a Day a Night 112 miles of Emotions

•November 16, 2016 • 3 Comments

 

I’m up before light on U.S. soil

Well sort of, I am actually on U.S. asphalt looping around the western side of the Eureka Airport. The grasslands of the Tobacco Valley are spotted with perfect farmettes. These are little country homes with a chicken coop, tool shed, and 2 goats grazing near the kitchen door. Its perfect for the start of my 24 hour grind to whitefish. By now, you’ve realized I haven’t done a plus 100 mile day on the Divide. I won’t be on my first U.S. gravel road for another two hours. First order of business this morning is … everyone now … BREAKFAST. I rolled into Eureka to a breakfast Cafe annexed by a casino or vice versa. Not sure, It’s Montana. As dividers surely agree, one cannot just order an entree, rather entrees. This is a meal of disproportions- Pig on pig, Pig on chicken, Pig on flapjacks, plus some other selections from the menu that say SIDES. Somewhere between “extra napkins please?”, I spot Bill Littmann in the corner. “Hi ya man” “burp..pardon me” and “gotta run have fun.” I’ve become socially inept in less than a week. Oh well, I’m on vacation.

Eureka has what I need food, friends, and now exactly what I need…Tiger Balm. My left Achilles is getting ready to be the thorn in my flesh for the rest of the race. After departing the drug store, I found Dave Schreiner again and so we ride off together on Tobacco road for Grave Creek. Dave pedals uphill better than I, so we ride in sight but apart until the climb to Whitefish divide. I can tell after an hour or so, that Dave is getting poured on. Interestingly, I am not and that’s how it goes on the Divide.

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Near Grave Creek heading South to Whitefish Divide

The Road up to Whitefish divide is muddy and I can see that Dave had to pick a lot of lines for traction. I am happy to not be in the rain and there is kind of peace knowing someone cycling is in the vicinity. I read some signs about the Indians that lived in these parts and it made me feel rather reverent to the people before me. I guess they were Kootenai since I was in their named national forest. There are 12 montana tribes – read about them  Montana Indian Tribes . Near the top of Whitefish divide, I was stormed upon by possibly snow, definitively Dippin’ Dots. However, after the pelting, the sun came out to welcome me to Whitefish divide. I think I cried a little.

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I wanted to share the view with everyone, but a picture has no breeze and a picture has no smell of the storm that had passed through. The cruisin’ down on the backside of Whitefish Divide was simply a rush. As cruising goes, its all about feeling the air, riding the winding curves of gravel through throngs of pines and blowing that whistle! My cheeks hurt from blowing that bear alarm like a referee calling unsportsmanlike conduct on a melee. Brown bears just need fair warning I thought. I did not stop blowing until well past Tuchuck campground. The road out to Ford Work Center was absolutely gorgeous and downhill. The vistas ahead and to my right of the Glacier National Park / North Fork Flathead peaks were beautiful. I kind of cried again, but that may have been leftover tears from Whitefish Divide.

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I had developed an angry chain that would squeak every 3 or 4 pedal strokes. Lube would clear it up for about 30 minutes of riding, but now things were getting a bit angrier, so I stopped near Red Meadow road to work on it. Yep, I had several links with burrs. A little filing and additional lube got things a bit better. I thought it was probably 2PM by now, so I ate the last of my tuna sandwich and checked the mileage and time again. Uhh what? 930PM ! I know the sun sets late up north – yikes! Up Red Meadow Road I began to panic a little about what seemed like a short day. The feeling gave way soon once I saw the most beautiful stretch of dirt this side of paradise. The thin gradual incline I rolled along was a vanishing point of 12 miles to an unseen but highly touted Red Meadow Lake. The lake is a natural gap pool of snow and glacial convergence reflecting the peaks on both sides.  Half way up, I stopped to filter water from a deep rocky crag spilling near the road. I filled my bottles, while weeping over the free gift of sustenance.

