Thursday, August 11, 2016

Finishing It Up

Day 64 - August 9th
28.2 miles
Total: 2596.5 miles

We woke this morning to the wettest tent we have had on the trip. Overnight rain, and some serious amounts of condensation had our tent wetter than an otters nose. The large thermal mass of Spray Lake, filled with snow melt helped keep the area nice and cold in the morning.

We packed up, and I wore my warm gloves for the second time on this trip. We said farewell to the two southbounders we campfired with last night, and made the final push toward our destination.

Three miles in we passed a worker doing road construction. He warned us of a black bear on the side of the road two miles up. We said thank you and moved on, but I laughed a little in the back of my head. There is no way a bear would hang out on the road for all that time it would take us to ride there.

Two (point one) miles later, BOOM, a black bear. Lauren commented on how accurate the description was, distance wise. Most car travelers have no concept of how far distances are. (Recall the woman in Idaho saying four or five miles, when it was really nine or ten miles?) I commented on how puny the black bear looked up close, after seeing a grizzly bear from a far. As such, I hopped off my bike and charged at the bear in hopes of dueling him. He opted to hide in the bushes, so we rolled past.

After six miles of gravel road riding, we hit a single track section of the trail. This was to be our longest stretch of single track, and the trail which we would finish on. As such, I pulled out my camera and started filming.  I was commenting on how rugged the trail was, but that we had 2600 miles under our belt, and we could handle anything (ignoring the fact that I crashed yesterday).

While the camera was rolling, Apricots struggled to get her foot unclipped before coming to a stop on a steep bumpy loose rock slope. Sure enough, I caught her glorious fall on film. Unfortunately, this time she actually hurt herself fairly significantly. She has a wicked good bruise on her knee and leg, and it is all puffy. I am selling viewings of the video footage at two bucks per viewing.

After walking off the pain, she remounted her trusty stead, and we continued the path to Banff. The route meandered through a thick forest, with trees towering both sides of the trail. Often views would open to the amazing mountains that we are blessed to be in. In the final six miles the trail followed the crystal clear Spray River. I wanted to bury my face in the water and drink it straight but Banff beckoned.

When we hit trails end, we let out whoops and hollars of joy. At the trail head were three new cyclists. They knew exactly what we were cheering and immediately congratulated us, and offered to take a photo of our finish.

A short bit later we were enjoying amazing pastry delights with coffee at Wild Flours. A short bit later we had arrived at a campground to chill at for the night. We do not know if the campground will be open tomorrow, as there has been wolves roaming the campground lately. They have had to put down two wolves already, so tomorrow's sleeping accomodations are up in the air.

After shower, we hit up the closest restaurant for a celebratory meal. Then we returned to camp. Now, we will enjoy a bottle of wine and reflect on our trip.

Live life at a slower place.

Sent From:

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Day 63 - Extra Pictures 2

The last few pictures from day 63.
Most of these pictures were from Spray Lakes Reservoir and Campground.

Day 63 - Extra Pictures 1

A few more pictures from day 63. Most were taken in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada

Amazing Alberta

Day 63 - August 8th
46.5 miles
Total: 2568.3 miles
Moving Avg: 7.8 mph
Overall Avg: 5.3 mph

We opted to sleep in, or rather sleep off those extra shots called for late in the evening. Instead of waking at six am, we fell out of slumber around six thirty. We pulled ourselves together, and looked happily at the blue patches amid the clouds. With high hopes, maybe the sun would burn off the rest of the clouds.

We ate breakfast with our gracious hosts. We had one cinnamon roll left from Stephanie, so that accompanied our warm coffee. Thanks Stephanie. We bid farewell to everyone, and hit the last pass of our trip, which was only three miles away, and 1000 feet of climbing.

The mountains were rugged, and beautiful. The trail was rugged and ugly. It passed around and under power lines all the way up, and was deeply eroded and muddy. Fortunately the views to our sides were majestic, and when we summitted we had a great view of Lake Kanaskis. Unfortunately the rutted out road, and muddy texture caused me to fall for probably the last time on the trail. It was the most painful fall I have had, but it was still very mild, just a muddy scraped knee.

Around our fourth mile of the morning we saw our first bear. Woot! Woot! On top of this excitement was the fact that it was a grizzly bear. We spotted it from half a mile away, and slowly got to about 150 yards away, before settling on waiting it out. He lumbered slowly across the huckleberry patches, foraging for food. When he finally looked our way, I flexed my muscles (freshly honed from 2500 miles of cycling), and he made a wise decision to head for the cover of the trees.

Apricots and I walked our bikes past his general location, alert with our bear spray safety off, and our trigger finger ready. We passed with no incident, and the bear lived to see another day.

Two miles later we hit a paved road. Due to a typo in my narrative (my fault) we turned the wrong direction, and only realized the mistake after dropping a couple hundred feet and cycling almost two miles. We fixed the mistake and turned back to head in the direction of hot coffee. Four miles later, we were at the Boulton Creek Trading post, having ice cream and hotdogs for second breakfast.

The rest of the day was to beautiful to even attempt describing. Majestic mountain after majestic mountain made their presence known with each new turn. Rocky peaks requiring technical skills to climb brushed the trail on both sides for the remainder of the day. See the attached pictures for a small hint of the terrain that we were blessed with.

At days end, the rain clouds were forming, and we decided to check on availability at Mt. Engadino Lodge. It was all booked up, but at $500 a night, it was outside of our budget. We pushed on to Spray Lakes Campground, which was within our budget. It was an even nicer campsite than the lodge, and the water was warm enough for a splash bath.

We spent the evening talking with two cyclists beginning their southbound journey. They were very excited to run into us, and glean information from our adventures.

Tomorrow we will finish our journey.

