Ride The Divide 4
Ride the Divide - Chapter Four
Miles – 61 Total Chapter Miles – 61 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles – 1,627
TFTD: here we go again!
After a super-early departure to the airport yesterday (waking-up at 3:00AM and departing for the airport a little before 4:00AM) we made it to the Sacramento airport, boarded our flight, flew to Salt Lake City, and then to Jackson, WY. And, after staying overnight in the same Super 8 motel we stayed in at the end of Chapter 3, the pedaling adventure has restarted.
We got up at 6:00, had some very light breakfast at the Super 8, then started Day 1 – Colter Bay, WY to Yellowstone Lake Hotel. Bart, from Fitzgerald’s Bike Shop, arrived a little before 7:00, in a cool van, with our tandem bike inside, which the bike shop had stored for us since September. He drove us, the bike, and all our gear back to Colter Bay, on Jackson Lake, where we ended Chapter 3. As he drove us, there was rain, rain, rain, but when we arrived there was sun and clouds with great views of the Tetons, snowcapped and basking in the sunshine with big white clouds floating by their peaks.
After getting everything setup, and Bart pumping up the tires as a final touch-up, we started today’s pedal. It was glorious weather, beautiful sun, clouds, with still lots snow on the Tetons. And, a terrific view across Jackson Lake. After about 10 miles, we started our first climb of the day, about 500 feet of elevation gain, then back down… gain elevation, then give it right back!
We followed the Lewis River – with lots and lots of water due to melting snow – then we saw some lightning, heard thunder, got caught in a classic Wyoming thunderstorm, and got totally soaked from the waist down! So not a great start with about 50 miles to go. We did wonder what we were doing, again, but kept pedaling, and eventually the rain stopped. Just before the rain ended we reached the Flagg Ranch mini-mart, and took a break.
Then we started our 1,500-foot climb up to the Continental Divide – yes, again! When we reached the top, we took a picture, and got to coast downhill into Grant Village on the shore of Lake Yellowstone, where we stopped for lunch. Everyone was masked-up, staying 6 feet apart, and using hand sanitizer. While we were dining outside, we got to meet a family of 5 that were from Kissimmee, Florida. They were pedaling their bikes from the campground nearby. They’ve done several 6,000+ miles trips in their RV. The husband asked us several questions about our rig as his wife grew visibly more concerned…clearly, she’s not a fan of tandem-biking…
Back on our bike, we cruised down to the West Thumb Geyser Basin, and got to see three Elk, with large antlers still in felt. Then, we took a right to head to the Lake Hotel – pedaling along the side of the like for about 20 miles, with the Absaroka Range across the lake, pretty good pedal. During that 20 mile stretch we saw and heard another thunderstorm approach and just as it really started to rain we pulled into the tiny overhang of a picnic-area outhouse. We waited for about 15 minutes and then followed a blue patch of sky towards the hotel. Ultimately, we arrived, and were able to check-in to our cabin. None of the Lake Hotel rooms are open due to Covid-19, and the Sun Room – where we usually get to listen to the Yellowstone String Quartet – was totally empty of everything, and all of the dining areas were closed, too. Luckily for us, we had booked a cabin on the hotel grounds and the cabins are still open for business. Phew!
We walked to the Lake Lodge, about a quarter mile away, to get some dinner, take-out only. And, on our way there, and back, we saw bison in the field. We’ll try to be back at Lake Lodge by 6:30 tomorrow morning for take-out breakfast to eat outside, then pedal Day 2 to Old Faithful, the Geyser Basin, and onto West Yellowstone, MT!
RTD – Ch. 4 – Day 2 (6/22/20)
Miles – 68 Total Chapter Miles – 129 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles – 1,695
TFTD: What a difference a day makes!
