August 16, 2001

8/16/01 Swan River camp

47.6 / 6340 miles

Slept much better last night. I was so nervous this morning, I couldn't decide between a bagel sandwich or a cinnamon roll with cream cheese icing, so I got both. Still spent a lot of time packing. Made a quick call to work back in Kansas City to tell them I was still going strong and not to expect me back until November. I do miss my coworkers a lot. Had one last stop at the bike shop to get velcro straps to hold my bear spray, making it easier to grab in case of an attack. The brochure says that in the case of a grizzly bear charging you, stand your ground. Right! The funny thing about the spray is that if used (such as in practicing) it is actually a bear attractant.

Finally got out of town some time around 10AM. Mike and I got to talking and missed one of our turns. We made our way through the back streets between Whitefish and Columbia Falls before reaching the gravel roads through the ranches and farmsteads.

We did make one stop at Tom Arnone's house. He had a sign out for Great Divide riders for water, a picnic table and camping. He later told us he also has a cabin nearby that he lets the cyclists use. I met Tom last year through my internet research. He says he's strictly a day rider but you couldn't tell that by his stable of at least a half a dozen bikes hanging in the shop. His son is a category-1 rider living in Helena. and the two of them once took a silver medal in a tandem race, only loosing out to the famous cyclist, John Howard, and his partner. It was still early, so we thanked him for the conversation and got back on the road.

Not a lucky day for me. On one steep gravel road, my rear tire got a hole so big, I could hear it blow. After searching in vane for the puncture, we discovered an unrepairable tear at the valve stem. And this was a new thorn-resistant tube I'd bought in Whitefish yesterday. So put in the old tube and got going again.

Kind of warm but not unpleasant. Some of the roads were gravel, but long stretches were new asphalt. A pretty easy ride, but the next few days look like some gnarly ascents, so I guess we should appreciate today's terrain.

Rode a two-mile closed road to Big Fork, MT, on the shores of Flathead Lake, the largest fresh-water lake west of the Mississippi. Lots of upscale artist boutiques, bars and restaurants, but we were able to find a reasonably priced deli. Found a possible campsite near the spillway on the Swan River.

I think this is my first 'stealth camp' of the trip. Although it's not posted, they probably don't want people to camp here. But I'm a good "leave-no-trace" camper and I doubt anyone could tell we've been here after we leave.

A little stealth camping near town

It's as if this is a whole different trip. Because we have to "primitive camp" and take food for a few days, my Appalachian Trail thruhiking skills are proving useful. I'm actually feeling a lot better about choosing to do this instead of a road trip south. As long as I've got a partner like Mike, I'll stick to the Divide route. And finally found Barbara Savage's book "Miles from Nowhere" about her round-the-world bike trip in the 1970s. Maybe she'll give me some more adventure ideas.

Mike taking a dip in the cool waters