WE MADE IT!!

Most of you know we completed our ride on October 25th. What a ride!!

We found that keeping up on a blog was difficult since we seldom had good internet or the time to download photos. Hans’s new iPod Touch worked much better since we could send updates and photos directly to Facebook. Those of you with Facebook probably heard more than you ever wanted about our trip, but those of you following our blog got left in the dark. We appreciate  the calls and emails we have gotten from people who were worried about us and wanted to know how everything went. So, no, we didn’t fall off the face of the earth!  We had an incredible adventure.

I am now back in La Cruz while Hans will be in San Diego for another week or so. I am working on updating the blog since we have a lot of photos and fun stories to share with you. Stayed tuned….

Highlights from Weeks 3 and 4

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Hans has the lake to himself but a bald eagle keeps it’s eye on him.

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We really do have to give a little plug for “Hammer Nutrition” here. We have been gobbling up their products daily (Perpetuem, Sustained Energy, Recoverite, and Tissue Rejuvenators). I am pretty sure that has something to do with the fact that we can climb up some of these hills and still get back on the bike in the morning. We visited their headquarters in Whitefish. Hans was hoping for some swag and dressed appropriately!

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Everyone seems to have a beautiful vegetable garden in Montana. They keep them fenced with 8-10′ high wire fences in an attempt to keep the deer and moose out. I thought I was smelling someones herb garden but it turned out to be an entire field of dill, acres and acres of it. I’d love to know how they harvest it.

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Just when we’re starting to feel pretty bad ass we meet this bunch. Here’s a couple from Germany who decided to tour around the US for six months-with two little kids in tow!!  They stick to paved roads and stop every few hours to let the kids play. You can’t see it in this picture but she pulls a tiny bicycle behind her bike, guess they want him out of that carseat and pulling his own weight as soon as possible?! They camp every night, rain or shine and we’ve crossed paths with them at campgrounds as well as on a busy street in the middle of Helena. Wow.

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We gave our legs a rest and took a canoe trip down the river and into Seeley Lake on our day off.

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Ovando is the most bike friendly town of all. Population 50 but every one of them stayed up until midnight to watch the Divide racers ride through their town a few weeks ago.  If you haven’t seen the movie “Ride the Divide” you might not know that every year a few amazing souls ride this same route as fast as they can go. The winner did it in 17 days,it will take us 12 weeks!

Ovando offers a few interesting alternatives to camping: Cyclists are welcomed to stay in the teepee, the old wagon, or the town jail.

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Luckily, most of the critters we encounter are harmless and sweet. Then there are those pesky bears…. We are careful to store all our food in our bear bag (a Kevlar bag that reportedly can survive a bear attack) and everything else gets hung high in a tree away from our tent every night. We were surprised to see this tennis/basketball court next to a campsite out in the middle of nowhere but it made for a great place to store our stuff for the night:)

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Day 31 ” The day the earth made us stand still ” Big Sheep Camp – Lima

He said:

Wonder what these cows are hiding?

Wonder what these cows are hidin

We hit the road early this morning after last night’s big storm. I was worried as our guide book had warned that the next 9 miles could be “sloggy” if wet and we must have gotten a couple of inches of rain that night. As we headed out the road was wet and a little muddy but I thought to myself, well this is not bad. I wondered what all the fuss was about. We rounded a turn and came upon a wall of cows. I had already begun a love hate relationship with cows on this trip. They are very, very messy animals, and not the sharpest creatures in nature’s shed. They refused to move and I pondered what they could be hiding?

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They were hiding a SHMUD highway!

Finally refusing to move, I shouted some obscenities and they parted. I causiouly proceeded in case they decided to stampede over me. Then I saw it, a mud highway that went for miles. Not just any mud, but mud mixed with cow poo! Denise calls it SHMUD!

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It was the nastiest, most sticky mud I have encountered. It stuck to everything it touched and completely gummed up our bikes to where they would no longer roll. It was so thick that we could not even push our bike through it. Finally we ended up carrying them.

I really have no way to describe the effort it took Denise and I to get through other than it took us 6 hours to go 9 miles up up and up mud mud and more mud. To top it all off, we had to climb up 1000 feet. It was so sticky that our shoes weighed at least 10 pounds and were the size of snowshoes. Finally we tried blazing a trail through the chapparell, well this worked for a little bit, until all the brush stuck to the mud, then we ended up with a nice adobe straw material. Nice for building a home, but not so hot for wheels and shoes.