After a comfy night in our cabin at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, we woke-up early, had some breakfast, and started our ride in foggy, and really cold, weather. As we climbed up from the lake after about 2 hours of pedaling, the fog started to disappear, no wind, the sky turned blue, with just a few fluffy clouds, and there was MUCH rejoicing! We had agreed to start the day by pedaling back 20 miles to West Thumb, hanging a right, and going by Old Faithful, about 10 miles longer than going the other way around the Park. But we didn’t pedal from Mexico to not see Old Faithful. By the time we arrived, Old Faithful had just “erupted”, so we went inside to get some snacks – yogurt, a ham and cheese bagel, mini sautéed chicken (complete with Teriyaki dipping sauce!), and a quart of cranberry-Tropicana. A nice couple said we could share their picnic table with them on opposite ends of course, and learned they were from Phoenix on their way to Washington State. The General Store/Gift shop was a mob scene as it was the only mini-mart within 20 miles plus the huge crowds made for an interesting time trying to get some food (pretty bare shelves) and a very crowded store even though they had a person at the entrance to monitor folks coming in. Not a lot of social distancing going on in the Old Faithful General Store so we got out of there as quick as we could with our packaged “food”.
After we finished dining, we got to see the next “eruption” as we pedaled towards other areas in the basin. We took a route that was off-road, on gravel, and got to see some beautiful views of rocks and pools of interesting colors created by the thermal features. At the end of the gravel road, we were back on the main road, and pedaled along the Fire Hole River for about 8 miles. A Pandemic silver lining of our time in the Park is that there are no giant tour buses roaming the roads. Though there are still plenty of cars, SUVs with trailers, and plenty of RVS, but they were all very kind and we always had plenty of room, a nice surprise.
We then crossed the Gibbon River and hung a left to follow the Madison River for another 14 miles to the Park exit. We’ll follow the Madison tomorrow for about 70 miles all the way to Ennis, MT. The rivers were beautiful, full, and had plenty of anglers in them. After lots of climbing (crossing the Great Divide three times!), coasting downhill, and waiving at nice drivers, we arrived in West Yellowstone, Montana! It felt surreal to think we’d pedaled to Montana. Montana!
We checked-in to our “home”, took a little walk to a restaurant, Bullwinkle’s, for dinner (trout for Andy, Mushroom Ragu for Kim), which was the first non-packaged food we’d had in two days. Then stopped by the mini-mart on our way back so we could have packaged food for tomorrow’s adventure. Don’t want to shock our bodies with too much fresh food.
RTD – Ch. 4 – Day 3 (6/23/20)
Miles – 72 Total Chapter Miles – 201 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles – 1,768
TFTD: The “wind-gods” smiled upon us.
We got an early start to try to beat the notorious Madison Valley wind, but first we had to pick up our Covid-19 breakfast bags at the front desk at the motel where we overnighted. They consisted of a tiny carton of milk, a small “bowl” of Raisin Bran, an orange, and a couple of tiny quiches (which we heated in the microwave, and left behind). We did drink the protein smoothies that we bought at the gas station last night. Packaged food is really not so bad.
Then, we loaded up the bike, after we got it back up the stairs and outside the motel, and started pedaling. It was a beautiful, sunny day. We crossed the Madison River, again. Then after about 10 miles we came to Hebgen Lake, which was a huge, sheet of “glass” (read as “no wind”. Hooray!) that reflected the nearby snow-capped mountains. We followed the lake for about 11 miles – it’s huge.
After Hebgen, we arrived at Earthquake Lake (aka Quake Lake) which was created by an earthquake on August 17, 1959, that moved lots of earth and rocks (880 million tons of rocks per the park ranger we talked with), and created a “dam” that filled the lake about 9 feet per day. People were concerned that the rocks might give way and flood the Madison Valley, so the Army Corps of Engineers created a spillway to lower the level of the lake. There are still lots of flooded trees “standing” in the water. Amazing!
After Quake Lake, we were out of the mountains, and into the bottom of the valley, with lots of snowy peaks surrounding it. Fortunately, there was hardly any wind, friendly drivers, and a paved shoulder for us to ride on. We made good time on the relatively flat (just a few steep climbs) and desolate valley floor.
We were able to take a break at a spiffy Montana rest-stop, complete with clean restrooms and shaded picnic tables. We took a nice (aka long) break, took our bike-shoes off to air out our socks, and then put our shoes back on, and started pedaling. This route was devoid of mini-marts, but there was supposed to be one in the tiny town of Cameron, about 20 miles away. We thought we’d be able to get lunch there, but, when we arrived, it was closed… until between 4pm and 9pm. There was a nice bench in the shade on the porch, so we took another sit-down break. Yippee!
