breakfast was ready.  We broke camp at 8:15 and were able to pull into the town of Wise River in time for our second breakfast. The locals told us that the best way to fight the numerous and enormous mosquitoes was the make sure your friends eat lots of sugar (they like "sweet" blood) and to have a transfusion bag handy to replace what the mosquitoes took. They were hardly kidding! Every time we were going less than 10 mph they descended on us like a swarm of ravenous bloodthirsty insects! (Oh, I guess they are) We headed toward the Montana High Country Guest Lodge which was on the other side of, you guessed it, an 8300' pass. After climbing for 30 miles we crested the top and soon we were pulling into the driveway of the Lodge. After an amazing supper of lasagna, green beans, garlic bread, coffee, and lemon cake we took some much needed showers and crashed on the couch for some rest.

Fellow bike tourists

View from the porch of the lodge


Ahhhh, Coffee! (Notice the sun burnt face already)

South of where we are at now the terrain flattens out so we plan to get in at least 100 miles tomorrow. We should cross the Montana Idaho border sometime Sunday. Montana has been an amazing state! I have always wanted to see the Rockies and I can think of hardly any way that is better than from the saddle of a bicycle. Joseph and I were talking yesterday about how we both think the trip is going. We both acknowledge that it certainly is not easy and we often feel overwhelmed, but the reward when you crest a rise or go around an corner and see a view that literally makes you stop in you tracks is worth every saddle sore and achy muscle.

Here are some pictures from the first few days I didn't post the first time.

Whitefish Divide

First day. Still fresh

Red Meadow Lake

Bike portrait

Rain clouds the third day

Till next time,

1 comment:

Hopeful said...

Wow Jim I am impressed! The hills look rather grueling but the scenery must be worth it. Keep peddling!