August 25, 2001

8/25/01 Butte, MT

52 / 6699 miles

Last night as we sat around the cooking stoves, sharing cookies just bought in town that morning, I felt that same camaraderie with Mike, Todd and Whitney that I felt on the Appalachian Trail. There's just something about shared hardship that brings people from all walks of life together.

Good Morning Montana!

Because yesterday was such a late day, we all elected to sleep in. I don't think any of us stirred out of our tents until 9AM. Today is our longest day yet and we start right off the bat with a 7-mile climb. But we're having fun together. The uphill started off as a dirt road, progressed to a jeep track (two tire ruts) and got worse after that. It would be hard enough to negotiate this trail with its cabbage-size rocks and tree roots thick as your arm with only a mountain bike, but pulling a trailer is brutal. Some sections got so steep, we all had to get off and push the bikes and trailers up the path, sometimes taking rest breaks every couple of steps. Plus, we all had our share of falls, most of the time more embarrassing than painful. Even after we reached the high point, I had to walk the bike down a near vertical trail with huge rocks, after seeing Todd fall on his descent. We were to have some good downhill until we had to again climb to Butte.

The route took us through some pretty rough country, what with it's clear cuts and abandoned mines. We eventually moved onto better roads. But at one of the first turns on our gravel road, I took another crash. I hit the ground harder this time, taking a lot more time to get up. I think my shoulder and forearms took most of the impact but I reopened the leg abrasion from the first fall. Later I found more abrasions on the other forearm. Since I couldn't find any bruising, I might have bruised the bone because of the forearm pain I had, especially when gripping the brakes. I finally got back on the bike and headed down hill again.

After two crashes, these gravel roads were really scaring me. But I think that at times my slowing down and hesitating only made it worse. After he found out about the crash, Mike would wait for me as I got too far behind. Reaching flat ground didn't reduce the fear of that gravel one bit.

Following an old railroad bed

We pulled into Basin, MT, about 3:30PM and heading to "Leaning Tower of Pizza" for some lunch. I was so tired and sore, I'm not sure if I even enjoyed my sandwich. Even this late, we still had 30-miles to go.

My only complaint of the Divide guidebook is that it sometimes omits any mention of some very hard sections. We were following a cattle road alongside the interstate, but when it ended and the road on the other side of the highway went straight up. Both Whitney and I ended up pushing our bikes up that hill. But once to the top, the road turned out to be an old railroad bed so it was fairly level. We even had a tunnel.

The possible campsites marked on the map didn't look good because of their close proximity to the highway and all the trash floating in the water source. We all decided to head toward Butte, but we had one more huge uphill that failed to show up in the guidebook. After that, we were flying up the frontage road. It was hard for me to keep up with the gang. They seem so equally matched, watching them ride three-abreast on this barren piece of asphalt.

When our road hit a dead-end, we had to finish our climb over Elk Park Pass (6368'), number four of our Continental Divide crossings on this route. At first it looked impossible because of some major construction, but we were able to ride on the blocked off lanes that had been grooved prior to re-paving. The interstate had a wide shoulder we rode on all the way to the KOA campground.

Contrary to all my experiences with other KOA's, the staff gave us a good deal for the four of us. I was running on autopilot as we made camp. Whitney and I made a store run (I got ice cream and Coke). Whitney made a spaghetti dinner for us all. It was very good but I couldn't finish it. Even after taking a shower and cleaning my wounds didn't help. I had literally passed my limits long ago.

All day, a seed of thought has grown in my mind to discontinue my Divide ride. I just don't seem to have the riding skills to handle it. The gang have all been encouraging because they're impressed with what I've been able to ride without any trail experience. If it was mainly a single-track trail, I think I could make it, but these gravel roads are another thing. I love my companions and I enjoy the challenge of this route, but I also fear that my next crash might be a lot worse than I've already had. So, after dinner, I told all three of them I'm considering leaving them. That was a very hard decision because I enjoy their company but probably won't see another rider on any road trip south. Whitney told me to wait till morning but I'm pretty sure this is the right decision. At the very least, I need a day off and we have been riding for the last 11 days. It tears me apart leaving them, especially Mike, but I also don't want to be a burden to any of them.