Todays blog is dedicated to Beki Hemmingway whose treatment has just finished. She wrote a song that spoke to me... the title of which is todays blog title. LHS Beki!
Tearing myself away from that little cabin was difficult this morning. Still so very grateful to Barbara and John for their hospitality.
This morning saw the worst weather I have had yet.... there was a cloud in the sky... maybe even 2. I had a goal of Helena in mind today. Only 40 miles... the road to it lay over 2 passes and it was going to be no picnic.
As I left I passed a field of cows... cattle I'd guess you'd call them here. These ones are black and have black udders so that in winter they are less susceptible to burning from the sun bouncing off the snow. Wierd Fact of the day! The cloud in the sky provided very occasional relief from the sun but even this early in the day it was warm.
I knew today was going to be a tough one despite the short mileage. 2 passes to go up and over... both over 6000ft. And early on it was obvious that the LLFF score would be 6-8 today. Still it was only 40 ish miles and I had all day.
The initial part of the climb up to the 1st pass was of a reasonable gradient but it was quite technical and so I found it hard going. Once again the scenery tried to distract... with fields of drying green grass next to groves of pine trees. The hills in the background once again framed the scene into picture postcard beauty.
Whenever I stopped (frequently) there was no sounds beyond a babbling brook .. the birds singing and the occasional rustle as one of the small creatures darts in or out of the verges. It was just perfect. I know that despite all the pain.. the aches... the tiredness and the fear endured in this journey... that I will miss that silence.
The trail suddenly got pretty steep and I was reduced to walking. It was really hot by now and I was getting through the water at a rate of knotz. Water was really easy to find in Canada... with gushing streams everywhere. Here in Montana... everythings seems drier and fast running water difficult to find. Which given that the temperature has been regularly well above 35°C has caused a bit of worry every now and again.
During this part I was passing the remenants of old mines.. much of the building still apparent... the mines had yielded some pretty good gold and iron ore. Now derelict they stand as a reminder of the history around this place
It was slow hot progress. Whenever I stopped...looking at the view... I would talk to myself to get going again. Tell myself that I wouldnt reach the top of the pass if I stood there. Frustrating ... yup.. but I tried to practice a zen like approach... I will reach the top when there is no more mountain to climb!! It might have worked if it wasn't for the flies and mosquitos ordering their brunch at the sweat bar!
Bits of the climb were ok and I cycled those bits and walked the more technical parts. In this way I made my way up to the top of the pass.
As I climbed up... looking at the GPS I noticed one of the mountains was called Bald Butte. It made me chuckle whenever I looked at it😁
And as a juxtaposition...
The pine groves of Helena forest were filled to the brim with wildflowers. I got to one such grove which had a sea of yellow beneath the pine branches... the rays of sun making the flowers glow golden. I stopped and waited...
I can hear you in the breeze wafting through the trees
I can see your smile in the golden flowers
I can feel you with me as your shadow casts over me
It is you that keeps me strong despite the tears that fall.
The ups and downs emotionally on a ride like this are very much like those in life... though often squashed into a shorter time frame. You have to roll with them and you will get to the place you were supposed to be going... even if it was not where you planned to be. One minute everything hurts... you can barely turn the pedals... and then you see a particularly arresting sight or you get an awesome downhill bit and life is suddenly a bit better. It is because of this that I enjoy the rides. The good parts of life are magnified against the despair and the hurt.
Eventually... after what seemed like forever... I got to the top of pass number 1 and sat down to eat some sugar. Shortly after I did... up rolled another TD rider... Peter... who was smashing the ride having started 5 days ago. We had a chat... as you do.. about the route and in particular the re-route which seems to have already entered into legend! Someone needs to design an "I survived the re-route" T shirt!
Peter steamed off down the road and I followed... somewhat slower.
Just after this something felt wrong..
My back wheel was skidding slightly and I stopped to check it. It was slightly soft so I pumped it up more. A few hundred yards and yup something definately wasn't right. I stopped and looked. Now I am fairly new to tubeless set ups and field repair. I couldn't see any obvious sealant leakage and there wasnt a slash on the tyre. I wondered if the beading had got unseated but I think that would have resulted in a more dramatic deflating. So I went for the 'more sealant' option... only I deflated the tyre too much in the process... leaving me unable to pump it up with a normal pump and I hadn't bought my CO2 cartridges with me due to plane restrictions. So I had no choice but to get on with the messy process of cleaning out the sealant from the tyre and putting in a tube. This was accomplished easily enough even with the attentions of a slightly lost and menacing ?cow and I was soon ready to go. I had to be very careful though as I had only got the one tube so could't afford another puncture.
Shortly after I had repaired my tyre another cyclist came up behind and introduced himself as Brook. Out cycling a part of the divide he was taking it easy. I let him go ahead of me as I wanted to roll along and be careful of the back tyre. Rolling gently downhill I then turned to climb the second pass... hit the wrong gears... got it all wrong.. almost fell off
.. caught my ipod wire ripping my ipod off my belt loop and onto the ground. Today was going well wasn't it!!
It got better ...
I was riding up Priest Pass and came across a herd of cattle standing in the road. I'm not a big fan of cows... especially in groups. They are big animals and could hurt quite a bit. Plus they always look mean. So what do I do... well I keep riding... trying to shoo them out of the way. A few comply but the others simply move further up the road... where I want to go!
Herding the cattle up the road... grinning to myself. I just needed the hat!
Eventually we came to a cattle grid and I wasn't sure what would happen but kept riding and one ran to the side and back down the road behind me. This sparked off the herd mentality and the herd charged away leaving me rolling over the cattle grid with relief.
The pass was crested shortly after and I screeched and shuddered my way down the hill all the way to the main road into Helena. It was with some relief that I got to the road as my brakes almost certainly need replacing.
The search for a motel found me talking to an ex neuro ward sister from ohio who has done a lot of cycling. We had a bit of a chat about the ride before I went to cram in carbs and protein and a lovely vanilla milkshake.
Part 2 coming soon
Fighting Fighting Fighting the same battle
Over and Over and Over again
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