Don’t get me wrong, town days are a lot of fun. There’s food, people, and all the dogs you can pet.
But, town days can make it easy to forget that I am working under a deadline. The book lays out a 70-day trip and I have exactly that amount of time to reach Antelope Wells.
So, while I am trying to be flexible and enjoy the ride (pun intended), I do have to keep pace so I can stay on schedule with the book.
And, that’s what I did the last 3 days. I went about 180 miles (with a lot of uphill) and was determined to get ahead of the book. Here’s what happened.
Day 10 - The Barbarian
Knowing that I was in for a tough day, I woke with a plan and a lot of determination. If today was going to be the “hardest” day of the trip, I was going to get my money’s worth.
Rather than just climbing one, 6-mile hill, I was ready to conquer two — totaling a 75-mile day. This would gain another day on the book and set me up nicely for an afternoon at Seeley Lake, a relaxing campground close to a small town.
Let’s detour for a second, and stay with me on this one. If you’re not familiar with the internet sensation, Liver King, don’t worry I’m not going to send you on a scavenger hunt. Just know he’s a fitness “guru” (and I use that term very liberally) who prides himself on his carnivorous diet and “primal” lifestyle. Well, Mr. King created an endurance challenge called “the barbarian” where you walk a mile carrying twice your weight in dumbbells on your shoulders, back, and legs. The idea is that if you can accomplish this, you can do anything you set your mind to.
Day 10 was my barbarian. It may have been sheer adrenaline but I drove that bike up the first 6-mile hill with ease. 30 miles later, my legs weren’t as fresh. But, luckily I had a teammate to push me to the finish line. If you guessed Clemens, buy yourself a lotto ticket. My Austrian compadre led the way to the campground as I struggled to keep up (I swear the man is lightning).
The Canadians who told me that Day 10 was the worst day were wrong about one thing. Yes, the bike ride sucked, but it wasn’t without a payout. Our campsite neighbored a small lake, with an incredible view of the mountain that we would crossover next. And c’mon, a rainbow too? Look at this thing.
75 miles in the books, but this view was well worth it.
Day 11 - Today was a good day.
I woke up soaking wet. I set my tent up wrong, and then a thunderstorm rolled in and punished me for my mistake. Needless to say, expectations for the day started low.
Fortunately, they got higher… but I wouldn’t call it by choice. I literally had to get about 2000 feet higher before I could summit today's 6500 ft mountain.
But, I had completed the barbarian, what’s one more hill?
I’ll save you the details. After a lot of sweat and profanity, I made it to the top of the mountain. And that’s when I learned something new about Montana: they have red dirt! (The inner baseball player in me geeked out.)
What was even cooler is that this trail took me down 5 miles of single-track, red dirt trail. I felt like I was in Arizona flying down a mountain while at the same time, I saw snow-capped peaks in the distance.
See, here's proof!
Apollo also took a beating on this trip. The dry dirt and rocks kicked up a lot of debris on my way down and I could feel the bolts on the bike slowly loosening. After the day, I treated him to a chain cleaning and of course, a huckleberry milkshake.
Day 12 - Normal
The rain came again last night, but this time I had learned from previous mistakes. I was dry (mostly) and was ready to take on the day.
But, I had to keep my eye on the weather. The storm brought some of the loudest thunder I had ever heard and the lightning looked like camera flashes brightening up my tent. Seeing firsthand how violent these storms could be, I didn’t love the thought of being uphill at six thousand feet when one of these hit.
Fortunately, the rain held off, even though it felt threatening all day. Aside from that though, I won’t bore you with any uneventful stories. Sure, there was a hill to climb today, but there’s a new mountain to climb every day. And this one didn’t have a fun view or lake like the last. There wasn’t even a dog to pet in town. Disappointing as it was, it was a nice little reminder that some days are a grind and you have to be patient for the reward.
Tonight, I battle the rain again in Lincoln. Tomorrow, we set out for Helena. It’s about a two-day ride and I hear there’s an “Alpaca House” that’s a must-see. Will report hopefully with stories of new 4-legged friends!