Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bike America Day 15: The Highest Plains

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Day's distance: 77.54 miles
Overall distance: 877 miles

From the peace and warmth of a tent with my new fiancĂ©, I was extra slow to get going in the morning. By the time we packed up and ate breakfast (grossly, at hardees), it was pushing 10AM. Josh, my mom and I began the day by navigating our way through Helena and emerging on the other side into some treacherous headwinds. At mile 6.8, Josh rode over something and I saw what looked like tinsel go flying into the air. Soon after, a strange, persistent noise came off his bike and we stopped to discover it was a slow leak out of his back tube. The tire was completely destroyed and riding on wasn’t an option. So Betsy and I continued riding and left Josh in the Exxon parking lot across the road. My dad would come pick him up and they’d fix the bike.

The conditions outside of Helena were very unfavorable. With dry air, strong headwinds, and a beating sun, we were slow and chugging water often. The scenery was not very pretty on this stretch and I was happy when we reached the first layover town at mile 23: Winston, MT. We sat in the grass snacking on a peach and granola bar and waiting for the men to arrive. When they did, Josh and I rode the next 13 miles together. The winds weren’t much better but, like the day before, we stayed close and talked often.

In TownsendMontana, we met my parents again and sat down for lunch by the car. I had my leftover salmon and too many sea salt and cracked pepper potato chips. Then my dad and I began what we knew would be a 1200 foot climb out of Townsend. What we didn’t know was how many miles that climb would be stretched over. Immediately after turning out of town, we had two long and steady uphill stretches, followed by some flat terrain and a few quick downhills. I was really regretting the chips I’d had for lunch because I was downing water and still feeling totally parched. At mile 43 (10 outside of Townsend), we had just finished a fun, long downhill and entered a small canyon surrounded by orange rock, trees, and sage brush. Then more climbing started and this time it never ceased.

It should have come as no surprise when the scenery changed yet again. We were suddenly surrounded by pine trees and rocky cliffs. To our right, there was a quickly moving creek hugging the curvy mountain road. We joked about dipping our toes or dunking our heads until we realized that we’d be stupid not to. We pulled off the road and climbed down to a rocky shore. The water felt like ice but it was incredibly refreshing. I dunked my hair and scooped the freezing water onto my face and back.

The break was very worth it, though we both knew we should have been moving with more urgency. It was 4:30PM and I had nearly 30 miles left to go for the day. Luckily the days are long up here so when we got to the top at 5:50, we knew we’d be ok.

The view from the top was spectacular. There was a true ribbon of a highway laid out in front of us. My mom and I rode the rolling hills of that highway and I cheered in excitement. Those ten miles may not have been the most pretty of the trip but they were truly full of the most unique landscape I’ve ever seen in my life. It felt like we were millions of miles up in the sky but were surrounded on all sides by prairies, far off mountains, and fields of cows and horses. And the sky felt so very huge. I have never felt more in the middle of nowhere. But I mean that in the absolute best way. My pictures of the landscape don’t even begin to do it justice. So much so that I am tempted to not even show you and leave the surroundings up to your imagination.

At the end of the ten miles, we did another switcheroo and Josh got on the bike to ride the final ten miles into White Sulphur Springs with me. I was suddenly exhausted and used all the energy I had to keep pedaling into our campground. I felt nauseous and tired and stopped a few times to rest and eat a gu. We had come a long way downhill and I no longer felt a million miles in the air so the scenery wasn't as thrilling.

The views from our campsite were wonderful though.

My mom's tent getting blown away!

Upon arrival in camp, clocking in at 77 miles, I toppled over and laid a while in the grass. My lovely parents had set up our tent and our “kitchen” on the picnic table. I took an absurdly long shower, loving the feeling of hot water pouring over my sore muscles and sweaty skin. Afterward, we had a nice dinner of grilled chicken, tomatoes, and various potato and veggie salads.

Josh and I walked under and photographed the sunset and then cozied up on our half-full air mattresses. I posted a photo on instagram and facebook with the caption “goonight sweet world.” And that is exactly how I felt. We were somewhere out on the high plains, very far from home, in a state that now holds a very special place in my heart, and the world felt oh so sweet.

No comments:

Post a Comment