Then we started pedaling again, the wind taunted us a bit with a gust here and there but we survived the next 11 miles arriving in Ennis, MT. Kim asked a couple if they recommended a place to eat and they said that Circle G restaurant, was really good. And, it was pretty tasty – shepherds pie for Andy and veggie sandwich for Kim. Then we pedaled to our home for tonight, the Sportsman’s Lodge, and checked into our cabin, which was tiny, but nice. Another piece of trivia is that the Sportman’s is across the street from the Madison Valley Medical Clinic where Alex did an internship while in Med School. Small world.
Special treat for today was having dinner with John Kudrna who is on the long and distinguished list of Andy’s college roommates. John has just moved to Bozeman, and made the journey over to see what cross country cyclists, and their rig, look like. Great to catch up with John and how strange to see him, after 40-ish years, in Ennis, MT of all places.
All in all we were blessed with negligible wind, courteous drivers, and great scenery. And, another 72 miles accomplished!
RTD – Ch. 4 – Day 4 (6/24/20)
Miles – 43 Total Chapter Miles – 244 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles – 1,811
TFTD: Antelope really do play!
Great start to our morning, as we gorged on the coffee-cake John brought us last night from the Bozeman Co-op! We got on the road at about 7:30, and right away got into the “teeth” of today’s 2,000-foot climb in 7 miles. Early on in the climb, we followed (very slowly) behind a seemingly confused Antelope that looked like he wanted to hop the fence along the side of the road, and join his two friends on the other side, that were up on a nearby hill. He kept stopping, looking at the fence, and we tried to coach him over it: “You’re over-thinking it, just jump – you were built for this – trust your preparation, and just jump”.
When we caught-up to him, he’d jog up the ATV trail near the fence for about 50 yards, stop and stare are the fence, and we’d coach him some more. This went on for 15 – 20 minutes. Then, he finally got tired of us and darted across the road with remarkable speed. He wasn’t a very good jumper, but his acceleration, and speed, were jaw dropping! Fun to watch these gorgeous and athletic animals. So, we actually got to see Antelopes play! We felt very patriotic. When we looked up the speed, it turns out that only a Cheetah is faster than a Pronghorn Antelope – an Antelope can do 61 mph, and sustain it longer than a Cheetah. Very impressive!
After about 2.5 hours (most of it spent debating whether to rent a convertible or a minivan when we drive these crazy rides) of climbing, we zipped down the other side at about 40 mph, to a cool little mining town called Virginia City. Plus, there is an ice cream factory / store right on Main St. Life is good, and better with ice cream. After a delicious root beer float, with coffee ice cream, we headed a couple of miles down the road, and pedaled through Nevada City (!), an old mining town that is now a sanctuary for old Montana buildings – a cool collection of log cabins and old log stores, too.
We cruised the next, mostly downhill, 15 miles between huge piles of mine waste rocks, to Sheridan, which was to be our lunch spot for the day. It’s always tough to pick a lunch spot in a pedal-town. Do you pick the first one you see? Or, do you hold out for something else, which may not materialize? This time, we passed the first one, and were rewarded with Bread Zeppelin (gotta love people), a deli/café with as you guessed, a rock n roll theme. There were construction workers eating at the tables outside, so we knew it must be good. We had a delightful sidewalk lunch under an umbrella, in the 87 degree, but dry, heat. Pretty good for non-packaged food.
After lunch, it was a comfortable, big-ring cruise to Twin Bridges and the King Motel. We cleaned-up, did some laundry, and headed to The Wagon Wheel for dinner. While dining, there was a sudden monster wind / dust-storm. The day turned to night, half the lights went out in the restaurant, and the trees outside looked like they were going to snap. Given the chaos outside, we decided to stay a while longer for some huckleberry ice cream.
When the wind slowed down, we scurried across the street to get some delicious packaged food for tomorrow’s breakfast and made it back to King Motel without getting drenched. Success!!
RTD – Ch. 4 – Day 5 (6/25/20)
Miles – 22 Total Chapter Miles – 266 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles – 1,833
TFTD: Playing in the dirt…for a day
We started off with, perhaps, our best breakfast ever: coconut yogurt with almonds, a banana, and some OJ. Just right for a "shortish" day of 22 miles up-and-over the hills between Twin Bridges and Melrose on a gravel road. It was good to be out in the boonies again, with no traffic and no sounds. Whenever we stopped for a break, it was only silence, fluffy clouds in blue sky, some sage – oh, and rocks! Today's ride was over a giant rock pile of sand, and pea to basketball size rocks.
