Lay Over in Helena, MT

On 8-18-14 the ride out of Lincoln began on a dusty gravel road that led 15 miles to Stemple Pass. The road,  Sleepy Hallow (sic) Ave./Stemple Pass Rd. leads pass Ted Kaczynski’s former residence. In fact, I stopped to talk to a rancher who was spraying weeds between his property and the road. He pointed to a knoll where Ted’s “cabin” was located.  He remembers Ted passing his ranch, as the Unabomber walked to and from Lincoln, always keeping to himself.

I was able to ride almost 14 miles before the road became too steep and I had to push the bike to the top. I included a photo at the top which has benches for cross country skiers. The top wasn’t the end of pushing the bike for there was more pushing on the road I turned left on. I rode for quite a while on a ridge with a view of the forest as far as the eye could see.

I missed a turn, need to follow the map much closer, and ended going on this, at least ten miles, hang on to the seat of you pants, downhill “run”. The road left the forest and exited into this wide valley. I had no idea where I was, but felt relieved when the road I was on, ended at a T and there was this sign that read Helena 28 miles. All I that to do was turn left and go South. It was around 3:30 and I thought I had a chance of making it to Helena before nighttime. This was a wide gravel road that cut through ranch land. There were these big tracker like combines that were gathering the cut hay into these huge rolls(1500 pounds each) to store for feeding their cattle during the winter.

I was cranking on the pedals, but at times had to slow down, because the wash board became so jarring that I was afraid of loosing control of the handlebars. Finally, I spotted a store, Canyon Creek, that was around 1/4 of a mile after where the gravel road turned to pavement. Was I in luck, the store also had an area for camping and camping on thick soft grass, not the hard gravel that I was used to. See photo of camp ground. The first thing the owner of the store asked “are you doing the Divide?”. She said she gets a few of them time to time. It was a tough day, for I climbed 2890′. I don’t think I would have made Helena.

On 8-19-14 I rode into Helena and rented a room. My plan was to have a lay over day, i.e., spend two nights here. I spent my time in Helena taking care of business, such as, buying supplies, cleaning my bike chain and lubing it, eating at Panda Express and MacDonald’s. It’s weird seeing all these familiar stores, Home Depot, Lowes, Office Depot, etc. It’s like you haven’t left home.

My big concern is the weather. There’s a storm predicted, with T-storms on Thursday and “regular” rain for Friday. I don’t want to spend any more time in a motel room. Need to hit the road. By the way, I spotted quite a few of these roadside memorials, young people, how sad.

 

U.S. 279 MemorialButterfly on bike seatCatheral HelenaCanyon Creek, MT

 

 

Pushing the bike

It’s been a while since I last  got on the computer mainly because they don’t have wifi in tents. On 8-12-14 I rode 41+ miles mostly on farm roads, which was a treat, from all the riding through dense forest. I camped at a state campground a mile from the quaint town of Big Fork with views of Flathead Lake, which by the way is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi.

To give my dupa a rest, I decided to walk to town for dinner. I found a pizza place and besides pizza, I had two beers and two jello shooters. With all the riding and the booze, I was feeling a little light headed and looked like  someone who is failing a sobriety test as I was making my way back to camp. Twice, I had take a break by sitting on the stoops of a store. Half way up this long steep  hill to reach the campground I stuck out my thumb and got a ride.

I was dreading the next day’s ride because of a 6 mile steep climb that is mentioned in the book and on the map. I knew that I would have to push my bike and my ever so heavy trailer for 6 miles and of course that’s what I did, and in 90 degree weather. It took more than a few hours to reach the top. I averaged around 1 1/2 miles an hour.

The top was so sweet with the added attraction of an 8 mile, hang by the seat of your pants, downhill. You had to really grip the handlebars because much of the road surface was crushed rock that was laid a little too thick in places. I think you get the picture.

When I was close to the end of the downhill I happened to look at my handlebar bag and noticed that my bike map was missing. It fits under a sheet of plastic. I went into a panic, because without this very detailed map the ride is impossible. I unhitched the trailer and started riding back up to look for the map, and after about less than a mile, I turned around and hitched the trailer back up.

