Day 15: Lost Llama Lodge to Helena
Cows are the new deer. I would rather have deer. What I really want to see is elk.
I took my time leaving as I had all day to get to Helena. I had two divide crossings today but less steep and the second one you didn’t really come down that far from the first before you started going up it. Shouldn’t be a problem. Welllll it was. It was 98 degrees that day and the route had hardly any tree cover. It was SLOW going. A lot of refilling water at streams and breaks in the shade. A couple of times I felt cold which I knew was a problem. I was staying at my friend Jimmy’s brother in-laws place (Eric and Johnanna’s) that night and luckily I had cell reception to keep texting them “actually one more hour”, “ok maybe one more”. The terrain was so different through out the day. I finally drop down that second peak and hit the highway.
That time the highway was actually a nice change of pace. The shoulder was nice and wide and riding on the flats going full bore…. I mean I actually got my bike up to a whole 18 miles per hour! I was also driven by the thought of a Gatorade at the first gas station I see. Who would have thought Gatorade would ever be that strong of a carrot on a stick for me. Turns out I wanted everything in the cold case. I sat right outside the door digesting string cheese, pickles, Gatorade. Plenty of weird look but it’s what my body wanted.
I then head to Eric and Johnanna’s house, where they were ridiculously kind. Then lent me their car to go to the store and driving felt super weird. I think I went 10 mph under the speed limit. I got to clean everything AND get a good nights sleep.
Day 16: Helena to a random spot on the trail.
This is the day that ate my soul.
Wanted to be the first one in line at the bike shop. I was second. It seemed like their first hour being open was all Dividers. Talked to a french couple I had heard about. We were talking about how it always takes longer then you expect to get to your goal/destination. She summed it up nicely “You keep going and you watch the hours go by but you always get there”. True dat lady. The shop was awesome. They seated the tires Scott sent and performed general maintenance. They also mailed back my other tires to me and a whole bunch of other random shit while they were at it.
It was going to be 98 degrees again so I chugged Gatorade and stalled leaving. Which of course insured I would be riding during the hottest part of the day. I had put my cranky bike shorts on. Thought I had only brought one pair but nope I also had these. I was not in the mood for this. As everyday so far there was a big climb. Usually when I get to the top I am “Oh what a magical wonderland! So beautiful and worth it.” Not that day, I was more like “Oh great another top of a mountain and a bunch of dumb trees. Whatever!!!! Can see for miles and not ONE Elk. STUPID”
At the top you get to a section of the trail called Lava Mountain. It was a giant trough. When it wasn’t a giant trough it was blocked by huge rocks. I walked my bike roughly 50% of the time. It took forever. Totally misjudged my timing as always. It was getting dark and I had to decide what was more terrible, finishing this stupid bullshit thing in the dark or camp up there somewhere. Answer: going down in the dark. The next field I pulled over starting setting up camp. Ok french french lady, not this time, did not make goal. At that moment I get a text from Shosho saying she missed me. It was perfect timing. I tell her about my shit day and she said lovely stuff that got my spirits up. Yay for having connection on the mountain.
I get to bed and fall asleep for an hour then get woken up by rustling. I clap a bunch really loudly. Lay in silence listening. It’s not getting closer or farther away. WTF? I finally become 90% sure it was just the wind brushing my tent overhang against the tall grass, the other 10% keeps me up another hour. Yep, clapped at my own tent. Turns out I am still not cool with camping in the woods by myself.
I probably needed to eat more.
Oh and leave earlier.
Day 17: Some random spot on trail to Butte.
Well turns out I survived. Got packed up ate breakfast and finished the Lava part of the trail. It still was not pleasant but I wasn’t going to set the world on fire. I decide that I was going to get brunch in the one restaurant in Basin. On the way down I kept going back and forth on taking the official route or the alternate highway one that would skip the divide crossing. I had a shit day yesterday and deserved an easy day but then my mind would switch to feeling guilty and that I might miss something amazing. I was eating brunch still going back and forth then I got a video of A friend who had just left Banff roughly three hours earlier crossing the US border. Goddammit!!!! Fucking annoyance/inspiration all mixed up in one. Shit. Flagged waitress down…. “Excuse me can I get more coffee AND a coke? Oh and do you have wifi so I can download shitty music? K thanks”.
