“I start the morning with a downhill, which is a first for this trip.”
I could have honestly kept going after that steak and the hot spring dip. But I stayed for some reason. Maybe it was the bed, but I think it was because I got to start with a downhill. That did wonders for my spirit. I stopped at the base of the pass at a place called The Grasshopper Inn to grab food for the next part of the trip. From there until Lima there really isn’t anything.
I paid for all I could eat hash browns, eggs, sausage, pancakes, etc etc. They lost money on me that day. I took about a pound of hash browns and sausage patties with me.
The next twenty miles went by so fast. It was all highway, which helps, but I had a tailwind as well. Keeping eighteen miles/hour was no problem. As soon as I pulled off the highway and onto the dirt road that would lead me through private ranch land to our next destination, I met a stranded cyclist. Reinhold, one of the German racers, had broken his chain.
I was able to repair it for him and get him back on the road. After riding another seventeen or so miles down the dirt road, we hit another highway. We knew there was a small town directly north of us about a mile, and it might have food. I made it a point to never miss a chance for food. He had no food on him at all, so Reinhold decided to go check it out. I tagged along.
It was an utter failure. Total ghost “town”. Creepy, even. What was once a small roadside restaurant/house was now an overgrown lot with broken down vehicles. Windows were smashed inward and something had died nearby from the smell (might have just been the other cyclist, who knows?) We sat down and ate what we had anyway. He with his gummy worms and myself with sausage and hash browns.
We started riding again in a few minutes. He was a strong rider, but I overtook him. I attribute this to the hash browns. He said he would be fine, and for me to go have fun. The man had a funny sense of “fun”.
I found the turn-off from the highway soon enough. It was a dirt road that led towards more ranch land. There was a harsh pass in this land, more of a giant plateau than anything. As the roads continued to wind up and up through beautiful vistas, I found myself entranced by the gorgeous mountains that surrounded this lush valley that tilted to the sky. The grassy pastures were brimming with cattle. The entire scene was lovely.
Then I found myself entranced by my lack of water. Seems like I ran out of water. I had roughly 50 more miles until I hit Lima, MT. That will do wonders for your spirit for sure.
So I began to search for water sources. Luckily for me, all the cattle were grazing in the lower lands, while the upper lands seemed relatively cattle free. I decided to take a filtered drink from one of the numerous meandering little streams that surrounded me. It helped, if but for a little while.
I soon came to the roughest climb of the day. I had to get off my bike and push for a while. The mud was a thick clay-mud that stuck to everything. I thought that maybe when I got over the pass things would be better.
Nope. Not a chance.
I tried to ride through it, but the mud would build on my tires and eventually stop them from moving due to interference between mud and frame. If the sticky, clay-mud got on my chain, there would be a good chance it would clog up at my rear derailleur and end up ripping it off the frame. I couldn’t ride off the road, because the fields were littered at every step with giant smooth stones that made it impossible to ride through any more efficient than simply walking.
So walk I did. When the mud was finally lessening to a ride-able point, I scraped what mud I could from my shoes (so they could actually clip in) and my bike (so that it could move). I had a fast, gradual descent ahead of me. But I was getting thirsty.
A rather fast uneventful descent into the next valley followed the fields of mud. I soon climbed to a road that led out of the valley and onto more hard-packed dirt. In fact I was soon to be going through one of the most beautiful canyons I have ever seen. The terrain changed so abruptly I almost forgot to stop for water. I found water in a small flowing ditch that seemed clean enough compared to some water I’ve seen. I drank long from it, until I knew I could make it to Lima.
It was a beautiful ride through a winding canyon road with late afternoon sunlight painting colorful pictures on the wind-cut rock. I started seeing pieces of civilization after a few miles. Tiny houses gave way to larger vacation/ranch houses. Soon the canyon itself began to grow smaller and smaller as the light faded from the sky. I finally left the canyon on a straight and narrow gravel road that sent me directly to an interstate (The same one I slept next to just two nights previous). From there, my directions took me right (south) and I had 12 more miles to go until I hit Lima.
This was mind numbing. After a hard day of dehydration, mud, sun, and rough roads, I can see my goal for the night. However I can’t get there for another 45 minutes at least. This scenario happened numerous times during the Tour. I would get done with a rough section, I emerge on an easy road, but I still have another hour or two until I am actually done. It wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t so hungry and thirsty.