Every time we had gone over the last hill there was another. I swear if there had been one more hill. I would have left everything and hiked to the nearest road and hitch hiked back to San Diego. How we pulled it off I have no idea. Denise is my hero, what a trooper!

Finally completely exhausted at the top, we did find a stream and spent an hour cleaning the bikes so they would work again. Now it was 3:30 we were spent and starving from all the extra work. We had no food and were 35 miles to town. We had let our food reserves get low, because today was supposed to be an “easy day” that ended up in a good town to resupply.
We carefully looked at the map and found that fortunately the next 30 miles were down hill, as we had climbed to 7700 feet. With no food we really did not have any options but to push on.

Downhill fun!

Downhill fun!

We pushed on and it was also some of the most spectacular riding yet. I raced a cloud shadow doing 25 mph down a prairie hill for about 3 miles. Then we entered a narrow box canyon just like the ones Indians used to ambush settlers in on the movies. Then we entered a canyon and followed right next to a raging stream going down hill. It was EPIC Mt biking. Thank goodness because we really needed the spiritual lift.

After the 30 miles of downhill we ended up by the highway. Bob, who had smartly left us the day before was supposed to be in Lima, our destination. Fortuneatly we had cell service so we were able to call and confirm there was food and a nice warm hotel bed to crash on. Even though these last 5 miles were flat, we limped into town, and once again, ate everything we saw. More than a few beers were also consumed as we told our tale to Bob, assuring him, he had dodged a real muddy nightmare.

Day  Totals – 45 Miles , 9 hours 15 minutes, 1200 ft climbing

Ride Totals – 970.5 miles, 115 hours 45 minutes, 58765 ft climbing

Day 10 Up and Over Pass #2 (Graves Creek to Polebridge) She said:

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Morning view from our tent.

This was one of those mornings where I got to unzip the tent door and look out on a beautiful scene. This time it was a pretty little stream about 20′ away, Hans had water boiling for coffee, and the sun was already out. Perfect.  Im glad I didn’t yet know how hard todays ride would be.

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5 mile downhill ride!

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Gathering drinking water along the trail.

We climbed the Whitefish Divide; 2 miles of climbing up a rutted road of loose gravel and very round, rolling rocks. I had to stop and push a few times but walking in bike shoes was no easier so I’d get back on and race along at about 3 mph.  I was absolutely exhausted by the time I finally got to stop pedaling. Hans on the other hand, scurried right up and was waiting for me on top. He made the mistake of scolding me for not drinking enough water (OK, he was right but I was not in any mood for his advice right then) so I chose to skip the photo opportunity and continue right over the top and head down. What a ride!!! We coasted along for about 5 miles without having to pedal. I went from being tired and frustrated to euphoric in just a few minutes.

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The entire “town” of Polebridge.

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Best bakery in the world.

Our day ended with a dusty ride  into a town 5 miles off our route but several people had told us Polebridge was a must-see.  I must say that when we finally got there I was dumbfounded to see that Polebridge is really nothing more than a general store, a rafting rental shop, and a restaurant. 10 extra miles for this??  We flopped our sweaty dusty selves down at the bar while we waited for a table (the place was packed) and watched some incredible looking food come out of the kitchen.  We enjoyed one of the best meals ever while listening to the locals chat about the condition of the river and the great raft trips they were doing. P1020390

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Hanging out at the Hostel. Hans contemplates tomorrows ride while there is still daylight.

Our guide book and maps only show icons for places to sleep, it does’t specify whether it’s a hotel or a hostel or a lodge or a dude ranch so we weren’t surprised to learn that there are no hotels here,  just one hostel a little ways down the road.  With an outhouse.  Without electricity. But they did have a hot shower and we were the only guests in the room with 8 beds so we felt lucky to have a warm place  to roll out our sleeping bags. P1020401

In the morning we went back to the restaurant but it was closed so we followed the crowd to the little general store and found the best bakery in the world inside. Huckleberry muffins, huckleberry scones, huckleberry pancakes, huckleberry coffee, I guess it’s huckleberry season.  They tell us this is an especially good year for the berries and that means the bears are fat and happy (and probably not looking for any human food supplements).

Day 9 “Back in USSA” Loon Lake to Grave Creek

He Said:

We woke up to quite a change in camp (see day 7),  with the new Russians arriving in the middle of night, several new tents had “popped up”. We now had a full-blown Russian tent city. It was very cold, as is usual in the morning, and as soon as we popped out of our tent shivering, the new Russians were excited to talk and hear our story. They were a very nice couple with four kids with a lot of questions and interest in our travels. We were anxious to roll as we would be leaving Canada and entering the US, so we had to cut the tales a little short and move on. The thing we were most excited about being back in the US was to get our cell service back. Being the frugal bikers we are, we did not roam while in Canada.