Live life at a slower place.

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The kindness of strangers

Day 62 - August 7th
44.7 miles
Total: 2521.8 miles
Moving Avg: 7.5 mph
Overall Avg: 5.2 mph

Allison woke early to watch Olympics rugby and make us pancakes with real Canadian maple syrup. Unfortunately we were unable to hang around for the rugby, but the maple syrup helped fuel our climb. Thanks for being a great host Allison.

Our climb was a long gradual ascent over forty miles. It had the occasional over climb and drops that match the undulating hillsides, but overall the climb was a very easy day. At first the mountain side was sculpted by the coal mines in the area, with very geometrically precise angles, unnatural but still beautiful as the coal dust lifted into the air catching the sunlight.

Soon the mining hills gave way to the more irregular and rugged terrain of natural mountain sides. We were able to make 35 miles in the morning before the rain clouds fully formed. After lunch we put on our rain coats and pushed ten miles to the rugged Tobermory cabin which was free and first come first serve. When we were a mile out we saw two trucks drive past. I told Apricots that they were going to steal our cabin.

When we arrived at the cabin, the two trucks were parked outside, and two guys were having drinks with two ladies. Sure enough, our cabin was swiped just before we got there. I rolled up and started talking to the four individuals, and quickly learned that they were heading to a cabin further down the road. Sweet happiness the cabin was ours. Then the strangers said that since we were done with our day, and almost done with our journey we should enjoy a beer. They gave Apricots and me beer, and then topped it off with a giant cinnamon roll for each of us.

What awesome happiness! I felt bad because they said that I scowled as they drove past. I don't think I did, but I may have been in the uphill in the rain moody mindset, fearing our cabin wouldn't be available.

After the four kind individuals continued on their way, we scoped out the cabin. It was rustic, somewhat derelict, and rather uninviting. Additionally our daily mileage was a little low, so we decided to push three miles further to Elk Lakes. It would set us up for a better attack at tomorrow, and a more scenic site.

When we arrived at Elk Lakes, we bumped into the four individuals again. They had rented the much bigger, nicer cabin for a weekend getaway / bachelor party for one of the guys. They insisted that we stay with them in the cabin, and we didn't hesitate too much. Besides I was feeling fairly social, and thought that it might be nice to hang out with the four of them.

After a little socializing, Steven went inside and prepared a great dinner of rice, veggies, and chicken for us all (called Glory Bowl). Apricots and I agree that we want to start making some at home.

We talked until the afternoon started to cool, and then we set to build a campfire before the bachelor's brothers and their wives arrived. (Not your standard fare bachelor party). As the wood was damp from the rain that day, it took some effort to get the outside fire going. We eventually used the indoor wood stove to get a good burning wood starter for our outside fire.

When the campfire was moved to the inside stove, the plastic dustpan was overlooked. Not too long after the fire was rolling, the dustpan had melted all over the stove. The cabin was filled delicious toxic smoke, and we all had to enjoy the afternoon by the outside campfire. What a fantastic mess to work at cleaning up.

As the evening wore on, the carcinogenic cabin cleared out, and we rolled in for card games and drinks. It was a fun evening highlighted with shots of whiskey called for by the Bachelor on a nearly quarter hourly basis. All the while, heavy rain dumped outside the cabin, where our tent would have been.

(Thank you for your hospitality Jason, Steven, Stephanie, and Tiffany)

Live life at a slower place.

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Day 61 Addendum

After the short post, I started to feel like I skimped out.

After passing through the bucolic landscape we hit a stretch of highway. Due to a slide and washout, a portion of the route was deemed impassable. As such, we took the highway as an alternate to the washout. The highway was much more quiet than yesterday's highway ride.

After we hit the last leg of the highway the rain started sprinkling on us. It wasn't too heavy, but we definitely needed our rain jackets. We rolled down the road, music in, jackets on, and motivation on our heels.

Once we rolled into Elkford we grabbed a quick meal and went to our Warm Showers host. She was at work, but she left her house open so we could get in. After setting the tent up we took a shower and a nap. Near the end of our nap our host came home from work, so we went into the house and introduced ourselves.

As the evening wore on, we ordered pizza and chowed down while watching the Olympics. As the sun finally set (at its late northern hour) we called it a night and crawled into our tent.

(Thank you for hosting us Allison, good luck on your future adventures)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Short post for a short day

Day 61 - August 6th
26.9 miles
Total: 2477.1 miles
Moving Avg: 8.4 mph
Overall Avg: 4.4 mph

This morning we rolled over to Tim Hortons, a breakfast chain, to eat up before making the very short ride to Elkford, our last civilized stop before we wrap this trip up. While we plowed through many donuts and coffee, we saw two ten point buck deer wandering around the parking lot, eating the vegetation between the lot and the highway. I was able to walk up to them within about fifteen feet and record some video of their dining.

After our breakfast we rolled the lazy 26 miles up to Elkford, through pretty pastoral settings and beautiful bucolic landscape.

Oh yeah, before leaving Sparwood, we saw the (at build time) world's largest truck. We believe that our bike trip would have been less bumpy if we had swapped out our tires for the tires the truck was using.

And that's that.

Oh, and no bears.

Live life at a slower place.

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Day 60 pics

The pictures did not attach to the blog, so I am sending them out now.

Sixty Days

Day 60 - August 5th
40.9 miles
Total: 2450.2 miles
Moving Avg: 8.5 mph
Overall Avg: 5.5 mph

Sixty days. That's two months. We have been out for two months. (I suppose 61 days us a better two month approximation, but who's counting?) After two months I can say the landscape is finally getting stunning. Nah, it has always had its beauty, it is just that this landscape is more dramatic and consistently breathtaking now that we have entered "Beautiful British Columbia".