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Arriving Red Meadow Lake, it was for all knowing, twilight, and I felt a little sad that I had not seen it waters in a more glorious mood. By now, I was tired. It was an amazing kind of tired. A feeling of weariness from riding, joy from the fullness of the day’s delights, and foreboding of the approaching darkness. Snow began to fall before I donned my jacket and cold weather gloves. It was dead silent as I switched on my lights and pedaled away from Red Meadow Lake. Upon the descent into the first turn, a brown bear and easy to make out. It ran into the woods at the sight of my helmet light. Now I’m back on the whistle with all my senses engaged only to realize the beams are not long or wide enough to carry speed and safe passage into the dark world of wild animals. Next turn, another bear. Not Sure it was a grizzly, but I go with bear. I felt I needed to get to lower elevation and get below the snow line, so I sped on. Two miles further down at the 7 mile marker to Whitefish… another bear. And then my lights went totally dead. No crying man, rookie boy “get a grip”. It is something to be all alone in the woods. I walked a little to just think about the situation when I went past a roadgrader. Ah a little civilization. I was thinking perhaps I could sleep in the cab. But the door was locked. So right here I popped off my helmet, laid under my bike with a canister of bear spray in hand and a whistle in my mouth -exhausted. I woke up 2 hours later freezing and jumped into my sleeping bag and slept peacefully thinking of my wife and times we listen together for the first bird of morning. As  God himself gives rest, He gave awakening with the a bird tweet and my eyes opened to see light on the gravel at road level. I almost cried, no wait… yeah I did. You get to bomb it down to Whitefish, you’re alive, and you get BREAKFAST!

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As I whizzed past the palatial gated homes along Whitefish lake, I thought to myself “I bet they slept safe and sound.” I cry a lot these days.

In Whitefish, there was indeed breakfast, there was a bikepacker, Jon Wells from Cody Wyoming. He was cycling to the TED Talks conference in Banff to speak on caloric energy efficiency of cycling verses fuel consumption of automobiles. I also met an old gentleman from San Francisco “Diamond Dave” Whitaker. Turns out this hippie was famous in the Bay Area and was friends of Bob Dylan, though I had no idea at the time.

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I asked Diamond Dave “What’s your Creedo man?”

“Love to Learn, Learn to love never ends. Cast a wide net, find that common thread. Let life flourish, then don’t panic, just keep it organic. Love will take you everywhere, hate will take you nowhere.”

“so take that on your bike”

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Southbound Solitude

•November 13, 2016 • 1 Comment

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Sparwood British Columbia – Small Town with Big Trucks

Mining is everything to everyone in this town. I rolled in about eleven am to a city full of festivities – It was the annual “Miners Day” in Sparwood. Friendly Canadians parading down the streets and a soapbox derby with most every child racing down the hill in homemade cardboard vehicles. The supermarket was calling me  to stock up for the next long push for the U.S. border. South of Sparwood lay three mountain passes through dense wilderness. I came across the first rider of the day, Dave Schreiner from Massachusetts. We exchanged greetings and nothing more than just the acknowledgement that we were  headed for a challenging day. Nice New England Accent nonetheless. A&W was my next stop to catch lunch and call home for the first time. When Kim answered, I immediately choked up. It was the sound of familiar, it was the sound of support, and the sound of love. We talked briefly, and soon I was off and rolling towards Corbin road, to the sound of lonely and the unknown of the Flathead, Cabin, and Galton passes. Up the highway eight miles, on the most civilized stretch of road so far put me in a new situation. I was lost. My GPS was pointing west to a road that was not there. I was on a bridge to nowhere! A few minutes later while staring down at my map ques, here came Dave from the opposite direction. He was lost too. Fortunately Corbin road was beneath us under the bridge. we lifted our bikes over a Jersey Barrier and walked down an embankment to Corbin Road, an asphalt passage to Coal Mountain. It was great riding with Dave, however after I stopped to cool my feet in a stream next to the road, Dave was gone and I was alone again not to see him again until Eureka Montana. Thanks for the fizz trail magic Dave.rockswater

After an hour of riding, I turned off Corbin road for the climb into the Flathead. The trail was hard packed marked with the tracks of bicycles perhaps minutes, hours,  and for certain days ahead of me. I was truly on a solo ride. The Rivulets of the Flathead were as described by the ACA map. The trail was now rocks in water. The rocks were slippery and the water was cold. Not just cold, but glacial ice Cold. It is where cold water goes to get cold. After a couple of miles traversing the Flathead with frozen blue feet, I was descending from my first pass of the day.

