Day 1 (55mi/89km)
I picked up the remainder of the maps for the great divide and before I left Eureka I stopped at subway for lunch.
"You aren't doing that bike route, are you?"
"Yup, until winter catches up to me, then I'll go on the highways."
"Are you alone?"
"They had to helicopter out 3 cyclists with hypothermia in the summer. Do you have one of those buzzer things?"
Awkward silence, he was probably thinking I'm crazy.
The rest of the day took me over a mountain pass and I found a good place off the road to camp.
Day 2 (60mi/97km)
Through warmshowers.org I found a place to stay in Kalispell, then I decided to take a rest day. All that climbing, rough roads and rain had worn me down.
Day 3 (62mi/100km) Rest Day
What better way to rest than to go up to Logan pass in Glacier National Park? Thom loaned me his old road bike and we went up the Going to the Sun road. A truly amazing ride, the road was closed to all traffic but bikes. The guard rails were also removed and Thom agreed with me that it's for the best: if we go off the road we will have an uninterupted flight, as opposed to hitting the barrier and then falling off.
Day 4 (0mi/0km) Rest Day... Really
Betty allowed me to use her laptop so I put together a video of the ride after Alaska and before The Great Divide. Most of the day was spent figuring out how to do a timelapse in iMovie.
Here is the video, music by Driftwood Holly from Yukon. From Prince George, BC to Canmore, AB - it covers an amazing section of the Canadian Rockies.
Day 5 (33mi/53km)
Day 6 (61mi/98km)
The days are short. I often have to set up my tent and make dinner in the dark, wake up in the dawn and be on the road just as the sun rises. What a good time to be riding!
Day 7 (57mi/92km)
As I slowly crawl up another mountain pass, a pickup approaches:
"Where are you going?"
"If you are hungry come down to our camp."
Sadly that was 5 miles the wrong way :(
Normally the logging roads that The Divide Bike Route takes are frequented by firewood cutters but now with the hunting season there were a lot of hunters. Unlike Alaska, nobody wears camouflage. They wear bright orange. Maybe I should too, wouldn't want to be mistook for an elk. On the bright side, they all drive very slowly because they are looking for animals.
I reached Ovando (pop ~70) just as it got dark. A lot of ranches and not much state land to camp on. I didn't want to camp on private land and go to jail.
Go to jail. Good idea!
Day 8 (58mi/93km)
Going up another pass, the snow intensified. It wasn't bad riding through it but I could not see what was under. I blindly rode over stones, making apologies to Deadhorse (the bike) everytime I hit a big bump.
Today was going to be a big day: two mountain passes over 50 miles. As I approached the top in "Don't be a Hero" gear, I decided totally not be a hero and push it for the last mile. I saw the last of the sunset at the top. It's getting dark, I need to find a place to camp.
Going down one of the worst roads I've been on in the dark I passed a hunter camp. I turned around to see if I can camp near there. Somebody came out with a flashlight.
"Is that a motorcycle?"
"No, a bicycle."
"Are you hunting?"
"Nope, just passing by."
"You picked a piss poor time to go in Montana, everybody's hunting."
"We got two animals hanging and everybody has guns here."
Was he thinking I would try to steal one and ride off? I got the message and continued on.
Two hunters from the camp drove out to see if I am okay. I found a campspot beside the road, put up my tent and ate two bowls of noodles.
There is no other place I'd rather be.
Day 9 (34mi/55km)
Two more passes stood between me and Helena, the capital of Montana. Somebody I had met in Alaska had a friend there, where I can spend the night.
I was thinking what I miss about Canada the most? Tim Hortons! A coffee shop named after a hockey player stuffed with a wide variety of doughnuts, good coffee and free wi-fi. Here in the USA that role is taken by small coffee booths. Although the booths in Alaska had more catchy names...
Day 10 (28mi/45km) Helena
Fred rode out with me to Grizzly gulch road, where I will continue on the Divide. I also decided to leave my bear spray, I havent seen bears since Canada and I won't need it, right?
I got near the top, clear cuts opened an amazing view despite the pine beetle killed trees. Maybe it was all the candy, or the coffee or the adrenaline from the climb. I finally found that feeling of exploration I've been looking for all along. Being lost in the moment, not knowing where I'll end u tonight and excitingly awaiting the unknown behind each corner...
