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.