The air was totally still, and it was, actually, a little clammy for us as he had on our arm and leg warmers. We climbed about 1,500 feet in 10 miles, and then we had a fairly fast descent to the other side to Melrose. We were glad to have the full-suspension for this part of the trip, as the rocks and bumps were no problem for the bike.
The entire length of the dirt road was open-range, and we had a few times when we surprised some free-range cattle, and other times when they surprised us, as they emerged from the sage. At one point we road through a herd of about 200 that had partially blocked-off the road. Luckily, no serious encounters with any of them. So, we give a thumbs-up to Montana Cows, since they’re cyclist friendly!
We arrived in Melrose, MT around noon, and rode past the first bar/restaurant to the other bar/restaurant, The Hitchin Post, "A place to rest your weary ass" (see photo) How did they know? We figured that was our place, and had a great lunch there. The side-salad was especially good, and enough for a "normal" lunch, but this was a bike trip lunch, so we had a bunch of other stuff, too. Our server had just moved to Melrose from Quincy, CA. Small world!
Tomorrow, we’ll pedal to Wisdom, where a friend tells us the most nutritious alfalfa in the US comes from.
RTD – Ch. 4 – Day 6 (6/26/20)
Miles – 61 Total Chapter Miles – 328 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles – 1,894
TFTD: Wildflower fever
Well, today we made the effort to get to Wisdom. Wisdom, MT that is. We followed the Big Hole River nearly to its’ headwaters. We got an early start, at 7AM, as this was to be a long day of 62 miles with a net elevation gain of about 1,000 feet – after climbing over 2,100.
We left Melrose on Old Highway 91, which followed I-15 for 10 miles, with a couple of 500-foot climbs. We reached Highway 43 at Divide, MT, and took a left (west) to continue along the Big Hole River. The road was narrow, but smooth with a slight uphill for the first 5 miles as we made our way up the canyon of rocky cliffs and forested hillsides. It was good to be back in the woods, after the arid dirt road we were on yesterday.
After 25 miles, we came to the wide section of the road that’s named Wise River. This was to be our only mini-mart until we reached Wisdom, so we loaded-up on water, bars, cashews, and… Pop-Tarts (?)… This was a good day.
Shortly after Wise River, the canyon gave way, and we were in the wide and flat Big Hole River Valley. Unfortunately, “wide and flat” also means WIND. Ugh… the next 40 miles were not only a slight uphill, but we also had to deal with a 5-10 mph headwind.
Still, it was a gorgeous ride up the Big Hole. The wildflowers were beautifully in bloom, and it seemed that every time we made a turn (four after Wise River) there was another distant, snow-capped mountain range. Truly big sky, and, of course, there was the river, which as we got closer to the headwaters, it started to look like the Everglades. There was water and grass everywhere! It seemed like there were 8 or 9 little rivers, going every which way, on both sides of the road.
Today we were passed by several SUVs pulling a small trailer with either a small boat or raft on it. We were pedaling along and heard a strange noise coming up behind us. Suddenly, a trailer zoomed by us, at about 65 mph, pulling a trailer that had no right tire. It was just riding on the rim. About a mile later. We rolled by a totally shredded half tire. When we arrived in Wisdom 7 miles later, we saw the guy still pulling the raft on the rim. That must be the way they do it in Montana.
We cross The Divide, for the last time, tomorrow, and on to Hamilton, MT.
RTD – Ch. 4 – Day 7 (6/27/20)
Miles – 75 Total Chapter Miles – 403 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles – 1,969
TFTD: Montana morning… beautiful sky and clear water
We started the day with a “dine-in” breakfast of yogurt, granola, and OJ – the perfect bike-trip breakfast. It’s quick, easy, and good fuel for the first part of the day. Again, we got an early start, as this was to be our longest day of the trip – 75 miles – with our last climb over The Continental Divide at Chief Joseph Pass at 7,241 feet!
It was a gorgeous morning (read: “no wind!) in Wisdom, and we took off across the flats, west towards Chief Joseph Pass and saw many cattle, and hay fields with those crazy Montana hay-drying contraptions.