The first half our day was along a river valley on logging roads. When the first truck passed, the amount of dust kicked up inspired us to turn our bandanas into face masks. After we did that the logging trucks disappeared. It is a lot like the magic of putting on a raincoat during a light spitting rain - it causes the rain to go away. (We may need to employ this trick in the final days of our trip).

I kept hoping to see a bear, and I even told Apricots not to scare a bear away without letting me get a picture. And while this ride was through prime bear country, not a bear was found. Oh well, it will happen eventually, even if only on a nature show.

The second half of the day was along the highway between Fernie and Sparwood. The highway was busy and loud, but the shoulder was wide and the view was fantastic. The mountains to our left were stunning in their sheer rocky magnitude. The more consistent colder temperatures up here have lowered the tree line. As such, there is less organic growth decomposing into soil on the mountains. This makes for a much rockier surface, which is beautiful and dynamic. You can almost see the plate Tectonics in action on some of these rocky mountains.

We camped just outside of Sparwood and will have a short day into Elkford tomorrow.

Live life at a slower place.

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

CANADA!! Bike Yeah!!

Day 59 - August 4th
40.6 miles
Total: 2409.3 miles
Moving Avg: 9.3 mph
Overall Avg: 5.4 mph

This morning we woke to a clear sky, and a very dew covered tent. We set our tent fly out to dry as we packed up. The sign at the camp said sprinklers turn on at 7:30, so we aimed to have camp broken by then. We did, but no sprinklers ever turned on. No matter, the early rise gave us time to hit up a diner before hitting the road.

Fueled up, and ready to enter Canada, we made the eleven mile ride to the Canadian border. The "entering canada" side had a single man in a bounty hat who asked us a handful of simple questions. The "entering usa" side had about twenty thousand laser guided cameras, heat sensors, and terrorism antideterrants mounted for each of the four lanes entering the state of Montana.

We were told that when we arrived in Canada we would see more bears, and I can definitively say that after one afternoon in Canada, this is simply not the case. No bears for us today, just lots of beautiful scenery. Our route took us along a farmed valley before briefly cutting over a very clear Elk River to Lake Koocanusa. Koocanusa is a word Mashup of Kootenai  (The National Forest we were passing through), Canada, and USA.

In the afternoon we made a lunch stop at the Dairy Bar, where we had a Canadian Classic dish of poutine for lunch. Naturally, I downed it with an ice cream treat (my second of the day). For being a very "wild" area, there sure is a lot of opportunities to be semi-civilized. Then again, I don't know how civilized one can be if they have ice cream two to three times in a day.

When we finally arrived in Elko, we decided to get a hotel for the night. We figured that it might be nice to get a shower, and spoil ourselves for making it to Canada. We still have a couple hundred miles to go, but this will likely be our last hotel for this vacation.

As the afternoon wore on, I heard a cyclist roll past the window. It was Audrey, from back in the days of Colorado.  Audrey was the kind soul who stole us off the highway in Colorado and brought us to the fourth of July celebration outside of Steamboat Springs. She is now tackling her southbound battle of the Great Divide Route. We had an enjoyable evening of catching up and sharing trail stories before calling it a night.

Tomorrow is our first full day of Canada riding, but it will still be mostly civilized.

Live life at a slower place.

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Liquid Sunshine

Day 58 - August 3
48.7 miles
Total: 2368.7 miles
Moving Avg: 7.6 mph
Overall Avg: 4.9 mph

We slept twelve hours last night. It was needed after a series of semi restless nights, and a hard climb, our bodies were exhausted. We probably would have slept longer, but the morning sun started to shine directly on our tent.

By the time we crawled out of the tent, the sun had taken shelter behind the clouds. It appeared that the clouds were here to stay. A thick light gray blanket stretched across the sky, and the only accent the blanket had were dark patches indicating the potential for rain. Today, the battle was not the heat, but rather the cold.

Fortunately, our day began with a long very gradual climb. We had roughly1500 feet to gain over twenty miles, and after the first five miles of flat terrain, it worked out to a nice steady 100 feet per mile climb. It was such a perfect grade, we were able to cycle in the rain and stay warm. Well, we were moderately warm until we stopped for elevensies, or second breakfast.

The first five miles meandered along a bumpy road with the peaks of Glacier Park pushing into the clouds. It is a shame that the riders we passed today will not get to see them in the same fashion as those who passed yesterday.

Our route then turned westward to climb over the Whitefish Divide. The road shot through forested hillsides that had been solidly managed to prevent wildfires from taking the homes in the area. As we climbed higher, the road became rougher, and we soon passed through a barren burned area. The exposure brought a little wind which chilled us, but it also opened some expansive views of the hillside and valley we were climbing up.

By midday we hit the highpoint for the climb. The light rain had died off, and we had a damp ride down hill. It was a little chilly, but as we lost elevation, the temperature increased, and the weather started to warm. We even had the occasional patch of sun, as we passed through steam clouds from water evaporation off the asphalt.

By the time we reached Eureka we had seen roughly twenty deer and seven cyclists. Tonight we camp in the park behind city hall. Tomorrow we enter Canada.

Live life at a slower place.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Glacier Park from Afar

Day 57 - August 2nd
46.6 miles
Total: 2320 miles
Moving Avg: 7.3 mph
Overall Avg: 5.7  mph

Whitefish has trains.
We were warned of the trains in Whitefish.

They weren't too bad with earplugs, but they definitely affected our sleep. When I woke in the morning, Apricots had her warm jacket wrapped around her head. Either she doesn't know how to dress, or she was trying to further muffle the locomotives warming their engines as the rail cars collided to make a secure connection.

