Day 8: Red Meadow Lake to Whitefish.
Super sunny day. Really pretty along the lake. I take my time at breakfast to soak up the lake and give my tent time to dry out. I HATE packing up a wet tent and turns out a single walled tent next to a lake turns into a sauna. Who would have thought? The ride was a fun rocky fast descent. Didn’t take many photos as hands needed to be on bars at all times. I was also driven by the idea of good food and a bike shop. My drive train was feeling super grindy for the last two days. I also want to talk to them about the fact that my wrists are killing me. Man going over washboards and rocky stuff for hours on end cannot be underestimated. It just completely beats your bike and body up. Pretty sure each 5 miles ages me 1 year. I am going to be 83 by the time I get back home. I pull in and immediately go to the bike shop at about 3pm. Fuck it’s closed. Why the hell is it closed?
Oh shit it’s Sunday. While I was awkwardly standing in front of the door two other people doing the divide pull up to the bike shop and have the same reaction. Guess I am staying here tonight. Awesome!!! Shower, laundry, and errands here I come. First things first as gross as I am I go straight for food and sit in a cute crepe place and order well crepes and three different types of beverages. Apparently I am thirsty for everything. Finally make it to my hotel and sit on floor internet-ing for hours and take the longest shower of my life and decide what to mail back the next day. It was glorious.
Day 9: Whitefish to Columbia Falls.
A lot of words for ten miles. Yeah 10 miles. Don’t judge me. Wake up and go immediately to a bike shop. I am there 20 minutes before they open damn determined to get in and go. I am the first one in line as more and more people show up. My goal is to get my drive train looked at and see if they have faster rolling 26″ tires, after consulting with my pit crew Fred and Scott the night before. They open and inform me they do not have poop for 26″ tubeless tires and that they can’t look at my bike for another two hours. Wah wahhh. Went and got brunch, went to post office, it wasn’t that bad. Waited for the other bike shop to open. They also didn’t have poop for 26″ tubeless. Talked to pit crew more and ultimately Scott is going to send me some tires to the Helena bike shop that would roll faster on the gravel roads. While the 2.4 xkings were SO FUN! on the single track (I could bound up and down anything) there is significantly less of that going forward and they feel a bit of a slog on gravel or pavement. Go back to bike shop and it turns out my cassette is loose. I also switch out the purple grips to stupid ugly Ergo grips to make my wrists and hands feel better. Head out of town, head up a hill, then on the way down hill realize I can’t shift up. My trigger is hitting the new grips. Shit. Turn around and go back to shop. It takes forever as I am spinning like crazy in a stupid gear. They cut a chunk of the grips out and it’s all good. Start on my way again then pass a natural food store. Crap, I have to stop. I load up on fake meat, almond butter, and dried fruit. Turns out when I am in a town I am the bikepacker equivalent of a doomsday prepper. I need all the food just in case. Note: the dried fruit only lasts about two hours because it is freaking delicious. I mean have you tried dried papaya or pineapple? No way can you not eat it when it’s right in front of you in a feedbag. By the time I really roll out its 6pm. I should just stay here another night but am itching to at least get some miles in so I go to the next town. Literally 10 miles down. I guess they call this a “recovery day”. Post up in some motel and sit out in front of my room and watch the sky and the mountains while drinking the La Croix I got at the store. I have had worse nights.
Day 10: Columbia Falls to Swan Lake.
I woke up in the lovely Glacier Motel and went back up a hill to Montana Coffee Roasters. Strangely I was sick of french toast and ordered my usual yogurt granola egg thing. So far not having a stove hasn’t been to bad, you know with the whole eating out every meal bit. Since I only did 10 miles yesterday I was damn determined to make up some miles. I ended up riding the whole day by myself and didn’t see any other Dividers at all. It was actually kinda strange. I did 54 miles or something. My goal before I left was to do an average of 60. Well my original goal was 40 then right before I left I was all I bet I could do 60, yeah I can totally do 60. So far turns out I can totally do 55. It’s kinda driving me nuts but services have seemed to be 30, 55, or 85 miles away. Guess I will take 55. Anyway…. started the day with mostly pavement before making it to Bigfork for lunch. Turns out Bigfork is a resort town. I could not find a quick cheap food place. They were all fancy sit down. I had no choice but to eat two double scoop ice cream cones for lunch from Sweet Peaks. First was huckleberry and the second was salted Carmel. You know to get salt back, electrolytes. Some older women came up to me and were fascinated by what I was doing but especially by the fact I was doing it alone. I showed them my spot tracker and they thought it was the cats meow. After that I started back on the road and quickly started a dumb gravel climb through Flathead National Forest. Going an average of 4 miles an hour. Fuck. I was really hoping for a good view at the top but was surrounded by trees except for one quick bit. Though holy buckets that decent went on for miles and was really fun. Clearly they sent us up there for that decent. Went off the route a bit to camp at Swan Lake where there would also be a grocery store. I ended up at Swan Lake Trading Post and Campground. I rolled in and realized they had Yurts available. Hell yeah, I will pay an extra $10 to stay in your funny smelling yurt if it means I don’t have to put up my tent!!!!
Oh and wrist pain was significantly minimized by stupid ugly ergo grips. Yay!