When we started up the hill, we saw a cyclist in the distance. Eventually, we caught-up to Larry, who was on a gravel bike with a BOB trailer. He looked like he had just come out of the garden, so we knew he was the “real deal”. He lives in Dillon, MT, and just built a cyclist campground, complete with showers. He stayed at the cyclist campground in Wisdom, and we, sheepishly, told him we had stayed in the Wisdom motel. Larry was just out for a 400 mile loop because that’s what he does.
When we got to the Nez Perce “Battlefield”, Larry said, “I’ll see you down the trail”, and took a stop at the memorial where the Nez Perce tribe was slaughtered. A sobering reminder as we pedaled by counting our blessings.
We continued the gentle, middle-ring, climb, enjoying the super-clear “liquid glass” – aka creek water – along the Trail Creek and its many tributaries. There seems to be a lot of water in these parts, which, we’re guessing, is why there are SO MANY mosquitos biting us over the last few days.
The bliss of the middle-ring climb soon gave way to the little front ring and 1st gear in the back. The last 3 miles were a bit of a grind, but we knew once we reached the Pass, the rest of the ride would be downhill. So, it was a bitter-sweet (mostly sweet!) moment when we crested The Continental Divide, for the last time on this trip! At this point we actually crossed into Idaho for one mile, so we can, officially, add Idaho to our list of cycle states!
And, now the descent! We don’t think we pedaled for about 10 miles, as we watched the granite peaks and lodgepole forests zoom by. We coasted to a stop at the Sula Café, for breakfast II. Delicious western omelet, French toast, mocha, and hot coffee. Andy has gone “full ride” mode when he confessed that not only did he think he could pour the pancake syrup straight into his mouth, but that it was, actually, a “good idea”. Luckily, clearer heads prevailed, and no syrup abuse occurred.
From there, we followed the Bitterroot River down to a cute little town called Darby. We stopped outside a saloon, grabbed some chairs, and snacked on trail mix, and “diluted” Gatorade – since the straight stuff is way too sweet. Darby was a happening little town with every other store-front a bar – so it appeared. A Covid moment of today was when two people who, it seemed, hadn’t seen each other in a while, hugged on the sidewalk. So bizarre that seeing two people hug is now “note-worthy”…
When we were finished checking social distancing faux pas in Darby, we headed back on the road for the final 20 miles, and then… evil headwind began… just enough to remind us that Mother Nature is still in charge. We dealt with that for at least 5 miles, took a slight turn to the left with the Bitterroot River, and had a flat, 5-mile, straight away. After a bit, we noticed we were really moving, with only soft pedaling. Hooray, Mother Nature!! Hooray tailwind – our first in 5 days!
One of the issues we deal with (a lot) on the road, is where, in relation to the white line/”fog line” shall we ride the bike. Andy likes to ride on, or near, the “fog line” because he doesn’t like to ride over “all the junk and 6th grade science projects” on the shoulder. Kim likes to ride far to the right of the “fog line” so we don’t get squished by a distracted driver. Well, imagine our delight, when about 10 miles from our motel, the Bitterroot Bicycle Trail appeared – a fine section of 8-foot wide, smooth asphalt, that paralleled, a getting-busier, Highway 93. A great way to end today’s pedal, harmoniously!
We checked into our motel, showered, and ventured out into the wilds of Hamilton to forage for sugar-water. Our quest took us to McDonalds, and perhaps the surliest cashier we’ve ever encountered on any trip. It was comical… nearly every question was answered, with a quick, sharp, half-shouted “No!”. We dubbed him the “McNazi”. Another Covid moment: no dining in the McDonalds so we took our sugar-water, smoothies (sugar-water blended with ice!), and little bag of junk food back to the motel. So Bizarre to not be able to eat in a McDonalds, plus we wanted to watch the McNazi deal with other customers. Maybe it was just us?
On to Missoula tomorrow via the Bitterroot Bike Path for 45 miles! There is (will be) MUCH rejoicing!
RTD – Ch. 4 – Day 8 (6/28/20)
Miles – 48 Total Chapter Miles – 451 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles – 2,017
TFTD: All day bike path… yippee!!