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So I stretched the truth a little, I wasn’t alone.There was brief company with this skinny moose. Both of us apparently were hungry. After Dark, the Pollack Creek Primitive camp came into slight view. So slight I did not see all the bear scat every 15 feet. I quickly laid out my bivy and went to sleep and after 4 hours of good rest, it was light enough to get going again. Weeks later, I read in McCoy’s book that Pollack Creek is the highest concentration of grizzly bears in the North American Continent. Nice move rookie!

The morning was absolutely gorgeous as I whipped past sleeping riders at Butt’s Cabin and headed up to the pass. The road was full of flora and fauna. I saw a badger, deer, marmots, moose, and a wide array of birds. Cabin pass is one false summit after another therefore instead of dreaming of the 14 mile downhill, I praised the creator for the beauty and wild of my solo morning.

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Cabin Pass – British Columbia

The descent down Cabin did not disappoint. It was silly speed. I had the feeling that Canada had entered my soul and deposited sheer joy of its treasures into every corner of my senses. I soon made the hard sharp left turn over the wigwam river and onto its western bench. I had only crossed the river a couple of minutes back when I discovered that I was out of water.  I turned around and headed back to the bridge to filter water from the crystal clear river. That was the freshest water that I have ever swallowed in my life. no words..just delight!

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Wigwam River – unparalleled pure water

The next 12 miles was a roller coaster of green skirting the curves of the Wigwam river and before me lay the wide stretch of rising peaks to the south and west. I was nearing the border mountains between British Columbia and Montana. It wasn’t long before the trail lowered and gave way to a single track of soft moist ground right to the wigwam water’s edge. It was there that I faced what every divide rider faces. Some call it a sick joke, some call it the hike-a-bike from hell. How could something so ugly exist in the middle of something so beautiful? It is and shall always be affectionately referred by most as “THE WALL”. Two hundred yards of nearly 70 degrees of push your bike up ruts, mush, stumps, and slop. There are two choices and two choices only. Climb or turnaround and go home. I was alone and pushing, braking, inhaling, and exhaling and pushing some more. Twenty-eight minutes later I crested the forest wall to witness just how far I had climbed. I just laughed… “I made it!” and looked out over the wigwam river below in worship of this amazing vista I had earned.

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Its just a dirt path Steep and UP!

It was now time to head toward Galton Pass. Somehow the profile didn’t appear too bad on paper.  I came to discover Galton was nine miles of tough. My Solitude “South bounding” day was getting long as the shadows of the day began to set in.The road was smooth and stretched out through an ever rising alpine ridge.The temperature began to dip as I rode and walked up Galton’s northwestern edge to a 100 foot length of gravel that was the same with one key difference. The first 50 feet rendered only 3 mph. The second 50 feet dictated 45 mph. Yeeehaw!!! Though I tried to feather the brakes, the only result was red hot rotors glowing. The front brake rotor whistled and shattered leaving half of an important part of a bicycle whizzing down the ribbon of Galton’s Rocky remains.

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Galton Pass – The last before America

At the Roosville border, I was the only traveler to be seen. The immigration officer was official – “state your nationality” – I am a citizen of these United States. “And what are your plans in this country?” – I plan to phone my wife and drink a beer. Without hesitation the border guard grinned with dignity “welcome home Lone Ranger”

Sweet Lady who worked at the First and Last Chance Duty Free Bar. “What you riders need on your bikes, is a stove!” “Want another beer?” Me: “yes please keep the food and beer coming”

THANK YOU CANADA !

