Sunday, August 06, 2006

Mon June 26 – Day 37 – Basin, MT

What a difference a day makes, especially a rest day. I felt great on the bike today, although a bit worn out by the end.

Today had three climbs, the first two pretty tough, and the last one more of a grade. The first one was Fleecer Ridge, which is a sort of legend among the Divide riders. That one took me almost four hours all told. I took all my bags off the bike, carried them up, and went back for the bike. The slope was ridiculous – would have been a black diamond ski slope here in WI without a doubt. It had crossed my mind to go around, but that’s blasphemy. It actually was kind of a nice change of pace – instead of spinning up, I was hiking, and carrying my gear. I knew it was going to take a long time, so I didn’t hurry, just enjoyed the morning up there.
The second climb was on the other side of I-15. About half a mile in the road was actually blocked off with a bunch of mean sounding No Trespassing signs. But I made it through without encountering any angry ranchers or authority figures.
Then the third was actually a riser coming out of Butte on I-15. I guess you can ride on the interstate out in MT. It’s surprisingly safe (there’s a huge shoulder, and traffic isn’t all that thick) but isn’t the most pleasant sort of riding.

I met my first fellow Divide riders today (other than Tim, but he was with me so that doesn’t count). They couldn’t have been more different. The first was Brandon, a friendly, slightly portly (for a biker anyway) fellow who was riding down the No Trespassing area. He said he was doing one climb a day, usually about 30 miles, and enjoying himself. He was planning to go around Fleecer Ridge. I tried to talk him out of it (I think it would actually be relatively easy going NS – the climb is steady and smooth, and you just walk your bike down) but he sounded pretty set.

The other was Matthew Lee, one of the Divide racers. He was going for the course record (16 days and change) and was doing about 150 miles a day he said. (He started at noon Friday, and I met him just south of Butte at noon Monday – so he’d gone all that distance in right about 3 days.) He was carrying next to nothing – just a CamelBak with a bunch of energy bars stashed in it and a sleeping bag and bivy sack strapped on his rear rack. His mileage blew my mind. I told him he had a sickness, and he just slapped my hand, grinned, and took off. What an animal.

Also, I got some new gloves with monster pads on them (Specialized BG) and some energy bars and energy gel from the bike shop in town. The gloves were a godsend, although my hands are in such bad shape that they probably won’t stop tingling until after this trip is over. I never took much stock in energy bars before this, but we’ll see if they help. (Energy bars are inspired by Lee’s ultralight style. We’ll see if it fits me.)

(Two updates from later. First, Lee ended up winning the race but missed the course record by about a day. He ran into some really bad weather in CO and got behind and exhausted and decided to take a rest day. Second, one of the other racers got busted by a rancher and some cops riding down that No Trespassing section about three days after I went through. But, he explained what the deal was and they let him through and said all the racers could come through. I don’t know what deal, if any, they have worked out for regular Divide riders. But hopefully they work something out – there isn’t any good way around that section except to ride a bunch of interstate.)

Day 37 stats:

82 miles
6000 feet up


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