Another early start this morning to try and avoid the afternoon wind and thundershowers. We had the usual, in-room, road breakfast of yogurt, granola, and OJ. Then we headed out on the bike-path to Missoula. This 60-mile bike path, The Bitterroot Bike Trail, is one of the finest we have travelled on – smooth, wide, and very few frost-heave gaps. Also, we encountered very few walkers and cyclists. Over about four hours, we saw about 8 cyclists, 1 jogger, and 4 dog-walkers. Our “private” road!
We saw three recumbent bikes today, and wondered if there’s a tandem version. The recumbents look very comfy, and since this is our 8th straight day of pedaling, the recumbent looked good, for a change of position, if nothing else. Further on down the road, we stopped at a “Town Pump” store/gas station. These places have everything one would need. There was even one attached to our motel last night.
About 20 miles into the ride Kim ventured into giant mini-mart, The Town Pump, for some sugar water and empty calories, and returned with a Henry Weinhard’s root beer, which was enough to get to Lolo, the last little town before Missoula. When we reached Lolo we treated ourselves to a stop at McDonald’s for hot chocolate and a biscuit. Normally this would be a great stop with clean tables, seats, and restrooms, but these are not normal times. Once again, like in West Yellowstone, we enjoyed our treats on the sidewalk in front of the store. It is a different time.
The last 4 miles of the ride, we had to leave the bike path, and use the bike lane on a busy 4-lane road. Back to reality, yet it sure was a treat spending nearly a whole day without any traffic. We arrived at the hotel well before check-in, but were able to leave the panniers in their office and ride the bike about ¼ a mile to a restaurant, Stone of Accord, for a sit-down lunch with all the comfort of home: vegetarian options, fresh produce, and draft beer. Despite the increased traffic, the larger towns do have some pluses…
The weather forecast calls for rain pretty much all day tomorrow, so we’re planning to shelter-in-place, catch-up, and rest-up tomorrow, then hit the road again on Tuesday.
RTD – Ch. 4 – Day 9 (6/29/20)
Miles – 0 Total Chapter Miles – 451 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles – 2,017
TFTD: Shelter in place
Well, Day 9 was a rainy day, so we gave ourselves a “rest day” in Missoula, caught-up on some work and reading, dined at the same restaurant for lunch and dinner (The Stone of Accord) where we had dinner last night. And, we’ve “promised” that we’ll pedal tomorrow – rain or shine. Yep, really!
RTD – Ch. 4 – Day 10 (6/30/20)
Miles – 66 Total Chapter Miles – 517 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles – 2,083
TFTD: Rain, rain… didn’t go away!
As we promised to each other, we awoke early this morning, got our breakfast bags at the front desk, packed-up the bike and were on the road before 7:00. We were hoping for no rain, but it was not to be. So, we ventured out in a light rain and 50 degrees for our 66-mile pedal to Polson, MT.
The first 7 miles were pretty good, as we cruised in the big ring on a road with a nice bike lane, little traffic, and parallel to I-90, which was to be our last interstate crossing. There’s something about crossing coast-to-coast interstates (I-90 goes from Seattle to Boston) and major rivers, that is a special feeling on these trips. Whether it’s a significant milestone or just the thought of the history, and what’s on the other end, it’s always a moment where we stop and pause….count our blessings, and get on our way to the hotel – aka hot shower…
At the 7-mile mark we were not completely soaked, as our rain-gear did its job, including the plastic bags Andy used as foot covers. Upon rejoining Highway 93, we were greeted with the usual smattering of RVs, trailers, and semis. Not great on a rainy day, as all the road mist, from the tires, is probably worse than the rain. We climbed about 800 feet into the woods, and the rain became heavier. As the road flattened out, we stopped under a casino porte-cochere, and wondered if we could valet park the bike and get a room.
Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately), they were not opened yet, so we went back into the rain, and pedaled on. Another 4 or 5 miles of rain on flat road, and the we started another long, and fast, downhill. Great! Except that, after about 5 miles at 18 mph, we were thoroughly soaked. Luckily, there was a huge gas station / mini-mart about 3 miles ahead, that turned out to have hot chocolate, yogurt, and apple pie. We refueled, and dried-out a bit, and met a couple from El Dorado Hills that were on a motorcycle. We chatted with them for a while. They were headed to Salmon, Idaho, knowing all the while that they were only slightly smarter than us, as they put on their wet helmets and back into the rain on their motor cycle.
