June 25, 2010 – 56 miles
As we ate this morning, a friendly squirrel joined us at the table.
Before we left, the Montana Conservation Corps showed up to cut down trees affected by the pine beetle. We talked to them for a bit and got an email address of a guy to call when we get to Helena. He may offer us a place to stay while in town!
We turned out of the campground and immediately got stuck behind a cattle drive. One of the ranchers on horseback led us through the middle of the herd. There was crap all over the road, which flung onto our legs, bikes, and gear.
On the side of the road there were people riding horses. They were tourists watching the rangers herd the cattle. We were part of the show, I guess. It made me proud knowing I wasn’t a part of some guided tour. I was experiencing the real deal.
We climbed 1,000 feet over 8 miles to a properly named location – Mosquito Lake. All I could think about is how deceptive our elevation profiles can be. 1,000 feet over 8 miles is an easy grade, but that’s not what my legs were telling me. The road went up, then down, then up again. It may seem nice to have some descents thrown in to the mix, but I didn’t think so. It’s terrible to crest a hill and see a descent leading directly into another, even taller, hill. Sure, momentum from the descent carried me part of the way up the other side, but given rolling resistance, air resistance, and braking to control the bike, it is minimal.
Mathieu waited at Mosquito Lake & Auke rode ahead. He couldn’t stand the mosquitoes. Our next point of reunion would be Union Pass.
The 19 miles were roughly divided into thirds – climb, descend, climb. The first two were pretty easy and enjoyable. I struggled through the last part. The road degraded to loose gravel and a headwind developed.
At the top of the pass (also a continental divide crossing), I ate my standard tuna and tortilla lunch. Just afterwards, we met our first SoBo Great Divide through-rider. He was from the same town as Matthew Lee. I didn’t connect the dots, but when I talked to Matthew in Rawlins, he told me to say hello to a slow-tourer from his hometown that he knew. It wasn’t until later in the evening that I realized who we met was Matthew’s friend.
Afterward, we gradually climbed for a few miles to the top of a mountain (counter-intuitively, it was higher than the divide crossing we just topped). I stopped to filter fresh snowmelt on the side of the road.
A fast 5-mile descent through forest followed. Then a short ascent, then another very steep descent along tight switchbacks. The view included the Tetons in the distance.
At the base of the descent, we met up at a closed gas station along US 287 and raided a soda machine. As we sat, a huge Greyhound bus sized RV pulling a trailer large enough for two cars pulled up. We laughed at the dichotomy of our travelling styles and setups.
Earlier in the day, someone told Mathieu the place we were thinking of staying was 5 miles from where we were then resting. While Mathieu and Auke were waiting for me, another motorist said it was 8 miles. So I put it in my mind that there were only 8 miles (mostly uphill, into the wind) between me and a place to eat and rest.
I went slowly. As my legs tired, I put more weight on my sore butt. The sodas I drank were bubbling in my stomach causing slight uncomfortableness. Regardless, the 8 miles came and went without sign of the Lava Mountain Lodge.
Another 2.5 miles passed before I arrived. Mathieu and Auke were already in the bar having a beer. I enjoyed a very tasty Blue Moon. After drinking it and struggling through an awkward conversation with a very intoxicated man, I escaped the bar. I went to check the “grizzly cabin” we rented for the night.
I found that a family of travelling cyclists had shown up. They had started their trip in Colorado and were riding to Seattle. Erin & Claren are college students like myself. Bretten, the youngest, is still in high school. It was refreshing to meet some folks my age on their own bicycle adventure.
The way their trip was planned, it did not seem like there was much room for flexibility. They had lodging reservations tonight 50 miles ahead in Colter Bay. They had lost a day of travel due to their father having a kidney stone.
It was 18:30 already and the roads were narrow and busy with RV traffic. I don’t know if they made it all the way tonight or not.
The family left and I rode town the parking lot to find our cabin for the night. I saw one on my right with a bike outside and turned to go to it. The road was sloped away from the cabin and covered in loose gravel. I didn’t turn hard, but just enough to make my wheels slip out from under me. Body meet ground.
This time, there was a small audience to enjoy my comical fall. It was the drunk guy from the bar and a lady sitting outside her cabin. “Well, that’s embarrassing,” I said. It didn’t hurt, so I got up and rode on. I realized the cabin I was riding toward wasn’t ours. I changed course to backtrack.
Again, my wheels slid from under me and I went to the ground. This time it hurt. My knee and hip absorbed the impact. I layed on the ground in pain, cursing. The lady at her cabin asked if I was OK. I half-lied and said yes.
I walked the rest of the way to the cabin…just to be safe. So far, my only real falls occurred in parking lots.
The grizzly cabin wasn’t much more than a glorified shed. It had a table, two bunks, and a heater. After getting settled, it was time for a long awaited dinner. I ate a burger, and a hot fudge brownie sundae.
Afterwards, I cleaned the cuts from my fall and washed up in the bathroom. They had showers, but I opted against one – it cost $0.25 for 40 seconds!
Back at the cabin, I climbed into one of the top bunks & into my sleeping bag. Although it was cool outside, the cabin was extremely warm – especially up on the top bunk. I had one of the worst night’s sleep in a long time.