Campground 10 miles West of Ovando[MAP]

I was too lazy to set up my tent last night and instead just lay on the picnic table. It was an on and off sleep, I kept hearing noises down by the water but couldn’t work out what it was. I had my alarm set for 6am but when it went off it was pitch black with the stars still out in force. Tried to sleep a bit more, but the 12” vegetarian pizza wanted out.

The ride along Highway 83 was quite pleasant, nothing special, just forest, but almost no traffic.

Around lunchtime I stopped at Condon and ate two over-ripe bananas, an apple and a litre of chocolate milk. About ten minutes down the road I was feeling as high as a kite. My body felt numb and I had to concentrate on following the road’s white line. It was great.

A guy at the store wearing coke bottle glasses noted that I was travelling alone, “That’s a bit stupid isn’t it?”. I thought of a bunch of good things I could have said to him afterwards, but unfortunately not at the time.


Three Forks (KOA Campground)[MAP]

Interstate 90 intersection (Day 146)

Interstate 90 intersection (Day 146)

What a day of fabulous riding. It’s amazing how the aversion of paying one’s camping fees motivates one to start riding early. I was out of the campground by seven and didn’t see the sun until 7:50am. A lot of small rolling hills but with a little tailwind I’d done fifty miles by 11am. After forty minutes of climbing, I hit my summit for the day; six thousand and something feet and about my fifth(?) crossing of the continental divide. Then a fabulous eight percent grade downhill almost all the way into Helena. I stopped for a quick thickshake and fries and was off again with more twenty mile per hour tailwinds. The skies had huge storm potential and looked very threatening but luckily not a drop of rain hit me. Just out of town, at the edge of an empty field, stood a black billboard with plain, white lettering:

“Is the road you’re on taking you to my place?”
        – God

I thought it was something to do with safe driving or something. As I was swept past with the wind I looked at the back of it. Again; white lettering on an all black background:

“I don’t doubt your existence”
        – God

Another shit-eating grin from me, and I gave the big guy in the sky a big thank you for the trip so far. It wasn’t long before I hit Townsend where I had planned to continue on with my good run and head east to a campground (winds were coming from the northwest). I stopped at the gas station to fill up on water but by the time I got outside again the wind was all over the place. I tried heading east out of town but had leaves blowing straight into my face and was almost careering into oncoming cars. At first I thought it was just turbulence from being amongst the town’s buildings, but as I got to the edge of the town I was almost blown completely off my bike. The wind had almost reversed direction in just ten minutes.

Well…a change in wind direction calls for a change in plan. There was no way I was gonna struggle against the headwind so late in the day. So I turned South and followed the wind. It was kind of like windsurfing; I just pointed the tyres in the right direction and the wind did the rest.

Just before getting to the Interstate 90, on a downhill with the wind at my back, I reached my highest speed on this trip so far; 52 miles per hour (83km/h). Moments later, I got my first ever pinch flat; probably from rolling over gravel on a fully-loaded bike going 52 miles per hour.


Gardiner (Rocky Mountain RV Park)[MAP]

Started out early again today with another emergency shit. Took it easy today; hung out at the Three Forks gas station for a half-hour morning coffee break. Then slowly rode along a road adjacent to the Interstate and got to observe the surreal, rush-rush culture of this six lane ribbon of road stretching across the country, with it’s fast food mega-chains and gas stations spaced evenly along it. Each junction, looking just like the last, with its Starbucks, McDonalds and Petron side by side.

I’ve loved riding through Montana, with it’s big open skies and wide paddocks. I’ve been barked at by more dogs in Montana than the total of the whole trip so far. A dog earlier in the day almost met its end as it ran across the road to get me – the squeal of brakes from an observant car driver stopped the stunned dog dead in its tracks, but luckily not literally. I’d hate to be blamed for the death of some untrained owner’s dog.

After passing through the outskirts of Bozeman (which someone told me has the highest number of Mount Everest climbers outside of Nepal) I hopped onto the Interstate. There didn’t seem to be any other option. I planned to take a shortcut road to bypass Bozeman Pass and the town of Livingston. My nerves were shattered by the time I got to the exit eight miles down the road. There’s only so much I can handle; having vehicles pass by within a few feet of me, going at about ninety miles per hour left me sweating with fear.

I thought I’d taken the wrong exit, so I stood with map in hand and the best “I’m lost” look on my face. Within a minute, a young bloke pulls up beside me in his car asking if I need help. Straight away he asks if I’m an Aussie and then if I’m from Perth or Margaret River. Turns out Gary’s wife is an Aussie. Gary is a scientist and director of Y2Y (“the Yellowstone to Yukon Program which promotes science and conservation to maintain ecological connectivity between parks and protected areas in the U.S. and Canadian Rocky Mountains”). He offers me directions; (“Yep… unfortunately you have to get back on the Interstate for a couple more miles”), energy food, and even a place to stay if the roads into Yellowstone were closed.

