Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Day 11 - Columbus MT to Powell Wyoming

Ride Stats:
Distance: 109.7 Miles
Climbing: 5,249ft
Ride Time:  7:01
Temp:  59-91

Another great ride.  We had a fair amount of climbing, but had some help from a tale wind at times.  We also had some great winding descents.  My max speed hit 48.  While the air temperature was no higher than 91, the blazing sun with heat radiating off the road felt intense.  My Garmin bicycle computer read 115 at one point.  At the lunch stop I started over heating.  Was a little better with the air flowing on the road.  At the last sag stop I poured some ice water over my head and back, and soaked my head-sweats helmet liner with ice water as well.  That helped immensely.

My group tried to keep the pace relatively easy all day given that the big climb in the Little Big Horn mountains is tomorrow.

The landscape changed from mountains and wide open valleys to mostly hills and lot's of farm land.  As we neared Powel it became very dry and looked much like Arizona.

As we road through south eastern Montana and into Wyoming, the drivers became much more courteous.  It was surprising to all of us how aggressive motorists have been with passing us with oncoming cars and leaving little room with our pace line.  Drivers are now generally waiting to pass until it is safe and giving us much more room.  This was a pleasant change.

The roads over the last couple of days have really chewed up a lot of tires among all the riders.  There has been glass and other debris on the shoulders we have had to ride on at times.  I had to change my rear tire this afternoon after completing todays ride.  I had a minor slash on my sidewall that was probably ok, but I decided to put on a new tire to make sure I have no issues during tomorrow's mountain climb & big descent.

Pictures from today (including some from other riders):
Our team at work

Desert like about 25 miles from Powell

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Day 10 - Bozeman to Columbus MT

Ride Stats:
Distance: 104.8 Miles
Climbing: 2,356ft
Ride Time:  5:28
Temp:  54-89

We finally got a good strong tale wind today!!!  We have been battling head winds on and off this entire tour.  With the favorable winds and steady decent to Columbus, this was pretty much an active recovery day - easy pedaling all day.  No hard efforts.

The weather forecast had a chance of thunderstorms in the morning and late afternoon.  We could see rain ahead and in the mountains as we left Bozeman, but fortunately it moved out without hitting us.

The views were very similar to the last couple of days.  After doing some climbing around mountains coming out of Bozeman, the scenery gradually changed to primarily hills and farm land.  I did not take many pictures today since all were so similar.  The views were still great, but just more of the same.  We crossed the Yellowstone river and passed some historical sites including the Lewis & Clark park.

The tour riders are generally focusing on this coming Thursday where we will face the biggest challenge of the entire tour - climbing the Little Big Horn Mountains with 14% grades.  We are all riding easy now to be ready for the big day coming.

Pictures from today:

Jim with the big 12 mile pull along I-90

Close to Columbus

Yellowstone River as we entered Columbus

Monday, July 16, 2018

Day 9 - Butte to Bozeman, MT

Ride Stats:
Distance: 101.6 Miles
Climbing: 4,094ft
Ride Time:  6:26
Temp:  55-83

Today was a big milestone - we climbed up and over the Continental Divide!  Great mountain views with a thrilling fast decent.

The humidity started climbing as we moved toward Bozeman providing some haze in our views.  This was a significant change from the clear big blue skies we have had the entire trip.  There is a front coming through just south of us with a risk of some short periods of rain tomorrow.

What is surprising about the weather is that even though it was in the low 80's, the sun felt continually hot and my Garmin bicycle computer had a high reading of 105 with the sun hitting the sensor.  Riding was comfortable, but when we stopped the heat would hit.

The trip to Bozeman provided similar landscape that we had been through the last few days - Mountains followed by hilly plains ringed by mountains.

We also started seeing flattened snakes periodically with at least one being a rattle snake.  During our high speed decent down from the Continental Divide I nearly hit a live snake trying to cross the road.

Pictures from today:
Leaving Butte

Heading to the Continental Divide

Another pass before lunch

Hard to see, but there is snow on the peaks in the distance

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Day 8 - Missoula to Butte, MT

Ride Stats:
Distance: 135.7 Miles
Climbing: 5,988ft
Ride Time:  8:40
Temp:  52-98

There has not been a boring day in the saddle this entire tour.  Each day provides an immersion in the immense beauty of this land.  The ride from Missoula to Butte provide great  scenery the entire day.  We continued to follow the Clark Fork River for the start of the day, winding between a number of mountains.  Heading to Butte the landscape changed to more of a prairie surrounded by mountains.  At the top of our mountain climb we passed by Georgetown Lake.  A huge lake at an elevation of 6,300.

Today was one of our longer days with a sizeable climb over the mountains to drop down to Butte.  The climb provide great views with each twist and turn, then a fast decent coming out on the back side.

After totally draining myself yesterday, I was very concerned about recovering enough for today's ride given the increased mileage with lots of climbing.  I was surprised that I actually felt good the entire day and still had some energy left in the tank at the end.