After riding for a few minutes, I spot a forest service truck, from Arizona no less, coming up the hill. I stop them and let them know my situation. They gave me their blessings and continued on.  My mind was flooded with possible, actually, impossible ways that I could get a new map. Around two hours later I hear this truck behind me, it’s the forest service truck and this guy is waving the map. I did not make this up.

The next day, 8-14-12, I fixed myself, freeze dried Pasta Primavera for breakfast. I was in no shape to fix dinner the night before. There was a light rain that stopped after a couple of hours of riding. I decided to avoid the forest, beating me up too much, and took highway 83 to the next stopping point which was Holland Lake. The highway had it’s own disadvantages, narrow shoulders with speeding cars, trucks, cars pulling trailers, and even a truck pulling a trailer and the trailer pulling a boat.

Holland Lake is a very popular camping and boating spot. It’s a beautiful place surround by majestic mountains. That night, I was in for a treat from mother nature; violent thunder and lightening. Of course it rained, and to my surprise my rain fly failed me. Of all places the water dripped, it had to be on my face. I threw my jacket over my face but then I felt that I was suffocating.  Finally, I got out of the tent; and getting a good soaking as I arranged my ground cloth over the top of my tent. It worked.

Took highway 83 to Seeley Lake on 8-15-14, where believe it or not, nothing event full happened.  I’ll be back in the forest when I leave Seeley Lake.

On 8-16-14 I left Seeley Lake at 8am and didn’t get to Big Nelson Campground until 6pm. I rode through the forest most of the way. I rode 47 miles and gained 2580 feet with a lose of 2060. This campground leaves much to be desired. There’s only 10 camping sites, and two of them, mind being one of them, are situated below the roadway. I had to unpack most of my things on the shoulder of the road and carry them down on these homemade steps cut into the embankment.

Sometime later, the neighbor campers came over with a 32 inch chain saw and an axe. Good thing I wasn’t camping in Texas. They cut up firewood for me and even got the fire going. Also, they brought me a bottle of Kona beer. The next day they came over to carry my bike and trailer up to the roadway. Their names are Paul and Josh. I gave them a free copy of my blog.

It’s 8-17-14 and I’ve been cooped up in a motel room working on the blog. This am I left Big Nelson and rode and also, pushed my bike to get to Lincoln. I had 5 miles of pushing. I met a couple from Spain who are doing the Divide. Now I have left to do is to upload some photos.

Sunset on Flathead LakeHolland Lake MTBig Fork, MTCoffee on Holland LakeMontana MailboxAlmost Home SignJosh Cutting fire WordMontana FarmKilroyPaul Spliting FirewoodResting on Climb

Finally into the Backcountry

On 8-8-14, I left Eureka for the first leg of the Divide, Tuchuck  Campground. I didn’t make it. The map gets 1/2 credit for me taking the wrong road.  I was wasted and demoralized and decided to forget about the first three legs and take the highway back to Whitefish and start from there. The third leg finishes in Whitefish anyhow.

I rode back to North Dickey Lake and camped with the Canadian family. Besides riding on their Seadoo they fed me chili dogs with cold beers. We sat around discussing health care systems. They just loved my company.  When I got into my sleeping bag, I had an epiphany, don’t ride back to Whitefish, ride to where the wrong turn was made and go the right way.

On 8-9-14, I finished the day’s ride at the Divide’s first destination, Tuchuck Campground. The two mile section before reaching Whitefish Divide was Nasty. I had to push my bike and trailer the whole way.  The “road”  was steep and paved with loose gravel and rocks that varied in size between potatoes and misshaped cantaloupes. I kid you not. There isn’t a number for the number of times I had to stop to catch my breath.  I got a real treat when I reached the top. There was snow lodged in the roots of a fallen tree (results from an avalanche), so I made myself a snow cone with my Powerade.  From there it was downhill to the campground.  My back didn’t appreciate pushing the bike.

The next day’s ride was from Tuchuck to Red Meadow Lake. It was quite a down hill ride, but it was pay back time with the last two miles, which I had to walk. Actually, the elevation gain was 2190′ and the loss was 1560′.

