Sunday, June 24, 2012
Day's distance: 80.44
Average speed: 12.3
Maximum speed: 30.3
Overall distance: 647
When Josh and I were newly dating, I once asked him what his top few places were that he wanted to travel to if he could go anywhere in the world. When "Montana" was the first thing that came out of his mouth, I thought that he might be a little too weird and boring. For all I knew, Montana was a boring state in the middle of nowhere. He explained that it had to do with archaeology, history, scenery- something like that. But whoever gave him the impression that Montana was worthy of the number one spot on his list of desired destinations was on to something. We have been in this state for a day and a half and it has been absolutely spectacular so far. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Day 11 was the most beautiful day yet. Anyway, here's how the day started:
It was my best friend Joyce's birthday. When she had been planning to join us for the first few weeks, we were going to ride a century on her birthday. Since we were conveniently located 101 miles from our campsite in Missoula, I announced, "I'm going to ride 100 miles today in honor of Joyce's birthday." My mom laughed and everyone knew I was kidding, which I mostly was. But, secretly, I never gave up the idea that I could ride the whole distance. It would be a nice accomplishment and it would allow us a rest day on Monday.
Josh and I left camp just after 9 am and rode the first 28 miles into Plains, MT. The ride was a little slow but it was fun. The road wasn't busy so we were able to talk. It was overcast and cool. We stopped for a few pictures and saw a train or two go by.
We saw many rocky cliffs, some off in the distance and some close by. Each had large piles of rocks scattered around the bottom, indicating that rock slides were common off the cliffs. Joshua, the photographer, didn't care about the danger and stopped right under one to have a look. It made me nervous but we hung out for just a little while. There were also signs along the way of longhorn sheep wandering across the road. Josh was excited at the prospect of seeing new wildlife and said "worst case scenario, just use your bike to protect your body". I was both relieved and sorry for him when we didn't come into contact with any.
From Plains, my mom and I rode six miles into Paradise, MT where we ate lunch in the grass. I had a peanut butter, nutella, banana sandwich with an apple and a chunk of white cheddar. We continued on into some unbelievably magnificent views. We continued to hug the Clark Fork River, which was full of gorgeous blue green water. We rode winding roads through valleys between the mountains.
This portion of the ride was through an Indian Reservation so there wasn't anything around but the rocky landscape and the endless Montana sky. It was right around here that my mom said, "Well, it feels like we're in the Rocky Mountains now."
Around mile 55, we came around a bend and I screamed so loud that my mom thought I'd been spooked by an animal. But I hadn't. I was just thrilled by the sight of the white, snow-capped Rockies hiding in the distance. They were dark and majestic looking and one of the best sights of the trip. They are hard to see in this picture but they were there and they were breathtaking.
Then Josh and I rode together for 7 miles and saw a field of sheep being herded by a dog. I've heard much about that phenomenon but I'd never seen it in action. I think it was adorable and cool.
At lunch, we had done some research on where to spend the night and there was virtually nowhere between Plains and Missoula. So we booked a room at the days inn north of Missoula and accepted that we'd have to drive to our night's lodging and then be dropped off where we had stopped in the morning. This seemed a bit like cheating to me but the advantage was that I could ride and ride until I was too tired to go on.
When Josh and I got to about mile 68, we were in the town of Ravali which was a casino, restaurant, and a gas station. We all shared a huckleberry shake and my mom and I set out south on highway 93 to ride as far as we could toward Missoula. It was only 26.7 miles to our motel and I was still determined to get there by sunset. No one knew this yet.
At mile 72, my mom checked in to make sure I didn't plan to ride past Arlee, which was only 6 more miles ahead. That's when I dropped the bomb that I felt prepared to ride my two wheels right into the motel parking lot and finish the day with a near century. She was not a fan.
The shoulder was large, my body felt good, and I felt safe riding the full distance. But neither my mom or Josh thought it was the best plan and I knew it would be selfish and stubborn to put my foot down. So we comprised and I rode until my odometer hit 80. Then our sag car picked me up and we drove to the motel. In the morning, we would be dropped right back where I'd finished so as not to miss even an inch of this country on my bike.
I'll admit that I was pooped by the time we got to our motel. We ordered pizza and salads and, after my shower, I never left the bed. Tomorrow would be mostly a rest day with a quick 20 miles in the morning. After 160 miles in two days, I felt quite accomplished!