Any Road Tour: Day 40 – The Mule goes over the top

Last night I over did dinner again. Cheeseburger (Montana beef is mighty tasty) with fries, three local Belgian white beers, and tater tots stuffed with jalapeño and cheese. Suffice it to say, I did not sleep all that well.

I awoke at 5:30 to a massive muscle cramp in my left calf. It hurt so much. I told myself to breathe through the pain and it subsided. (Frankly, I think the breathing just took my mind off the pain.)

Breakfast was a massive serving of biscuits and gravy with an equally massive side of hash browns at Mel’s Diner across from the Inn. I was disappointed that the Fonz wasn’t there but the food was great.

Off I rode budding Augusta farewell. I headed south roughly parallel to the Rockies. A favorable wind allowed me to ride comfortably for 20 miles before I turned west and began THE CLIMB OF DEATH.

I road a two lane highway with minimal shoulder (thanks to rumble strips). Speed limit 70. Up, down, and around the road meandered. The ups were bigger than the downs as I slowly made my way to 4,500 feet. Then the gun began.

The climb to Rogers Gap at 5,600 feet was 8 miles into a headwind.

Of course, to make it more interesting the road became steeper near the top.

I pulled over to rest about 3 miles from the crest and my bike started to roll backwards. I had been climbing so long that I didn’t realize how steep it was.

I paced myself as I ascended. Getting to the top wasn’t particularly difficult, it just took a long time.

Then I saw the sign for the top. Continental Divide, Ma! (Sorry. Geezer cinematic reference.)

Some cars were parked on the shoulder. A woman got out of the rearmost one and offered to take my picture.

Her name was Maria. We got to talking and I mentioned that I wasn’t sure where I was staying tonight. Maria was doing field work with the Montana Native Plant Society. She invited me to stay with her group (of over 100 people) just east of Lincoln.

I begged off then took off down the mountain. Or not. The dreaded soul sucking westerly Montana headwinds were much stronger on this side of the Mountain.

Running low on food and water I realized that it was poor form to turn down such s gracious invite.

After I crossed a beautiful river, I followed Maria’s directions and ended up at their campground . It has a lodge building and shower facilities. I will be camping along a river.

I arrived around 1:30 so it’s a short day for me. Tomorrow will be a tough 80+ mile grind into the wind to Missoula and a rest day.

Miles: 52

Total miles: 2,956.5

Any Road Tour: Day 39 – Detour

Today was supposed to be an easy 54 miles of relatively level terrain. Just the thing for my tired legs and bloated belly (I totally overdid dinner last night).

I found my way out of Great Falls and across the Missouri River on a bike/ped bridge.

along a nondescript highway to Vaughn where is was greeted with this sign.

This road is the last 20 miles to Augusta, my planned destination.

I decided to continue on to Simms at the beginning of that last 20 mile stretch and then consider my options.

It was a pleasant enough ride into a not-too-annoying headwind.

In Simms I consulted the local gas station for information. He said a couple on bikes made it through a few days ago but could not say I’d be allowed passage over a partially washed out bridge.

We called s couple of places in Augusta but nobody was certain I could get over the bridge.

We all agreed the safe thing to do would be to ride north to Fairfield then west then south to Augusta. This would be an additional 17 miles.

Off I went into a cross wind. When I made the turn west I got clobbered with one of Montana’s soul sucking headwinds.

Whatever. It is what it is. Just keep on pedaling.

Then, unlike the original route, it got very hilly.

This went on for 15 miles then I came down off the hill. Eek!

Then up again. Then down again.

At least the view was interesting. (There was actually a road sign that said Rocky Mountains got the geographically impaired traveler.)

Fortunately the wind died down and I could ride into Augusta with relative ease.

In Augusta I checked into the Bunkhouse Inn. I was expecting a dive but this place is beautiful. Here’s the lobby.

I don’t want to leave but the restaurant across the street is calling me.

The proprietor of the Inn told me that Lincoln MT is having some festival tomorrow. Lincoln is the first town over Rogers Pass. The next one is Ovando, about 80 miles from here. Let by story short: tomorrow’s going to be brutal.

Miles: 71

Total miles: 2,904.5