August 23, 2001

8/23/01 Helena, MT

40.4 / 6603 miles

We get an earlier start today. Good thing because even leaving by 9AM, we still didn't get to Helena till 3PM. Even that early, we started without jackets. Not a good sign if we were hoping for cooler weather.

The route had us cross the Continental Divide twice, I was able to make both climbs on the bike without having to get off and push like yesterday. The road was pretty primitive with a lot of loose rock but my rear wheel didn't seem to slip as much. Actually, the second crossing was very gradual and we had a tail wind. I wish they were all like that!

Disaster almost struck our group today. We were all riding together on a long downhill when Whitney pulled to a stop. Her bear spray was mounted to her handlebars, and with the constant pounding on these bumpy roads, it developed a rupture. At first we thought it only had leaked onto the bike. One second we're all gathered around talking, the next we're all coughing with throats stinging from the pepper spray. We tried to ride away what we thought was an invisible cloud of the stuff but when we stopped again a couple hundred yards away, Whitney started to react to the spray. It must have gotten on her leg, and all over her face and eyes. You could tell it was painful and burning, especially in her eyes. They used a lot of water to flush her eyes and she applied a Benadryl ointment to the areas of skin exposed to the potent spray. I can see why they have big warnings not to use this product on humans. Makes the crime-stopping pepper spray look like perfume.

Flushing 'bear spray' out of Whitney's eyes

Back on the road

We had a long steep downhill toward Helena. Ever since my crash, I'm still not sure of myself with the fast speeds on these gravel roads. I was getting pretty far behind when my front tire blew. Nancy must have been watching over me as I was able to slow down after I felt something give with the steering. A front tire blowout is usually very dangerous at these downhill speeds, whether on pavement or gravel. When changing the tube, I realize the valve tore just like the other tube I bought in Whitefish. Had to be a manufacturer defect.

The ride into Helena on Hwy12 was downhill with a tailwind. Couldn't ask for an easier ride, 20+MPH without even trying. Frog and Ed decided to take a day off back at Deadman's Creek, so it's the six of us at the RV campground. After getting settled, we all enjoyed a dip in the pool and relaxed our muscles in the hot tub. Later, we all went out for pizza.

Malcolm and Jeremy want to take a day off tomorrow. Todd and Whitney want to do a short day out of town. I think Mike wants to continue too. Besides having a ton of errands to do, I keep looking at the map and can't find another decent place to take a rest day until we get to the Tetons, 10 days riding from here. I'd like the group to stay together but I'm also the weakest rider, especially on the climbs. I feel a little odd man out being so much older than Mike, Todd and Whitney. I'd love to take a day off but I'll keep with the group if they take off tomorrow afternoon.