Polebridge to Eureka

July 13, 2010 – 58 miles

Today started with 6 miles of terrible roads to rejoin the main route. Mathieu realized he left his odometer in the Hostel and turned back to get it. I continued at a comfortable pace.

We met a solo southbound rider who left from was on day #2 of his trip (he started on the US border, not Banff). He informed us that the roads ahead were good. (Later, we decided he must have a different opinion of what “good” means.)

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After an hour or two of riding, I was stopped by a family in a car. They were curious about what I was doing and amazed when I told them. They asked a question I wasn’t prepared for – “What has been the highlight of the trip?” I didn’t know. Every day has had its highs and lows, struggles and accomplishments, euphoria and mental fatigue. In a week when I’m in Banff I’ll have the time to think back.

A bit later I met a waiting Mathieu. We had 14 miles to go to the Whitefish Divide. We agreed that Mathieu would wait at the top unless the weather turned sour. We departed together, but after a few minutes I was already riding alone.

I passed through a vast burn area.

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The overcast sky, cool weather, and lack of leaves made it feel like late fall, not the middle of summer. Riding through it gave me an eerie feeling. I was glad once I was riding again in living forest.

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The climb up the Whitefish Divide was gradual, but rocky. When I reached the top, I saw that Mathieu had already gone. I cannot blame him. The wind started to pick up and the temperature dropped. The sky threatened rain or snow.

I layered up for the descent – winter hat, gloves, fleece, rain jacket, and rain pants. The descent turned out to be very rocky and forced me to go very slow. The last thing I wanted to do, though, was stay on this descent for longer than necessary. The gravel road eventually spilled onto a stretch of fresh asphalt. It was so smooth that my handlebar-attached bear bell was not vibrating.

As I was descending this winding road, I rounded a corner and saw a bear jump out of the shrubs on the left side of the road – 40 feet away. I pulled the brakes hard and skidded my rear wheel. Until then it had not noticed me.

When it did, it looked and paused. “Fight or flight?” It decided to turn heel and run. It must have been my grizzly beard that scared it away (or the fact that a scrawny biker wouldn’t be much of a meal).

As the bear turned to run, I reached to my helmet cam & flipped it on just in time to get a few frames of it.

In hindsight, maybe it would have been smarter to reach for my bear spray instead of the camera.

A few minutes later, I saw to southbound riders. They shouted out asking if I was on the Divide. Unfortunately, they couldn’t stop. Following 100 meters behind them was a convoy of road construction equipment. If they were overtaken, they’d be breathing in fumes for the remainder of the paved climb. I didn’t even have a chance to warn the riders of the bear I just saw.

Once the descent leveled out into flat farmland, I shed my warm layers and continued on Tobacco Rd – a quiet road paralleling US 93. I rode into Eureka and found Mathieu’s bike outside the library. I uploaded some photos while he updated his blog. We went to “Papa’s Pizza, Grandma’s Goodies” and each ordered a HUGE pizza. It was too greasy for my taste.

We rode North of town to the Ksanka Motel – only 9 miles from the US/Canada border. I thought about how odd it would be to finish the trip at the border. Especially with the beautiful Canadian Rockies just ahead. As I lay in bed that night, I had a realization that my trip actually is coming to its end.


Stats
Distance: 52 miles
Ascent: 2869 ft
Descent: 4192 ft

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