The difference between another 10 miles or another 40 miles is food. Food helps everything.
Finally, I made it to Lima. I booked a room at the motel, the woman at the counter gave me hot pockets and water, and I retired for the night after saying hello to a few other racers that had booked rooms next to mine.
Around 3 hours after that I get a knock at my door. I get up, groggy and disoriented, and open my door to find a large German man staring down at me.
I was too tired to be frightened.
It’s Reinhold! He made it! I had completely forgotten about this guy. He asks if he could crash with me for the night. I had no objection.
Then he started snoring.
My father snores. Hell even I snore on the occasion. But this was unlike any snoring I had ever heard. It was guttural, daemonic, locomotive-like, and resonate. Lucky for me I just had a hard 110 miles and could sleep through a tornado if I felt like it.
And so I did. Morning came and I crawled out of my room to find a few other riders were up and ready to grab breakfast at a local diner. See, there really isn’t much to Lima. Other than the Motel, a gas station, and the freeway, the diner is the only thing there. It’s little more than a gas, or potty, stop for most. I ate like a horse, as per the norm at this point, and purchased a burger and fries for the road.
I was the last person out of town. Everyone else had their things packed up before they went to eat. I was the lazy one that day it seemed, But I didn’t care. I had no competitive spirit in this race. There was only myself, the road, my bike, and time.
Off I went! Today was going to be a grand day. Why? Because this was the day I left Montana.
I’ve stated before how hard Montana is. It isn’t the hardest state, but it is the longest. Getting to the end of a map is an amazing feeling, second only to a state-line. When you’re out on the Tour, you live each day as its own crazy challenge. You pick a spot on the map and start pedaling.
People watching your SPOT GPS online see your progress day to day as a fluid progress across the nation. On the ground, however, you’re just trying to get to the next roadside diner.
So I was headed to Idaho today. It was a fairly easy ride, flat enough save for the one climb out of Montana (evil state had to throw one more in there just for grins). I took a picture of the Montana/Idaho border and smiled big.
Before this, though, I must mention I had my first run-in with mosquitoes. Right before the small community of Lakeview (I couldn’t see a lake, so I just trusted them on that matter) I ran into a cloud of the tiny bloodsuckers. It had rained a few days prior, and that woke up all the mosquito larvae. By the time I got to Lakeview I thought I would need a transfusion.
I stopped here to eat my burger. It was a quaint little place with old, dark dark brown wooden houses and a few wandering dogs. It felt quiet, even though I knew it was occupied. There was a forest service station here, so I refilled my water with their permission and hit the road once again.
Uneventful and hot is a good summary of this ride. The dirt road leading out of Lakeview gave way to pavement. Getting closer to Big Springs, the traffic started getting worse. Luckily the route had me ducking onto some dirt road that was overgrown and had a big metal gate a mile into it.
The sign said “KEEP OUT!” My map said ignore it and go right around. Way to stick it to the Man, Map.
Good advice on that, though. I found myself on old snow mobile trails. After climbing and going over some loose rocks, I found myself gaining more and more speed through the rough, but flowy, terrain. I was moving downhill. Slight, but there it was. I was banking turns and even caught a bit of air on a few of the hills! For the first time since Fleecer I felt like I was actually mountain biking! I began to imagine myself in a pack of riders, all fighting for the top position as a British announcer got really excited whenever one of us attacked a hill for the lead.
This high carried me out of the woods and onto the asphalt of a neighborhood road. After spinning a while I found the intersection I had been looking for all day. It held a gas station/deli, a restaurant, and my bed for the night. I found a bunch of TD riders there as well. I sat down to dinner with two lovely ladies from Texas (The Sheila’s, as they are named) and a young and dapper Englishman. The Englishman, sadly, was dropping out of the race. He twisted his ankle very badly on Fleecer ridge and it was causing him a lot of pain. It’s too bad, too, because he is such an incredibly strong rider.
At dinner, one of the Sheilas asked if I could help her adjust her shifters. They seemed to come out of adjustment on the ride today. After dinner, she wheeled her bike into my cabin and I tightened her cables a bit and got it running as good as new. Shimano XTR, it seems, can’t be beat for this kind of race. Though my Sram held up, I eventually had to replace a shifter in Colorado.
Nowadays, I’m a Shimano kind of guy.