Butte, MT → Rock Creek Recreation Area, MT
Net Elevation gain: -1198 ft. (5581 ft. to 3583 ft.)
Average Speed: 13.0 mph
Top Speed: 39.2 mph
Time spent biking: 8 hours 20 minutes
Total time for the day's travels: 13 hours 44 minutes
Miles biked today: 107.8
Total for trip: 2948.2 miles
Jenny woke Brett up at 6:19, and we rolled out of bed by 6:30. We took showers and straightened up the room, then headed over to our complimentary breakfast! It was so refreshing to have such a warm night in the hotel room after such a long cold descent from the mountaintop the evening before. We were looking forward to biking today, and excited to be feeling so well and to have gotten up so early.
After we ate, we finished packing up our things and were on the road by 8:00! The first few miles were ho-hum, and then we got on the big highway. It was busy, but not as bad as we feared for being so near to a city. The hardest part was navigating past the exits and on-ramps. Only a few were busy, though, and soon we were past the city exits.
Once we climbed the few hills on the busy parts of the highway, it seemed like everything was downhill. We started to really build up speed, and because there weren't uphills to slow us down, we just kept up our fast pace without much effort. It was amazing! We felt like we were flying! Perhaps we also had a tailwind, we're not sure, but either way, the miles just zipped by.
We stopped for a few short breaks here and there. During one, Brett spoke with a coworker at his school, arranging things for the fall and checking in. But mostly, we just rolled down the slight declines and cruised across the flats. Brett kept checking the bike computer, because it was so exciting to see the miles mounting up so quickly. Since we were going almost 20 mph, we were adding another mile every three minutes or so. We raced the clock and had 30 miles done before 10:30!
When we are surrounded by hills and mountains like this we feel very much in awe of the world and all of its differences.
Eventually, we found Frontage Road again, and we used that instead. At one break, Brett had a nice little conversation with his dad, and then we were on our way again. We made it past the fortieth mile and were hardly feeling winded. Our hunger did kick in, though, and we stopped in Deer Lodge. Our plan was to use the Internet at a cafe while we ate a nice lunch. We even got a good recommendation for a cafe that would work. Instead, we went into a bakery looking for bread and found lots of sweet treats awaiting us. We got two, but also noticed they had beef pasties for sale. What fun! We hadn't seen any since the Upper Peninsula (of Michigan), and they sounded so good that we got two. They heated them up for us, and we ate them right there.
We still needed groceries and ice, so we found the supermarket in town, and stocked up. It was hot and getting hotter, though not as bad as some days. The ice mostly went into water bottles and a bag to keep important groceries cool. That bag would later become nice cold drinking water. We love our systems.
Heading out of Deer Lodge, we were really happy that it was still relatively early in the day. We kept holding our breath, wondering if our amazing stretch of downhill would end any minute, but we could see from the map that it probably wouldn't as we would be following a river as far north and west as Missoula. We were right. Fifty miles came and went. Then sixty! It was still only mid-afternoon when we stopped at a rest area (we were back on the freeway). We had a conversation with Selena back home, and when we asked her to guess how many miles we'd gone already, she guessed exactly, without hesitation, “Sixty two.” How'd she do that? After a snack at the rest area, and some more fluids, we kept going. There wasn't a whole lot else to do, and it was pretty exciting to keep piling on the miles.
The limit screw for the steering column broke recently, but the bits still help hold it up. We plan to get this fixed when we can. It doesn't seem to be a safety issue, just a little annoying for Brett.
Our stretch of amazing luck did run out before the end of the day, though. We were on the freeway still, getting just a little bit tired but still rolling quickly when we heard the sound of a flat tire coming from the rear wheel. Sure enough, we were losing air pressure. We didn't want to have to change a flat on the freeway and it looked like it might rain any minute, so we decided to try to ride it while it still had some pressure in it. That didn't last long, but we pumped it up really fast and tried again. We got a little way towards the next exit, only two miles ahead. We tried one more time, but abandoned the idea of pumping it up and riding to the exit for fear of damaging the rim on the rear wheel.
There was one more option besides fixing it on the freeway: walk to the exit and fix it there where it would be quieter, there might be somewhere to lean the bike or put our stuff, and maybe even shelter from the rain that seemed likely. That mile or mile and a half gave us a great appreciation for just how fast we *do* go on our bike. It was actually kind of hard work to push and steer the bike, too. We took turns steering the bike, and although we talked some, mostly we just pushed on hoping to beat the rain.