Day 11: Swan Lake to Holland Lake.
Get back on the route and go about 5 miles before I catch up to a group of 5 guys from San Diego. Chat for quite a bit. I comment on how I didn’t see anyone yesterday and they state how they are a week in and are sick of each other’s stories and welcome another face. They invite me to camp with them in about 30 miles. I state I am going a bit farther to Holland Lake but will ride with them till they stop. It’s fun to have a group and they are sassy dudes. Half roadies and half MTBers. Four are rad….. the other comes up to me and states “You don’t Mountain Bike? Your quite smooth for a non-mountain biker.” Ummmm I guess that’s a compliment??? Didn’t realize only MTBers could be “smooth.” He then proceeds to tell me about all the professional racing he does. I think to myself “ooh you are the first guy I met on here that I do not like”. He also makes a comment later about me riding flat pedals and we all know how well that goes over with me. That’s fine though, there are four other dudes. Best quote of the day “I am so dehydrated I am pretty sure I just peed paste.” The riding is through mostly fire roads but we did enter a section of lovely grassy single track. Bombing down hills was a blast in a group of people going as fast as possible. They just keep trucking along with me and end up going go all the way to Holland Lake. They ended up doing 75 miles that day. I yet again did about 55, grumble grumble. We camped at the horse packers camp and take a splash bath in a horse trough. That water is 100 percent cleaner then we are.
I need to get better at taking people’s photos that I run into out here.
Day 12: Holland Lake (through Grizzly Basin 😰) to Seeley Lake.
Warning a lot of road/track pics ahead.
Yay early start! Decide to go down to the actual lake for breakfast. I also feel a bit intimidated at the idea of taking today’s 7,000 ft climb with a group of MTB racers and roadies so I say goodbye to them and head off to the lake. It’s surrounded by mountains and very peaceful that early. Start the climb. It’s hot, brutal, and kinda boring but once I hit elevation holy shit! It is so lovely. At the top you enter a strip of single track through Grizzly Basin. It’s where the bears come feed in the spring due to all the greens from the run off streams. Parts of it were nerve racking as some of it’s along a cliff and I am SOLIDLY afraid of heights. Plus the whole might be a grizzly around the bend thing. Coming down, there were these little baby rollers that you built up speed to and then flew over. It was like riding a roller coaster. I was completely laughing out loud. Most fun riding of my life. I kept heading down to Seeley Lake and I got out of a forest road just as they were putting up a sign closing it due to fire activity. I ended up camping behind a hotel and ran into a couple of guys that were at the bike shop in Whitefish. We sat in the grass and had Huckleberry Milkshakes from the shop next door. Oooh they also had veggie burgers!!!
Day 13: Seeley Lake to Lincoln
Let’s get the most significant thing that happened to me today out of the way shall we? I lost my chapstick 5 miles out of Seeley Lake. …..let that magnitude set in….I had to revert to rotating between sunscreen (which doesn’t really moisturize) and chamois butter. That means periodically through the day I smelled the scent 100% associated with “crotch”. I will say as off putting as that was it did moisturize very nicely.
I followed the official route through till Ovando. That day I ran into two guys going north. Me: when I see someone that might be on the divide going north: “OMG BAGS! OMG Hi! Hi! Hi! Hey! You going north? Tell me everything!!! All the secrets!!! What awaits me?”. It’s stupid dorky but they usually are the same way. One dude was carrying a bicycle trophy. He clearly liked Lols more then shedding grams. I want to be his friend. They inform me that Huckleberry Pass is still closed due to fire and warn me that the highway has no shoulder so be prepared. Ovando is a TINY town. Maybe 5 buildings but they love the Divide riders. At an overlook they had a Tipi and a camping trailer riders can stay in first come first served. I did not know this is till after as when I was sitting at the store I thought “oh look at those things over there, I should check them out” then continued to sit on my ass right where I was. I get on said highway and as I was warned there was zilch for shoulder. As I was getting closer to Lincoln I could see smoke coming from the mountains. It looked absolutely destructive. At Lincoln was a camp for the fire workers. It’s was massive.
The way I convinced myself that I would go all the way to Lincoln was that I could stay in hotel. I even called ahead before I left the lake. I laid in bed watching SVU with food scattered all around me. It was not pretty
Day 14: Lincoln to Lost Lama Lodge.
Woke up to the whole town smelling like BBQ with a grey haze. Smoke was everywhere.
I left Lincoln crusted a stupid hill/divide crossing that I probably walked 40% up. The incline sucked. I was trying to get to Helena before the bike shop closed at 5. They would have received the tires Scott sent. Part way through the ride I realized I was probably not going to make it and sadly they were closed the next day. Since I now had plenty of time I stopped by this little cabin the guys I ran into yesterday would not stop raving about. Just lunch though since it was only 23 or so miles from Lincoln. It was ridiculously cute. Stocked with COLD soda (I had three), beer (boring), candy, protein bars, noodles, and wifi. I just kept staying and staying until I realized I wasn’t going anywhere. I had a day to kill now anyway. More riders arrived. Paul (who needed a day to “chillax”) and Sandra (an Adventure Cycling guide who is also doing the route solo) and I just hung out. That is all.