We crawled out of tent around six thirty. Our host had prepared coffee and breakfast for us. Last night we had social hour with Rita, and two other cyclists. This morning we were able to meet Chuck, the other half of the hosting duo. After coffee and breakfast, we hit the road for our final leg of this ride. We will hit other cities along the way, but we do not have anymore rest days scheduled.

The route wandered along the edge of whitefish lake for several miles before peeling away and beginning the long slow ascent for the day. The surface was good gravel for most the route, but it did have some series of elevation drops which lengthened the climb. After lunch at Upper Whitefish Lake, we made the last of our climb. It was fairly steep, but appears to be the last serious climb of our ride.

After making the summit, we were rewarded with views. Our thirty miles of green tunnel opened up with occasional bursts of views to Glacier Park peaks. The stark gray mountains stood serrated against the sky, inviting and intimidating. Our road continued to descend down to the North Fork Flathead River.

Our goal for camp was a forest service cabin, which we arrived at by three pm. The map showed a boat launch ramp down by the river, so we decided to go check it out. Not only was the river crystal clear, the view was stunning, and there was dispersed camping available. We were able to find an amazing site on the river. This one will go down as one of my top ten camping sites ever, and probably top three for this trip.

While we went down to the river for a post ride swim, we saw a bird of prey fly close overhead. Shortly afterward, I saw it dive down into the water to grab a fish. It appeared unsuccessful in its attempt, but we did watch it shake off the water from its feathers before flying off.

After taking a relaxing swim in the surprisingly not icy cold water, I set out to get the bear hang ready for our food. After fifteen minutes of struggling, I had the rope set and ready. I tested the strength of branch I had roped. It bent a little and then fell off the tree. The whole branch was rotten, as the tree was dead. I was able to relocate the bear hang elsewhere, and this time a little more efficiently.

Apricots prepared dinner while I set up the tent. Not long after dinner, the evening was still warm, so we took a second dip in the river before calling it a night and diving into our tent away from the mosquitos.

Live life at a slower place.

Sent From:

Monday, August 1, 2016

Zero(ish) in Whitefish

Day 56 - August 1st
7.6 miles
Total: 2273.4 miles

"After having ice cream and frozen yogurt, both in the same day, I can definitively say that I prefer ice cream."

That quote pretty much sums up our day. It has been a calorie splurge of the greatest kind. We woke up this morning and cycled down to Loula's for breakfast. We each enjoyed our own meal, and then shared a tasty creamy tart french toast with lemon cream cheese and raspberry preserves.

Even with the coffee, we felt compelled to return to our hosts and take a nap after breakfast. After the nap, we packed up and went back downtown. We hit up the post office to retrieve a fantastic care package from Apricots' sister and mother, as well as a treat from my own folks.

With that taken care of, we had a clear picture of the food we need for the next leg, so we hit up the grocery store. While Apricots bought food, I sat outside watching the bikes and fighting off a giant spider that attacked my neck while I innocently sat there in the shade. It may have been the size of a velociraptor... or perhaps a rodent of unusually large size... it may have been your standard spider sized spider, but I assure you that it was out to kill me.

After groceries we went out for ice cream. It was a treat for ourselves on this ever so hard day. Ice cream is my guilty pleasure. Two scoops of happiness later, we mozied over the The Northern for lunch and drinks (Apricots' guilty pleasure). Coincidentally, while we dined, we overheard two other patrons talking. They were from Portland (like us), and one of them hailed from Pendleton (like me).

After our tasty lunch, it was time for frozen yogurt. We mozied over to the Red Caboose and dished up some classic frozen yogurt treats for me. Apricots passed on getting her own, but that didn't stop her from eating several bites of mine. I should have gotten a bigger serving.

It's been fantastic, and I am sure all of these calories will play a crucial role in our continued success.

After rolling over to our host for the evening, we set our tent up in the yard and enjoyed evening social hour with local microbrews. After the ice cream truck rolled past a third time, I caved. Our host let out a whistle, envied by all who heard it, and I enjoyed an ice cream cookie sandwich.

Live life at a slower place.

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Zigzag for Miles

Day 55 - July 30th
48.4 miles
Total: 2265.8 miles
Moving Avg: 9.3 mph
Overall Avg: 5.4 mph

Our hosts brought out a tray of hot coffee this morning. What a nice treat to wake to as we set out for Whitefish. We said our goodbyes to the hosts and the two other cyclists (from Holland) and ventured north.

Today can be described as a miniature snapshot of the whole Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail.

We certainly didn't get the arid desert experience, but we got most everything else on a miniature scale. The route from Ferndale was a series of connected roads, paved and gravel, which zigzagged northward toward Whitefish. It was not the fastest or most direct route between the two cities, but the route has never really cared for the most direct route.

We passed through ranchland, like almost the entirety of the trail. We passed through farmland like some small sections of the trail (I'm looking at you Idaho). We passed through open treeless plains, like some big sections of the trail (I'm looking at you Wyoming). We passed through forested green corridors, like some recent stretches of the trail (I'm looking at you Montana). We passed over long gradual climbs that were perfectly graded for easy climbs, like some passes we have seen (I'm looking at you Colorado). But to be fair, these climbs were one hundred feet, not three thousand. Keep in mind this is a scaled down Great Divide Route.

We passed through hot beating sun like New Mexico, and windy stretches like Wyoming. We rode on gravel. We rode on paving with good shoulders, and paving with no shoulders. We rode on highways and private property. We stopped for coffee at road side diners, and we stopped for burgers at town restaurants.

We told people of our adventures, and we passed other cyclists. And to top off the day we had a drink in Whitefish and then bought ice cream. We thought we bought three Klondike Bars from the grocery store, but we actually bought six by accident. Since we couldn't eat them all by the time the heat melted them, we gave them to strangers on the street. Everyone we offered them to said no at first, but then quickly changed their mind and happily took the cold treat on a hot day.