Most of today was on highway leading to the border. As we got close we could see the crossing with a line of cars about 15 deep. We were told we could cut the line and get to the front being on bikes, but I wanted to do my good will for cyclists so we waited in line with the rest of the vehicles. It didn’t take but about 20 minutes to get our turn. It was fun pulling up to the inspector on a bike. Sadly he had his typical, don’t like my job attitude, and didn’t appreciate any of my jokes about not having a passport and that I was from Guatemala seeking political asylum. Fortunately I suddenly “found” my passport before he could draw his gun.

Waiting our turn

Waiting our turn

It was very interesting being back in the US. As soon as we crossed the border, the amount of road traffic increased 10 fold, while the courtesy of the drivers decreased by 100%. Everyone was in a hurry and they seemed to not like cyclists sharing their road. Quite different from Canada. This was a theme that would continue through most of Montana. For some reason, Montana Rednecks do not like cyclists. Dont take me wrong, being a Redneck is in no way a negative thing. It is just an easy way for me to give a stereo typical discription of a life style and those that drive big pick ups.

However being back in the US did increase the availability of goods and services. We hit a hardware store within 5 miles of the border and I was able to buy and add an American Flag to the pole on the back of BOB (the name of my trailer, stands for Beast of Burden). I was hoping that it was the lone Canadian flag I had on BOB’s pole that making the Rednecks ornery towards us, but sadly adding the American flag did not increase their politeness towards us. Still I am proud to be an American and wanted to add it. It also works well for traffic visibility having the good old Red, White and Blue waving behind. When we ride on the road, I generally bring up the rear hoping that the flags will help traffic see us. Also I feel I am helping to protect Denise, if they are going to hit someone, I would rather it be me.

Today was a short day, only 35 miles, but we had a head wind most of the day. We were more out in the open country than in Canada so it drained us quick. Toward the end we were very tired. Then about two miles from camp, I saw a sign advertising a Brewery with wood fired pizza.

Brewery sign, it has to be a mirage!

Brewery sign, it has to be a mirage!

 

Denise asked if I saw it and I told her it had to be a mirage because there was no way there would be a brewery out here in the middle of no where, so we pedaled on. Turns out the camp was 3 miles off the route and we had to climb a big hill and then go down a steep hill dropping back down to Grave Creek. It was a very isolated camp right next to the creek. As we were setting up camp, a couple that was motorcycle camping stopped by and asked if we were going to the brewery for dinner. I told them we were too tired to ride the 4 miles back, but they kept raving about the pizza.

After setting up camp and staring at uncooked packets of freeze-dried food, we gave in and hiked back to the brewery. The walking actually felt good as we had our butts were vertical instead of horizontal. On the way we passed a field with about 25 White Tail Deer. We stopped and took photos and pushed on, motivated by beer. Turns out that H.A. Brewery was quite the happening place. I don’t know where all the people came from but they were coming and going, during our entire stay.

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Happening at H.A. Brewery

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Best pizza we have ever had, it was no mirage!

The pizza and the beer was amazing! Not only that we had internet access for the first time in about 3 days so we were able to catch up with family and friends. The pizza was so filling that not even two starving cyclist could finish it, so we had some to go. The walk back was much more enjoyable with a full stomach and a beer buzz. Saw more deer and the biggist dog I have ever seen. Thank goodness he was friendly.

We were camped in what I saw as prime bear country, down by the river, with berries. Sadly that night there was still a fair amount of wind. I heard every rustle which I was sure was a bear checking out our camp. Fortunaely this camp did have a metal bear box for us to stash all our food in. Still being the head of bear security on this trip, I took my duty seriously and did not sleep much keeping the can of bear spray very near by in the tent. Finally dawn revealed all was clear, even though it was a very, very cold morning.

