Monday July 14, 2014, 44 miles (70 km) – Total so far: 2,660 miles (4,280 km)
Up at 4.40 am and on the road at 5.15 am. There is an 80 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon, so I’d like to get to at least Divide Bridge Campground before the weather comes in. That’s the plan anyway.
I reaffirm that I should never be trusted to make important decisions before 8.30 am. As I’m leaving an intersection in town, I look in my mirror and can see the intermittent flashes of my rear blinkie light reflecting off of a stop sign. My brain thinks: “Oh, look at the flashing lights! That’s neat! How could I have ridden all of these touring miles and never noticed that before?” Yep, totally worthless before 8.30 am – I get excited in the early hours by flashing lights.
Old 91 north of Dillon is fairly flat with some gentle climbing through open range. To the west, the Pioneers shoot up above the valley in jagged 10,000 foot peaks. To the northeast, the mass of McCartney mountain is a formidable uplift with forested flanks. We can also see the Big Hole River dramatically cutting through a ridge to the east.
About 12 miles out of town, the road descends through a series of steps and sweeping curves to the river. It is like riding an escalator down several floors in a shopping mall. Down. Down. Flat. Down. Down. Flat. The resistant rock ridges determine the road’s course down to the willow and tree-lined banks of the Big Hole.
We follow the Big Hole upstream. The road weaves with the river in a fairly narrow gap between the mountains. It is pleasant and scenic. The road surface is good. The little traffic there is on the road consists mostly of fishermen towing boats.
Of some concern is the mass of dark clouds looming over the Pioneers. I’d been hoping when I left Dillon that they were just leftover stratus that would lift or shift as the morning grew old. But the clouds are looking ominous. They say: storms are coming!
We cross under the interstate and pass through Melrose – an old stage coach stop and then mining services town. There are a few surviving businesses that cater to fishermen, but otherwise, it is pretty well dead.
Leaving Melrose, I try to kick it up to super-fast. I don’t really have a super-fast speed, ever, but today my full-out sprint is only around 12 mph. The steep hills just out of town knock that back to 5 or 6 mph. I can hear thunder now.
I feel quite exposed. I ride harder. I crank up the hills as fast as possible. Now I can see lightning. Crap! What happened to storms after noon? It’s not even 9am! Pedal faster!
Just when I’m sure I’ll get dumped on because the midnight blue clouds laced with lightning are almost right over me, the road takes a hard right. Now we are not riding alongside the advancing storm but riding away from it. Pedal hard! If only I could get super-sprint speed to happen today – but I cannot.
The rain starts to spit, um, not spit…. The rain starts to flop down in fat and thick drops. Just a few here and there to let me know my super-speed is slow today, and that thunderstorms move faster.
I scream downhill through Divide – all I see there are a couple of houses and a bar – and try to keep the momentum going. The road curves between tall mountains to the south and north. Now I’m riding into a moderate headwind. Thunder booms all around. I cross over the river bridge and brake hard into the campground. I ride down past the day-use area and along the gravel road.
A couple groups are packing up to leave. The sites in the trees near the river are pretty full with RVs and the mozzies are ferocious. So I head up to the upper loop which is much more open with fewer bugs. I roll into a site and erect the tent in near-record time. I’m just tossing in the panniers when the rain begins. It isn’t even 10 am, but I’m done for the day.
I jump into the tent, zip up the fly and listen to the rain come down. It doesn’t last long. Most of the storm stays over the main range. I roll out my sleeping pad and get comfortable. Then I proceed to sleep for four hours straight. I hear rain and thunder several times but never fully wake. I get up, eat some food, drink some water, lay back down and sleep another two hours.
In the late afternoon, I get up and walk down to the day use area and enjoy the river for a little bit. Then I head back to the tent, eat, drink and go to bed at 7 pm.
I guess my body needed a rest and repair day. If I hadn’t succumbed today, I probably would have had to succumb tomorrow or the next day when the weather was better. So thank you, body, for timing your need for rest with a crappy weather day. Brain capacity and pedalling capacity were pretty low today, but sleep capacity was incredibly high!