Pedaling on the Roof

•June 26, 2016 • Leave a Comment

img_2956The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route starts with, continues on, and ends with a quantum leap from modern life into a world of primitive wonder. Leaving the bustle of Banff, Alberta Canada, I was transported immediately into an exhilarating array of majestic Canadian Rocky Mountain Peaks trimmed by cascading streams and crystal green lakes – Notably the Spray Lakes and shadowy Mount Shark at the north opening of the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Rolling down the Smith-Dorrian Road through the Park, one realizes you are passing between two colonnades of mountains. Between the ranges is a wide plain of conifers and sprawling glades criss-crossed by glacial streams. I am breathless… 

All you can do is pedal onward to the next mountain and gasp at the beauty that unfolds as the route drifts southward towards the mining towns of Elkford and Sparwood BC – Convenience is found infrequently but thankfully only for resupplying  oneself for the trail. The trail takes on few asphalt roads yet one must accept a mixture of lost forest access two-wheel and single tracks. the path occasionally migrates from a 4×4 only road into a stream – a metamorphic phenomenon such as the rivulets that become the headwaters for the mighty Flathead River. You are for those times a living element of the wild and untamed Great Divide of the Rocky Mountains.

In a real sense, you are on your own to make your way through the vastness of the Divide and at times your spirit is lifted by other riders that you meet along the way.  However make no question – You are  “out there” alone. The Divide can frighten and the Divide and draw you in. It can make you feel small and it can make you feel tall.  A place where dreams become reality and life is seen in all things great and small.

 

 

The earth reveals

•May 11, 2009 • Leave a Comment

And deep within lies her secrets.  We see them sometimes when we least expect it to happen.  The secrets to know and feel and realize that in the mindless hours of our daily endeavor awaits a place, a place quiet and innnocent. It is the space between…

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If you stop and listen, one can hear that space.  The space searches your soul and it knows that you are ready for another secret. I heard it say to me.  Help a stranger, make new friends,  embrace your age, and love a child.

 Randy3

TGIF ala cart Love Muffin

•April 17, 2009 • 1 Comment

Burrrr last night was cooooold -now to Freeze-UR-Gizzard morning.  Its warm and happy at the Love Muffin. I’m eating the B.F.G:

one enormous drop biscuit, 2 eggs & sausage gravy.

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The coffee is best today to the sounds of  Johnny Cash and Charlie Daniels… Folks are bebopping their heads to the smooth low and soulful country masters.  “Get Rhythm” and “The Devil went down to Georgia”

Ok wait … here comes Roger Miller”s “King of the Road” as I overheard a person tell their friend that “this trip is all about the quitting”.  Bullseye!   roger_miller_the_country_side1

The barista went down to georgia he was looking for a cafe’ to steal.

He was in a snag, cuz his hippie nag told him to get a job or lose the deal.

When came across this muffin man, baking bread and making it hot!

So he jumped up on his barstool, and said, dude let me tell you what.

Now you stir up a pretty good brew son, but give this bean junkie his due.

I’ll bet you an Astoria expresso machine of copper for your minimum wage pay

that says I’m a better barista than you.

blah blah blah …

Steam on the mocha run kids run.

The Barista’s in the house of the rising sun …..  – butchered by R. Neill

Thank God Its Friday. Good Morning from Moab.

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The Rain of the REDish gods.

•April 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

FIVE O’clock Moabite time and its cold and raining. yes raining red, yah like the red rocks out here. Ok stupidity is good if you learn from it. I’m getting my master’s degree in “dodge this wind white boy” and now I can sing “play that funky music – red man”

Kokopelli just took a crap in my eyeball socket!  TAKE TWO…

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A Classic Moab MTB Trail

•April 14, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Jeep Safari is winding down, so I had to wind up and take on “Cliff Hanger” aka. Amasa Back. Just east of Hurrah Pass on Kane Creek. This trail is the perfect one for the testosterone cycle jockey who thinks he can handle the likes of “the portal”, or “the Gold Bar Rim” trails. Once you get on it, then you wimper a little, then you wimper a lot because the climb is grueling. If you are able to muster a few  extra sandstone shelf climbing skills, then you can yell for JOY! If not and I’m talking to you – little sissy baby man, go back to town and order a tiny cup  of dippin’ dots and wait for the gals and guys that have the right kind of respect for this type of challenging ride to return. For those that do make it to the top, the rewards are two-fold providing a spectacular view of the colorado river and an payback descent over the previous climb.  Happy Trails to you!