Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Day 31 Daunted Courage, July 30, 2013

Route: Whitehall to Dillon, MT

Quote of the day: From the waiter in the restaurant where Sho, Saya and I ate lunch in Twin Bridges, Montana, after I told him that I was spending the summer cycling with my kids.  “Good for you.  They’re gonna be grown and gone before you know it.  Mine are.” 

Some days, things just go your way.  Over the 8 hours that we were on the road, clouds blocked the sun much of the time and the temperatures climbed no higher than the mid-80’s – excellent cycling weather.  And in the final hour of our 55-mile ride, a strong tail wind suddenly kicked up and helped push us over the rolling climbs.  When you’re on a bike, temperature, terrain, and wind are a big deal.  And today, they broke in our favor.

There was more truck traffic on our route through the Jefferson Valley than I would have liked, but we often enjoyed extended stretches without vehicles passing us.  We continued to capture roadkill data, but saw many more live animals.  We stopped briefly to take photos of an eagle’s nest just off the road on a high pole, while the protective mother glided overhead clicking and calling out warnings to us.  We also saw the renowned Beaverhead Rock, a limestone outcropping which Sacagawea used to help the Corps of Discovery locate her people almost exactly 208 years ago in August 1805.  Meriwether Lewis wrote in his journal, “… the Indian woman recognized the point of a high plain to our right which she informed us was not very distant from the summer retreat of her nation on a river beyond the mountains which runs to the west.  this hill she says her nation calls the beaver’s head from a conceived re[se]mblance of it’s figure to the head of that animal.  she assures us that we shall either find her people on this river or on the river immediately west of it’s source.”  I imagined Sacagawea’s response to seeing this easily recognizable geological formation, which she had last seen over five years earlier when she was kidnapped by a Hidatsa raiding party.  No doubt, the rocks brought back a rush of childhood memories and a longing to be reunited with her family…

We are spending tonight in Dillon, population 4,500, and in the morning will need to get food and water to last us for two days.  The Continental Divide has loomed in the distance as we’ve cycled south for the past week, but we are about to turn west and head over our first of three mountain passes.  It will take two days before we reach the next town with supplies.  We won’t have Internet access, so my next blog update will probably be on Friday, Aug 2. 

Here are some pics:

Our cloudy day

Eagle's nest

Beaverhead Rock

Sho and Saya at the lookout near Beaverhead rock

Sho trying to capture a photo of an eagle soaring away

The Continental Divide looming...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Day 30 Daunted Courage, July 29, 2013

Route: Three Forks to Whitehall, MT

Saya’s quote of the day came when we were spelunking in the Lewis & Clark Caverns: “Don’t fall down that big hole, Daddy.  If you die, Sho and me will have to ask strangers for directions the rest of this trip.”

After cycling for two days on an annoyingly busy highway, we were rewarded today with a gorgeous ride through towering canyons along the Jefferson River.  When Lewis & Clark were in this area, they were in a desperate search for the Shoshone Indians, who they hoped would provide horses and guide them over the Rocky Mountains.  Lewis & Clark did not realize how difficult it would be to cross the continental divide, but Sho, Saya and I do!  In a few days, we will ride over Lehmi Pass, the first of several mountain passes we will cross on our way to the Pacific Ocean.

We took a break halfway through our ride to explore the Lewis & Clark Caverns, joining a 2-hour guided tour through the fascinating caves.  The entrance was 3 miles off the highway, up a series of steep switchbacks.  Recognizing that we didn’t have time to cycle up that climb and take the tour, and hoping to avoid such an exhausting ride, we hitched a ride with a friendly family from northern California (see pic).  We shared the tour with them and appreciated how lucky we were to meet such generous people. 

Lewis & Clark, by the way, never visited these caves.  They were wandering around far below in the Jefferson River Canyon in search of the Shoshone tribe, and not faring well.  On July 31, 1805, Meriwether Lewis (who wasn’t the greatest of spellers) wrote, “We have a lame crew just now, two with tumers or bad boils on various parts of them, one with a bad stone bruise, one with his arm accedently dislocated but fortunately well replaced, and a fifth has streigned his back by sliping and falling backwards on the gunwall of the canoe.”  Sho, Saya and I read the L&C Journals each night, and entries like this one make our sore butts much easier to accept. 

