Bicycling the TransAmerica Trail

Cycling Across the US, Coast to Coast

Bicycling Adventure #3

54 days, 3,783 miles, Jul-Aug 2010

Ray Jardine

2010-07-27Montana page 13 of 54

Day 13, Montana

From Hamilton to Big Hole Pass

I set off half an hour after dawn and pedaled through town, surprised at the size of it all. The night had been rainy, and the weather still wasn't too good, so I wore my shells over my lycra shorts and nylon t-shirt.

The Bitterroot Mountains, looking southwest from Hamilton

Trapper Peak, highest point in the Bitterroot Mountains, at 10,157 feet

By and by, I came to Lost Horse Road, where Jenny and I had come out of the Bitterroot mountains on our IUA trip. We had gone into these mountains at the aforementioned Lochsa Lodge; and from Lost Horse Road we had walked the road to Chief Joseph Pass. I was pedaling the same road today, so it was a trip down memory lane. Along the way, I remembered all sorts of things from that journey.

17 miles into my day I reached Darby. I was sitting outside a small store, grabbing a bite to eat, when it started to rain.

The store at Sulu. Jenny and I had stayed in one of these cabins during our IUA trip.

The next 18 miles to Sulu were wet, but at least they were not hot. Once there, I stopped at the cafe for second breakfasts, this time my usual pancakes with two "sunny-side-up" eggs on top. I call this my "river breakfast." The term goes way back to when John L. and I were grubstaking for gems on the Yellowstone River.

The next section was a climb-and-a-half, up to Lost Trail Pass. I walked about a fourth of it, no sense busting my gut I figured, when I have such a long way to go in the next several weeks. After all, I was not racing.

But speaking of which, another cyclist came pedaling up the hill behind me (I was pedaling at the time). He said that he was taking a rest day, and I have no idea what he meant by that. He looked like a pro, and spoke with a thick UK accent, and had the most well-developed legs and calves that I have ever seen. In fact, he looked far too big for the bike, as if he were riding a child's bike - as he went zooming ahead, up the steep hill.

Lost Trail Pass

Next came the short climb up to Chief Joseph Pass, where the TransAmerica bike route crosses the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Jenny and I had been here twice before, on the CDT, and on our IUA Hike & Bike. That made two times I have hiked my favorite stretch of wilderness, the 300 miles through the Beaverheads, from here to West Yellowstone. I had a strong inclination to stash my bike and hike that section again. Never mind that I didn't have the required 10-day supply of food or a backpack. But I did have just about everything else (tarp, Spitfire, rain parka).

The CDT at Chief Joseph Pass in the Beaverhead mountains.

(Geographical note: the Beaverheads are sandwiched between the Bitterroot Mountains and Big Hole Basin.)

Rolling on down the (wet) road to the Big Hole Basin, eventually I reached the small town of Wisdom and parked my bike outside the store, alongside another touring bike. The mosquitoes were fierce so I had to put on my shells. The other cyclist and I sat talking and eating lunch.

Ed fixing a flat in the small town of Wisdom.

Ed was from Switzerland, and had cycled for a year in South America, from Ecuador to Punta Arenas, Chile. He was now heading east, same as me, but going from Seattle to New York. His bike was absolutely loaded with all manner of gear bags, and he carried a sizeable backpack as well. We enjoyed a nice conversation, then it was time for him to hit the road. But 15 seconds later he pushed his bike back, uttering the fateful word "flat".

Upon further examination, he found a pinch flat caused his hitting a big bump at speed. I made certain he had everything he needed to fix the flat, then I hit the road myself. But not to be outdone, I peddled the wrong way out of town, east instead of south, and had to come back and try again. It was too funny!

The next section was blessed with strong tailwinds, which should have been nice except they enabled the mosquitoes to keep up with me. No matter how fast I pedaled, I couldn't get rid of them. So back into my shells, on a hot day.

En route to Jackson.

At the next settlement of Jackson I was sitting outside a bar/café drinking a soda when Ed arrived. He ordered a hamburger. I had ordered a cold sandwich because I wanted to camp on the next pass (Big Hole).

The bar and café in Jackson. Small town but friendly people, like most everyone in these parts.

So thinking of eluding the mosquitoes, Ed decided to pedal up to the pass also. I wasn't in a hurry, so I slowed my pace while Ed kept out in front, pedaling like a banshee with all that gear. Ed was most congenial and I enjoyed pedaling with him.

The terrain was devoid of trees all the way up to the pass. Once there, I found two sticks for pitching my tarp. Ed said he had never seen a set-up like that (meaning my tarp and Spitfire). I told him that I developed my shelter for hiking, to be small and light.

Ed photographing my tarp & Spitfire.

Ed and his shelter.

We talked for a while, and agreed that it was nice to have some company. But he said that he usually sleeps in, so I realized that probably would not be seeing him again, tomorrow.

Miles pedaled today: 86.6

The story has 54 pages. This is page 13.
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