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Camp at Grave Creek

Days Totals-  35 miles,   5 hours 20 Miuntes,  1919 ft climbing, 2497 ft descent

Ride Totals-    193.6 miles,  24 hrs 50 mins,  9387 ft climbing,  10,612 ft descent

Day 8 ” The Russians are coming” Fernie- Loon Lake

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Leaving Fernie, we didn’t want to go

Fernie to Loon Lake

She said:

We hated to leave Fernie but it turned out to be one of those rides you imagine while browsing through the bike tour catalog: a smooth winding road past a hidden lake, more pastures and happy cows, and an off the beaten path burger joint just when we needed it. The hills were small and the weather was perfect. Ahhhh, 2,000 miles of this?  No problem. Then comes that exhausted phase where the last few miles take forever and again, of course,  are uphill. We pedaled into another of those “primitive campgrounds” and got the last campsite available. We set up our tent, cleaned up in the lake, then rehydrated some noodles and were ready to call it a night by about 7:00.  We have learned that when you have only a tent and bikes in a large RV site it’s inevitable that someone is going to show up late and ask if they can share the space. We lucked out in that it was a Russian guy celebrating his birthday with his adorable 12 year old daughter who joined us and they kept us awake and laughing for  hours. We learned that Russians make up a large portion of the population of Calgary and this is their get away of choice because the lake here is warm.  After treating us to watermelon (and introducing us to cinnamon whisky?!) they brought us down to the lake to show us the turtles. We were happy enough to stand on the shore and see their little heads popping out of the water but the next thing we know,  the guy jumps off the swim platform and charges through the water as if being chased. We were a bit startled but suddenly he stops and holds up a flailing turtle! “They’re not all that fast” he says.

As we crawled into the tent our new friend mentioned that another couple and their 4 children (Natalia, Natasha, Sasha, and Nasasha I think it was) would be arriving a little later. It takes about one minute to fall asleep these days but when I woke up a couple of hours later it was to the sound of a parade passing by, or so it seemed. Kids giggling, dogs barking, car doors slamming, tents flapping in the wind, tent poles clanging……  Every campground has a camp host but this place had “Lorraine” and Lorraine doesn’t like anyone messing with her campground rules. She was OK with 1 car joining us but 2 was putting her over the edge.  I have a never heard anyone talk so loud or so fast while still whispering but she was giving a lecture about how it wasn’t fair for us, paying guests, to be disturbed. She didn’t seem to see the irony here.  Once they agreed to pay her again for each car she seemed content to go away and let everyone get to sleep.  Lorraine ain’t afraid of no big Russians!

Loon Lake Camp Ground

Loon Lake Campers

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The Russian gets a turtle

 

 

He said:

Today was a long day. It was a pretty ride with a lot of different types of scenery, including a very big down hill, then steep climb on a busy highway.

Short Ride on the Highway

Steeper than it looks

 

It also included a hitch hiker. I had a butterfly land on my riding glove that wanted a free ride. It hung out with me finally taking off about 3 miles down the road.

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All was pretty good until we had to climb the last two miles off the route up to our camp ground. We were out of water  and assumed the camp ground would have water. Well wrong. Fortunately the nice lady running the camp ground felt sorry for us and gave us enough water to cook our food.

 

Days Totals – 53 miles,  5 hrs 16 minutes, 1919 ft climbing, 2497 descent

Ride totals 7 days – 243.6 miles, 29 hours 21 mins,  12,127 ft climbing, 13,412 ft descent

Day 7 “On the 7th day they rested”

 

Fernie Town Hall

Fernie Town Hall

She Said:

Fernie is full of art galleries, sidewalk cafes, breweries, and coffee shops. (We tried them all!)  It’s where all the outdoorsy athletic couples with dogs go once they start having kids. We stumbled upon a free concert in the park and had a blast watching people dancing in the street with their toddlers, and dogs.

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Free concert at the Fernie Train Station

He Said:

Although today is a “rest day”, there is no rest for the weary. As Chief Mechanic on this adventure, I had to take advantage of a non riding day to get all the bike maintenance done. Denise’s rear tire had been giving us problems since about Day 3 and I was getting tired of pumping it up about every 4 hours. I could not figure out why I could not stop the leaking so we took it into one of the many great bike shops in Fernie. Turns out there was a bad bead on a brand new tire, so we got a new one installed. I took the time to wash the bikes and inspect them very closely for wear and tear. The local bike shop had a free bike wash, which was very handy for getting everything clean and checking everything over. So far, knock on carbon fiber, everything is holding up very well.

Free Bike Wash

Free Bike Wash

Of course there was some time for R and R and we stumbled on a great free concert, excellent local beer, and of course, our main stay junk food, A & W root beer floats! Fernie, at least in the summer, is a very bicycle oriented town. I really like it and it has been the hit town of the trip so far. I could see myself living here, at least till the first snow flake fell.