Thursday, July 30, 2015

TD 2015 - Montana

Wow, Montana. Up North, we're beginning to get someplace !

Left Idaho and rode through the Centennial Valley with the mountains to the south hidden under low lying clouds.  I had little bit of a tail wind, an easterly wind being rare, and I stopped at the Red Rock National Wildlife Refuge for a bit and looked for trumpeter swans.  Saw something swimming on the lake, but too far away to tell, and rode on towards Lima.  I saw lots of cattle corrals and rode through a couple of small groups of cows that stayed in the road until absolutely the last minute ... had to wave my arms at them and yell a time or two.  The last few miles into Lima just seemed to take forever, sometimes you make a mental calculation of how long it's going to take and then you find that was just seriously flawed and then getting to where you wanted to go just seems to take forever.

All setup in Lima at the cafe and got a room in the hotel across the street and then went for a second meal at the Peat Hotel.  They didn't have the grill your own steak on the menu, having changed hands, but the cheeseburger was great.  And it was chilly, so I stopped at the Exxon and scored myself a nice fleece and some mittens.  Another excellent choice, they came in handy in the following days.  And someplace in there I remembered to order flowers for our Anniversary !
Peat Hotel

Not the Hotel California !

Sheep Creek Byway

Window !

The next morning I got breakfast and started for Polaris.  Going north you ride along Sheep Creek, then cross Medicine Lodge - Sheep Creek Divide and roll along on Medicine Lodge road for miles and miles.  I ran across a rider from France who had an extra map with him ( the #1 map that I was missing because I messed up my mail drops ), and I gave him the #2 map that he was going into and it was a perfect trade.  Cranked up a bunch of western themes as I rode north on the Old Bannack Road with a thunderstorm building to the south.  I was lucky and only got sprinkled on .. that road has been known to be a mess when wet.   The afternoon progressed and I found myself on Hwy 278 riding along and a truck slowed and Russ from Montana High Country Lodge told me I only had 7 more miles to go.  Fought a little more headwind in the late afternoon and pretty soon got to Polaris and to the Lodge and was welcomed by Russ and his wife and mother-in-law.  I had a great supper, spent the night and had a great breakfast in the morning.  Russ has taken an interest in Tour Divide and he had been tracking my blue dot and knew I was coming.  He had a cool signboard with signatures of 95 of this year's riders, and I added my name to it.

Storm brewing to the south on Medicine Lodge Road

Bannack Road sign

It's official - I really am in Tour Divide

A lot of strong riders have their names on this list

Montana High Country Lodge looking at the Pioneer Mountains
The ride out of Polaris was pavement, on to Wise River.  I looked at some storm clouds and decided why not, just go ahead a see what Fleecer Ridge had to offer.  Well, it was a lot.  Fleecer was one of the physically hardest parts of the entire 2750 something miles.  When you get to it, it more or less goes straight up ... maybe not straight, but the grade is very very steep, and the surface is beat up and loose, or covered with loose scree that slides out from under your feet.  On the sides is sagebrush and flowers.  Riding it is out of the question ( some people make it on dirt bikes .. but not bicycles ).  It was amazing hard to push the bike and I ended up standing in the middle of the so called road, lifting holding the bike sideways and lifting the rear, then the front up a foot or two, then moving me up, then repeating to get up the first steep portion of it.  Later and higher you could just push and it was a relief to get to the top.

Still have a lot of climbing and this is almost to the top

Fleecer Ridge from many miles to the east
My goal was Butte and I had enough daylight, so started the section from I-15 to Butte in late daylight and finished rolling into Butte around 10:30 at night in light rain.  It was a very rewarding day, as I got a hard thing and a lot of miles done.

But it tired me out more than I thought and the next day, I only got as far as Basin and had enough for the day, so only about 40 miles.  I stayed at an RV campground near a river, got invited to a pot luck dinner, got up early the next morning and rode to Helena.  In Helena I got my front brake bled and it worked better than it ever has.