While at the lake, this guy walks up and asks if I met a man driving an old blue pickup. I said yes, that I met him while I was pushing my bike up Nasty Hill. He then tells me that the man is his father and that his father told him about a guy a year younger than him, who’s riding the Divide. This is incredible, since Nasty Hill lies more than 36 miles and over a mountain from the lake. The son gave me two ice cold sodas and a couple of hot dogs that I would add to my Top Ramen. The cold sodas were heaven sent because I was over heated from pushing the bike.

I’m writing this blog from a bike hostel, Montana Bike Hostel, which is around six miles Southeast of Whitefish in Columbia Falls. I have my own cabin out from the main house which sits on an acre. The place is surrounded by horse farms, the kind one would see in Hidden Valley. I finally got to take a shower. It was 37 degrees this morning when I left Red Meadow Lake. It was an incredible long down hill ride into Whitefish. This should be the last time you see the word Whitefish.

Bear Locker Tuchuck CampgroundTuchuck CampgroundBike HostelMontana SignageRed Meadows Lake 8-11-14Hot Dog RamenSeadooing with CanadianWhitefish Divide, MT

 

 

 

 

It’s a Go….Maybe

Border 8-07-14Much has happened since the last post, negative and positive. I set 8-04-14 as my start date because the flight was $119 while the other dates were between $169 and $179.  A week before the start date, I shipped by bike, trailer, camping gear, clothes, etc. to Glacier Cyclery in Whitefish, Montana. I told them to assemble the bike. Just one less thing to worry about. A couple of days before the start date, Glacier Cyclery calls and informs me that while assembling my bike they find that the frame is cracked and can’t be fixed…I need a new bike. They said that they had a bike that I might like. It has 27 1/2 inch wheels and my bike has 26 inch wheels. I did buy new tires (not steel beaded) and tubes for my bike and they couldn’t be switched out.

Talk about uncontrollable anxiety and having, basically, sleepless nights. I thought of all kinds of back up plans, such as, calling another bike store in Kalispell, Mt. This guy was big on 29 inch wheel bikes. That put me into a real spin. On Monday, the day of my flight, I called Keith and he basically, calmed me down by telling me that 27 1/2 inch wheel bikes were what people were buying. 26 inch wheel bikes were old school. He also, informed me that 99% of new bikes did not come with steal beaded tires, which can be can be a nightmare changing…think crow bar, smashed fingers, and lots of cussing.

The flight to Seattle went without a hitch and I got a bonus when Mt. Rainier poked it’s head out through the clouds. Needless to say, I took more than a few photos. I transferred to a crop duster for the flight to Kalispell. I won’t go into any detail, or anything in general, regarding that leg of the trip. I got to my room at Cheap Sleep ($127) at 1am and of course had a fitful night’s sleep thinking about what this bike looked like that they set aside for me. I just hoped it would work out because the thought of renting a car and going to Kalispell to check out their inventory only added to my anxiety.

Glacier Cyclery is about 1 1/2 miles from Cheap Sleep, so picture me walking down the street dragging this old beat up suitcase with a green stripe spray painted across it, so it would be easy to identify. When they brought out the bike, I was more than pleasantly surprised. I took it for a spin and told them “wrap it up”. Actually, they spent most of the day modifying the bike, such as adding the bike computers from my old bike, the seat, and what took a really long time was adapting the rear housing, which was radically different than the housing on my old bike, so it would accept the trailer axle. You know technology, they’re always changing things.

Well, to make along story short, I got out of the bike shop at 2 and was hell bent on riding to Eureka, Mt, 50 miles.  It was in the 90′s and pulling this trailer, which was more than fully loaded, was proving more difficult than I thought it would. At around 30 miles I knew I had to find a place to camp, no way could I make it to Eureka, unless it was in an ambulance.  I spotted this house with what seemed like an acre of lawn and checked with the owner, who came out of the house looking and acting like Yosomite Sam, about camping on his lawn. His way of saying no was to inform me that there was a campground two miles up the road.  Wow! two miles away, no problem, even though it turned out to be five miles.

I was more than happy to see the sign, North Dickey Lake Campground, even though the small sign under it read, “Campground Full”. My plan was to inform the camp host that I had a chronic condition that required immediate attention, which was rest. I didn’t have to say anything because when she saw what I look like, basically, beat to hell she said she has a site for me. Then she brought out from her motor home, fruit, candy, crackers, and lots of cold water, even a cold wet towel for my head. In no time I felt 100%, well actually, 60% better.