I go up this divide as fast as I can (which still isn’t that fast) and felt strong. Screw you stupid divide I will win.
Sidenote: All of Montana is still covered in smoke. Could not see Butte at all because of the smoke.
Day 18: Butte to Wise River.
Start the day out with a trip to the post office. I am really getting to the dregs of what I can send back. I pull up to two other guys (Bryce and Luke) on bikes w bags. I hadn’t seen other bikers for two days and was totally stoked. They immediately ask me if I am doing the divide and if my name was Monica. I felt famous for a hot sec but you kinda hear about everyone in your general vicinity. We talked about how the ride was going and they asked me if I did Lava Mountain. I said yeah it was a total shit day for me and Bryce talked about that he wanted to throw his bike off the cliff. Yay not just me.
Not much remarkable happened on this climb. It was pretty and I was back to my magical wonderland attitude. Though leg was fried from hammering it out the day before. My right leg that I injured years ago is my weakest link. It gets tired way before anything else and is not building muscle like the other one but whatever, it pedals. So that whole “get a win” thing bit me in the ass but it was fine. My cranky shorts were deeply tucked into my seat bag.
I get to Wise River and go straight into the one hotel/Campground/restaurant building and there is Bryce, Luke, and a new guy Alex all sweaty eating double scoop Huckleberry ice cream at the bar. I saddle up, beat and sweaty “I will have what they are having”.
Sidenote: everyone here is in their 20s or late 50s. 😐
Day 19: Wise River to Bannack State Park
Luke, Bryce, Alex and I ride for a bit together and that was lovely after a couple of days of not riding w anyone. That lasted a couple of hours till we hit a giant hill. Bryce and Luke were up front and Alex was in the back and I was Goldielocks in the middle. We met up again for lunch then went our separate ways. It wasn’t the hardest day but my legs were pretty fried. I desperately needed a rest day but no decent towns were coming up. Alex and I both camped at Barrack state park which is the location of an old ghost town.
It’s a place where both the Trans American and Great Divide trails cross so there was a swarm of bikers. I kept expecting a West Side Story rumble to break out but none did. Just chatting broke out. Everyone setting down and went to bed. Then two hours later my body decided to make sure it was having a rest day tomorrow by throwing up everything I had ate into the pit toilet all night. Crappiest view of the whole trip (wah wahhh). Yep definitely having a rest day.
Day 20: Bannack State Park to Lima
I woke up in the morning and asked Curtis a friend of one of the riders who hosts warm showers, for a ride into town. He had taken his car there to meet up with his friend and was kind enough to oblige. I don’t think I could have ridden with my upset tummy and being dehydrated from all fluids expelling my body the night before. Heat still just under 100. I also didn’t want to stay at the park incase I got more sick. Pit toilets just don’t cut it. Plan was to hole up in a hotel for a day.
Ended up the hotel didn’t open till 3 so I holed up in a park. There ended up being 16 Dividers in the town that was literally one restaurant, one gas station, and one bar. It was the last services for awhile so it makes sense everyone would converge there. I finally felt good enough for dinner and went into the cafe and saw the french pair and the British dude I met at the shop in Helena. They are very sarcastic and that amused me. They mention that they are meeting there for breakfast at 7 if I want to ride w then. Holy crap that is early but might be the push I need to start early. After dinner sat around the campground where the other riders were. Everyone gave me all the electrolyte stuff they had. People are pretty awesome about making sure everyone is taken care of.
Day 21 (8/5): Lima to Henry’s Lake
Well I made it to breakfast on time. Ate a bunch of french toast and eggs. My stomach was back on track. All the riders pretty much descended onto the cafe right when they opened at 7. Which pretty much meant everyone headed out at the same time. About 7 of us rolled together for most of the day. It was a lot of fun riding in a group and my legs felt fresh and strong from the day off.
We got to the first campsite and half the group decided to stay there. The Brit and French (Ed, David, and Jeanne) were rolling on a bit and I asked if I could keep rolling with them. The answer was “NO!!!!!” but they were stuck with me. We got to the RV park and took over their back porch. We were team medium. We didn’t do the 100 balls out or the 54 to the first campground. A nice mediocre 70 or so.