(Overdue blog post with no photos as not had wifi for ages and the one I’ve managed to hook into is a bit rubbish and panics when you ask it to upload a photo)
Goodbye Montana, you hilly mama, and hello Idaho! Dipping my toe in Idaho for 78 miles, then it’s Wyoming which is already sending some of its famous winds this way and a couple of storms seem to have snuck over the state border too.
I had a great couple of days after Butte and was feeling fully back on track before narrowly avoiding becoming fodder for Michael Berk’s 999 Christmas special. I’d done 12 miles then pulled in to a tiny ‘town’ Lima for eggs and bacon, chatted to a lovely couple (I hope you got the address right and are reading this!) and we talked about whether I was worried about people stealing my bike and other things I might be scared of. Most of them I said didn’t really bother me but I forgot to mention I find the thought of being caught in a thunder storm quite terrifying. Mother Nature prompted my memory later that afternoon by laying on a big one!
I’d read up at home what to do in such circumstances – namely head for the trees and/or dip in the ground. Unfortunately, for the first time all trip, I was in a flat as a pancake exposed valley of sagebrush so neither of those options applied. Following the advice I’d read to make yourself small, I was in a ditch squatting for England leaving Reggie perched upright ready to take one for the team if he had to. I found myself looking up watching a dark blanket of doom being pulled across the sky, hail pelting down on my back with thunder and lightening going off in 3 different directions thinking ‘my God…the storms are merging…they’re forming a Super cell…’ – it honestly did have that pattern!
A bad situation became a tiny bit badder when, after the storm passed, I realised I couldn’t move. The water had turned the road to clay and I was quite literally stuck in the mud as a ball of it clogged up the space between the fork and the front wheel, stopping it from turning after just a single wheel rotation. After 2 miles of walking the bike through the sagebrush (which drained better), I hit better road and could cycle again.
I pedalled as far as I could before the rain came once more and i was on a particularly poor bit of road that meant, again, I ground to a halt in clay. Whilst there weren’t any houses around, there were a few random buildings and my day had ended 100m from the driveway to one of them. That was stony and seemed to shed the water better than the road which was pure mud so I ditched Reggie at the side of the road, packed up my possessions and spent the night in my tent in said driveway. It was awful. Another storm blew in and no exaggeration to say the wind nearly rolled the tent with me inside it.
I didn’t think about bears at all that night as it was a fairly deforested area and had all my food feet away so it was a bit of a shock to come across these prints in the morning a few miles down the road.
The road was just about rideable in the morning so I rode as far and as fast as I could before the weather pattern repeated itself. This saw me nose-diving out of the mountains at looming dark clouds, and heading down to the town of Mack’s Inn which is marked on the map with the visual treats of a shopping trolley, bed and knife and fork symbol. For the record, Mack’s Inn is smaller than most Welcome Breaks.
What I like about this route is that when things seem to be taking a turn for the worse, something good happens. I was in my motel room (weekly treat) when there was a knock on the door, which I opened to a sodden biker who, when checking in to the same motel, had heard from the receptionist I was here and offered to buy me a beer. He seemed a little shaken up after spending a night in stormy sagebrush valley IN A HAMMOCK! He made a miracle discovery of a bit of old fence and single willow tree that meant he could sling it up but he, like me, had found the whole experience decidedly unfunny.
Burrito and beers later, we agreed to ride together the next day (except I then bailed to take the shorter route which I’d like to point out is the MAIN route, not alternative option, it’s just it’s an old railway bed of volcanic sand so supposed to be hard to ride and thus they offer you an easier option). We met up where the two options re-connected, spent the night in the grounds of a random elk hunting lodge as we were out of options and the owners let us stay then set off separately (as our pace is very different!) thinking we’d both camp at the same spot that night. It is unseasonably cold (it’s in the 50s and supposed to be in the upper 70s this time of year), and after hearing reports that it might actually SNOW(!!!), David, who was ahead of me, got to the campsite one before the site we’d agreed to stop at and booked a cabin thinking ‘Anna is really not going to want to do another 17 miles in this weather’. Obviously I was gutted as really fancied a night in a wet tent eating peanut butter out the jar for dinner, but if a cabin, log fire and bison burger were thrust upon me it’s rude to say no. So here we are taking stock of what to do as it’s Baltic at 6,000 feet, constantly raining and there will almost certainly be snow at 10,000 ft which is the height of Cabin Pass we’re due to go over in a couple of days. David is going to “strike on out” and hit the pass once he’s bought a pair of wool socks to use as arm warmers. I’m looking at alternative options! There’s a scenic spur road down the side of the Teton Mountains to Jackson which I may take, then take the low roads to Pinedale. If I knew the roads up high were rideable I might do it but really don’t feel like hauling ass up 4,000 ft to find the roads closed or snow-covered and you could get lost. Easy option neatly disguised as safety first for me!
In lighter news, I’ve seen my first moose, the heat rash has gone and my bottom has been semi-restored to its former glory after a day out of the saddle! And I’ve done over 1000 miles and got to Yellowstone National Park which was my first medium-sized goal. Despite the elements making things a bit testing over the last few days, life is still good and I’m very much enjoying it (even if bits of it are ‘type 2 fun’ i.e. fun when you look back at it, not that fun at the time!).