Distance and elevation gain (per my mapping software): 84.29 miles, 3,037 feet
Min temp: 62, Max temp: 82, Winds 10-20, with a random gust of 49 between 3-4pm, Precipitation: 0.09 inches, mainly before the ride set out
The morning got off to a bit of a later start than we’d wanted. There was a long line at breakfast. The power in the kitchen truck had gone out that morning in the drizzle, so there was only one food line open for the first chunk of the morning. Since the dining canopy had blown down, the organizers had not wanted to have it up overnight again, so we sat on wet chairs around wet tables to eat. But the rain quit by the time it was time to hit the road.
We had a rest stop in Powell, Wyoming, where we momentarily got hung up on a curb at a traffic light. (I should not unclip when we stop for traffic. I best serve the tandem team by providing power on the start.) An older lady waved and waved at the cyclists from her front porch as we went by. That made me smile.
Beyond Powell, we entered high desert territory. It looked a lot like the scenery back home, but with less bunchgrass.
At the lunch stop was a booster club from the school in a nearby town: Belfry, Montana. When Bugman and I had driven past Belfry on our way to the ride earlier in the week, I said, “Oh, wouldn’t it be awesome if their school mascot was a bat?”
We had a rest stop at the Belfry school. I bought a couple of ibuprofen from the bike mechanics. My bum was mighty unhappy about being on that bicycle seat, despite the stand-and-pedal technique Bugman and I had worked out:
Call out “stand and pedal?” Get an affirmative. Call “off” to stop pedaling. Shift gears. Call “up.” Stand up and pedal for 20 counts, sitting down on the 20th. Shift gears. Resume pedaling the normal way.
Back in Belfry, a course monitor let us know we were just a few miles away from pie.
Pie, you say . . .?
And that last hill into Red Lodge . . . oh my . . .
3.5% AVERAGE grade for 7 miles . . . I think this included 2 miles of 7% grade . . .
I felt pretty good when a passing cyclist complimented us on how well we were tackling the hill. (We were on a tandem – tough on the uphill, remember?)
I didn’t feel so good physically, but we made it all the way to the top without stopping. (And the pie stayed down!)
We rode right down the main street of town to a park at the “official finish.” I heard some pedestrians gasp “They just rode 500 miles!” (Not quite, but I’ll accept the awe and admiration all the same.)
As we snacked on a frozen chocolate malt and tried to politely back away from an overly talkative community booster, a firefighter helicopter hoisted a load of water into the sky from the airport atop the hill west of town.
Bugman and I briefly stopped by the baggage drop area in a park a few blocks north, then biked the final-final mile of the ride back to our car on the fairgrounds adjacent to the airport. That last hill included a segment of 10% grade. A biker headed in their car the other direction rang a cowbell of encouragement as she passed. I appreciated that.
When we got back to the car, the power locks seemed kind of slow. Got the bike up on the car, ready to leave, turn the key and . . . nothing. Dead battery!
Remember back on day 0 when we headed out on our trip, and the radio quit working? Well, the radio must have come back to life, because the stuck CD had been spit out, and our battery was dead.
I grabbed our jumper cables (which, ironically, we had received as a wedding gift 15 years earlier) and stood by the side of the road through the fairgrounds making the “thumbs down” sign, and the next biker headed out with his car stopped to give us a jump.
We motored back to the baggage area and took turns going back to get our bags so we could leave the engine running and keep the alternator charging the battery.
We got checked in at the lovely Pollard and took lovely showers.
Then we went scrounging for food. (When you’re burning an extra 1,500-3,500 calories a day, food suddenly becomes an obsession.)
Our first meal was at Más Taco.
Next stop: Montana Candy Emporium. While this shop is not necessarily tops in terms of sheer variety of candy (perhaps they were letting their stock diminish in the lead-up to the slow winter season?), it is better than most and has a bonus atmosphere created by old shop cases and scads of random antiques to gaze at.
Our second meal was at the Red Lodge Pizza Co. Did not take a photo, but the pizza was excellent. So was the company. We recognized a fellow cyclist, an Australian, across the way, eating alone, so we invited him to join our table.
After second dinner, we and the Aussie hiked just north of town towards Sam’s Tap Room at the Red Lodge Ales brewery where the ride afterparty was being held (Red Lodge Ales was another ride sponsor).
On our walk to and fro, we saw a bat, an owl, and a deer.
The music in the taproom was too dang loud, so we went into the bar area instead.
We had toyed with the idea of getting up early the following morning and riding the reopened Beartooth Pass, but Bugman had a work meeting on Monday morning.
We slept well and deeply, ate a filling breakfast, and headed home.
Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw