Last night we didn’t know how to pronounce the name of this Pass and tonight we can say it correctly and say we did it! For these two Hoosier flatlanders that’s something. Again… we’re not fast but we’re deliberate.
We began our morning by setting our alarm early so we could get coffee and charge up our devices at the restaurant at Colter Bay. They also have Wi-Fi. 😉 There are key variables when deciding if and where to stop and most times wi-fi and electricity ranks higher than showers.
Blog posted, devices charged, and bellies full, we took off and headed for the hills to tackle our first eight mile climb. It was on gravel but it’s always easier in the morning when the legs are fresh. Another bonus? It was overcast and even rained a little. We’re thinking Mamaw was looking out for us.
We said goodbye to the Tetons and hope next time we see them it will be a bit more clearly as haze and smoke somewhat hid this majestic view.
We stopped in a c-store in Togwotee and then went on to pedal six more miles to the top of the Pass on pavement. The views both up and down the were spectacular.
After a steady downhill on pavement we rolled into the Lava Mountain Lodge where we are tenting in their back yard. And the bonus? They have a wi-fi extender that reaches our tent. 😉
Tomorrow we take on Union Pass and will likely be out of range. But guess what…. We reserved a hotel in Pinedale so yahoo! That means food, bevvies, electricity, wi-fi and showers.
Hope your day was extra special. Ours sure was. 🚵🏻♂️🚵🏻♀️
Just when you think things can’t get any better, they do. We realize not every day is going to be a good day but every one that is, is a gift!
Some places are like a vortex. You could stay there forever. Like the Llama Ranch, Jeff and Jill’s and then Swirrel Creek. We had so much fun visiting with LeAnn and her dad, Sheldon, and then we ran into them on the trail. Bikepacker Ben from California let us know what to expect on Union Pass. All good!
We had another stellar day of riding. We crossed the Wyoming state line without fanfare and a small sign for such a big state. And that brings us to map three which will take us to and through The Great Basin and the end of Wyoming.
A heavily forested gravel road took us through the area where the 1988 Yellowstone forest fires took place. New growth abounds with wildflowers and trees even though several areas are still scorched.
After stopping at Flagg Ranch for lunch we hit Rockefeller Memorial Highway and entered Grand Teton National Park. The traffic was nuts though!
Drivers were courteous and we safely arrived to the biker hiker camping area in Colter Bay. There’s lots of bike tourers here as Adventure Cycling routes the Great Divide and the Transamerica Trail through here. Alex from the Ukraine, a westbounder on the TA Trail rolled in late last to the campground with some stories to share.
Again, our bikes are holding up well (and surprisingly these old bodies of ours 😉). Our Salsa Cutthroats (named for the state fish of each state we pass through) has a map on the frame of the Great Divide Route. Yesterday it was Flagg Ranch. Cool!
Wishing our dear Rosie the happiest of birthdays today. She’s 3️⃣! ❤️🌹❤️
Tomorrow we tackle Togwotee Pass and we will reach our highest elevation yet at 9,659 feet. Woohoo! ⛰🚴🏼♀️🚴🏼♂️
We debated last night whether to take the alternate route to avoid riding in the deep lava sand on the 15 mile Yellowstone Brach Line rail trail. We decided to always “Float the main stream” and keep to the Great Divide main route when possible.
The deep lava only lasted a couple of miles and the remainder rode along the Warm River below and the view was absolutely breath taking.
We planned on a short ride today with a stop at a local golf course for lunch. I wanted to take some time to play the 9 hole course built up in the mountains, but decided we better head on down the road 😁.
Our final stop at Squirrel Ranch was just a few miles ahead. We were in need of a soft bed in a cabin, shower, and laundry followed by a good meal sitting and talking with our new friends Leeann and her dad Sheldon. Sheldon is a walking encyclopedia (google for the younger crowd).
We are looking forward to entering Wyoming tomorrow and heading to the Coulter Bay area on Jackson Lake.
Today we drop into Idaho for just a couple quick days and then on to Wyoming. The Idaho state line is actually at the top of Red Rock Pass. How cool is that?
Had a little snafu today. I was getting on my bike and commenting that I think there are cows at the top of the pass (saw fresh cow stuff) when I lost my balance and fell over with my loaded bike on top of me. I make it all the way up and over Lava Mountain and Fleecer with nary a fall and I fell over while getting on my bike. How embarrassing. Gratefully I didn’t fall in the cow 💩.
We had nice easy riding with spectacular views in the morning.
And then we got to Big Spring and Island Park. The community of Big Spring is experiencing somewhat of a water emergency as their drinking water has been contaminated. Ya can’t drink the water! So instead of filling water bottles we bought water and ate ice cream. First it was grizzled, then the wildfires and now water issues. I’m not going to ask what’s next. 😂
At Island Park we could drink the water but dang… the ATVs are out of control. These aren’t farmers or ranchers using them for work. Its mostly youngsters a lot of them. I think I know who businesses can’t find employees. It’s nuts! We got out of Dodge as fast as possible.
We’re camped at Buffalo campground just outside of Island Park and on the hunt for some fried chicken today. Thank you all for following! It means a lot. Sending hugs and good vibes your way today. 😘
Today began most ordinarily and ended with the most exceptional people. Here’s how it all went down.
We woke up camped in Deadwood Gulch to fierce wind knocking on our tent. Our first thoughts were, “Oh please God, let that be a tail wind.” We planned a 70 mile ride to Upper Red Rocks Campground just past Lakeview.
Having packed up, we started peddling in a TAILWIND toward Lima to get breakfast and resupply. Tom said maybe we should keep going because with this wind we could be in Colorado by noon.
Right out of Lima we ran into northbounder Mark who shared some stories, gave us some helpful ride intel and shared a few laughs. I could have listened to him all day. Cyclists find all sorts of booty on tour… everything from food, money, ride mascots, etc. but Mark topped them all. He found, and still carries a sheathed saber. I kid you not. Below he’s pictured with his riding mascot, a rubber Flamingo.
Alas the tail wind was short lived and shifted to a full blown head wind. The roads were rough and the sun was was out without a spot of shade all day. We outran another afternoon thunderstorm and spotted another forest fire we later learned was burning about 15 miles away.
I “mustache” you a question, Tom. When in the heck is this wind going to stop?
Thirsty, a bit tired and ready to call it a day we stopped at an outfitter where we thought we might be able to get a cold drink before riding on six miles to Upper Red Rocks. We’d been fantasizing about how cold the water might be. They were closed.
A little dejected, we rode ahead through the community of Lakeview, and noticed a woman and a man carrying an empty growler walking down the gravel road. As you know, Tom and I love our beer, cold beer especially and could only imagine what it might taste like after a windy, dry, dusty day of riding.
Tom jokingly said, “Don’t be twirling that around in front of a couple of thirsty, tired riders. He replied, “Pull over by that camper and we’ll fix you right up.”
I’m not sure if I’ve ever experienced such a well timed bit of trail magic but I know this family sure threw out the red carpet for us. Jeff and Jill, both scientists, live here in Lakeview with their daughters. Jill’s brother Andrew and his wife Jen and their two kids travelled from Vermont, with camper and mountain bikes in tow. Jill and Andrew’s mom, Sandy was in from New York. We chatted all evening. They fed us, kept our red solo cups filled and let us throw up our tent in their back yard. Tom and I kept shaking our heads at the welcoming bunch and how grateful we were to have met them.
We didn’t take many pics today. It was a longish ride and with nothing extraordinary, except maybe Lima Damn. 😉 And we were certainly too rapped up in the convos to take pics. Unless one is snapping pics, without Internet or cell, ya just don’t pick up your phone.
To give you some perspective on riding verses racing the Great Divide, we just finished our 15th day of riding and finished Montana. Jay Petevary, winner of this year’s race, finished 2,500 miles and won the race in the same amount of time. I can’t imagine the athleticism, mind set and maybe a little bit of luck that involves. Hats off to JP.
Tomorrow we leave Montana and say hello to Idaho. Here‘s what I’ve come to learn and love about Montana: I’ve never seen more American flags flying, friendly doggos, tasted thirst quenching craft beers, encountered helpful folks, especially those riding ATVs. It’s a land of vast spaces, mountain vistas, and sweet mountain cabins tucked away. Montanans love their land. And by the way, did you know one can experience snow in any month of the year and that there’s likely more cows than people in Montana? That’s according to Mike at the Silver Saddle in Basin so don’t quote me.
We have crossed Montana latitudinally (in 2018) and longitudinally on bikes during the last two weeks. It’s a pretty magical place. So long Montana. It’s not “goodbye”, it’s until next time.
Today was all about the cows. And the wind. I think that Montana is slowly introducing us to Wyoming, the state known for its strong enduring winds.
We also saw a badger and a nice sized herd of big horn sheep. They blend in so well with the landscape they are hardly noticeable. And oh yea I accidentally ran over a small snake. Didn’t mean to. Just happened.
Both of us are salivating in our tent right now for a LaCroix. We have been drinking lots of water but it’s just not quenching our thirst. It wasn’t super hot today but the route over Medicine Lodge Divide was all day sun and sun wind.
Looking forward to hitting Lima tomorrow in about 15 miles for some carb loading – like carbonation. We need some COLD bubbly water.
Had pepperonis and string cheese on tortillas for din din with assorted other snacks. Not missing the stove. Not one bit.
It was an easy roll up and down paved Scenic Pioneer Highway so we decided to call this our “rest” day even though we are still riding. Both of us feel good! Legs, lungs and hearts are full and feeling strong.
Before we fell asleep last night in the tent (sans fly) we noticed ashes falling on our tent from the nearby Wise River forest fire. We quickly put the fly on – good thing we did as we got rain overnight (and no holes). While packing up quickly Tom asked me if it was Friday today and my reply? “Yes honey. Yesterday was Thursday our normally scheduled date night and you took me down the Fleecer Ridge death march.” 😂
We heard a tremendous amount of racket up the way – didn’t know if they were slaughtering cows or tickling them. However the closer we got, we saw cowboys moving a herd of about 75 cows to a new pasture – 12 miles down the road. What was most intriguing to me what that the 10-12 herding dogs knew exactly what to do. Good puppers!
Since it was our “day off” with lots of pavement and mostly flatish roads we decided to be tourists today and stopped by Bannack State Park. The Park features a historic village and we missed the festival by just one day. But… it was worth a stop to hang around for the afternoon and tour the village.
On to Grant, MT to the Stage Stop Saloon, Cafe and Hotel. The saloon is over 150 years old and originally rolled down the road to its current location. It could not have come at a better time. After leaving Bannack we were chased by storms late afternoon and a nice tail wind pushed us all the way into Grant.
Tomorrow we return to gravel and more climbing over Medicine Lodge Pass. 🚵🚵🏻♀️
The day started not with my phone alarm but the from the coyote’s yipping and the cows mooing around our tent. We packed up as usual and started our day with a few unexpected steep climbs but then a wonderful descent down the mountain we climbed last night.
We knew all about the huge challenge ahead of us with the 10 mile climb up Fleecer Ridge, and the bigger challenge of descending the other side. This part of our map offers an alternate route to bypass Fleecer, but that is not the way we roll.
The climb was not too bad for the first 9 miles. We also got to see Butch on his ATV twice during our climb. He is local to Butte and comes RV’ing with his family. He was out for a 17 mile drive this morning in the mountains. He warned us what was at the top of Fleecer, and said don’t even try to ride down the other side, it was at least a 30% grade down and totally washed out. So we made it to the top after a “hike a bike” up the chunky, too steep last .25 mile. Time for the fun (not). With both hands on the brakes, we started the descent. It reminded me of wrestling a steer down a mountainside. I was never so happy to get to the bottom. The rest of the decent in Wise River was much deserved.
As we roll over the actual Wise River, we stopped to chat with a fly fisherman who told us about the forest fire 6 miles away. The town was on alert for possible evacuation. It was definitely a smokey day for us but extra smokey in Wise River.
