Friday, July 31, 2015

Tour Divide 2015 - Day 6

I treated myself to a sleep in this morning, waking at a very slovenly 7:30am. In anticipation of a wet, cold ride I had posted a small package to the Last Chance Gulch (I shit you not, that is what it was called) post office which was located next door to my motel. It contained a new chain and some Nuun electrolyte tablets. It also contained one of two letters that my kids had written to cheer me up. The other letter was in another package headed for Pinedale. I was just waiting for the post office to open at 8:30am.

As I waited I felt my left heel. The slight swelling seemed to be gone and it didn't have a "squidgy" feel when I moved it. Good so far today.
There was a coffee shop on the corner opposite the post office and it shouted artisan coffee. I decided to give them a try, rather than the Starbucks on the other corner. I sauntered in, resplendant in my black lycra and asked for a flat white coffee. I got some blinks from the girl behind the counter so I tried again, "a medium flat white coffee" in my clearest voice. She sprang into action so I figured 'message received" and waited for my coffee. "That will be $1.88" she proclaimed. Hmmm, thats cheap, even for the land of cheap food. I paid up and walked out with my coffee. I don't think I am a coffee snob but taking a swig I soon realised why it was cheap. It was just black filter coffee and pretty ordinary at that. See that Stop sign in the photo? Well, the coffee went straight into the garden bed beneath it! 

8:30 finally arrived and I was first into the post office to get my parcel.

"Hi, I have a package addressed to me care of general delivery" I said. "No, we don't have it" he says without even looking. "General delivery goes to Helena post office". "But I addressed it to this post office" I say. "No, it won't be here" he repeats. "Could you just have a look please, because I addressed it here" I ask again. He went out the back and had a cursory glance then said "no, you will have to go to Helena post office" and began explaining how it was 4 miles away across town.

FFS! How does a package sent to a specific address get sent and held at another address? That is fundamentally what the post is meant to do, namely deliver your post to the address on the front?!! I was pretty pissed off because I had waited until 8:30 to get this parcel and now I had nothing, It was miles away across town. There was no way I was going to get it and waste more time. I was even more pissed off that it had the letter from my kids in it, which if I am honest is what I really wanted.

I composed myself and regained the route out of town. On the upside, with the rest and my new, improved pedalling technique my heel was feeling good. I could actually put good power through it with no squeaking at all, if I kept the technique right. If I lapsed into bad habits it squeaked though so it was easy to ensure I got it right.

I began wondering how far all of the other riders had got last night. I figured they would all be gone for good but consoled myself with the fact that at least I was able to get on my bike today and didn't have to take some rest days in Helena like I had feared. I hated Helena with it's rude, incompetent people and busy streets. I wanted to get out into the bush again.

A few miles out of Helena I passed this row of boxes. Ha! Good luck getting anything that is addressed to you in the right box! Muppets!

The road climbed and climbed toward Park Lake campground. The scenery was soon stunningly beautiful again and I was suitably calmed. Park Lake looked like a nice place to camp and I wondered how cold it was up here last night for Beth and the others that pressed on. I was soon cresting divide crossing number 5.

The Lava Mountain section of trail was coming up. It had a special notoriety as a difficult section of trail to get through, being a mess of tree roots. I was quietly pleased that the weather was being kind and the ground was dry as the trail can be treacherous in the wet.

But first, to get to the rooty section I had to pass the rocky section, then the rutted section. Sounds like a Monty Python script, doesn't it?

Then I had to pass the rutty section....

I eventually got to the rooty section but I was having too much fun to stop. Yes, the trail was at just over 7000' above sea level and taxing the legs but all the more reason to concentrate and push hard.

 I passed a couple of guys at the top that were just standing there, looking smashed. I said g'day and blasted past, finally getting out into the open again. You can see in the photo where people were railing the corner up in the grass, having had enough of the rocks.

The trail from here was pretty rough and hilly. There was a long downhill section into the tiny town of Basin. I had a quick look for food but when I didn't see anything obvious, I pressed on as I had plenty of food and I soon scooped a bottle out of the Boulder River which paralleled the trail here.

The next few hours were just more climbing, descending and to be honest I don't really remember it. Nothing stands out apart from the last few miles into Butte as the road climbed again when I think it should have descended. We seemed to be taking a "quiet" back road when I am sure there was a more direct descent.