Then we biked to our Warm Showers host, who have given us a royal treatment that feels akin to a luxury hotel or bed and breakfast. Tonight we shall sleep like king and queen.

Live life at a slower place.

Sent From:

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Welcome to the Jungle

Day 54 - July 30th
46 miles
Total: 2217.4 miles
Moving Avg: 8.4 mph
Overall Avg: 5.8 mph

I suppose if a man brings a weedwacker to the forest, he may be loud. Or maybe the chainsaw could be a clue. Or perhaps the fact that he brought an ATV that was turned on between weedwacking and chainsawing should have been the clue that prepped us. Or maybe when he said "I like dispersed campsites" said with bunny ears around dispersed might have been a red flag. We even ignored the comment about his "sweet sound system that [he] likes to crank up."

Shortly after we crawled into bed, Welcome to the Jungle and other great 80s rock music was blast into the thick of trees. Our ear plugs drowned out most everything, but the bass beats. Then just after dozing off he decided it was time to fire off a couple of rounds from his gun.

At least no bears will come by we thought as slept took over.

At five thirty we woke, hoping to get a jump start on the day. The last several days have been mighty hot and humid, and we wanted to get as many miles under our belt as possible before the heat swallowed us in its stifling embrace.

One quarter of a mile later, we passed homes with "Slow Children At Play" signs. I hope last night's gunfire was well aimed.

The rest of the ride was through the green tunnel, or maybe green corridor. There was little to no views of the mountain ranges surrounding us. Instead we had to find joy in the "impressive stands of Larch, Douglas Fir, and White Pine" in the area. I do have to admit though, the ride was fairly enjoyable. It had rolling hills of easy grade, and a surface that was just smooth enough to not annoy, and just bumpy enough to have fun with path finding.

As the heat climbed, we dropped off the hillside and crossed Swan River to catch a soda at the town of Swan Lake. From there we bypassed a hot viewless climb through the green corridor, by riding the highway to camp. It was a moderately quiet highway, which passed along the lengthy Swan Lake. The views of the lake and the forested hillsides were a nice trade up.

At the end of our ride, we arrived at our hosts place, but not without difficulty. Googlemaps directed us through private property and then through landscaping with no path or road. We had to backtrack and do our own route finding. I couldn't even use my GPS map because it stopped loading for me today.

We made it to our hosts, and found our way into a Teepee for the night. That's pretty neat.

Live life at a slower place.

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Single Track for Miles/Pretties

Day 53 - July 29th
55 miles
Total: 2171.4 miles
Moving Avg: 7.1 mph
Overall Avg: 5.1 mph

Today the trail gave us a special treat. It was beautiful for once. I am, of course, being facetious. Much of the trail is beautiful, it just happens that today felt like the beauty I set out to see.

We woke early to tackle the 2600ft climb before us. The guidebook described the trail in a manner which ached for us to opt for the easier highway route, but cyclists didn't speak so negatively on its difficulty. So, after quiche and coffee, we began the slow arduous ascent up and around Richmond Peak. We were facing five to six percent grade with warnings of washed out roads and downed trees.

The first fourteen miles slid past almost effortlessly. The grade was a little steep, but our strength was replenished after yesterday's semi rest day. We didn't need to push at all on the gravel roads, and only pushed when we hit the single track route near the top. It, however, had such a beautiful view that it would be a shame to ride through. One of the problems with single track riding is that you are so focused on path finding for your wheels that you don't get a chance to absorb the nature you are passing through.

So we pushed.

And we looked at the steep ridge lines and plummeting valleys. We looked at the striations in the rock, and how the vegetation crept up the seems of those cracks. We looked at dense green valleys fed by the watershed, and the rich variety of plants found here. We looked at the burnt trees, and the fire weed that has grown to restore the sole pH. We looked at the trees scarred by Bark Beetles, and the mixture of living and dead trees.

Sometimes my eyes wandered too long, and I would overlook a stick jutting into the single track. It would scratch my leg and remind me that I needed to watch the path before me as well.

After the climb, we had a long descent to our destination of Peck Lake. The trail dropped down to warmer air, and sun helped bake the surroundings. Our rests fell in shade patches, and once we hit the Swan Highway we were ready for a soda. We cycled past our turnoff to get soda at a nearby restaurant. Rather than backtrack, we followed the highway a little further and took a turnoff to reconnect with the trail to Peck Lake. The views from the highway were fantastic, as it ran along the Swan River in the valley between the Swan Mountains and Mission Mountains.

We rode back up to the trail, which is carved narrowly through the trees. This offers few views, but instead gives us the long green tunnel effect.

When we arrived at Peck Lake, it was a little more like a murky Lily Pad covered bog than a lake, and the whole place gave us the hee bee jeebies. We opted to move on to the next available site. Half a mile later we hit a stream with a roadside site being used by some RV campers. We introduced ourselves and asked to camp near them, and they obliged.

Shortly thereafter our warm salty skin was in the cold fresh stream, our bellies were filled with food, our bear bag was hung in the tree, and our tent beckoned for some prone rest.

Live life at a slower place.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

To Seeley Lake for Rest

Day 52 - July 28th
31.4 miles
Total: 2116.4 miles
Moving Avg: 8.2 mph
Overall Avg: 5.7 mph

Nature told us to rest today. Well sort of.

When the alarm sounded at the museum, we popped our eyes open and looked out of the barred window of our Hoosgow. It looked like the building down the road was in fire, but in truth it was just the strange orange glow of the old school street lights. It wasn't a fire alarm, but rather the security alarm for the museum. We stood outside the Hoosgow with our headlamps looking this way and that way trying to figure out what was going on. I had the sneaking suspicion that if the police came, and they saw us with our headlamps we would have been arrested and thrown in a real jail.