We stopped at H & J Saloon for pizza (Butch’s recommendation and finally connected to WiFi to open up our forest fire app (thanks Dan). We were going 13 more miles south which seemed safe from the fires.
Prayers go out those up on the mountain fighting this fire to keep it out of town. 13 miles later we found our campground named 4th of July Campground. (Since we started our ride July 4). We found the perfect camp spot along Wise River, a perfect place to take a dip and get cleaned up from a very trying day 😁👍
It was a quick pack up this morning since we were sleeping in the Basin Community Center. Once out of Basin we noticed the geography was again changing with the addition of lots of rock formations.
We thought it would be a quick peddle to Butte but the ride ended up taking longer. I think Lava Mountain the day before sapped some of our energy. After lunch and getting supplies for the night in Butte we headed to our campsite. Our target was an “informal” campsite at a CDT (Continental Divide Trail) trailhead. We weren’t sure what “informal” meant on the map but we took our chances.
It was twenty more miles to our campsite with the last 10 miles uphill. Camping at 7,300 feet! A first for both of us. There were two CDT section hikers camping there – “just” doing 1,000 mile section this summer.
It was lovely up there although a little hazy from all the smoke. Apparently there is a forest fire just six miles away from Wise River, a little town we will ride through tomorrow.
After a quick dinner, we stashed food in a bag and tossed it up on the roof of the privy. Seemed like as good a place as any to keep Yogi away.
Woke up about 9pm and we were surrounded by cows. They’re quiet when they sneak up on ya! They left us alone though.
At some point in the night I had to leave the tent for a bio break and noticed the Big Dipper positioned right over us. And so many stars. Just perfect!
Ya know how Dorothy says she’s not in Kansas anymore? Well today it became REALLY apparent that we’re no longer riding the flat Monon rail trail in Indy. What a great day of riding and at our highest elevation yet! We didn’t go long but we went high.
We were a little apprehensive about Lava Mountain based on other rider’s experiences. Even our grandson Archie who loves volcanos said, “I don’t think Lava Mountain is a good idea” when we checked in last night. But it’s on the route…so there’s that.
We rolled out of Helena and stopped at a gas station for our usual (food and bio break) and within just a couple miles we were already into our first climb, just an easy six.
And for the first time we got a little rain but it was nice as it cooled the temps off and settled the dusty roads a bit.
The 12 mile climb up Lava started easy enough but the last few miles were ratchet with cascades of boulders, deep erosion, downed trees and extremely steep inclines. There was quite a bit of hike a bike at the top.
The descent was the same at the top – lots of hike a bike but before we knew it, we were bombing down a road that ran by Cataract Creek – gorgeous.
The route took us right into Basin where Mike served us some dinner and bevvies at the Silver Saddle. #tacotuesday.
It seems like we are getting in our groove now as far as packing up, finding our way and resupplying when necessary. Hoping for a little more mileage tomorrow as there aren’t any ginormous climbs.
No animal sitings today – not even deer flies. 🤙🏻
Sleeping in the Basin Community Center tonight on the carpeted stage. It’s been here since 1908 and costs cyclists just $5 a piece to sleep here. There’s electricity, cell service, water and a bathroom. What we else would ya need? 🤷🏼♀️
Heading to and through Butte tomorrow. Camping destination unknown.
And just like that… we are finished with the first map. When we first loaded our Garmins with digital maps we had 371 miles to go and 28 climbs. All done with those now. ✅
Lemme tell ya… there were MORE than 28 climbs. I don’t know who’s doing the counting but they need to check themselves. 😂 An added bonus – we are out of grizzly country so no more singing and states and multiplication review to alert bears we’re in their lane.
The morning started with a very peaceful ride to the beginning of Mullan Pass.
Another chunky climb lead to majestic open countryside at about 6,500 feet. Soon after, we dropped down to open cattle grazing until the route brought us to Priest Pass. This wide open Montana is different from what we experienced last week but equally spectacular. It’s so vast.
Next as luck would have it (‘cause we’ve been pretty lucky 🍀 on this ride so far, we ran into the Dicksons, a northbound couple I’ve been following on Instagram. It’s a lot of fun running into these folks in the middle of nowhere. I feel like I already know them.
In Helena this evening sleeping with pillows and sheets yay! Tomorrow we ride to Basin.
We are both in heaven right now sitting in the shade on Barbara Nye’s front porch at the Llama Ranch. The hummingbirds are buzzing around and the breeze is blowing. She’s lived here 32 years and a few years back she decided to host Great Divide cyclists. It is an oasis for cyclists in every way and she provides it ALL at no charge. Her only request is that we “pay it forward” and return the kindness she has shown us to others.
There are 5-6 different sleeping structures or bikers can pitch tents with the llamas if they wish. Each structure is like a tiny house, well except for the Teepee.
In each tiny house are beds, a way to cook, food, snacks, drinking water. Heck there’s even butt butter and a bottle of wine. Barbara has truly been thoughtful about taking care of our needs.
She had cold drinks and sammies (Turkey for Tom and tuna fish for me) and she just walked out with half of a freshly baked cake for us. I’m telling you, she’s Saint status in my book.
I’m blogging and Tom is checking out the map. I’ll take couch over concrete any day for blogging as concrete outside the gas station was it for me this morning.
Ok… so the ride today was short as we knew we wanted to stop at the ranch. However the climb up Poorman Pass was steep, rocky and hot with a lot of big biting flies. I know it’s the same old story but that’s what it was. And you know what? That’s what we came out here for (except the biting flies lol)
The thing about the flies is, you’re pushing your loaded bike up steep rocky paths and you can’t swat the flies so they just gnaw on you. #hateem
If you’ve followed us in the past you know jigs or dances are part of our gig. Today was my turn to do the Victory Dance atop Poorman. Tom that means you’re on deck.
We have seven days of riding in and have camped every night. At this point we are averaging 57 miles a day. #statfacts
A little info on the SPOT tracking link above. Because the route is a lot more remote than our cross country Northern Tier ride in 2018 Tom opted to buy a SPOT which is a device that tracks our movement and location and also has an SOS panic button should we need immediate help. As it is, cell service is infrequent and the SPOT uses satellite signal. So all good here!