The weather has been great this entire trip.  A high pressure system has been following us providing clear skies.  Cool mornings have been followed by hot afternoons, but with very low humidity it does not feel as bad as back home.  My only complaint is that we have had a persistent head wind for a large portion of each day.  For the last two days they have been forecasting a shift to a westerly wind, but generally that has not happened.  Today we had light to moderate headwinds most of the day with strong gusts as we were descending toward Butte.  Once the descent moderated, I had to keep pedaling to maintain speed.  It is a shame when a headwind messes up a good mountain descent.  We finally got a tailwind for the last 20 miles into Butte.

One interesting point (for some) - We have seen practically no road kill. Yesterday I saw several flattened snakes (one looked like a rattle snake) and a deer, but that has been it for the entire trip.  The animals out here must be smarter than those in the Midwest.  One rider speculated that the mountain lions or bobcats must be taking the road kill.

Pictures from today:
Getting close to the mountain climb.  Can see snow at the tops.

Pace Line leaving Missoula

Leading pace line a few miles outside of Missoula

The mountain climb begins

The climb continues - looking down at the switchback we just came up

Top of the climb - Georgetown Lake

On to Butte

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Day 7 - Thompson Falls to Missoula MT

Ride Stats:
Distance: 106.7 Miles
Climbing: 3,278ft
Ride Time:  6:30
Temp:  56-97

We have completed the first full week of the tour.  Making progress.  Next week will be the biggest physical challenge as we ramp up the miles and have the huge climb over the Little Big Horn Mountains (Thursday)

Today's start was an adventure.  Because of the road construction zone (new chip & seal), we took a hard packed hiking trail to avoid the zone as much as possible.  Still ended up on the chip & seal for a few miles, then took a side road deviation to avoid the rest, ultimately rejoining Route 200 East.

We continued following the Clark Fork River between the mountains all the way to Missoula.  The mountains slowly changed from evergreen forests to more open grass lands.

I made a common rookie mistake today.  I felt really good starting out, so I stayed with the lead group for the first 30 miles.  I had to push from time to time to stay with the group on the hills.  It was much fun, but I paid for it by the end of the ride - generally felt wiped out the last 15 miles.  Hopefully I will recover tonight and be ready for the 133 mile ride tomorrow.  This is a classic trap that I knew better than to fall into, but decided I felt good enough to enjoy the moment.  Won't do that again.

We also had some unwelcome excitement after lunch.  I was riding with Jim, Lynn, Jim & Anni.  We hit a section with freshly applied road sealant. Rocks started sticking to our tires at times with some hitting the brake calipers.  As we were riding, suddenly, without warning, Jim's rear derailleur flipped up and into his spokes.  It was like a sudden explosion went off, his wheel locked for a moment and the derailleur was ripped off.  Both Lynn and I had to suddenly swerve to avoid crashing into him.  I have never seen anything like this before.  The thought was that one of the rocks must have somehow jammed his derailleur.  Fortunately, Pac Tour has great support,  sending a van to help.  One of the crew gave Jim his bike to complete the ride.

Pictures from today:

Making Progress

The hike path deviation

Hard to tell, but descending into Missoula

Friday, July 13, 2018

Day 6 - Sandpoint, ID to Thompson Falls, MT

Ride Stats:
Distance: 84.0 Miles
Climbing: 3,186ft
Ride Time:  5:12
Temp: 57-95

There are no boring days from a scenery perspective.  Each day is just spectacular.  We started the day riding along the side of Lake Pend Oreille, then followed the Clark Fork River all the way to Thomson Falls, passing other lakes along the way including Glacial Lake Missoula.  The way was lined with mountains and evergreen forests.

Gravel roads and fresh chip & seal = Welcome to Montana.  There was no welcome sign, but the road suddenly changed from nice pavement to dusty, loose gravel at the border.  Not sure how many miles we were on the gravel (my guess is around 5), but we finally found nice pavement on Route 200 East. Mostly good roads thereafter until the last few miles before the hotel, which was through a construction zone of fresh chip & seal.  We have been blessed with good roads the entire trip, so I can't complain about this minor annoyance.

Today was our last easy day.  Back to increasing miles over the next few days.

Pictures from today:

Glacial Lake Missoula

Welcome to Montana

View from my hotel room at Thomson Falls

More Gravel

Fresh Chip & Seal

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Day 5 - Spokane to Sandpoint, Idaho

Ride Stats:
Distance: 84.0 Miles
Climbing: 3,186ft
Ride Time:  5:12

Today seemed like a party.  With the relatively short day everyone seemed to kick back, ride easy and spend more time socializing in larger groups.  Today also marked our first state line crossing- Idaho.  Normally the ride brakes down into small groups that tend to morph throughout the day as people try to stay within their individual comfort zone.  We took more time at the rest and lunch stops visiting and relaxing.  Good time to recover for the big days we have coming up next week.

Every day is an adventure with new and changing landscapes.  Just north of Spokane become more heavily wooded with rolling hills. We skirted around some mountains then followed the Pend Oreille River to Lake Oreille then Sandpoint.

Pictures from today.  Go to the PAC Tour website for better shots of the scenery:
North of Spokane

Back in the forest

Diamond Lake

Oreille River

Lake Oreille
Making Progress

Lake Oreille