The police never came. The alarm did finally shut off, but only after making sure we were fully awake. Eventually we fell back to slumber land. Coffee awaited us in the morning, with welcome wafts.

After enjoying coffee, and hashing over route options, we settled for the official route. It is fairly apparent to both of us that we are tired, and ready to wrap this tour up. We do, however, know that the most beautiful miles lay before us.

We hit the road, which wandered through a little ranchland before dumping us deep into the dense forest. The road was very smooth by Montana standards, and the miles rolled past fairly easy, despite the climb. The dense forest gave way to slightly more sparse lodgepole pines which gave way to greater variety in vegetation.
We were debating on whether to side route to Seeley Lake for lunch, and a possible alternate. After running into a couple southbound cyclists, they sold us on the town. It had cheap camping, laundry, and showers. With the last two days being fairly exhausting, and a solid climb ahead of us, we settled on making the day a short one.

As if to seal the deal, the humid day turned to rain just before we hit the turnoff. It was a light sprinkle, but just enough to say: You are human, you don't belong here, you should find shelter.

By the time we made it down to Seeley Lake the sprinkle had stopped. We went to the campground, which did not have showers. Back on the bikes we rolled the other direction down the highway to the RV Park behind a motel. They had showers, and complementary sodas. What luck!

Cleaned and refreshed we went to the laundromat and to lunch. Our schedule will need a rework, but one of the last major climbs in Montana is now saved for a morning climb.

....and then the picnic table fell over with us on it.... but that's another story.

Live life at a slower place.

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To the county Hoosgow (Jail)

Day 51 - July 27th
51.1 miles
Total: 2085 miles
Moving Avg: 8.7 mph
Overall Avg: 5.2 mph

We had a monumental climb this morning. It wasn't much bigger than other climbs we have done. All in all, it was about 2200 feet to gain. What made it monumental is that most of it was in a three mile stretch. We were pushing our bikes up rocky 10-12 percent grade slopes, and not liking the challenge too much.

In reality, it wasn't too bad. Just a little toasty and humid and steep and rocky. Apricots had a mini freak out at the top. Her odometer tends not to work at slow paces, so she was watching it not tick up for several minutes as she made the slow climb. It was defeating her will to be exerting all this force uphill on her bike, and not see any digital progress on the odometer screen. She finally rage quit, throwing her bike, and helmet. It was sort of funny to see, but I knew it just meant that it was time for second breakfast. Half a mile later we reached the top, and had downhill for miles.

The downhill started steep but not too rocky. Unfortunately, most of the first few miles required us to ride our brakes 100% of the time. Eventually this gave way to a more gradual slope, and we slowly up ticked our average moving speed. Humerously enough, when we had made our way down to the other side, our overall average was still slower than when we hike.

Ten miles later, ice cold soda in Lincoln, MT. A couple hours after that we were having ice cream in Ovando, MT. Tonight we are staying in Ovando. We were able to reserve the county Hoosgow (jail) from the historic museum in the town. They allow cyclists to sleep in their jail cell (no longer functioning). This wooden hut with iron bars was built in the late 1800s and has housed some of Ovando's deviant criminals. It is a little toasty in this wooden box, but what a fun experience,

Live life at a slower place.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Two Thousand Miles, Baby!

Day 50 - June 17th
44.5 miles
Total: 2033.9 miles
Moving Avg: 6.9 mph
Overall Avg: 5.0 mph

Well the day was better, but our exhaustion from yesterday must have played into our performance today.

This morning we woke to clear skies and had breakfast with Ville. It wasn't anything glamorous, but it was our last meal together. Today we moved north and Ville headed into Helena. Our goal is to reach Banff by August 8th, he has until late August so he is slowing down.

We said our goodbyes and rolled down the trail. The route we took passed us through a bleeding gash in the earth, fresh clearcuts. Many clearcuts that we have passed through have started rehabilitation, this one was freshly clear cut so it had the mixed aroma of sawdust, mud, and diesel.

We passed the logging operation and dropped a steep rough drop to Rimini, MT an old mining town that once had over 100 mines feeding the wealth of its citizens. Now, fewer than fifty residents live there. Shortly past the town, the gravel road was being prepped for paving. As such the road crew wouldn't let us cycle through. They had to load our bikes in the pilot car and roll us the five miles downhill. The whole operation took longer than it would have if we had just cycled ourselves downhill, but I guess "Safety First."

After getting back on the saddle, we made the long bumby climb over the next pass. It is our conclusion that each state is trying to kill us in its own special way.
New Mexico - Heat
Colorado - Beauty
Wyoming - Wind
Idaho - Pesticides
Montana - Steep roads of dismal condition.
Canada - Bears, I suspect.

We eventually made it to the top of the very bumpy pass and then started the descent. You know the road is steep and rough when you are constantly riding your breaks, and the bumps don't let you safely ride beyond seven miles per hour. Our hands got more exhausted than our legs.

Fortunately we had an amazing host awaiting our arrival. Barbara Nye puts cyclists up in her cabin. She even had it stocked with wine, beer, food, water, and candy for us. We sat and socialized with Barbara Nye and John Denver until the rain sent them indoors to their house. We made use of the cabin to rest up, prepare dinner, and plan for tomorrow.

As of eight o'clock, it appears as though we may have the tiny cabin to ourselves. A welcome retreat after two rough days. I wonder how tomorrow will fare.

Live life at a slower place.