The site she had for me was on the side of a hill, so I didn’t know how I would get my bike and trailer up there. Just then, the direct neighbor of the host said he had a tent site that he wasn’t using because he had his trailer. He and his family are from Canada and they were very gracious. Before leaving to visit their friends in another camp site they left me several slices of pizza and two can of beer.

To fully recover from the beating I took today, I decided to stay another day at Dickey Lake. The next day I did go for a short bike ride minus the trailer to have a late breakfast at this cafe I was told about. After breakfast I hung around the lake and eventually, went swimming to cool down. It’s still in the 90′s.

Today, which is 8-07-14, I rode to the U.S./Canadian border, the official start of the Great Divide Route. I rode ten miles on the route, which is a paved road, that went through ranch land and had a couple of nasty hills.  The route took me back through Eureka. It was around noon and it was hot and I was next to this motel so I decided to treat myself to a room as opposed to camping in a city park. Next to the room, was a Subway with wifi and I spent more than a few hours working on this blog, downloading and editing photos and having to redo part of the blog because I hit the wrong button and things disappeared. You know computers. Tomorrow, I’ll be heading to the backwoods, so the blog will be on hold for a while.

 

Mt. RainierFuel for the roadCracked FrameNew Bike & TrailerNorth Dickey LakeTwilight Dinner

 

 

 

 

 

Previous tours

Following are some photos of previous tours:

1. 1984 Simi Valley, CA to New Amsterdam, New York. Twenty eight days of riding. Two lay over days. No bike computer so I don’t know the mileage. Over 3,000 is a good estimate.

2. 1990 Seattle, WA to San Diego, CA.

3. 1994 Northridge, CA to Boston, MA. When I arrived in Boston and checked into a fancy hotel the first thing I saw when I turned on the TV was a white Bronco being     followed by a phalanx of black and whites.

4. 2001 Round trip from Altadena, CA to Fairbanks, AK. A total of 7,000+ miles and almost 5 months.

5. 2009 Yorktown, VA to Florence, Oregon. 4,300 miles and 3 months.

All my tours were solo except for 2009. See group photo below. There are several selfies, although not technically selfies, they were taken of me by me: Drinking from a mug; Eating on a Victoria, BC hotel balcony; Hiding from the rain in a storm drain; On the road to Haines, Alaska; and Crossing the Ohio river on a ferry is technically a genuine selfie.

 

Click on any image to enlarge it. Some of the text is difficult to read but pops right out when enlarged.

 

 

 

 

.    La Veta, CO 1984  textWells, Nevada 1994 textVictoria, Canada 1990 textTo Currant, Nevada 1994 textTacoma, Wash 1990 textPine Pass BC 2001 textNevada Desert Highway 1994 textLiard Hot Springs BC 2001 textHoosier Pass, CO 2009 textFlat on Highway to Currant, Nevada 1994 textEly Nevada 1994 textChemult Oregon 2001 textCarl, Bob and Grant 2001 textCarl on to Haines, Alaska 2001 textCarl cross the Ohio River 2001 textCarl & Cable Car 1990 TextCamping Coaldale Nevada  2001 textBurgrress Junction WY 9430 ft 1994 textAdventure Cyclist Missoula, Montana 2009

The anxiety is building.

I get periodic rushes of anxiety thinking about the ride and all the things that I need to take care of.  One thing I feel good about is that I’m doing the miles on the bike, not long miles, but miles in the San Gabriel mountains which face my front door. First thing after this post is to make a to do list.

A question that people ask: why?  Well, I remember the excitement and feeling of adventure listening to this runner, at one of the numerous races I ran, relating to me how he and his brother cycled across the United States: the sights they saw, the places they stayed, like, city parks, churches, even a jail cell, and the people they met. Sometime later, maybe more than a few months, I developed intense pain in my left achilles that wouldn’t go away, and this affected my emotional state, because I was running since I was 34 and I was now 44. Long distance running was in my bones. Sometime in September, 1983, the story about cycling across the U.S. surfaced in my mind and it didn’t take but more than a moment to decide that I was going to make that ride.

