Days 35-39: photo journal

Day 35: Sweetwater River Crossing to A&M Reservoir (the Great Basin)

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Day 36: A&M Reservoir to bloody Rawlins!

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Day 37: Rawlins to Teton Reservoir

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(Not actual storm…)

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Day 38: Teton Reservoir to Rawlins

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(Some use of Google here…)

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Day 39: still in Rawlins

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Hi Big Sky!

So far, Montana is treating me very well indeed! The people have been unfailingly friendly and kind, and the sun continues to shine.

After leaving Eureka, I got overtaken by bumped into some others also cycling the Divide and we spent a couple of days together. One of them is an expert on this sort of thing and put me on a kit diet, and I have now lost 8Ibs by following the UPS weight-loss plan and shipping stuff I don’t need to my cousin. He urged me to ditch things I was mulling over whether to part ways with, with a “Anna, if you’re even thinking about it, you don’t need it – it’s gone already”. So I’ve said goodbye to my stove and after a “those pants [trousers] – off, you don’t need ’em” I’ve said goodbye to several items of relaxed loungewear and god knows what else but it somehow came to 8Ibs worth of stuff.

After lightening the load I thought “I am going to be cooking on gas now!” and sure enough my flame that was previously barely lit is now at gas mark 2 and I have seen some improvement in my performance. The route instructions of “start climbing” that used to mean “get off your bike, have a biscuit, put Phil Collins on then start walking until you’re at the top of the hill” now actually means “start climbing”. I did a 6 mile climb the other day which I’m quite proud of!

The good thing about climbs is that you get a chance to safely cycle without a helmet and let what I used to call my hair, breathe. My ‘hair’ seems to have been replaced by some sort of organic matter that resides upon my head. I’m not sure when I last washed it, but I know I was in a different country at the time. I’m a bit worried that things have got so bad that I’m going to need extensive massaging in the sink with some heavy duty detergent, like a cormorant post oil-spill disaster. Hopefully that will disperse the worst of the oil and dirt to allow the shampoo to penetrate through to the hair underneath.

I could have washed it when we camped in the back garden of Rita and Chuck, a very generous couple who offer their property on the Warm Showers website but felt a bit bad if all 4 of us had one! I left the others to spend an extra day at Rita and Chuck’s place in Whitefish and carried on alone as I move at a more refined pace and knew I’d see them again at some point when they overtook me again.

I wasn’t alone for long as people are extremely friendly and most people I see on the logging roads I’ve mostly been riding on (who are usually collecting firewood or going huckleberry picking) stop for a chat. And I had dinner and drinks bought for me in Ferndale after a pit-stop for chicken and chips before heading off into the wilds to camp. A table of locals saw me/smelt me, realised what I was doing and said I could camp out the back of the Roadhouse. Imagine something in middle-of-nowhere America that’s called the Roadhouse and you’re probably close to imagining what type of joint this was. I offered to buy them a beer to say thanks for the camping tip and next thing I know I’ve had a great night with new BF’s Joey, Fella, Bob and River the multiple-tasking Golden Retriever who will be “your hunting partner, your best friend and then he’ll sniff your cancer”. I’ve left them worrying that WWIII is about to break out as “we’ve let Germany get strong again and look what happened last time we let that happen”. Not sure that’s number 1 on my list of global concerns but maybe I’m being naive!

The Roadhouse

The Roadhouse

Next day I wild-camped as wanted to go a bit further than the recommended mileage (as that is how I roll nowadays) and drifted off to sleep after being handed a cold beer by an RV driver who was blatantly massively lost and blatantly not wanting to tell his crew he was massively lost. Those little moments of generosity are what have characterised Montana thus far. That and snakes.

Snakes are going great guns on the animal scoring chart! I’ve now seen 5 although 3 have, similarly to the first one, had 5 points deducted by being dead but one was alive and elicited a loud gasp so that gets 9 points. And we have a new entrant! I was camped on the shored of Clearwater Lake, lying on my side looking out the tent and a beaver goes sailing past. 10 points for being cute and swimming serenely, head above water like girls do when they don’t want to get their hair wet.

