Days 16-19: Start Your Engines

Quick rewind. Remember that 75-mile day that ended with an awesome view of Holland Lake?

Well, on our way to camp, Clemens gave me the best compliment that I heard on the trip thus far. After tackling a taxing 5-mile hill, he called me a “machine” — because of my consistent pacing up the mountain.

This comparison fired me up (in a good way) because I immediately thought of Rocky IV when Drago says that fighting Rocky is like punching “a piece of iron.” (Fun fact: This is literally the longest piece of dialogue he has in this movie.)

Since then — and since I had to keep my mind occupied while pedaling for hours on the road — I started making comparisons between my body and a car engine. My legs were the pistons that powered the bike forward. My sweat being a coolant that keeps the engine from overheating. And, my brain is the CPU making sure everything is working in sync (I think my mechanic gave me the low-end model, though.)

So, in the spirit of my pointless metaphor, this post dives into some of the bumps I’ve taken in the past few days and what I am doing to keep this motor running until we cross the finish line.

Day 16 - A Wheel Fell Off

To be honest, I’ve been debating posting about this particular day. However, in the spirit of transparency, I owe it to you, my faithful readers (all two of em, thanks Mom and Dad!) to tell you the full story of this trip.

Ever since that triumphant 75-mile cruise, my right knee has been acting a little funky. Funky as in, sharp pains that have progressively gotten worse over the past few days. And, on day 16, I couldn’t take it. You know that feeling when you bump into the side of a sharp table or counter? Imagine that feeling every time you lifted your knee to pedal.

Today, after 30 miles I had done more hiking than biking. Grateful for the pit stop, I landed in the haunted town of Butte and called in my medical expert — Sammi. Feeling a little down, it was the first time since Day 1 that I really missed home and I was really looking forward to hearing a familiar voice.

Giving me the kick in the pants I so very needed, I took Sammi’s advice and purchased a knee brace and some ice — well, Icy Hot, they were all out of ice. Fortunately, it was more than enough to get me through the last 20 miles to camp — where I iced my knees in the creek and started this sweet cowboy fire (please hold your applause).

Great Divide Campsite

(You can now applause)

Though the brace offers temporary relief, I will keep a closer eye on my knee in the days to come. For better or for worse, I am determined to carry on, and if I have to carry Apollo across the finish line on foot, at least it will be a scenic hike.

Day 17 - Check Engine Light Is On

I started with a lot of optimism following a great night’s rest and a greeting from another camper’s dog.

Great Divide Dog

But that confidence quickly fell apart when all I could feel was the soreness in my legs. Though the pain in my knee was gone, pushing on the pedals felt like I was trying to move the entire hill with my feet.

And, to compound mistakes (which I hear is good practice), I thought I was taking a “shortcut” to get back on the trail, but it turned out to be a massive hill. To be fair, it was a beautiful climb and decent, but still a bit more than I bargained for.

As for the win on this day? How about a large cheese pizza at the only restaurant I’ll cross for the last 50+ miles?

Though it wasn’t my favorite day on the trail, we completed the goal of 57 miles and would be set up nicely to gain one more day on the book.

Day 18 - Tune-Up

Today, both the map and the app marked a long uphill to start. However, to my appreciation, it turned out to be a fairly moderate climb — and my legs felt pretty good!

As I made my descent, I saw a sign for “hot springs and restaurant.” Naturally, I turned off route immediately. At least this detour had a hot tub.

While the restaurant was on off hours and the hot spring was more of a giant concrete jacuzzi, it still felt good to soak in some non-river water. And, there was a dog! Meet Callie, she’s a snuggler, and so am I.

Callie - Great Divide Dog
Feeling recharged and ready to go, I stopped at the only store I would see for the next 100 miles — Ma Barnes Country Market. And, who else but Ma Barnes would be there to greet me at the storefront and even offer to fill up my water on the house.

To cap off my day, I arrived at the ghost town of Bannack to set up camp. I kid you not, this place is the stuff of nightmares and I quickly moved my camp outside of town before setting out to explore.Bannack Montana - Great Divide Trail

Bannack Montana, Great Divide Trail
Spooked as I may have been by the slanted houses and the cold interior of each building, I felt like I was transported into a Clint Eastwood western film. I embraced my inner cowboy and did my best finger gun draw in the center of town (I also pretended to have a giant belt buckle and yelled “Welllllllp, best be getting on now!” but let’s not talk about that).

Clint Fontanella - Great Divide Trail

Just as I settled in, a very friendly couple offered me an iced cold sparkling water in exchange for a quick conversation about my trip. They had a dog, named Hope, and since I need a lot of hope (prayer, and charitable donation — and I’m not just talking about Shelter Ugolyok) I was happy to chat and enjoy their company before exploring the town. (Update: they also invited me to their campfire and gave me yellow watermelon. They were awesome!)Trail Angels - Great Divide Trail

I head back into the mountains tomorrow, and while Lima would normally be a pass-through town, there is one thing I am looking forward to when I get there…

Food. Oh, and Trent, my brother, he might be there, too.

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