After leaving Helena well rested and legs feeling great I proceeded to ruin myself on the 3 hour up hill climb to a great spot at Park lake. Tons of deer wandering about. The next day was labelled on the map as “the most challenging terrain along the route”, and man were they not wrong. Steep and rocky stuff that climbing without gear would’ve been challenging enough. This was where the decision to ride my All Mountain bike paid off. It was the Reign’s time to shine! I managed to peddle most of it and my bike allowed me to eat up some of the scariest downhill yet. They were a couple of moments where to use the breaks would have ended in disaster and to not use them was likely to be the same outcome. So I just held on an hoped for the best… luckily my bike and I ended up in one piece but with a massive adrenalin rush. That night was spent camping on top of an awesome pass just out of Butte…however this was apparently the place where all the drunk hooligans from Butte come to party and do doughnuts on their pickups…fun times.
Glad I brought the mountain bike
Day 16 was a day of lead filled legs. Really wanting the take the alternate, shorter and flatter route through to Wise river through farmland, I was forced to take the main route over a massive out of the way pass due to running out of water. All the creeks in farm land are to dodgy to filter so had no choice but to make for the mountains and cleaner streams. Though hard work, im glad I stuck to the route. The pass was amazing and the downhills again adrenaline full. Lesson learned. I’m here for the challenge not the easy way out. The route is meandering and goes over passes for no other reason but to go over passes. There not point in missing them.
Some peace spreading vagabonds in the middle of nowhere
Ending up at the lodgepole campground I immediately struck up a conversation with Craig, who on properly guessing my accent, turned out spends half of the year every year fly fishing to Taupo. He let me share his campground gave me and beer and we were instantly best pals. Had a great night by the fire talking about Kiwidom and drinking good beer…i had bought a Bud at the last servo, but Craig had a nice supply of Rouge.
A perfect nights entertainment
Craig the Amerikiwi
Had to shoo this bear out of a cafe...then he just chilled in a tree watching me
The next was another one of the dragging days, so I stopped at the sleepy Elkhorn lodge to get a coffee and a big burger to up my iron intake. Upon arriving at the lodge I was greeted by a black bear halfway in the door of the Cafe that I had to scare off in order to get a coffee…gotta love that mega-fauna!
The terrain changed rapidly after Elkhorn. I suddenly found myself out in a virtual desert. Things got real dry and about 90 km into the day with half my water gone I started for the first time to really worry about being able find more drinkable water. Luckily I can across Cross Ranch were I managed to track down the ranch mother who allowed me to fill my bladders up, and then was so nice a to let me just quit the day and camp on their lawn.
After the storm
The next day (18) I made my biggest push yet. Getting up at 0630 (first time to see the sunrise on the ride) I was aiming for 140km which ended up being a 170km marathon, and it all started with a high and dry 43 km uphill. Up at the top a lightning storm passed through and started a wildfire, a bolt holding my back break caliper decided to not be on the ride anymore (promptly fixed with trusty zip ties and an allen key) and the body was aching. But after a reciprocally long downhill I had a good break and power chow down at a gas station before taking on the last 50km. This is where the weather got the best of me for the first time. Another storm rolled on in and out come the rain jacket. But eventually the road turn to mud. My bike gained 10kg in sticky on mud, so much that my back would turn at all. Then the lightning came, striking only a couple of hundred feet away for a bout 30 mins. Being the tallest thing out on the plains, being struck by lightning wasnt on my list of experiences I wanted to gain so took shelter in an old shed that I saw on the horizon.
Day 19 saw me cross into Idaho the second US stated on the trip, and camp out the amazingly clear Big Springs. Utilizing the nearby Subway for food and bar for beer I had a good old relaxing time on my only night in Idaho.
Big Spring...crystal clear
Day 20, the sense of adventure was surging through my veins again. Ahead of me was km of old railway line which was described on the map as “soft sand” but that didn’t damping the spirits. I mowed down the km relishing in the experience. But, by the 3oth km the sand an ruts had worn me thin and my attitude soon turned to “fuck adventure”. By the time I made my 100 km for the day and had Crossed into my third state, Wyoming, I was wrecked and then bloody mosquitoes wouldn’t even let me eat in piece…not to mention I decided to bath with my phone in my pocket…ahh
What the weather forecast calls "Smokey Weather" caused by wildfires near Yellowstone
Day 21 saw me skirt the southern most border of Yellowstone national Park and ride through some amazing country. However the day was also marked by lethargy. My body had just decided to stop co-operating. The combination of prolonged exercise at high altitude and the lack of fresh meat and other sources of iron in my diet I think resulted in slight anemia. Remedy? The biggest baddest lean sirloin burger I could get my hands on at Flag Ranch, the entrance to Yellowstone, and a bunch of Luna bars, specifically iron and folate enriched bars for ladies…hay as long as it works. After 100 km and my newly increased iron levels, I felt great. Camped out at Buffalo fork, where I met a nice old retired service man and we spent the night chatting and drinking his large supply of beer. But as soon as talk turned to politics I had to make my excuses and head to bed before it headed to religion. As it was he was still friendly in the morn and loaded me with tons of surplus food. Still stunned by the generosity of strangers.
These guys are crossing the country for the second time...and they thought i was crazy
The next day I left camp super early to avoid the camp fee and aimed at tackling two of the highest passes so far in one day, the Togwotee and the Union passes (climbed a total of 5000ft!). A lot of the days riding also ran along with the Transamerica trail, the ride across the states that follows the road. As such I met a few guys who were on the final weeks of completing their ride from east to west. There was even a bunch of guys who were doing it for the second time …nutters!
Natural meadows at 9500ft...saw a moose up there
After the energy sapping ride up to the Union pass I ran into a couple of ranchers who got me scared about the amount of grizzly activity up there on the plains where I was planning to camp. They then suggested that i go to the rangers guard station and they might bu nice enough to let me camp in their compound protected by dogs. So after freaking out a little about seeing a grizzly on the trail and getting to see my first ever moose, I rocked up to the guard station. There I met the rangers, a semi-retired couple called Robert and Maria, and told them it was suggested I ask if I could camp there. I was met with such a gruff “who told you that”, that thought it was definitely a no go. However it was promptly followed up by “take off the silly hat” and the most generous offer of hospitality yet. While they went off to dinner down at a ranchers house they left me with my own cabin, dinner of stuffed potatoes, told me i was in charge and left. When they came back they even had more leftovers of good ‘ol American Chilli for me. Awesome! I then sat and chatted with Maria till dark, where I discovered that she used to be high-powered political consultant that ran political campaigns in the state of Florida, but was now opting for a the better life. Spending summers up on the plains and winters down in Florida. A very interesting lady. I was even more grateful for the cabin when i was awoken half way through the night by the most intense rain and thunder storm…it was good to be inside that night.
Awesome cabin at Fish creek guard station
Robert and Maria, Fish Creek Rangers...awesome folk
Yesterday i awoke to french toast was sent on my way to Pinedale. I was informed by Maria that if I made it to Pindale before 130 pm i would be able to get all you can eat pizza and salad for $8.50. The race was on. I made the best time i have made yet. 100km in 4 hours, though mostly downhill and half on pavement I was still a record pace. I got my Pizza and ate to till i could barely walk. Another plus of the hard push was an unexpected half day. Nice clean clothes and a nice relaxing evening at the Wind River Brewery of which i promptly set up camp behind in the parking lot.
Only 8 or so more days till I get a nice break in Golden, Colorado