So that’s Montana for now, and it’s getting more and more beautiful as I continue to gain altitude and leave the low-lying land around the border behind. Excitingly for me and no one else, I’m now on the 2nd side of the Montana map and yesterday was my one-fifth anniversary having done 20% of the route and given most people don’t finish it, I’m pretty happy with 20%.

 

Hopes and Fears…

Fears

Fears first so we end on the more positive note of hopes. In no particular order…

1)      Bears

Sort of wants to see one, sort of don’t…  Made the mistake of watching this whilst getting side-tracked when reading up on bear avoidance strategies https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nSWc43TLaI HOW big?! Bought a bear canister (a plastic barrel that bears can’t open) to keep my food in overnight and not attract unwelcome visitors to my tent. It proved to be impenetrable by humans too and I couldn’t get the lid off for the life of me but a friend managed to open it (after I’d loosened it for him obviously…). Thanks Chris!

2)      Hair getting so knotted I have to go to a dog grooming parlour to get it sorted out

3 months of sweaty helmet hair and I’m envisaging some major tangles, akin to the ones I got when I was young which I cut out myself, the damage later discovered by the hairdresser when he lifted up the surface hair and exposed a somewhat choppy under-layer. I’m thinking Americans seem quite into dog grooming and I’ll probably stumble upon a parlour at some point where they can attack the knot with a wire brush whilst I tremble like a whippet and, if worst comes to the worst, I’ll just have to face the clippers

3)      Mechanical breakdown

4)      Mental breakdown

5)      Looking like a boy

Wouldn’t say I’m particularly girly, but I find the thought of 3 months in ugly mid-thigh length shorts slightly depressing. To counter-balance the hefty dose of man-cloth in my panniers, I’m also bringing bubble gum pink short-shorts and a dress. Probably won’t wear either but at least I’ll know they’re there!

6)      A spider – big one – on, in or under my sleeping bag

7)      A rattle snake – any size – on, in or under my sleeping bag

Final episode of 24 about to start so will come back later and finish this! Although it does remind me that a ‘hope’ is that I my VPN app which masks your IP address works and I can successfully download TV programmes from iPlayer whilst abroad.

Right, episode over. Poor old Jack…

Onto hopes:

1)      Bears

Scary as it might would be, I think it’d be quite cool to see a bear. My hope is not just that I see one, but that I adopt the right attitude and behaviour. That’s remaining calm, looking at the floor or at it in a firm yet non-aggressive way and, if charged, making yourself as big as possible (arms above your head etc.). So that’d be me going from 5ft 2 to ~5Ft 11 – that’ll put the wind up it!

What I’m hoping I won’t do is to think ‘it’s a bear but I’m good with animals…it’s fur looks really soft…wonder whether it would like a pat…?’. After successfully bonding with the family dog Bramble, a 20” x 25” compact unit of enthusiasm and affection, I’m hoping I won’t be over-confident in my Dr Doolittle qualities, approach a bear and come unstuck.

2)      Return nice and toned

There’s every chance that, despite the energy expenditure going up the hills, calories-in ends up being greater than calories-out with every small-town diner visit going something along the lines of “nachos to start please, then the pulled pork – fries, not salad, with that; a side plate of wings, a Coke float and….yes…cherry pie to finish – thanks Betty-Sue”. Hopefully I won’t mistake refuelling with gluttony and finish the ride with nicely sculpted legs and arms – I’d imagine I’ll push the bike a good few times!

3)      I meet nice people

Part of the appeal of the US is how friendly I’ve always found the people and I’m hoping that in the event of mechanical failure, I have a similar experience to Leon.

http://www.leonmccarron.com/blog/tips-for-beginning-a-bicycle-adventure?

4)      I don’t nip out the tent in my knickers assuming I won’t be seen

I’m sure many people have been there, nipping out during the night for a pee and thinking ‘what are the chances of someone coming along in the 60 seconds when I don’t want to be seen?’. I know from experience that, no matter where you are, what the time is or how quick you are, there’s a chance you will be seen in insufficient clothing for a public appearance if you take risks.

