So let’s see, after White Bird …
The route went through some cornfields that were just rolling and huge. Everything was really pretty.
The road went down to the river. The most steeply graded, badly paved road I’ve been down in my life. I actually stopped halfway down to chill out and let my brake rotors cool off. I want to say, Sheeps Grade Road … Lambs Grade? It was along a long stretch that had almost no services whatsoever.
So that morning was White Bird Pass, and then after that steep downhill was the start up to Lolo Pass. It was about 90-100 miles to the top of the pass. With hardly any services. Just a constant, steady, one-percent-grade climb, up and up and up. The kind of thing where it’s uphill, but doesn’t really look like an uphill, so you’re like, dang, why am I going so slowly up this? It’s frustrating. Plus there wasn’t a lot of a shoulder there. Not that it’s not safe, but you get tired of logging trucks flying by.
Several hours into it, I caught up with someone else and rode beside them for a while. I was just like, hey, what’s up? Let’s talk because I’ve seen no other people for several hours now, and it’s driving me nuts. This guy Ben, we rode together for about ten minutes and just talked. Then I kept going up.
After about 80 miles of going back and forth alongside this river, between the mountains, the actual climb to the pass starts. So you’ve been going up all day, and then you really start going uphill. (Evidently, near the bottom I missed a resort that had a gas station and restaurant.) It climbs up forever and is mentally brutal.
I got to the top as the light was fading. I stopped so many times. I was just crawling up the side of that pass. I had gotten up that morning after two or three hours of sleep at the post office and had already done one pass, so it wrecked me. But you have to just keep on going.
I was completely out of food, completely out of water, and it was dark by the time I reached the top. I was looking forward to hanging out at the visitors center at the top. It has nice heated bathrooms. But they were locked! Evidently, they’ve been having some water issues. There was a log bench and I was just so drained that I passed out there for about 20 minutes, until my buddy Mike rolled up.
It was getting cold and my clothes were soaked from the climb up. I was having a hard time, and Lolo was still about 30 miles away. Mike was completely done from the climb too, but he had stopped earlier and he saved my ass--he gave me some bars to eat.
We both put on all the clothes that we had, and ended in the dark, near the first campsite on the other side of the pass. There are these--not port-a-potties, but campsite bathrooms? Little concrete buildings that have big overhangs, walled in against the wind and cold. We found two of those and bivvyed under the awnings for the night. It was actually super comfortable.
Then we went on to Lolo. Ended up at a McDonald’s and ran into a bunch of other racers. I ate a ton of food. I was really dragging from the day before and had to catch up on my calorie count.
My buddy John, who had gone ahead and made it to Lolo that night, messaged me and told me that there was a bike shop about 30 miles up the road in Hamilton. I was still wearing my old shoes, too small even with no insoles, and was in a lot of pain. My Achilles were not happy, and there was pain shooting from the ball of my right foot to my big toe. I was having to stop every half hour.
I rolled on to Hamilton and went by the bike shop. Cool people. They had some shoes in my size. I also got some heavy duty winter gloves, because there’s a cold front coming this way. They also gave me kombucha, chips, and mango salsa, which was awesome! So I was super happy rolling out of there.
I took my time. I knew that it was going to be a day of getting used to the new shoes. To let my body get used to it, and used to the sit. Especially because I had lost enough time getting the shoes, there was no way I was going to make it to Dillon, so Wisdom was really my goal.
I stopped and had a really good lunch before hitting the road. Went up to the top of the next climb, just past Sula, I want to say? There was a visitors center that was actually open at the top. That climb wasn’t nearly as bad as either of the ones from the day before. But it was cold and sprinkled a bit, so I was like, okay, do I wear my raincoat? … That’s too hot, I’m sweating … then the wind starts up and it’s shady and I’m cold … so when I got to the top I sat underneath the hand dryers, drying my clothes out before the last little bit of the climb and the descent into Wisdom.
I ran into Mike there. Evidently he had missed the turn to Wisdom and descended two miles before he realized what he had done, and had to turn around and climb up again. So he was pretty emotionally spent. So we rode side by side for a good bit of the way, and stopped to take pictures. That pass was the first time the race crossed the Continental Divide.
We both hauled ass into Wisdom. Approaching it, you come down the pass zooming, and everything opens up all of a sudden, and you’re right by Big Hole National Park. One of those places with the dumbest names, but there really are no words to describe how amazing it is. Like, you’re really in the middle of this big … hole. There are mountains and snow-capped peaks all around you, but they’re dozens of miles away across rolling pasture and hills in every direction, so far away. Seriously, big sky country. And the sun was setting so the sky was just on fire. I tried to take a panorama shot but it didn’t turn out right. You just can’t photograph some things easily.
So we came into Wisdom. There was a saloon open with about four or five bikes already leaned up against the rail out front. It became an unofficial biker bar for the night. A bunch of us sat around and ate pizza and drank beer. I tracked down the last open lodging in town, a little rental cabin that was really a tiny little house, and a few of us crashed there last night. It was great to have a place that was warm and have a shower.
So far this morning, I’m in Dillon so I’ve probably covered about 70 miles. Rolled out of that cabin pretty early, returned the key, and picked up a cinnamon roll from the owners--who also run the diner in town. I was listening to a song, Brains, by Lower Dens, with a really powerful rolling beat. I used to listen to it a lot when I was sick, when I was getting over surgery, when I had mono a few years ago, or when I was getting over a sinus infection. It’s a song that I’ve come back to because it’s like, patience, sleep, you can weather through this thing. I don’t listen to it often, but it hit me this morning and made me think of all the times in the last few years that I’ve absolutely bottomed out, emotionally, physically, whatever. Being so weak and fatigued that I couldn’t even ride my bike to the store and back. There were days that I’d get up and take a shower and go back to sleep. Those things just kept happening and wearing me down. I would have never thought that I’d be able to do something like this.
The fact that I’m here, and weathering through these things that I’m having to deal with--Achilles issues, bad allergies, asthma--and I’m still doing so well … it means everything to me.
So. It was a cold ride this morning. There was a cold front heading through but it didn’t bother me, I didn’t feel it. I was in the zone. I couldn’t feel fatigue, tiredness--it was just a really good ride this morning.
Gonna keep on rolling on. Hopefully, going to make it to somewhere around West Yellowstone today. Going to finish all this food I have piled up in front of me, and this coffee, and hit the road again.
So let’s see, after White Bird …