Sunday, July 3, 2011

Tour Divide: Montana

The almost obligatory picture of Red Rock Pass, which is the border between Idaho and Montana. 
I met Michael McCoy, who was touring South. Michael developed that route 15 years ago and wrote the book on it. No Tour Divide Race without him (even though he envisioned and planned the route for touring, he never expected the route to be raced by so many people). 6 years earlier, Bob Bawn and I used his book when we toured south through Wyoming and Colorado. Even then, we sometimes doubled up on the stages in the book because they were on the short side. But this year, I did in 3 days what took us a week then.

Made it to Butte just minutes before a heavy hailstorm broke loose. But by then I was enjoying lunch inside and had my bike in Rob Leipheimers shop getting another tune up. You are seeing the back of Rob's shops.

The walls in the bike shop are decorated with some of the jerseys that his brother Levi won over the years.

Now it is time to get on the freeway - I 15 out of Butte. Strangely enough, riding on the freeway isn't that bad and in fact much better than some of the smaller roads. While there is a lot of very fast traffic, there is also a very wide shoulder. So less unpleasant and probably safer than other stretches on pavement.

The ghost mining town Comet. This is a slight variation from the usual route because of snow this year, but it was a good variation.
Ovando is a cute little town that is welcoming to cyclists. There isn't much to the town, this is the town center (less than 100 people), but you can camp on the museum lawn in the center of town. I arrived after midnight and put my tent up, had a good night and an excellent breakfast at the restaurant in the picture. But after that I went downhill, although it wasn't the breakfast, but the sandwich I had carried from Helena. That made me sick and I had two very weak days.
Ross Delaplane caught up with me on one of the weak days and I wrote with him for a little while. But he is faster than me normally (I was only ahead because I tolerate more hours in the saddle than he) and on that day just couldn't keep up even when he slowed down. At one point, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, we found the broken bulldozer, apparently moving a rock (but why?). Crawl under it and continue on some nice single track!

After a little while, I peeled off and set up camp. Ross went on for a few hours, but I had no strength. Bearproofing my food supply:

This year was an extremely snowy year and many snow shortcuts were in place. However, I had been looking forward to the full route and especially the Flathead area in Montana and Canada, so I did not take those shortcuts but stayed on the original route. Only one other person tried it, Justin from Colorado, but he was a southbounder and therefore had to fight with much tougher conditions than I. He really was breaking trail in expedition mode, whereas I just had to deal with a bit of extra snow hiking and more mileage.

Red Meadow Lake, usually hopping with 4th of July vacationers, but this year, much of the lake was frozen and all the picnic benches were under snow.
This car won't make it out until August, I think.

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