Coming into the outskirts of Butte I saw Brett, Josh and Brian sitting on the kerb. Stopping to say hi they looked a bit beat up (but I probably did too) and were perusing the map trying to figure out where The Outdoorsman was. I had googled it before I left home but these US cities are soo spread out. The memory of it's location and the reality on the ground were very different. I was in a hurry to catch The Outdoorsman before they closed and sped off a few times, stopping to look at the map and the boys caught up again. This happened a few times so the guys probably though I was being a bit intense but I just wanted some work done on my bike and it was a loong way to the next bike shop. ;) The Outdoorsman was 1 mile off route and I made it in there at about 5pm. I heard Rob, the owner, telling someone on the phone that they close at 6pm, no exceptions. Apparently they have been burnt helping TD racers at all hours so stick to regular hours now.

I had them replace my chain and top up my Stans in the front wheel. They didn't have a Maxxis Ikon to replace the back tyre so I continued with the tube in my original tyre. This happened while I ate in the Quiznos Sub place across the street. They had wifi so I was pleased to let my wife know that my ankle was ok and I was powering on. 

Picking up my bike, Brian, Brett and Josh were in the store as well. Brian said he was staying the night as he was having respiratory problems like quite a few other racers. Brett and Josh were going to hang for a bit longer so I wished them all the best, then headed out for the next divide crossing or campground. It was kind of cool the way one kept passing and being passed by riders around you. A bit of a comradre was developing with these regular place changers. Whomever was a day in front or a day behind though was anyone's guess and would be quite probably experiencing an entirely different race to us. The beauty of the Tour Divide....

Rolling out of Butte I was feeling good and resolved to just ride until it got dark, then stealth camp.

Just along here I bumped into Jill again, so I stopped for a quick chat. She was also planning on riding until dark, then camping. I wished her well and pedalled off again. A short time later I was back on the dirt and as I passed someone's house they ran out to the roadside to get a photo of me and cheer me on. Cool, another Blue Dot junkie!

Climbing up to the divide crossing I came across two guys touring the route who were trying to set their camera up for a selfie. I offered to take a few photos for them if they took one of me. They happily obliged.

I was still feeling good as I crested the continental divide again. This time I was heading west but crossing onto the eastern side of the divide-go figure. There was a very nice campground here with views to eternity and I was tempted to set up camp but after the late start I had today I needed to keep pedalling for a while yet.

So, I did. The downhill off the divide crossing was a hoot but soon enough I was back in rolling hills. I heard a few rifle shots ring out no too far away so was on high alert. Soon, a beat up old sedan came around a bend with two young kids in it. I said g'day as they passed as it pays to be friendly with guys that are toting guns.

It was getting late now and the sun dipped toward the horizon. Every time I stopped to scout a likely camping spot I was swarmed with mosquitos so I kept pedalling on.

Stopping to look at my ACA map I could see that the trail crossed the I-15 after it dropped off the hills and there were no sheltered campgrounds until the Beaver Dam campground on the climb up to Fleecer Ridge. Climb? Again. At this time of the day.....welcome to the divide race....

The descent off the divide into the setting sun was SPECTACULAR! The road was FAST and it was hard to concentrate on the road with this view.

Twilight lasts forever at this latitude so it was only just after dark as I grovelled into the Beaver Dam campground some 15 kilometres and 1000ft climb later. I quickly set up camp, did some stretches and exercises for my achilles then ate my sub dinner. There were bear signs everywhere so I was keeping my spray very close at all times. Like in one hand, close. I felt very alone up here under Fleecer Ridge. 

With the late start I had only covered 185km (115mi) but had climbed 3400m (11 200ft) for the day! Plus I had a service stop at The Outdoorsman. The Outdoorsman, because it was in the stupid movie was a minor motivational "carrot" I guess, but ticked off none-the-less.

I jumped into my sleeping bag and noted that 7000ft didn't feel so bad any more. Another rider rode into the campground then stopped about 50 metres away. I was too tired to see who it was....... I hoped it wouldn't be too cold as I dozed off to sleep...........



  1. Ahhh American arrogance. The person at the coffee shop had no clue what you wanted, but couldn't actually bring themselves to ask you what it was so they could make it properly. Welcome to 'Merica. That is one of the reasons we go to Starbucks - consistency. And they'll ask you what something is if they don't know.

    Bummer about the post office, but for some reason knowing our local post office, this didn't surprise me.

    Again, great pictures!!

    1. Thanks Brandy. I guess not everyone can be awesome everyday but most people I interacted were. The bigger the town the poorer the experience in general though.

  2. I never do post office drops as I never know what time I will be in town-- but its my understanding that if there is more than one post office location (like would be expected in a mid-size town) only one of them will do the 'hold for general delivery' service, so what you experienced is apparently normal procedure

    Really enjoying your write up bty.....

  3. I didn't really need the stuff in the drop but it would have been nice if it worked out. I will know for next time.....
    Glad you are enjoying it. keep your recollections coming too please. ;-)


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