I’d gone out on my bike at lunchtime one weekday and returned home soaked through as it’d rained pretty heavily. I live in a house broken down into 3 flats and was conscious I’d left a fairly muddy bike in the communal hallway (where I normally keep it) but, given how wet I was, I was keen to get out my clothes. Rather than doing the sensible thing of getting the bike cover out of my flat (top floor), going downstairs again to the communal hallway and covering the bike up, THEN stripping, I stripped first, THEN went downstairs to cover the bike. I figured everyone would be at work and, if not, the chances of them coming out their flat or returning home during the 60 seconds that I was not wearing much in the hallway would be minimal. Alas, it was not so, and mid bike cover-up I heard a key in the lock in the front door and the distinctive outline through the opaque glass of the guy who lives on the ground floor. Cue frantic run up the stairs, inefficient from over-enthusiasm like a puppy on lino flooring. Luckily I made it round the corner just in the nick of time and had a short, breathless conversation with my neighbour about how “now isn’t a good time to talk”.

5)      I enjoy it!

Be a nice bonus! I reckon I will 🙂

A cheese-based strategy to travelling light…

This is my first blog post so I should probably introduce the idea – riding the Great Divide, Banff to the Mexican border, leaving Friday 25th July – and my bike, hereinafter known as Reggie. It’s an off-the-shelf Surly Troll which I haven’t changed at all, bar putting a pair of 2nd hand suspension forks on. I’m not that interested in bikes per se so haven’t gone down the route of building one out of separate parts – Reggie is pure breed and I’m hoping his pedigree will show on the trail.

Bit worried I should have invested in a better saddle though and 2,700 miles could see a somewhat fractious relationship with my bottom. Although if we keep the communication lines open and chamois cream to hand, hopefully we can work through the tough times together and come out stronger the other side. I also have a pair of eye-wateringly expensive cycling shorts – a motivational treat before RideLondon 100 last year – which may make up for any short-comings of the saddle.

Reggie

GDMBR

As well as not being naturally that interested in bikes and liking the idea of (potentially) proving that you don’t have to be that into bikes and kit to do a long-distance ride, I was also keen to avoid doing too much research into it as, when I did take a brief jaunt down Kit Avenue, I realised that it’s a very time-consuming path to go down! Upon Googling ‘lightweight bike tools’ I got lost in cyber space, reading reviews and being about to buy something then stumbling upon one negative review at the last moment which put me right off and I ended up repeating that cycle with various different options, all tools weighing within about 10g of each other. When I ‘came to’, my face burning in front of a massively over-heating laptop, I learned that the world has gone bonkers and voted for UKIP, Andy Murray hadn’t got as far in Wimbledon as we would have liked and suddenly everyone wanted to be German.

This book http://gearforcycletouring.com/?from=13 proved a very useful tool to quickly dip into and see the range of options out there for various items, and generally get tips on how to make your trip a success.

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My main tactic to traveling light has been cheese- rather than titanium-based. I figured it was easier and cheaper to shave 5Ibs off your cumulative load by shedding one’s winter coat of a few extra inches of body fat. Cutting out cheese and (momentarily) bread – didn’t last for long on that one – seemed to do the trick and I am now slightly lighter.  Didn’t actually last long on cheese either after a particularly strong craving one afternoon saw me making a special trip, at pace, to Planet Organic for some cheddar #middleclasstraumas.

Additional preparation has involved going on 2 bike maintenance courses, one at the London Bike Kitchen and one ‘somewhere else’. The LBK one was good but – and I see this as a fault of the pupil, not teacher – I’d forgotten most of what I’d learned about 3 weeks later. I signed up for a 2nd one where the, as advertised, “you’ll hear him before you see him” teacher contorted my arm into an ‘urban handshake’ at first meeting (awkward when you don’t know it’s coming), ranted about Margaret Thatcher and occasionally threw some words in about bikes.  I left the course £60 lighter and wondering whether I’d been too uptight during the initial greeting and could have relaxed into the novel handshake better but, alas, no better equipped to mend a bike. So I’m hoping, nay praying, that Reggie doesn’t suffer any damage and regular maintenance at the local bike shops along the route keeps him in premium shape!