When you click on the link you can see where we are now, the last hour, day or week.
Tom also sends a text via the SPOT to our kids when we start the ride and again when we finish. Isn’t it funny that we used to want to keep track of our kids and now they want to keep track of us. 😂
And on the blog posts and videos… we try to blog everyday. For one it’s a way to bring our family, friends and neighbors along on our adventure. It also serves as a travel journal for us. There is a video at the end of every blog post with many more pics from the day. If you’re not seeing it, ensure you’re actually going to the blog site, not just viewing in an email. They are kinda fun to make and view. I apologize in advance for the typos. As a former teacher they drive me nuts… but I’m doing all this on my iPhone and cell service is sketchy. So proofreading is scant.
Tomorrow we saddle up and ride to Helena, the state capitol but not before going over Mullan and Priest passes. And a motel stay is scheduled!
Although there were a couple “longish”, straight, dusty, gravelly roads there were many twisty turns that presented some surprises today.
We woke up to a chilly 45 degrees at Seeley Lake. After quickly donning puffies, getting food out of the bear box and packing up we peddled down to the gas station for coffee and breakfast sammies. Delicious!
Many of you have seen news of the freak and tragic event that happened in Ovando last week where 65 year old retired nurse and cycling champion Leah Lokan was killed by a grizzly bear while camping. Our route took us right through Ovando today and we wanted to stop to support the community. It might seem like a odd thing to do but riders on the Great Divide and the communities that support us are like family so it seemed like the right thing to do.
After putting away a second breakfast of pancakes and bacon at the iconic Stray Bullet we were off to tackle Huckleberry Pass and a couple of unexpected surprises.
As mentioned before we cyclists are a bit like family. Before we ventured out on our ride I followed several riders already on the route. Most I never expected to meet but today, as we were climbing up the rocky road to the pass, here comes Marion and Fred! They are northbounders who started in Antelope Wells which means they are almost done! They are speedy riders and putting in some high miles most every day so I’m glad the route was rocky at that point otherwise they may have whizzed by on their decent. They are lovely people who post about every other day on Instagram. Their advice for us to was to slow down because the ride goes much too quickly. Not sure if I could go any slower than I already was riding up that pass. 😂
It’s hot, dry and most of the roads we cycle on are gravel so when cars and ATVs go by they throw up a lot of dust. Here’s our solution to getting dusted.
Once up and over the pass we headed to Lincoln, Montana where we planned on tenting in the city park. Turning the corner to head in to town we were surprised to find… wait for it…
The Lincoln Bike Rally! I mean there were hundreds of motorcycles everywhere! We were pretty hot, hungry and tired and anxious about finding quick food and bevvies and a place to bed down down for the night. Certainly all of the motels in the small town would be occupied and it seemed like many of the events were held at the city park. What to do?
We asked our waitress at the Steak House if she had any ideas besides the city park and she suggested The Wheel Inn down the road.
Sure enough the owner said we could throw our tent up with the others in bar/restaurant’s back yard. Owner Doug and wife Laurie have four grown children and eleven grandchildren and have made Lincoln their home for many years. Laurie has worked with local government to get Lincoln to support the many Great Divide cyclists who ride through as well as many Continental Divide hikers. I mean these are goooood people who like to give back.
Doug let us know that the event organizers, The Tenacious Dames, were headed back his way for the event’s wet tee shirt contest and we would get to see who won “Best Bike” at the 2021 Rally in the Valley. Doug actually got to be on the panel of voters! (For the motorcycles not the wet tee shirt contest)
Soon we found ourselves in the midst of more leather, motorcycles and unique tattoos than we’ve ever seen and it was a blast to see. We didn’t take part in any contests mind you, but enjoyed spending the evening with folks we might otherwise never met.
Tomorrow we tackle our highest pass yet and then on to the Llama Ranch miles north of Helena. Thanks for following our ride!
Just take one bite at a time. This advice comes from one of my fave books about the Great Divide. Written by Grace Ragland, Divide by One provided not only inspiration but lots of laughs and some ride intel. I resonate with this particular quote because today I was anxious about the single track and its preceding climb. Thanks for the advice, Grace… I chewed both up, just one bite (mile) at a time. And I most enjoyed it with the love of my life.
There was little hiccup this morning when packing up. We were all ready to go and I was getting ready to load the course for the day and I couldn’t find my Garmin. Crap! Was it lost? Was it in the tent that was already packed up? 🤷🏼♀️ Tom remembered I slept in my puffy the night before. Sure enough… it was there. #allgood
And then there was the other day when I thought I left my riding glasses at the last rest stop and I was wearing them. 🙄 Thank goodness for Tom’s patience and Grace’s sense of humor. For sure she’d say something to make light of it.
Early during the ride today an elk bounded across our path. Sorry no pic but believe me, she was grand.
Because the brush was so thick today and we were on a bit of single track in a fairly remote area we are practically hoarse from naming our states and capitals, playing rhyming games, reviewing multiplication tables, and seeing who could name the most Indiana breweries (so glad Dan and Christie aren’t playing ‘cause they would surely win) all ALOUD and loudly. Does anyone know any military jodies they would like to share? #lemmeknow
Our Spokane amigos consisted of five friendly riders that happened to be parked at the RV camp a couple nights ago. They were riding the same route as us but are exiting via the Missoula Spur.
We were leapfrogging all day, applauding for each other when we hit a summit. Then came the navigation snafu. The Garmin said left and the paper map said straight. What to do?
Tom and I opted for the Garmin directions and went down into the abyss and unknown to us so did dos amigos. It was trail ratchet most of the way. We had to get off bikes frequently to navigate the steep ditches and rocks. #notfun But the road spit us out after about five miles and soon we saw our buds again. We’ll miss them and wish them well. Nice peeps.
When we got to Big Larch campground it was bike maintenance, a swim and dinner. Is there such a thing as a routine when riding the Great Divide?