Now, we had tackled the two big climbs of the day, and only had to deal with 26 more rainy miles, RVs, semis, etc. However, the cashier at the mini-mart told us there was a paved bike path the last 12 miles to the hotel. Yay!! About 6 miles into our last push to the hotel, we stopped at another casino over-hang to get out the rain for a bit. It was here that we met Ken and Randy, two x-cross-country cyclists from Columbia, MO and Kansas City, MO. They had been pedaling on a section of the Louis & Clark bike trail, but had an off-day and were cruising around in their minivan. They saw our rig, turned their car around, and spent 15 minutes telling us about some of their bike adventures: Key West to Alaska, Yellowstone… and Gore-tex socks…. Oh, my!
We bid adieu to Ken and Randy, and headed to the next town, Romany, home of the Dairy Queen, and the promised bike path. We found the DQ, had a Blizzard (SO good!), and pestered our fellow-customers about where the bike path was. It was supposed to start “right after DQ”, but it turned out we had another mile to go before we could relax and just pedal without having to worry about traffic or getting covered in road-mist every 47 seconds.
We located the bike path at “Lake Corner” even thought there was nothing telling anyone they were actually at “Lake Corner”. It was just a big, sweeping, right hand turn on the highway, and it felt like “Lake Corner”, so we crossed the busy highway, and there appeared our “magic carpet” for the next 10 miles. About 5 miles into the path, there was a really cool pedestrian bridge. We admired it, cruised underneath it, and suddenly lost the bike path. Ahhhh… it was a pedestrian bridge AND bike bridge, so we back-tracked a little, navigated the corkscrew on-ramp and off-ramp of the bridge.
All the while, on the bike path, we had a gentle, 5 mph tailwind that was such a pleasant treat to help us finish-up this difficult, cold, and wet day. Before we knew it, we saw our hotel, checked-in, and jumped into well-earned hot showers. Luckily, the hotel had laundry facilities, so we were able to wash and DRY all out kit, so it’s ready to go tomorrow – 50 flat miles to Kalispell. The last stop for this Chapter1
RTD – Ch. 4 – Day 11 (7/1/20)
Miles – 49 Total Chapter Miles – 566 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles – 2,132
TFTD: Hello Kalispell!
No rain! Now, we just had to get to the other end of Flathead Lake, and then 6 or 7 miles to Kalispell. Flathead is a BIG lake – 83 miles all the way around. Luckily, we were only doing about half of that. We started at the very south end of the lake, and took Highway 35, at first, due East for 5 miles. Then it turned North to follow the Eastern shore of the lake. It was a beautiful ride on a 2-lane, conifer-lined, road with great views of the lake, and the sunshine on the Western shore. Our side of the lake was still cloudy and in the mid-50s, but we did have a little blessed tailwind.
About a third of the way up the shore, the conifers gave way to the famous Flathead Lake cherry orchards! Woohoo!! However, on closer inspection, the cherries were tiny and green on the trees. Bummer! It looks like we were a month, or so, too early. The orchards were still a pleasant sight – so green and manicured.
Just about when we accepted that there would be no fresh cherries on this trip, we made a stop at Wood’s Bay and Papa’s Deli, to drown our sorrow, and warm-up with some hot chocolate. Just as we parked the bike against a giant chainsaw-art bear under the overhang, it started to rain. We collected some hot chocolate and a packaged apple pie, which was quite tasty, and went back out to the half-size picnic tables next to the chainsaw bear. Great place to watch the passing rain showers!
Back on the road, and up to the Big Fork, where we hung a left turn (West), crossed the Flathead river, and cruised across the north end of the lake. This was a particularly windy, noisy, and “trafficy” part of the ride. We did enjoy the views of alfalfa fields and the golden-yellow rapeseed fields.
The cycling-gods smiled on us once more, when we reached our next turn that would take us to Kalispell – a bike path! No traffic, no junk/trash, AND a tailwind. What a great way to spend the last 7 miles of Chapter 4! We checked into our motel, dropped the panniers, and road the (much lighter) tandem to Wheaton’s Cycles in downtown Kalispell. The bike looks to be in good hands until we start Chapter 5 in August.
And, that’s the end of Chapter 4… but there will be more…