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Full Spectrum Day

Day 49 - July 25th
55.9 miles
Total: 1989.4 miles
Moving Avg: 6.6 mph
Overall Avg: 4.9 mph

Ooph, today was a beast. The maps had an alternate route which could be used to bypass some of the "routes most difficult miles." Since Apricots and I are not planning on going to Helena, the alternate route was out of the way for us. Besides, we wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

This morning we woke up and had more cheesecake with our hosts before saying goodbye. We had a big day ahead with two major climbs, not to mention the climb out of Butte.

We hit the road at 8am, and made the initial climb out of Butte, exiting through the backdoor of the town, meandering through a bit of ranchland before beginning the first climb which took us over a pass to the small town of Basin. Along the way we all commented on the quietness of the road, as if it were the calm before the storm. The road was packed dirt with decomposed granite, the forest was pine with hints of aspen, and the sky was blue. Overall the forest felt more like a hunting forest than a camping and admiring nature forest.

Ville caught up with us at the summit while we talked with a group of five or six cyclists who were southbound with a support vehicle. After passing the Continental Divide Trail at the summit, we rolled down to Basin taking lunch before deciding our plan from there. Ville is heading in to Helena, and we are not. Ultimately we have different time tables and can no longer cycle together. He had to decide whether to say goodbye to us at lunch or roll the next 25 miles with us before our paths parted ways.

He opted for 20 more miles with us, which we had heard glorified/horrified stories of its difficulty. We hit the trail, and made a beautiful but steep climb up a canyon with the stream at our side. The blue sky, however, had been replaced with a daunting gray cloud looming over us. It was hard to ignore, as our climb was so steep our bikes were practically pointed at the cloud as we ascended.

Suddenly the steep climb turned mild. The good thing about steep climbs is that you gain the elevation much quicker. We commented that maybe all the horror stories were exaggerated from southbounders who had hit their first true challenge, and that maybe we had built up the challenge too much in our heads.

Then fourteen miles after lunch, as per map directions and gps route, I turned a sharp right into the woods. Ville said, "You're joking, right?" Apricots scanned her narrative closely and questioned whether I made a mistake.

I had not, we were about to "enjoy" the difficult stretch we had heard so much about. The next three miles were rough but rideable, even enjoyable. Then I made a right turn up what can only be described as cycling up a water free cascading waterfall. The steepness was too great for any of us to ride, and pushing was also difficult, but we managed. Then the route became rideable for another short jaunt before encountering the steepness that even a skilled rider with a full suspension would likely opt out of on the downhill.

Fortunately, that only lasted half a mile. We crested the climb, and suddenly thunder boomed in the proximity of our route. We had one mile to the high point and then five downhill miles. Well, it turned out that the next three miles were equally difficult for the novices that Apricots and I are. While Ville moved along fairly steadily, the two of us were constantly stepping off bike to push around the boulders and tree roots which obstructed the steep trail.

I fell after hitting a batch of sand, and fell a little later on when I misjudged gear combination and route choice. Apricots fell a little further down the trail when she couldn't unclip her foot fast enough at a precarious maneuver. When we finally emerged from the difficult terrain Ville shouted joy at finding a real gravel road. He started pedaling fast and joyously swerving happy turns until he hit a sandy turn at full speed and completely whiped out on his bike. Apricots and I were going three miles per hour or less when we fell, Ville fifteen to twenty. He shredded his leg with some serious road rash.

Then the rain started. We pedaled fast as lightening started striking within a mile of us. Then the rain turned to hail. We had one mile to the campsite. A woman drove past us giving us the "are you crazy" eyes. Finally, near the campsite we saw an outhouse. The three of us huddled under its small shelter waiting out the brunt of the storm.

After the rain passed, we pushed the final quarter mile to the lake where we found a campsite, and a nearby camper with fire. Shortly thereafter we had a fire built with the assistance of the two boys at the neighboring site. They happily ran around gathering the best wood for us, giving us tips on how to build a fire.

Ooph, what a day.

Live life at a slower place.

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Zero in Butte

Day 48 - July 24th
0 miles
Total: 1933.5 miles
Moving Avg: 0 mph
Overall Avg: 0 mph

Our hosts were amazing. They took the day to go fishing, and they left the house to us. We napped, blogged, finished laundry, and planned our next leg. They even left us keys to their truck so we could go out and see lovely Butte in all her glory.

The funny thing is when you are on a vacation like this, a rest day is not one wasted on sight seeing. We were deliberate and quick with the truck. Apricots and I shot over to the Pizza Ranch, where we gorged on all you can eat pizza, salad bar, and desert bar. Ville did not accompany us, as he opted for home cooking a meal instead.

After lunch, we hit up the grocery store, then returned home for laziness.

In the evening we played a board game with the hosts and enjoyed cheesecake. Ville came in last place.

Thank you Sarah and Jordan (and Brock and Yogi).

Live life at a slower place.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

To Butte

Day 47 - July 23rd
55.8 miles
Total: 1933.5 miles
Moving Avg: 9.0 mph
Overall Avg: 6.0 mph

This morning we had the choice between a highway alternate for ten miles or the legendary Fleecer Ridge route. The ridge is legendary because of a section which is too steep and eroded to ride in either direction. We have heard stories of cyclists pushing bikes through plants and shrubs to gain traction on the way down, as well as cyclists whose shoes were destroyed by the sharp shale that covers the non trail "trail". Up until this point most of our climbs range in the 2-6% grade, with spurts up to ten percent. Fleecer Ridge carried a whopping 24% grade. In cycling terms that is pretty much a vertical climb.

We had no desire to push our bikes up a disgustingly steep and dangerous hill, so we opted for the alternate route. This path followed the Big Hole River downstream from Wise River, just before turning to parallel a rail line. The first ten miles were through the rugged rocky river canyon, with a wide shallow river peppered with early morning fishermen. The next ten miles was a giant climb, keeping to the grade of the nearby rail line.