What a champ.

So a few more nerve wracking miles and I exit onto a very muddy, potholed, dirt road. It had been raining and it was very slow going, the road for the first ten miles was terrible. While bouncing along the road I could tell that something was wrong with the weighting of my bike. Eventually I stopped to do a thorough check and was lucky to find that one side of my rear rack had come completely unscrewed – luckily the bolt was still sitting precariously inside the eyelet. Must add Loctite to my toolkit.

From then on I started enjoying myself. It wasn’t potholed anymore, but it was muddy as a baby’s dirty diaper and I was sliding all over the place. I haven’t had so much fun on a Sunday afternoon for a long time. Definitely one of my favourite rides. The empty road wound it’s way through farms and stables, there was a lot of snow on the ground at the higher points. By the time I got back to the main road at Emigrant I was carrying several extra pounds of mud and my chain kept slipping over the cogs. I had to spray several bottles of water over my muddy bike to dislodge it.

It was a mostly downhill thirty mile road to Gardiner, which sits at the north entrance of Yellowstone. While I was eating my dinner, an old man wearing a big cowboy hat wandered over. Said he would have liked me to join him and his wife for supper and to sit for a few hours in their caravan. I thanked him but we just ended up chatting a while at my table. There’s a lot of fresh snow lying about, a warm caravan might have been nice.

I’ve been suffering from a painful left shin for most of the day. I must have bumped it a day or two ago. I can barely walk on it. I don’t think the cold is helping too much. It hurts while riding as well, feels like there’s air bubbling out of my tendon each time I lift up on the pedal. I can barely twist my foot out of the pedal cleat, which is a problem as the left foot is the foot I lean on when I stop the bike. In spite of it, it was a good day of riding.

The road between Interstate 90 and Pine Creek (Day 147)

The road between Interstate 90 and Pine Creek (Day 147)

The old guy wandered over to me as I was eating my late breakfast this morning. The last time he’d visited Yellowstone was fifty years ago. Not much has changed since then apparently. I forget why he came over in the first place, maybe it was to give me a weather forecast; lovely today, though a bit fresh. By the end of the week though, it’ll definitely feel like fall and the cold weather will start in earnest. Told me if I get past Salt Lake City I should be fine.

The old guy started telling me stories about his younger days. He told me about the real mountain men that people only saw when they came into town every few months to stock up on necessities. He told me how he’d given up hunting after accidentally being shot at twice. He told me a story about a guy accidentally shooting his mother who’d been wearing a bright orange day-glo hunting jacket at the time. Plus a few other stories. Made me stop snickering pretty quickly about the run-in I’d had with the trigger-happy redneck at Good Hope Lake.

When he was in his twenties he used to go hunting with his father-in-law out in the M.O.F.N.. They used to take a jeep with a horse trailer into the forest as far as they could go. Then they’d unload the horses and ride for another two days into the wilderness. He told me how one particular night in the fall they were sitting around the campfire and they hear a loud bang followed by a hideous animal-in-agony sound. Couldn’t be a bear they figure; it wasn’t the right time of year and they’re not so active at night. Pretty soon a man walks up to campfire carrying just a saddle and his rifle.

He’d accidentally shot his horse!

I tenderly rode into the park just before ten. With every pedal stroke it felt like the muscle in my left shin was ripping apart. It was slow going and pretty soon I’d decided to only make it as far as the first, and only, open campground in the park. At one point, I planned to go for a bit of a wander to see the scenic hot pots but as I hopped off my bike I realized it wasn’t going to happen. I could barely walk. I could barely hobble. It was painful.

When I got to the campground I had to walk using my bike as a support. The park ranger was sympathetic and generous. A few minutes after signing me in she walked over with a reclining chair and told me to put my feet up. She offered a share of the firewood and told me to set my tent up under a tarpaulin that they’d tied between some trees. I reclined for a good hour or so, contemplated a fire but didn’t build one, and set up my tent under their tarp. It was good. It took me ten minutes to hobble over to the toilets which were only fifty metres away.

I’m scared that I may have done some serious damage to my leg – I’ve never felt anything like this before. I should be off my legs and resting for several days. With bad weather coming at the end of the week, it’s not an option. If I can’t handle at least another fifty miles tomorrow without it feeling worse I may have to get out my “TIRED AUSSIE…” sign. I’ve got three passes of the Continental Divide in front of me tomorrow, the highest of which is 8391 feet. If I can ride…

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