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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Days 71 - 76 /// Days Like These

Why do I do what I do?  As I was bombing a 10-mile epic downhill into Sula yesterday, grin stretching ear to ear, I was inspired to write a recap of the past two days.  I think it'll provide a nice glimpse into my life, adventure, and journey at present.  

First off, the day before yesterday was hard.  Very, very hard.  Not the longest distance covered, even though we clocked 76 miles, but certainly the longest day in-saddle at well over 8.5 hours.  The ride was from Twin Bridges to Jackson, both in Montana in case you haven’t been keeping up.  Twin Bridges was great, and the complimentary bike hostel spectacular (side note, it’s interesting what constitutes ‘spectacular’ after a few months on the road).  However I didn’t sleep well, most likely due to being curled up in fetal position to fit into the two-person loveseat I called dibs on.  In retrospect I should have unpacked, unrolled, and inflated the sleeping pad and bag.  However, I was so excited to have a roof overhead and not need to set up the tent, that I couldn’t be bothered to unpack anything other than essentials.

There were three of us in the morning.  My dad and me of course, and Colin who is the cool 28 y/o from the D.C. area mentioned a few days back.  When we pedaled out around 8am the temps were still hovering around freezing.  I was first to arrive in Dillon after a brisk 25 mile sprint.  I stopped at Subway for half a foot long turkey sammy, free wifi, and a water bottle refill.  Pops arrived next and chilled for a bit.  Colin opted to take it easy and stay in Dillon for the night.  After the brief pit stop I headed out after my dad to cover the next 50 miles, not knowing what would lie ahead.  

I won’t bore you with too many details, but know the remainder of the day was hard.  I’m not one to exaggerate, at least I don’t think, but it was one of the more challenging days I’ve ever pushed through.  Definitely the hardest on this trip.  We went up and over two mountain passes and had a 20+mph headwind the ENTIRE ride.  I remember cresting the first pass, feeling excited I’d made it, only to feel gutted because I had to pedal just to make it down the other side.  The wind was so strong that if I ceased pedaling I would come to a stop quickly.  Disheartening to say the least.  There were still highs though, the scenery unreal, and the endorphin rush unbeatable.   

Once I reached the second of the two long climbs, I found myself on road with no shoulder, fairly common in Montana as well as a 2-3" drop off on the edge.  Next thing I know a massive Dodge truck towing a 'fuck-the-world' sized RV blew by within inches.  It spooked me and I found myself drifting towards the edge.  I tried to correct, but the front wheel dropped slightly into the dirt, and next thing I knew I was on my arse.  TransAm crash number three.  I’ve crashed countless times on two wheels, but this one was bad.  Not physically, although I do have some rash on my ankle and knee, but mentally.  

I picked up the bike and noticed a couple dime-sized holes in both front and rear panniers.  Also, holding tabs had broken off on both, meaning I needed a zip tie to keep them from bouncing off the racks.  Semi-related side note, there was a crash involved sure, but seemingly every single time the bike tips over, something on the Ortlieb bags either rips or breaks.  I’d say they are OK at best for adventure travel.  The hardware needs to be redesigned with metal, not plastic.  I’ve seen Axiom bags completely split open, now my experiences with Ortlieb (and I’m not alone).  From my research, I’ll try Arkel bags next round.  Shame Wolfman Expedition doesn’t make bicycle panniers, only motorcycle.  I used those with no issue for one year from Denver to Argentina.  20k+ miles and countless crashes, once in Colombia sliding 40-50 yards at 40mph on asphalt after a low side on fresh oil.  No issue with those, not a scratch.  