Tomorrow we head to Ovando for some pancakes and resupply. Then perhaps on to Lincoln. We’ll see how we feel. We sure appreciate all the follows, comments and prayers. We’re having a lot of fun!
It was a roly poly type of riding day with frequent ups and downs with all the riding on forest roads. Well there was that one part of grassy single track and all that makes for a slower day than on pavement. We only saw two cars all day.
But we did meet this sweet couple from Denver who is riding a small section of the Divide in western Montana. They are leaving the trail to close on their first house in Denver. Congrats to Andrew and Anna!
Although it was a roly poly type of day it ended up with us finding the sweetest campsite yet atop a hill overlooking beautiful Holland Lake.
Our friend Finn tipped us off about Holland Lake Lodge. We popped in and the best news of the day was was they had Chicago style popcorn. It was like a oasis in the middle of nowhere. Christian filled our water bottles and then we Adhirondacked it with a couple of bevvies overlooking the Mission Mountain range. Pictures do NOT do it justice. Well not our pics anyway.
Shorter day tomorrow due to shelter availability. Heading to Seeley Lake.
Any. Other. Day. Tom rides ahead of me and patiently waits until I catch up. He never complains. Today I had the chance to wait on him! Not sure if it was the bag of Sour Patch Kids or that we had overcast skies during our climb, but I actually cycled up front today on our climb.
There were scattered showers today and our Montana farmers need rain badly. Today we cycled through beautiful bucolic fields before hitting the high ground.
We are camping at Swan Lake tonight and didn’t anticipate any services but found a wonderful RV Park with a local tavern less than. 200 feet away. It was taco Wednesday tonight so you know… we did that. And a pork chop sammie.
Overall just a great day! Heck I’m just worried about finishing the dang thing (not the tacos the ride all the way to Antelope Wells) So today was a shocker. 😳
Heading to Holland Lake tomorrow. Fingers crossed. 🤞🏻
This morning’s ride provided one of the most fun gravel riding experiences yet on the descent from Red Meadow Lake. Downhill, twisty turny roads with a few obstacles to avoid every now and then. Both of us were out of our seats all the way down keeping our feet at 9 and 3. (thanks to Sally and Liv). And again, the scenery did not dissapoint.
The highlight of the day, however was meeting Deb and Marilyn who were scouting huckleberry patches. They picked and rinsed a healthy portion for us to eat a trail breakfast and even gave us quick huckleberry picking lesson. I could have stayed there all morning. Searching for the berries is addicting although more go in my mouth than in the bucket.
The riding was easy today and short. We stopped back in Whitefish for a pizza for lunch. It might be the first time I’ve eaten more than Tom. He does have one more piece stashed for tomorrow. Hummm I’m sure he’ll pull it out before noon. He’s known for stashing leftovers.
Many friends and family ask about the bears. Yep they live in the woods especially around these parts. Both of us carry bear spray right in the cockpit and we make a LOT of noise on the trail. I think you heard evidence of that yesterday with the mountain melody. Food is stored safely in bear boxes and we don’t cook at the campsite.
Tonight’s campsite in an RV park…Not quite the view that last night’s had but we do have clean clothes and full bellies from town food. And that works nicely for us.
Aiming for Swan Lake tomorrow. We’ll see what we get!
Today we finally feel like we are riding the Great Divide. The scenery, the elevation and of course, we are beginning to give our legs something to think about.😉
The day started a little helter skelter when we heard the sprinkler system going off early in the city park before they were scheduled to go off. We found out from Kai his sprinklers started at 3am. He immediately evacuated to a dry spot.
We were on our way quickly enough, however and chose Red Meadow Lake as our destination for the day.
There’s plenty of water to filter up here so we didn’t have to carry so much. Our Sawyer water filter is super easy to use, inexpensive, and lightweight. And oh did that cold water quench our thirst.
Chunky roads on Whitefish Divide made for a little tougher going, definitely on the inclines but also on the descent as there was so much shaking. Gotta tell you though, it was a lot of fun bombing down those hills when it wasn’t chunky rock.
And who doesn’t like to have a little fun in the middle of a climb. #eternalsoundofmusicfan #debonthemic
Then at the end of the day, the Route challenged us with a 15 mile climb to Red Meadow Pass. Let’s put it this way, I’m not fast enough to out cycle the horseflies, mosquitoes and bees. It was pretty uncomfortable the last two miles where it was steepest but when we turned the corner, and saw spectacular Red Meadow Lake we knew the order of business would be to filter more water, jump in the lake to bathe, eat dinner and stow food in the bear box.
We pretty much dove into our tent as quickly as possible, murdered the mosquitoes that followed us in and called it a night. Stellar stargazing and crisp mountain air made for a lovely tent fly free evening.
Tomorrow we head back down toward Whitefish and Columbia Falls.
It seems like we’ve been gone a month already but it’s only been four days. 😂 Happy July 4th everyone! 🇺🇸❤️🤍💙
Going to try to squeeze four days of pre ride events into one post. And we have internet access here while camping in the city park and not sure if we will have it again for the next couple days so there’s that.
For the benefit of future riders (and as a way to journal our bike adventures) here’s how we found our way to the start line of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in 2021. Remember… it usually starts in Banff but well you know… COVID. This year southbound riders started at the border of Canada. 🇨🇦
For the first time ever on an extended bike tour we were able to leave from our house, ride to our daughter’s house and then catch the Amtrak to Chicago at 6:30 am.
After a three hour layover in Chicago we were in it to win it for a 36 hour train ride to Whitefish – Coach class. Like steerage on the Titanic 🚢 😂
Honestly tho, Amtrak is a reasonable solution for getting your body and your bike to the start of your ride.
Coach Class. Wouldn’t have it any other way. We met some fascinating peeps and appreciate fresh bed linens even more. You can find pics in the vid of Lance and Vince. Too bad I didn’t get one of Tammy, a bada$$ half iron man finisher, Helena cattle rancher, mom and grandma. She taught us why you want to keep bull snakes around the farm and more about best practices in farming.