The next day I set out for Lincoln with 3 Continental Divide crossings to get done, and got them all and then found out all hotels in Lincoln were full of motorcyclists.  But another RV park was close and I stayed there ...  $8 for the campsite, $4 for a shower and $1 for a towel ... excellent deal.  The next morning I had breakfast with Charlton and Lynn who took care of a bunch of us on the Big Ride Across America three years ago.  Charlton and Lynn are touring from Banff going south and having a great time of it.  It was really fun to see them, talk about the ride we were doing and the Big Ride.  They did such an awesome job of supporting all of us back then, a great couple !

Charlton and Lynn

These guys galloped over to meet me 

Ovando teepee
It rained most of the night in Lincoln, and I was glad I had a tent vs a bivvy.  I rode in rain most of the way to Ovando that morning and when I got there I found Trixie's up on the hill and ate, then went into the town square and setup myself in the teepee for the night.  Ovando has been catering to bicyclists for a few years now, and you have your choice of the jail, the teepee or the shepards wagon for a contribution of $5 for the night.  Not bad !   It rained during the night and I heard the sound of rain on teepee canvas, but was nice and dry inside.  In the morning I had breakfast at the Stray Bullet Cafe with Jerry and Lori.  I went to pay my bill and found out that they had picked up the tab ... Thank You !

I left Ovando with all my rain stuff on, but the sun came out pretty soon afterwards and that got put away and got to Wise River for lunch.  After eating I was ready to go up to Richmond Peak, but the clouds above the mountains were dark, dark and disturbing looking.  So I stopped early with my shortest mileage for any day of the whole ride.  I got a room, took a shower, played with Facebook and then went outside and the sun was out and the darkness was completely gone.  But I stayed and spent the afternoon drying my tent and sewing up a rip in my back seat bag.

Doubletrack turning into singletrack on the way up Richmond Peak

Not that narrow at all ( but wouldn't be eager to do it in snow )

I had some worries about Richmond Peak .. reported to be narrow with a big drop off, inhabited by bears, sketchy descents, etc, etc.  It was beautiful and the narrow spot wasn't anything like as narrow as I thought it would be and was only a very very short piece.  Met some folks from Phoenix who live in  Montana in the summer up there and talked with them for a while.

I stopped at the Hungry Bear for lunch, and then on northward and ran into a touring couple, Susan and Paul, who said they had a cabin at Swan Lake Campground that they weren't going to use.  So I said I could use it and agreed to send an email to Susan's mom telling her they were OK.  I took a little detour to get to Swan Lake, but it wasn't too far.  The cabin was nice, no electricity, but nice.  Had a great little breakfast sandwich the next morning and then it was on to Whitefish.

The Echo Lake Restaurant was a stop for Breakfast #2, then I ate again in Columbia Falls and on the way into Whitefish I was putting on my rain gear when a truck pulls up behind me and the driver calls my name.  It was Tim Hinderman, who did the ride northbound last year !  He had been tracking my dot.  We talked for a minute or two as I petted his dog, and then the rain started and I beat feet for Whitefish a couple of miles away.  Later that evening I had pizza with Lisa and Paul Austin, and talked about the ride and how it was going and how they are faring after moving from Tucson to Glacier.  And then I chatted with Tim a bit about what was in Canada, before heading back to the hotel and going to bed.

Whitefish Lake

Top of Whitefish Divide - all downhill to Eureka

From Whitefish to Eureka has two big climbs, Red Meadow and then Whitefish Divide.  It made for a longish day, and interesting as when you are riding along the eastern portion you are getting pretty close to Canada.  One sign said 8 miles ... it pointed to an old border crossing no longer used, then I turned westward and over Whitefish Divide.  Getting close to Whitefish Divide, I heard the strangest more eerie noise of the whole trip ... the wind was blowing through the sticks of trees from old forest fires on the hillside way above me. .. it was audible over the music on my iPod, and really rattled me for a little bit before I realized what it was.  Wish I would have had a decent recording of it.

When you get to Eureka, you're about 10 miles from Canada.  Supper and breakfast at the Subway and a quick ride north and pretty soon you are looking at a little barbed wire fence in a pasture and Canada is on the other side.

Montana was a beautiful state, such a contrast of biomes.  I took probably two or three days longer than was reasonable to cross it, with the short day at Seeley, and two short days from Butte to Basin and Basin to Helena.  But it was done and Canada and the end of the ride await.

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