Anyway, gear rant complete.  I picked up the bike, brushed myself off, and continued up the second of two long climbs for the day.  I made it to the top and was treated to breathtaking Montana ‘big sky’.  Beautiful ranch land as far as the eye could see.  Towering mountains in the distance.  I continued to pedal and suddenly the chain popped off the ring.  “For God's sake!” I said.  I couldn’t believe the highs and lows of the day, literally.  Turned out I had twisted the front derailleur on the down tube, and it needed loosening, readjustment, and tightening.  After that it was a grueling headwind-heavy pedal for the remaining 10+mi into Jackson.  I was wrecked.  Ended up paying $30 to camp behind the Jackson Hot Springs Lodge.  It was recommended as you get nice grass, a bath/shower, entrance into the hot springs, and on-site restaurant/bar.  However, we were overcharged because the lodge was closed, meaning we didn’t get the hot springs and/or restaurant/bar.  Bummer.  I was waaaay too tired to negotiate, so we cut our losses and set up camp.  In retrospect, should have stealthed it, but the warm shower was nice.  

Yesterday morning we woke up to frost on our tents.  It was just shy of 25 degrees F.  Pretty sure the ‘F’ meaning F’ing cold.  My fingers and toes were numb whilst breaking camp and packing up.  Once we got riding however, the day was unbelievably good.  The first 20 miles to Wisdom had a slight downhill grade, still wind, zero traffic, and beautiful scenery.  Had a nice second breakfast, which has become my favorite meal of the day, and wonderful chat with the owner of the general mercantile in town.  Wisdom has around 100 folks living year round, and isn’t growing or shrinking.  Ranches there have been owned for five generations, and “ain’t nobody sellin”.  That means the ultra-rich need look elsewhere for their turnkey ranch purchase.  This keeps a nice, authentic feel to Wisdom.  Perhaps something to the name?  

Chapter two of the day provided yet another long, uphill pass.  We ascended to over 7,500ft, but it wasn’t bad.  The mountainous ranch and prairie land quickly turned into lodgepole pine forest, and before I knew it I was at summit.  I was slightly ahead of my dad, and had planned to wait for him at the top for a celebratory PB&J.  However, there were a few drops of rain, and I noticed I was racing a cloud down into Sula, so put in the earbuds and blasted down the hill. 

Halfway down, I noticed a cyclist coming up the opposite direction.  I stopped to share the usual roadside info back/forth.  However, this guy was different, I could tell right away.  His enthusiasm for the TransAm was obvious.  Turns out Chuck had set out in 2013 to do the TransAm himself, but in Tribune, KS a car hit him from behind.  According to him, he was basically “dead on the side of the road”.  The only reason he made it was because a medic was cruising by with their kids en route to a 4H meeting.  They were at his side within 2mins.  After 7 weeks in hospital he was released to his loving wife.  The same loving wife has allowed him to continue his dreams, and finally complete the route he started.  I read this quote the other day, which is seemingly very fitting for Chuck.  His story puts the challenges of my two days to shame…  

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the bed knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…"  ~ Theodore Roosevelt 

Today was another epic ride/day.  Woke up in Sula and had a killer breakfast, provided by the ladies that run the joint.  Biscuits and gravy for days!  The 40+ miles to Hamilton were easy, and we were without headwind for the most part.  The Bitterroot Valley provides grand scenery to say the least.  My dad followed the ACA route to our Warm Showers host home.  I took a dirt detour that took me up higher, with amazing vistas and riding.  Loved it.  One other tidbit, we rode through Darby and it easily became my favorite small town on the entire route.  As we were exiting town, a nice older lady flagged me down and said "don't miss an amazing meatloaf meal at the community center".  Turns out every Thursday Meals on Wheels provides $3.50 healthy lunches for seniors in town.  I was invited in and treated to the most amazing/filling/delish three course meal of the trip.  Thanks so much Marianne and Brandon, my stomach is still full!  Not to mention the great conversation.  

So that’s it.  72hrs of adventure bicycle touring in a nutshell.  There are ups, there are downs.  One day I find myself both mentally and physically at wits end, the next in my own personal elation.  Every single day I wake up to an entirely new adventure, and new chapter.  I meet wonderful, inspiring, and kind people.  It’s really no wonder why people talk about becoming addicted to adventure travel.  Seemingly, life is never the same after tasting days like these. 

~ David

Ghost towns galore in Montana - Virginia and Nevada City

Wish I had the cash to buy a turnkey ranch like this!

Tater-shrivelin' cold water

Look mom, a herd of buffalo!
Ok, sorry.


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