Even if it meant pushing my bike up.
At 2am I woke up to hear the wolves howling. Way too close for comfort, maybe I should have kept my bear spray with me. I took my pocket knife inside my sleeping bag, as if it would make a difference and went to sleep.
Day 11 (64mi/103km)
"The crane operator won't be here for another two hours." Said one of the workers, I guess I am going on the planks. Deadhorse being carried over the river by a crane would have been such an amazing sight.
I passed through Butte, a mining town and very big for Montana standards. I rode off to another continental divide crossing but stopped few miles short in the dark. As I was eating dinner I heard the high pitch howl of coyotes. Bear spray... I should have kept my bear spray.
Day 12 (72mi/116km)
"From here you can see Mount Fleecer, you will be going on it's western, wooded flank." WOODED, I've been planing on taking the fleecer ridge route but this word threw me off. I decided to take the alternate instead.
After a stop at Wise River, I discovered that the grocery store I've been hoping to restock was rather small and expensive. I bought 4 packs of ramen noodles and a pouch of instant mash potatoes.
Having spend a good chunk of time on Montana's roads, here is a blurb bout the drivers:
Aside from a border patrol pickup which came zooming down a narrow road, everybody has been extremely nice. Sometimes I would look at the opposing traffic as they try to give me more space and think to myself "Please don't go off the road...". People slow down, nod, wave and one time somebody raised a can of what I hope wasn't beer when they saw me :).
I made it as far as Elkhorn hot springs and for the second time during this trip I paid for accommodation. The $35 included pool entry and all-you-can-eat breakfast.
At the lodge I overheard somebody talking about the weather. 10 inches of snow tomorrow.
Yup. It was Oct 31st, Halloween. It was "trick or treat" on the great divide and I just got tricked.
Day 13 (59mi/95km)
The clear skies in the morning hinted nothing of a storm. I was entering one of the more remote sections of the route - Medicine Lodge road.
After stopping for lunch and watching the clouds assemble in the distance, a relentless headwind began blowing. Yup, this was a storm. I put on my ski goggles and began crawling forward.
The appearance of dogs at one of the ranches was a welcome break. There was a golden lab who really wanted to play fetch but was always outran by the two smaller-faster dogs (like the one in photo), the fourth dog was always chewing on a stick and growling.
One of the faster fellows followed me out until I shouted "Okay, Go Home!". He understood and turned around, and so did I. Oh... that headwind.
Two hunters who had shot a deer buck pulled over.
"Wow, I'm surprised you shot it with this wind."
Then it began raining, but no snow, it appears that the storm was north of me. I rode into the dusk looking for a sheltered spot, which I found couple of meters off the road.
Day 14 (47mi/76km)
I was supposed to have a short day and ride into Lima tomorrow but I just couldn't stop biking. Lima's store was small and expensive as well. I had food, I can make it for another two days until Island Park. When I came out of the store, I found that somebody put some money on my bike, how nice.
I ended up using them for a night of camping at town. Connie & Mike, the owners of the motel let me stay in the lobby for a bit. We had a great talk about the Continental Divide Trail and people who do it. I can't imagine doing the hiking trail - the amount of planning, the remoteness and having to carry everything on your back. Connie gave me some food - nuts, raisins and tuna, and two magical lunch packs - which even had Oreos in them!
Day 15 (57mi/92km)
Today was good. Sunshine, tailwind, great scenery. But the road was terrible, normally as you turn onto different roads you would get a break but not this time. I wanted to get to a campground and that meant riding the last 15miles in the dark
I turned to see 6 pairs of eyes beside the road. On a closer inspection it was 3 white horses, they nearly gave me a heart attack. For the last 8 miles, the road became a muddy-stony mess. I saw two black silhouettes over the fence. Were they cows? Or Bears? Didn't stick around to find out.
Day 16 (38mi/61km)
It was a cold, cold night. I slept with all my clothes (except my rain gear), I'll need more clothes when I get to town. Ominous clouds were rolling in from beyond the mountains, and that's where I'm going next: Idaho
Coming soon: Freezing rain, Sneaking in Yellowstone National Park, Buffalo surprise on a narrow trail, Wyoming & 9000' + passes