Vince, on the other hand spun a yarn about how a rattlesnake jumped off a rock and bit his buddy while riding by on his bike. #ikidyounot Thanks for that bit of advice, Vince. 😊
Once in Whitefish we took a day to poke around town at a community art fair, visit a local brewery (thanks Lauren), hold puppies, get some trail food and a good night’s sleep. And oh yea, we even hit up Mass on Saturday night.
Early Sunday on July 4th we took off from Whitefish on bikes and headed north for the border. It was a perfect day for riding – a little warm in the afternoon but just about perfect.
This guy is FINISHING his northbound ride tomorrow! It’s Kai’s last night of the ride and our first. Pretty amazing… we had a nice long chat. He shared lots of stories for which we were grateful. I asked the most important thing he learned over the last month. He said #waitforit “Don’t ride with your mouth open.” He got stung today in the mouth. Of all days. Ouch!
Free camping in the city park, Internet access, and a 24 hour gas station right across the street. What more could we ask for? 🤷🏼♀️. Maybe flushers? 🚽
In keeping with tradition we got the whole crew (all 19.5 of us) together for dinner before we left.
Grandchild #6 is due in late September. We aim to be back well before then so if we’re not, dispatch the cavalry. 🆘🐎
Per usual we ask a lot of questions and seek advice from fellow riders. Everyone is super friendly and eager to help and we in turn love to share as well.
Although we have a few bike tours under our belt and have cycled a lot longer distance, cycling the Great Divide is like nothing we’ve ever attempted.
But I always say…
If you only do what you know you can do, you don’t do very much. 💁🏼♀️
The fam had some advice to share and we’d like to share with other riders. You’re welcome.
I mean… there’s a lot of folks on bike tours right now. #postCOVID Maybe they can benefit as well. #sharingiscaring
We’re going to miss our family, friends and neighbors. And we keep wondering… what person or place will inspire our next adventure. We have a few more states to hit and we haven’t cycled in Europe, Asia or South America yet. Australia? Iceland? #opentotravel
If you’re following along, thanks! More to come… we’re finally on our way.
Since our July 1 departure date for the Great Divide Mountain Bike Ride will be here before we know it, we’ve been out riding our Cuttys in southern Indiana most weekends where there are a few more hills. I mean… central Indiana is flat and although southern Indiana has a few climbs nothing around here can adequately prepare us for 150,000+feet of climbing coming in July and August.
So, part of preparation will be the ride itself. We’ve learned from past rides that gradually building up mileage on extended bike tours with lots of climbing works better than going all out on Day One. Thinking about the Appalachian Gravel Growler here. #mistakesweremade
We’ve also been putting together our packing lists and to see how much weight we can cut from our 2018 cross country ride along the Northern Tier. I mean… who wants to haul a bunch of weight up all these mountain passes?
Salsa Cutthroat: 24 pounds Bags and Gear: 31 pounds (does not include food and water) Total: 55 pounds Click here for itemized list
Salsa Cutthroat: 24 pounds Bags and Gear: 26 pounds (does not include food and water) Total: 50 pounds Click here for itemized list
What’s different on this trip?
New bikes. New bags. No kitchen. No inner tubes. No camp chair. *sigh
The above isn’t entirely accurate for our 4,200 mile Norther Tier ride in 2018. I had an extra set of panniers sent from home to Whitefish, MT and added to the front of my bike. It was more difficult pulling weight on the back than having it evenly distributed. #lessonlearned
We switched to a tubeless tire setup which is a plus since more than 70% of the roads we’ll cycle on are unpaved and although scenic, a bit ratty. What’s the big deal if we get sprayed with a little sealant if we puncture a tire?
And we won’t be carrying a kitchen. What? You ask, no kitchen? What will you eat? Apparently there are enough local restaurants or resupply stops we can eat on the fly or purchase food to consume (but not cook) later. Basically we will have nothing to do all day but ride our bikes. So no excuses for old Deb to quit early to set up the kitchen.
Tom’s replaced nearly all of the components on both of our Cutthroats, so we are ready to roll. There’s definitely a benefit to riding the same model bikes.
Besides riding bikes we’ve been up to a few more shenanigans including home brewing with our buds, growing into hydroponic gardening and taking groovy pics of our bikes.
Basically we’re just a couple of shenanigators waiting on that train.
Four months from today we board an Amtrak train and ride to Whitefish, MT where we will purchase a few provisions and ride our bikes about 60 miles north to the Canadian border, do an about face and then hop on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
I mean anything could happen and we’re not counting it out, but at some point ya gotta start making plans. Two one-way train tickets purchased. ✅
Lest we get too soft now that we are in our early 60’s, or in case we forget what it’s like to live in a tent for more than a couple days, we took a two week excursion to the Florida panhandle. It wasn’t warm, but there was sunshine! And it wasn’t like we were roughing it although Tom used his phone as a hot spot so he could work. All good!
Pandemic work-at-home started for me on March 17th. I’d been spinning regularly at Lifetime Fitness 3-5 times per week riding 20 miles in each class. So I woke up on March 17 at my usual 4:35am and told Deb since I am no longer going to the gym, I need to get my 20 miles in outside. I put the lights on the bike and headed out at 5am.
Little did I know I would miss only two days of riding between that day and the Trans Indiana 250 on September 26, 2020. The Trans Indiana 250 was the inaugural ride across Indiana designed by Kyle Lagemann. Deb and I saw it posted on Facebook in early 2020 and kicked around bikepacking it over two days. As the year went by we mentioned it off and on, but never committed. The first week of September Deb said she hadn’t been riding much and probably wasn’t going to do the ride, but since I had been riding every day, I should ride it.
Well that was all the encouragement I needed. I planned a 100 miler on September 12 and a 150 miler for September 19 to test my endurance and legs. Of course they went just fine and it was time to plan for the September 26 weekend. I was planning on riding self supported, but at the last minute Deb decided to SAG. What a nice surprise 😊.