Here are some pics:
Sho and Saya by the Jefferson River

We heard the eagle's echoing call, then watched it soar

The friendly family who gave us a ride to the L&C Caverns

Not far from where Saya uttered her quote of the day

Action shot during the ride

Leaving the Jefferson River Canyon

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Day 29 Daunted Courage, July 28, 2013

Route: Townsend to Three Forks, MT

The rain tapered off quickly last night and treated us to a rainbow, as we set up our tent in the Indian Road Campground on the outskirts of Townsend (see pic below).  The temperature dropped at least 30 degrees overnight, and we snuggled close in our sleeping bags to keep warm.  I was awakened perhaps a half dozen times throughout the night by the sound of train horns.  As we cycled into town yesterday, riding parallel to the train tracks, we enjoyed the few trains that passed us.  Sho and Saya made a game of counting the number of railcars, with a high score of 94, and waved to the conductor to honk for us.  But their horns were much less quaint at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 3 a.m., etc.  There must be a railway crossing in Townsend, requiring them to sound their horns regardless of how many people may be trying to sleep nearby.     

Before leaving Townsend, we were approached by three separate people who had read about our trip in the Great Falls Tribune earlier in the week and wished us luck.  It was nice to receive such friendly attention.  We continued cycling on the same “pretty suckish” highway today, covering 35 miles to the town of Three Forks and eating lunch in the shade of a towering stack of haybales. 

Near the end of today’s ride, I heard a flapping sound coming from my rear tire and discovered that part of the tread had worn off.  On closer inspection, I found three spots where the tread was starting to come loose.  We’ve cycled over some gravel roads, and the highway shoulder is often full of debris.  The amount of weight on my rear tire must have caused it to wear down so quickly – that tire was brand new a month ago.  Happily, I had prepared for this scenario, bringing along a spare tire.  We’ll see how long that one will last…

Three Forks is near the headwaters of the Missouri River and not far from where Sacagawea was taken captive as a girl.  References to the Lewis and Clark Expedition abound: a regal statue of Sacagawea sits in the center of town across from the Sacagawea Hotel and down the street from the Lewis & Clark Motel.  The Broken Spur Motel has a painting in its lobby of William Clark’s slave York dancing with a group of Native Americans.  I read out loud from Lewis & Clark’s journals as my children fell asleep tonight and could not have been in a more appropriate setting.

Here are some pics:
Tent and rainbow

Our campsite last night

Sho riding ahead as usual

Our lunch spot

View from the road

The end of my rear tire

Replacing the tire

Sho and Saya in Three Forks

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Day 28 Daunted Courage, July 27, 2013

Route: Helena to Townsend, MT

Using the vernacular common to my kids’ generation, I would describe today’s ride as “pretty suckish.”  We cycled from Helena to Townsend, MT on Highway 12/287, following a route suggested by the Adventure Cycling Association.  Many of the highways we’ve ridden on so far in Montana have been lightly trafficked and pass through gorgeous countryside.  Today’s route had some pleasant views, especially of Canyon Ferry Lake, but we were hemmed in to a sometimes narrow shoulder bumping over the rumble strips and passed by a constant stream of vehicles.  We were perfectly safe, but the noise of the traffic took a lot away from the experience.

Along the way, we came across two cyclists from Portland, OR coming the opposite direction.  We chatted with them for a few minutes, comparing notes and sharing stories from our rides.  They will reach Portland around the same time we do in late August, so we may well see one another again.

A rain storm moved in as we arrived in Townsend.  We took shelter in a restaurant, where I am writing this blog.  I decided to post it now (7 p.m. on July 27), because we are about to cycle out to a campsite and set up our tent in the rain.  I won’t have an Internet connection again until tomorrow, so look for an update on our night in tomorrow's blog.  It may be a little soggy.

Here are some pics: 
Saya taking a break

Crosses where people have died in car accidents.  There were 9 crosses at this intersection.

Looking toward Canyon Ferry Lake

Sho and Saya with fellow adventure cyclists, Roby and Keegan

The rain cloud that moved in