The first day was hot and dry; we rode through the remains of a big fire that hit here in the not to distant past. The road quality is poor in that there are big holes, washboards (it is like riding on that strip on the side of the road that is suppose to wake you up if you fall asleep while driving) and dusty/soft sections. We don’t mind much though. This day is unique in that the temperature topped 90 degrees Fahrenheit and we ended in a town. Columbia Falls has a grocery store with a good bit of ‘health food’. We stocked up and headed to a nearby park to eat dinner and scope out camping. Steevo had ridden through Montana on his cross-country trip and had some memory of this town. We relaxed in the park and started to wrap our mind around the next four weeks. Warm weather, grocery stores and parks would not be usual part of this trip.
Riding on the second day we ran into a guy on a mountain bike heading in our direction. He was over 70 and told us stories for a good 45 minutes while we climbed a dirt hill into the Montana wilderness. He carried a 357 magnum and bear spray. ‘One is for humans and one is for bears, but it doesn’t really matter which is which.’ Had lived in Montana for 13 years, but was still a California to everyone here. Claimed he did one of the first iron-distance triathlons in 1979. He turned off at a fork and wished us well with some advice on the upcoming route. Steevo and I would talk about him the rest of the trip.
That night was sketchy. We spotted Peck Lake on the map and thought that would be a good place to camp. Camping on a lake in Montana, sounds great, right? It was creepy in an odd, illogical, difficult-to-explain way. We were in the woods, off of a small dirt trail off of the main dirt trail and it just didn’t feel right. We were tired, so we decided to go to the lake to get some water. Unfortunately for us, it was like a lake surrounded by a Marsh. We didn’t realize this till we both stepped into and sunk in to our ankles! Fatigue and lack of calories will make you crazy. We both leaped, the best we could, out of the mud as we yelled in our excitement. For the trip Lisa from Sweet Pea Bakery had given me some flip flops for the trip, my first pair. I lost one in the swamp and sent the other to be with his counterpart. Thanks anyway, Lisa.
After Steevo climbed out over the lake on a fallen tree and proceeded to clog up the water filter, we decided it was best to move on. Glad we made that decision easily. We camped at Jim’s creek after cooking/eating in the dark (not fun). We also had a ton of trouble trying to hang our food (stupid bears). Steevo even climbed a tree! Eventually, we were off to sleep in our bicy sacs, listening to the sound of running water, to tired to be concerned about bears.
I had asked Jack and Megan to help out with getting my stuff packed because I had to give the final to my class and would not be home till 9pm or so and needed to leave for the airport around 4am. Unfortunately, even after years of knowing me, they were unprepared for the lengths I was going to go to save the $75 excess baggage fee. Most of the night was spent with Budge getting drunk, Megan enjoying the alpha-male contest for her attention from two boys and myself cutting and taping three boxes (always under 62 inches, length plus width plus height!) that would fit a complete bicycle, a bob trailer and all of my gear for the entire trip. With some ingenuity, it worked and southwest was none the wiser.
Roll into Portland with no sleep, but Lisa, Vmaas and myself head over to Laurelthyrst for a great breakfast of pancakes, potatoes and other vegan goodness. We need to leave the next day for Montana and I still have a ton of shopping and other things to take care of. We hit Food Fight!, Whole Foods and the Veloshop (a vegan bike shop run by Molly Cameron) to stock up on food and bike parts and of course to check out the stuff I love here in Portland. Lisa, owner of Sweet Pea Baking, a vegan bakery, donated some treats for our trip and some sugar and oatmeal for our camp breakfasts. A good friend from the East Coast happens to be in Portland to do a BMX photo shoot and we all meet up for dinner. Rob Dolecki and I have managed to meet up all over the country since we are both traveling and it is usually over some excellent food.
At night when I am putting my bike together I can’t find my pedals. I remember that Jack took them off…and he put them down on a table and they never made it into the box. Also find an extra item that Budge slipped into my bivy sac when I wasn’t looking. Very funny.
Off to Montana with Vmaas! It wasn’t that long ago that him and I left Pennsylvania on a snowy day in January of 2001. He was moving to Texas and went with and flew to Central America from there to spend two months in Belize. Was that really almost six years ago? The drive to Montana was uneventful, we mostly ate cookies and muffins and listened to the old-school rap station on satellite radio. We roll into Whitefish and it looks if west-LA was transferred to a rural mountain town. Fancy people with fancy cars and dress playing cowboy in Montana. Cell phone-less Steevo was chillin on a bench talking to some dudes when we found him. Fuck yeah! We find a place to camp and call it a night.
The next day we went into Glacier National Park, did some hiking, sorted out getting to the start of the ride, and just chilled. I went for a swim at dusk in Lake Mcdonald after, with Steevo and Dave’s help, I got my bike running properly. For this trip I got a complete Surly Long Haul Trucker that I’ve only ridden once. It is a touring bike that can fit the 700×42 tires we are running. Most cyclocross bikes can’t run tires that wide. After a camp dinner of canned Indian food, we all get to sleep just after dark.
In the morning we load all of our stuff into the car as Vmaas is kindly driving us up to the Canadian border on mostly unpaved roads. In Lisa’s car. Steevo and I are silent. The roads suck. Is Vmaas pissed? He doesn’t seem to mind and we thank him profusely when we get there. Since our time is limited we are starting at a point not on the route; it is slightly east of the rec’d starting point, but it is still on the border and it is actually closer to the actual Continental Divide. This border crossing is closed, but there is a landing strip and we are not there long before a border agent appears. He’s friendly and he knew about what we were doing. Vmaas hops back into the car and just like that it is only Steevo and I and our bikes. Before he left we did get this photo of Vmaas holding a sign we actually found on the Canadian side of the border.
Got back from New Mexico and the Great Divide ride on my birthday and we celebrated at Happy Family. Stoked. Thanks y’all. I’d post more photos, but iPhoto seems to of eaten them all.
I am on the education committee for an organization called Organic Athlete that promotes veganism through athletic events. The main person behind it, Bradley Saul is very hard-working and ambitious about what they can achieve. Recently I helped with their Sports Nutrition Guide. While I do not agree with all of it (mostly the raw food, anti-fake meat wingnut stuff), it is still a very good resource. Check it out here:
Organic Athlete Guide to Sports Nutrition