On Friday September 25, we packed up and headed to the start in Danville, IL. We checked into our hotel and do what we always do before running marathons and riding bikes; find a local brewery for a couple of beers. We lucked out with Vermillion River Beer Company just a couple of miles away. It was a great evening with outdoor seating and live music playing. Families with kids were enjoying the evening watching a man with a makeshift bubble machine. Just a couple for us as we had a long day/night ahead of us.
I’d been riding my gravel bike, a Salsa Cutthroat, all year and was planning on riding it fully loaded for the ride prior to Deb deciding to SAG. With her sagging, I just needed the bare essentials; head light, rear light, bike tools and my Garmin Edge 530 with the route loaded.
On September 26, at 6am, 14 riders showed up for the inaugural ride. A group shot was taken and we were off. Most riders were half my age and were obviously racing this ride. My goal was just to finish 😊.
It started lightening up within the hour and we hit gravel roads early. I met a couple of guys during that first 30 miles; Mark Carlson and Geoff Chandler and enjoyed getting to know them a bit. Deb was up ahead at mile 30 and she had a hot breakfast sandwich with coffee waiting for me, and then I was off again.
Not too much farther down the road I came to a creek with the bridge out. We got to hike-a-bike down one bank, cross the creek and hike up the other bank. It was bit muddy, but no biggie.
I was looking forward to the next stop at mile 60 on the Purdue Campus at Harry’s Chocolate Shop. No I wasn’t going to stop and have a cold one, but my sons Adam and Clayton and their friend Dylan were. They came up to root me on during the ride. After a brief visit with them, I was off and next stop was Kokomo, mile 110.
The day was going well with a favorable wind from S/SW. The next couple of hours were just riding in the country. I put the headphones in and enjoyed the ride. I met Deb in Kokomo for a quick snack and Gatorade. I then jumped on the Nickel Plate Trail heading north with a tailwind to Peru at mile 140. Another quick stop and it was on to Salamonie single track at mile 160.
My goal was to reach Salamonie before dark. I almost timed it right but it was getting dark and difficult maneuvering on the single track. Glad I had my head light to guide me. Single track lasted about 5-7 miles and I got through it even though I am not much of a mountain biker without a mountain bike 😊. Another quick stop for food and I was off again.
The plan for the remainder of the ride was to meet Deb about every 30 miles. I was in virgin riding territory by this time. The longest I had ever ridden before in one day was 163 miles at the RAIN ride. I was amazed my legs were feeling so fresh and I really wasn’t tired at all. That was the good news. The bad news was the buns ☹. They were in shape for the 30 milers I had been riding every day, but not this long of ride. Just keep riding and suck it up!
I arrived in Ft. Wayne at mile 211 and met up with Deb. My Garmin got a bit confused in Ft. Wayne. Gratefully, Kyle painted green Dan Henry’s to keep riders on course. I knew I was in the home stretch now.
A few miles out of Ft. Wayne at about 1am, I was riding out in the country along a non moving train. Just then, my Garmin beeped for me to turn left on a road blocked by the train. I called Deb and explained my situation and said “I think I can crawl under the train to get to the other side”. Of course she talked some sense into me and I pulled out my phone and dialed up Google Maps to get around the stopped train.
Just a short detour and I was back on track. Next stop was New Haven at mile 235 and the last stop before the finish line. I arrived to find Deb’s car running parked along the road and she had fallen asleep 😊. After a quick stop, I gave her a kiss and said “see you at the finish line”.
The finish line was the Indiana/Ohio state border. With 15 miles to go, I headed out. My mind said, “Enjoy This”. My buns said “Hurry Up!”. The last 10 miles was a gravel road riding between corn and soybean fields. The finish line was uneventful with Deb sitting there in the parked car in the middle of nowhere.
I finished and gave Deb a great big hug and kiss. I noticed another biker was there who had finished just ahead of me. Kimberly Byers lives in Ft. Wayne and was going to ride home on her bike from the finish line. She gladly accepted a ride home so we loaded up both bikes and gave her a lift. Although Fort Wayne to Indy is usually a two hour drive, this time it took a bit longer as we stopped three times for cat naps 😊.
It was a great day and it couldn’t have gone any better. I finished the 250 miles in 20 hours and 11 mins at 3:11am.
Will I do it again? Deb and I are one-and-done-ers. It’s off to the next adventure this summer, ride the Great Divide 2021!
Since the Canadian border is still closed due to COVID-19, we postponed our Great Divide ride to summer 2021 and instead opted to ride the C&O Canal Towpath and GAP Trail. Thanks to our friends Dan, Christie, Dave, Kathleen, Paul and Terri for the ride intel. You were spot on.
You can learn more about the C&O Canal Towpath and GAP Trails here. We figured that in a relatively short bike tour we could knock out four more states and DC on our 50 state cycling quest while enjoying spectacular scenery, laid back riding and continue to physically (not socially) distance ourselves from others during the pandemic.
Cyclists can ride all or part of either trail but the big question is how to get back to where you started if you don’t want to cycle back. We opted to drive to Pittsburgh, park our car and ride the Amtrak train to Washington, DC with our bikes on board. Once in DC, we rode bikes back to our car.
We’re grateful when a plan comes together! It seems like cycling back to our car always works for us on linear routes since there aren’t any time constraints. We used the same logistics on the Natchez Trace, Katy Trail and Appalachian Gravel Growler.
Where did we stay? What did we ride? What did we pack?
We planned on camping every night but we always weasel into at least one hotel for a hot shower and since this was my birthday week… well I wasn’t going to argue about choosing to stay at a Fairfield Marriott in town rather than camping at the YMCA in Cumberland. Here’s where we stayed all week.
Our go-to bikes for touring are our Salsa Cutthroats and we pack the same thing every trip whether we’re going to be gone for two days, two weeks or two months. About the only optional items are based on the season. Obviously we didn’t pack our puffies. And yes I know, the amount of electronics we carry is ridiculous.
I’ll tell you what we’re not schlepping around anymore – a stove, a cookset and groceries. We can most always find a c-store or restaurant. Doing this saves a lot of time in the morning when packing up and it’s less weight (for me) to carry. And yes, Tom still has to carry the two pound Big Agnes tent.