Once, that decision was made, I was pumped. I bought a bike from a guy I worked with and started training on the bike with the same kind of schedule that I used in training for running races. I started by riding a few miles at low intensity and on flat roads. I slowly increased the miles and intensity with higher gears and with hills thrown in. I alternated with a hard day and then with easy days for recovery. My goal was to leave Simi Valley on June, 1 and arrive in New Amsterdam, New York June, 30, where a staff member I used to worked with move. I also, dumped old Betsy and bought a brand new touring bike, and what a difference that made. Part of my training was to eventually, ride a 100 miles in one day each week, in addition to the miles I was putting in on the other days. I reached that goal but don’t remember when. I had eight months to train, and each month’s total mileage steadily increased to 300, 400, 500, and up to where I rode 1,000 miles for the month of May.

A big question is, how does one choose a route to bike across the U.S.?  I picked up numerous state maps and I knew to avoid the Interstates and large cities, and then basically, designing a route based on the places that I wanted to visit: first, was the Grand Canyon, next, was my aunt’s home in La Veta, Colorado, then my uncle’s farm in Ashley, Illinois  After leaving his farm, I checked out more state maps and chose what I thought was the most direct route to New Amsterdam. At times, I would ask some local which would be the best road and what roads to avoid. I camped at camp grounds, and when there weren’t any and I was far from civilization, I would pull far off the highway and camp in a field. Besides staying at my relatives, I stayed with a few kind strangers who invited me for dinner, a shower,  use of their washing machine, sleeping in a bed, and having breakfast before hitting the road. I also, stayed at a few motels, the cheapest being $15. I never stayed in a jail cell, but I did camp in a cemetery in Chalmars, Indiana, where in the middle of the night, thunder boomed and lightening flashed, illuminating the head stones.

I reached my goal, flying (riding) by the seat of my pants. There were some good days and there were some bad days, but overall, it was truly an adventure.

 

 

                                                           

Chiloquin Oregon camping 2001

Five Star Camping 2001

Cemetery 1984

Cemetery Camping  1984  

Camping off Highway WI 1994

Off Road Camping 1994

The final days before launch…

Bike Route 8-04-14I’ve been very busy with planning and training for the Great Divide Ride or as it is officially known: the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Much of the following description of the route was taken from Michael McCoy’s book: Cycling the Great Divide. Michael spent two years driving a jeep and mapping out the route. McCoy’s book is considered the bible for anyone taking on the challenge.

Originally, the route began at the U.S./ Canadian port of Roosville, Montana and ended at Antelope Wells, New Mexico a distance of 2,470 miles. Although, it has been extended northward to Banff, Canada, I plan on starting at the original start point. Call me a wimp.

The goal, which was achieved, when establishing the route, was to keep it within 50 miles of the Continental Divide. It would have been impossible to have the route on the actual Continental Divide which is essentially on the ridge line of the Rocky Mountains. There is the Continental Divide Hiking Trail, but In no way could you have a bike route on that trail, although, I’m sure someone will try riding it.

The Americas Continental Divide, which by the way runs from the southern tip of South America to Alaska, is defined as a drainage divide, where water from one side of the divide flows east and for the other side it flows west.

What it the route like?  Well 85% is dirt and gravel roads, 10% paved roads, and 5% single track trails. The route travels 695 miles through Montana, 72 miles through Idaho, 481 miles through Wyoming, 544 miles through Colorado, and 678 miles through New Mexico. The lowest elevation is 2,577′ near the Canadian border and the highest, 11,910′ at Indiana Pass in Colorado near the border of New Mexico. I’ll be crossing from one side of the divide to the other 27 times. The scenery, mostly in the back country, is made up of forests, farm and ranch land, the open range, small towns, cities, for example, Butte and Helena, Montana, the Great Divide Basin in Wyoming, and the deserts of New Mexico. I’ll also get a chance to view the spectacular Grand Tetons.

Adventure Cycling has published well defined and descriptive maps of the Divide Route. In addition to the maps, I will take, Cycling the Great Divide with me. Besides spending mucho tiempo riding the route with my imagination, I have also watched several utube videos that riders have uploaded. Through the videos and “flying over” more than a few miles with Google Earth, I have a pretty good idea what I’ll be subjected to. Through the several long distance tours I’ve ridden, I’ve learned that there are good days and there are bad days. Also, the decision to ride is mine alone.

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