The rain clouds moved faster than we were walking, though, and just before the exit ramp, we started to get a little wet. Not wanting to stop and get rain coats out, we pushed on (literally). We got a bit wetter than we would have liked, but we finally made it to the underpass to the town on the other side of the freeway. We were wet, hungry, and frustrated we had to fix a flat tire on such a great riding day. Jenny made Brett a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while Brett started working on the bike: taking off all the bags, flipping the bike, and removing the rear wheel.
We stayed there under the highway for quite a while, actually. We talked to a prospective tenant on the phone for our house back home, changed the tube and the tire, as well as snacking voraciously on salami, avocado, cheese, etc. At that point, it was early evening, perhaps 6:30, and we weren't fresh. We had ridden a whopping 74 miles and it would easily be a good day if we found a place to stop and camp. We asked a few locals about camping spots, and found out there was one right in town. We inquired about places a little further along and got some mixed reports, but basically nothing much for a little while other than one place that sounded sketchy.
To go or to stay, that was the question. We both didn't quite feel done, but weren't sure how much more we should try to do. The sky was grey after the rain, but not threatening. It wasn't hot, and that in itself made us feel like we should push on. Plus, there was one idea that seemed too magical to be real, and it dangled in front of us...
Before we left on this trip, we had tried to picture how many miles we would ride each day, on average, and how had both hoped we would have at least one day where we'd ride over 100 miles. A “century” ride is nothing to snuff at, no matter what kind of biking it is, but it's not so easy to do anywhere near 100 miles while touring, we've found. But here was our chance! We might not get another, and so we pedaled on, in the dusk of evening, feeling well-fed and hoping for a better camping spot, but mostly intrigued with the idea of reaching that 100-mile mark.
We had to make the decision of whether to proceed on the highway or Frontage Road. We almost always enjoy Frontage Road far more, so we made what we thought was an easy choice. Perhaps we should have gone the other route. Frontage Road and Route 94 both have some hills northwest of Drummond, despite both following the river, but the hills are much steeper up and down on Frontage Road. They were kind of fun, but a bit disappointing after the consistent downhill earlier and especially so when we looked over and saw the highway just barely going up or down. We even tried to get on the highway again at one point, without success.
As usual, there were a few things to see on the smaller road that we would have missed otherwise; there were some neat flowers and some nice views in this section. Our spirits were sagging a bit, though, since we were spending lots of energy and using up daylight climbing the steeper hills. We hit eighty miles pretty easily, but the next ten just dragged on, each one a struggle.
And then the gods of tires cursed us once more. This time, the front tire went limp. Darn! We had close to ninety miles, and the mosquitoes were starting to swarm us while riding, never mind when we stopped. Brett calmly (but quickly) gave directions and we changed the front tube in record time. This was only the second time we had to deal with the front tire on the whole trip. Not bad!
A few mosquito bites later, but not too many minutes later, we were back rolling. It was still mostly downhill, similar to earlier in the day, following the river as it flowed toward Missoula. We pushed on, even though we were now both getting tired. Clearly we could and would make it to 100 miles. If two flat tires and mosquitoes couldn't stop us, nothing would, certainly not the fact that we had to get back on the freeway as the “old highway” ended. Brett had to turn his headlight on to read the digits on the bike computer, but it became official: we'd just done our first century ride together!
Now it was time to find a place to camp for sure. We sort of felt we could go on for longer, but there was no point, and it was quite dark now, with no moon to help (practically a new moon this night). A few miles down the highway, we saw camping and lots of it. Lights and RV's were apparent. Perfect! We got off the highway, and sought out the campground.
Only, it wasn't a regular campground. It was the overflow camping for a festival. No problem, we thought. Maybe there would be some good music! It didn't really seem to be our crowd, however, and that's putting it mildly. There was clearly a LOT of drinking going on, and the main mode of transportation seemed to be loud motorcycles. We asked as we rode in, “What festival is this?” We thought they were kidding when they yelled back, “Testy Festy, man!” Oi, what were we getting into?!
The following morning we would find out that this was a very well-known festival in the area, and it was pretty much what we saw: drinking, partying, and some dancing and music. The festival gets its name from the fact that some people consume cow testicles during the festival. Thankfully, we didn't see that!!
We made our way to the very back of the area alloted to camping, set up our tent, and actually cooked a little meal of pasta and cheese before falling into an uneasy but well-deserved sleep. We rarely lock our bike anywhere, but here we made sure to lock it securely. Loud craziness was all around, but we managed to fall asleep anyway inside our cocoon of safety. We were together, and we had biked 107 miles!!!