Wise River, Mn. – Wolverine Pass (Above Lima, Mn.) ; 266km distance, 2,220m climbing, 14hrs 45mins moving time.
I wake up feeling like Martyn Sheen in Apocalypse now. The room is strewn with my half dried kit as the ceiling fan drifts lazily through space not doing much. “Wise River. Shit. I’m still only in Wise River“. I pack my kit and lament my choice of two beers last night. The usual morning ritual of Poptarts and Aleve is supplemented with Root Beer and a handful of Skittles. I disgust myself, but they’re easy calories and I don’t care any more. I sneak out of the motel without disturbing the others and out into the freezing air shivering as I start to pedal down the road, frost on the grass verges. “Tour Divide. Shit. Still on the Tour Divide“. A week has now passed since I started this journey and I’m not far off where I’d hoped to be. The last two days had pushed me back over a 100km off target. It was time to remedy that, and this was one of the sections I’d planned for.
I pedal hard for the fist 20km on the road to try and get some heat it, but nothing works. I put on the extra layers, even my sleeping layers and force myself to pedal a bigger gear than I want to, finally a climb comes and I start to generate some warmth. I try to eat but fail as my jaw can’t break the frozen chocolate outer on my bars. On top of that, everything just tastes like dirt. Nothing is palatable. I just suck it up and climb out of the inversion in the desperate hope of some warm air.
The road climbs ever onwards until I hit the plateau. I see my first moose, then another, and another. They are as confused to see me as I am frightened of them. Huge animals, unpredictable and protective. I just pedal on without even reaching for the camera. The sun is finally beaming down on me as I start to strip off layers. A long road descent strips the lard earned heat from my body before dealing me a climb to generate it again. Sill on road, still moving fast, clawing back distance.
And then it snows, it decides to do all it can to try to make me stop and I just stop and giggle. Not going to happen. I pull out an armpit warmed chocolate bar and feast upon its delightfully soggy contents. Another follows behind. Armpits are refilled for future eating opportunities. I meet Rick at some point after Montana High Country Lodge. He’d opted for a Montana Hilton last night like the hard ass he is. We ride together to the start of the Bannack Road section, I pull over early to pee and refill bottles. Once we get going I’ve no intention of stopping again, the wind is coming and it is going to be punishing today. Clip and go, no time to stop, storms a coming and I do not want to get stopped on the peanut butter dirt roads.
Wide open spaces. Time to think. Air to breath. I push far to hard with the tail winds obeying rule #1 – never stop with a tail wind. On it goes for what feels like hours. I pass the now dry peanut roads and see rider foot marks, parallel to them the trench cut by dragging a bike. A pile of mud. Footsteps. Trench. Pile of mud. Some idiot tried to ride this last night, I pity them, they obviously didn’t know what was ahead of them.
I don’t hit a single patch of mud. I have a tail wind. My food has thawed. It’s all going well. Sort of makes up for the morning I had. Sort of. But there, it happens, I got complacent and I have to pay for it. As I turn up the road for the Sheep Creek Medicine Divide I get the brunt of the wind in the face. 45km of howling wind, driving dirt and no where to hide as I ride up a beautifully hateful valley full of deer and despair. I hate it. I sit behind a boulder with my head in my hands trying to block the white noise wind out for just a minute. Just one minute please. It goes on and on until I turn into the canyon and start to descend, blissful silence as I move with the wind for a change.
The descent goes on for what feels like days. It’s pure bliss and I pedal very little. Finally I have to turn back into the wind and it’s on a frontage road – right beside the I-15. Onwards into the wind and what afterwards turns out to be a climb all the way to Lima, 8 miles of hell. I get to the gas station with an hour to spare before they close. I fill my hands with food and fluid and pour it onto the counter. I ask if the diner across the road is shit or not. My hunger bluntness cuts to the chase and I find out it’s pretty good. It’s ok. I eat more meat, more fried crap, more cola. Justin, Mike and Rick all roll in and order food. With 10 minutes before the gas station shuts I get up and pack up. it’s too early to stop I tell Justin. I think he want’s to ride, but he’s pretty shattered. Mike is out. Rick was always going to ride on.
I spend the next 4 hours riding until I can’t stay awake. It’s 1:30am before I get into my bivi and set my alarm for 4:30am. I felt like a riding god this evening – chasing tail lights across the blank open plains. I know who you are. I know I’m going to catch you tomorrow. A week into this thing and it’s starting to feel like a race now.