After this, the alternate rejoined the main route, and we had a beast of a climb to deal with, arguably the third most difficult climb of the entire route (if judged by steepness alone). It was mighty tempting to continue following the freeway all the way to Butte, but we settled on the official route and made the 1500ft climb on hard packed dirt over 3.7 miles. Overall, the grade was an average of 7.2 percent, but there were definitely sections too steep to push a bike in a straight line. We better get used to this, as Montana tends to avoid switchbacks in favor of the straight climb.

The high desert landscape started to grown boulder outcroppings, and the sage was soon replaced by trees rich in their dry forest aromas. After the initial climb, the trail bobbed up and down, slowly gaining more elevation until we crested the divide and began our final descent to Butte.

Along the ride down we saw a person carrying their bike up the hill with the front wheel dragging and the back wheel lifted in the air. After some silly comments about the improper riding technique he was demonstrating, we checked if he needed any help. Apparently his music ear buds fell out of his control and got sucked up into his gears. Since he was not packing any gear, we offered up a knife and tweezers to perform an earbudectomy on his bike. Several minutes later his SAG wagon showed up (support and gear). With more tools available, he was able to give the gears a full cleaning job. Apricots and I were gifted some home made chocolate peanut butter bars for our services. Yum yum.

We continued our descent into Butte, swapping tips with southbound cyclists from Portland. Once down in Butte, we grabbed some danishes and rolled to our Warm Showers host.

Since we arrived around four, we opted to head out for dinner after showers. We gorged ourselves on pizza, and then watched a little bit of a spectacle at the Evil Kneivel Days.

Tomorrow, one of our last rest days before wrapping up this adventure.

Live life at a slower place.

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Tree Switch Activated

Day 46 - July 22nd
56.8 miles
Total: 1877.7 miles
Moving Avg: 10.5 mph
Overall Avg: 7.6 mph

We rose to a warm morning. The clouds rolled in late last night trapping the heat of yesterday. It made for an easier start, as the fingers and toes were not numb. Twelve miles down the road we stopped and chatted with a couple Trans America cyclists (from New Zealand). Our two trails intersected at Bannack State Park.

Ten miles later we grabbed a small breakfast at Grasshopper Inn. The servings were tiny, but the prices were fair, and we only needed a little juice to push us up the 1400 foot climb.

The tree switch was turned on around Polaris, as promised by several southbound cyclists. It was a beautiful climb along a very very quiet scenic highway. The views seen on the south side were bypassed by the views on the north side. The landscape varied immensely in the various wooded regions and pastoral parks we passed through. Thick timber with no sunlight passing through at times. Other times the trees were sparse and we could see deep into the forest.

The descent lasted a little over two hours, but it was the most enjoyable part of Montana so far, and one of the highlights of the trail for me. Boulder filled streams intersected the road between basalt rock slides. To top it off, the trees did not really turn off when we hit the lower elevations. It may appear as though the high desert has been left behind.

Yes, Wise River (our destination) is fairly tree free, but it is deep in an arid valley which we will climb out of tomorrow.

We ended our evening in the Wise River Saloon listening to live music. The man stuck to old timer country music and Johnny Cash. The two have a solid overlap. During the breaks in music, the stage was open to anyone to come up and play. The one singer that stepped up had some comedic stories to back up his songs, which all carried a nice theme and bluegrass feeling.

I would say we stumbled out the back door to our tents behind the saloon, but we stayed sober, limiting ourselves to one drink before tomorrow's fifty mile ride to Butte (which I hear is having a giant Evil Kneivel Festival).

Live life at a slower place.

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Friday, July 22, 2016

To Bannack

Day 45 - July 21st
64.9 miles
Total: 1820.9 miles
Moving Avg: 9.1 mph
Overall Avg: 6.2 mph

We knew we had a bigger day today, so we rose early, hitting the road by 6:45am. Our hands were numb from the cold, and our toes were disturbingly numb. We just wanted sunlight, but we were winding our way through a canyon. It took a few miles, but we eventually found the sunlight (which we would hide from in a few hours), and it cast it's warming rays on us so we could more completely enjoy the beautiful canyon.

The rocks pushed through the soil in extravagant outcroppings, leaving seams for vegetation, cracks for nesting birds, and bold lines which cast deep shadows. After climbing out of the canyon we made our final ascent to the Medicine Lodge Sheep Creek Divide, but not without first giving us a short grueling slodge up the final 500 feet.

At the top Apricots and I had first lunch. It was thirty miles of gradual descent and flat spots from there to the next water source. We wanted to push those thirty miles before second lunch, and we did. We rode down the hill following a valley most of the way, but the arid openness brought back not so fond memories of the great divide basin. It is a strange thing though, from a distance the landscape looks like a soft velvet blanket draped over the land. Up close, however, it is harsh and pointy, not the sort of blanket you would want to lay on.

Ville was quoted as asking, "Does America have anything besides high deserts?" after another cyclist informed him of the beautiful desert ahead. I think the three of us have seen enough high desert for the trail. We are ready for the trees of northern montana and canada.

Apricots and I took shelter in the shade of a small school house in Grants, MT for second lunch. We chowed down food and then washed our clothes under a spigot before cycling the final 13 miles to camp. It is so refreshing putting on wet clothing in 90 degree heat - a shock to the system, but worth the feeling for the next ten minutes of riding.

Camp tonight is at Bannack State Park, a very well preserved Ghost Town that was the original site for the Capitol of the Montana territory. After dinner, Apricots and I took a stroll through town. I was disappointed to see no ghosts, but we did see some snazzy old buildings that were fairly well preserved.

Tomorrow we should get to the trees. I am sure the trail will give us new struggles.

Live life at a slower place.

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