So here’s how it all went down. It’s something we can look back on a year from now when I hope we’re riding south of Banff.
Day 1, Thursday: Washington, DC to White’s Ferry, MD – 41 miles
Wake up at 3:30 am and ride bikes to the Amtrak station
Seven hour Amtrak train ride from Pittsburgh to DC. Arrive at 2pm. Begin riding at 3:45pm
It’s immediately apparent that the towpath is home to a multitude of deer, turtles, and blue herons. We even saw an osprey and a beaver!
Rain on the C & O turns the towpath into a quagmire with lots of puddles, mud and ruts. We’re good though! That’s what these bikes are made for.
Amidst a downpour, a trail angel at White’s Ferry offers to let us camp under his pavilion
Tom sleeps soundly in the tent while I monitor the Weather Channel and notice that the storm cell is NOT moving on. For over three hours there was intense lightening, thunder and wind. Look at the time stamp on the weather radar below. Was this our version of the Midwest derecho?
Day 2, Friday: White’s Ferry, MD to Harpers Ferry, WV – 59 miles
Beautiful morning for a ferry ride over to Leesburg, Virginia for breakfast and exploring
Return to Maryland and continue on C & O. Lots of downed trees from storm.
Intersect with the Appalachian Trail for a mile before Harpers Ferry
Take footbridge (aka stairs with loaded bikes – ouch!) to Harpers Ferry for the night
Dinner and bevvies outside at Coach’s Ale House
Day 3, Saturday: Harpers Ferry, WV to Hancock, MD – 66 miles
Lots of debris on the towpath. A rider tells us that at mile post 88 the trail is impassable and to turn around. Ummmm just no. We pushed on and climbed over, ducked under or plowed through the obstacles.
Met a cute family of four stopped along the trail. They were riding with their two sons age eight and ten. The Pringle cannister actually caught my eye. This family is biketouring a section of the C&O at a time. They carry everything they need, use the free hiker/biker campsites and homeschool the kiddos. (even before COVID). Grateful to see families out and about sharing time together and enjoying the outdoors.
Tony’s pizzeria for outdoor lunch. It’s a family owned business in operation for over 35 years. I highly recommend! Be sure to try the garlic knots with homemade Ranch dressing. Good enough to include in Christmas stockings or an Easter basket.
Tip from a cyclist going in the opposite direction told us about the bicycle bunkhouse in Hancock, MD. Since Hancock was our planned stopping place for the evening, we decided to check out the bunkhouse.
We had the bunkhouse to ourselves except for Dave who was bike touring with his pupper named Ozzer. Prosecutors, hair stylists, bartenders and teachers have the BEST stories.
Dinner outside at Buddielous. Highly recommend their fried green tomatoes and rueben.
Day 4, Sunday: Hancock, MD to Cumberland, MD – 61 miles (end of C & O towpath, beginning of GAP trail)
Last day of riding the C&O Towpath
Got to ride through the Paw Paw Tunnel at the same time a boy scout troop (travelling with 30 or so cyclists) rode the opposite direction as us. The Paw Paw is over 3,000 feet long and the scouts thought they might be able to ride the whole thing instead of walking their bikes as was recommended.
They tried to ride. Without lights. One even had his sunglasses on. We giggled. God bless them and their leader. They were all having a good time, wearing helmets, had face coverings on and also reflective vests. Gotta admit though, we did feel like a couple of salmon swimming upstream to the spawning grounds via the Paw Paw.
Day 5, Monday: Cumberland, MD to Ohiopyle, PA – 74 miles
The beginning of the GAP trail!
Let’s start the day with a 25 mile, mild uphill grade. Really not hard. Just put an ear bud in, enjoy the scenery and follow the railroad tracks. We both actually enjoyed this quite a bit,
Pretty much biking nirvana here on the GAP where the surface is even, trail towns are every 15 miles or so if we need to resupply. The hiker/biker campsites are immaculate and even come “stocked” with split campfire wood, weenie roasters for hotdogs and smores, plenty of picnic tables and three sided shelters.
Both Tom and I both believe that God puts people, places and opportunities in our paths for a reason. It’s not always evident what the reason is and it might take a while to figure it out but we met Marie Bartoletti near Rockwood, Pennsylvania. Marie is 62 years old, has completed well over 450 marathons and several triathalons (including Kona) and she is a retired teacher. She is also a stroke survivor. She came out of nowhere and introduced herself and invited us to her home to retrieve a book she’d written entitled Perseverance.
Having been delayed an hour on a conference phone call, we really needed to get moving on, but as providence would have it, she cycled four houses down to her home, retrieved her book and we got one. I can’t wait to read it. I know this special lady has something for us to learn.
We cross into Pennsylvania, crossed the Mason-Dixon Line, crossed the Eastern Continental Divide (ironic we would have been riding along the Western Continental Divide had COVID not exploded). Plus we cycled through the Big Savage Tunnel (even longer than the Paw Paw albeit no Boy Scouts this time). It mighta been my fave day of the trip.
Finally the ten miles between Confluence and Ohiopyle, was just about the most perfect section of riding all week. Downhill, sunny, scenic.
It’s all rainbows and unicorns until you get to the access trail to Ohiopyle State Park. Ever done it? You don’t wanna. It’s steep, rocky and not what you want to tackle when you’re approaching the 80 mile mark and you’re tired, hungry and thirsty. Not only did we get ‘er done, we set up our tent and then walked back down the ratchet trail into town for an outdoor dinner and bevvie. Of course that meant we had to walk back up it again. In the dark. But at least this time we weren’t pushing loaded bikes.
Day 6, Tuesday: Ohiopyle, PA to Pittsburgh – 78 miles
Last day of riding the GAP and the last day of the trip
Today was just about getting back to Pittsburgh and we took our time
For those of you who followed along on social media, it was nice having you with us. And even if we are restricted to playing in our own backyard. It’s a most beautiful yard in which to play.
Though our country may seem divided at times and its warts and imperfections obvious, she’s still evolving and we were grateful to rock our way through the USA.