Day 24 – brrr?

Start: Helena, MT
Finish: Lava Mountain
Today’s miles: 23.3
Total miles: 650.6
Splats: 0
Divide crossings: 0

It never ceases to amaze me how fast I can become cold. I’m huddled in my sleeping bag, eating the rest of my peas from the farmers’ market and trying to warm up after a soaking, cold rain from afternoon storms.

This morning I headed to the post office to ship home an assortment of random items I didn’t want to carry anymore. Then I headed over Hub Coffee for a last sip before getting back on the road. I finished up, and headed out. Clay and I arranged for him o come out and hunt me down somewhere in the first few miles for the interview.

Just at the edge of town I stopped to make an adjustment and discovered that one of the bolt holes in my seat post clamp had stripped out. I almost kept going, but decided it’d be smarter to backtrack the little bit to the bike shop to see if they could tap the hole for a new bolt. On my way back in I ran into Clay, who must’ve been on his way out to find me. We decided to try again after I figured out what my plans were.

The guys at The Garage were able to get me set up and going without too much trouble, but the gears in my head had started turning. I always seem o be looking for ways to justify a night or more nights in town! I got held up next door at Great Divide Cyclery trying to figure out ways to put more water bottle cages on the uni. By this point it was already approaching noon so there’d be no way I’d make it to the area I’d hoped to be by days end. After much debate I surprised myself and escaped the vortex of Helena. I even managed to walk by Taco del Sol without indulging in another fish burrito, though I’m kind of regretting that decision now.

Unfortunately, the timing of my escape did not fit with Clay’s schedule so there was no interview. As I climbed out of Helena, I was blinded by the brightness of my temporarily white shirt. If the dust hasn’t turned it brown by the end of tomorrow, I may just have to go wallow in a mud hole. I continued to gain elevation and felt lucky to be seamingly slipping through the storms on either side of me. My luck didn’t last though and I was soon searching for my rain gear.

As thunder clapped around me, I wondered where the lighting was. It sounded close, but I wasn’t seeing any flashes. I continued to climb through sparsely forested terrain which made me a little nervous. The rain became steadier and colder, gradually soaking me through my rain gear. With my late start, I had opted for a few snacks early on rather than having lunch, and now I wasregretting that decision. I needed more calories to stay warm, but didn’t want to stop moving. The route turned off the beaten path and turned into a “hike a bike” section, which was really more of a “wade a bike” section. I stopped for a minute to snap a photo. In that minute, my left knee apparently decided to rebel and make matters more interesting. I didn’t have much choice but to push on, sopping wet, cold, and now with a bum knee that had me grimacing and walking peculiarly. When the trail became more manageable, I hoped on the uni, but discovered that my knee not only didn’t want to walk, but it really didn’t want to ride either and caused me to topple over. That’d be it for the riding today.

Hobbling along, I assessed the situation. I was wet, cold and getting colder, hadn’t had a good intake of calories, nor had I been drinking enough water. I would also continue to gain elevation for awhile and there could be more lightning coming. Oh, and I was about out of water. Good job Gen. I continued on after managing to grab a few snacks. Eventually I decided it was time to get in the sleeping bag. I found some level ground in a good stand of trees, pitched the tent, prepared my bear line, grabbed some muddy water from a puddle, then crawled in the tent for some dry clothes and sleeping bag goodness. I also broke the rules and ate some bagels and peanut butter inside he tent (ok, it’s not the first time I’ve broken the rules). I then managed to venture back out to quickly hang the food in the trees and retreated to my sleeping bag for good. I did leave the peas left from my farmers market purchase in the tent and have been munching on them. I think they will have to suffice as my toothbrushing for tonight.

I’m not sure what to expect for tomorrow. I think the knee will be ok. Though not on this trip, this is not the first time it’s done this to me. I may use my bear spray can as a makeshift foam roller tonight. For those of you who are wondering what a foam roller is, it’s a cylindrical piece of foam that is used for various stretches and to work out kinks and stresses in the muscles. Usually, the roller is on the ground, and you place part of the leg on it and roll around.

If all goes well tomorrow, I could find myself in Butte by the afternoon; it’s about 44 miles from where I am right now (with several of those miles on two interstates). I had been thinking to try to get in and out of Butte quickly to save money, but everyone in Helena has been telling me that I should spend some time there to check it out. It is a place I’d wanted to explore so perhaps I will.

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