My journal entry for the morning of Day 5 reads:
Best moment of day? Watching moon set over pine-spiked mountains, listening to a stream rushing over smoothed rocks – trout sleeping in the current, drinking a cup of steaming coffee.
As we set out on the road, our trunk bag was packed to bursting with rain jackets and pants and shoe covers, in the event that the predicted rain materialized. (It never did.) Last evening’s rain hadn’t turned the campsite into a muck pit, but it had made the top layer of sandy soil very clingy. We’d used a rock to scrape the sandy mud off our tires. I caught a cyclist performing the “cleat mud kick maneuver.”
Dewey has a couple of very lovely old log barns.
Seemed like our shadows were unusually long that morning.
Foggy remnants of night crouched in the still-shaded corner of the valley.
Just past the Wise River Club, we turned onto the Pioneer Scenic Byway.
We were warned to be on the lookout.
But the only bovids we saw were the epitome of orderliness. (Look how they’re lined up!)
This is my favorite picture from the whole ride, captured as we passed the Wise River Airport. Multimodal transport: bike + jet fuel.
The morning was all about stopping. Not necessarily because of the climb, but often to shed garments as the day warmed, or simply to take in the scenery.
There were numerous lupines still blooming amid the grasses at the roadside.
Some folks stopped to shed their gear and marvel at a yardful of bric-a-brac.
Bridge-side photo op.
This is dang purty countryside.
Saw plenty of scarlet paintbrush in bloom. Also a good amount of fireweed.
While I was taking a picture of the fireweed, I noticed a wild raspberry plant nearby. It had two tiny ruby fruits on it. Bugman and I each ate one. They were amazing little seedy bursts of sweet raspberry essence.
I loved the stretch along the Wise River. We soon began climbing, though.
We heard a cracking of brush as something large emerged from the trees . . . oh. Forest cattle.
We stopped to take a breather, and I was able to capture a photo of this pale type of fritillary I’d seen a few times in the area.
Cyclists had been passing us all morning as the climb had intensified. Now, it seemed to be just us and a woman gutting it out on the hill, alternately passing one another as we each stopped to rest. You can just see her on the switchback below, center left between two trees.
But then our hill buddy sagged. We made it to the “Lupine” rest stop, and we were the last one to arrive. We gulped some food as volunteers started to tear down the rest area infrastructure, and we hurried to get back on the road again, trying to catch up with the rest of the group. (I hate that feeling.)
As we left the rest area, we passed an older gent who commented that it was hard to get going again after a stop.
We cycled through a mountain meadow through which echoed distant raptor calls.
The older gent passed us again when we stopped at Crystal Park, since at announcements the day before such a stop was recommended. All we saw was a parking lot and no explanatory signage, so we left. (I guess there really isn’t much to see unless you take a shovel and go looking for crystals in the soil, remnants from eroded granite.)
Now the “sweep” motorcycle was behind us. We were officially last.
The descent down the other side of the mountain was a nice, smooth glide with virtually no traffic. We caught up with the older gent. Being heavy on a tandem, we eventually passed the him on the descent. I had an urge to take his picture as we went by, but I did not, a restraint I would later regret.
Pedaling, pedaling, just keep pedaling . . . it’s 12:30 p.m., been riding for 5 hours, climbed like 2,500 feet . . . not even close to lunch yet. Another 5 miles or so to the rest stop at Polaris.
And, finally, here we are – unincorporated Polaris, at the (alas, defunct) Polar Bar.
Polar Bar love seat.
A welcoming sight for cyclists among the metal artifacts hung on the side of the bar.
I was not in a good mental place by this point in the ride. It was not a good sign that the watermelon and nuts offered as snacks at the rest stop turned my stomach. I could only manage to guzzle some water.
I was physically exhausted and worn out from lack of sleep. I don’t make good decisions when I’m in a state like that. If I’d been making good decisions, I would have taken up an offer to sag to lunch, which was still 19 miles away. That way I perhaps would’ve had the energy to explore the Bannack ghost town, or even ride the hill triumphantly down into Dillon. Instead, that darn John Wayne billboard from the day before . . . don’t much like quitters . . . got into my head, and I insisted on continuing the ride to lunch.
Saw an unfamiliar contraption I assumed was for haying. Google/Wikipedia told me it’s a beaverslide.
Wonder if this was a dugout home? An old mine shaft?
Since we didn’t dawdle at Polaris, we got out of the rest stop ahead of a few people. As we turned off the Pioneer Scenic Byway onto Highway 287, I looked back and took a picture of the cyclists following us. There was that older gent we’d passed on the hill – the fourth cyclist in the photo.
Nine out of ten horses agree . . . biting flies suck!
Looking back on a short but nasty hill, on which we were passed by a cement truck. The driver gave us plenty of room. I was glad.
We reached the turnoff for Bannack State Park, where lunch would be waiting for us. It was 2 p.m. A prickle of worry formed when the EMT vehicle parked at the turnoff turned on its sirens and took off. I hoped all the cyclists were OK. But I didn’t think too much of it. Fatigue had numbed my brain.
When we got to the lunch line, they were out of vegetarian sandwiches. Normally I would opt for a lunch meat sandwich, but today I didn’t feel like my stomach could handle it. I was handed a gluten-free vegan sandwich instead. I took a bite. Man, it was dry. I grabbed a couple packets of mustard. I tried to open the sandwich to inset the mustard, but the gluten-free “bread” crumbled to pieces, revealing slimy cucumbers tinged gray from adjoining mushrooms, topped by a slice of greenish hard tomato.
At that point, I totally lost it. Last straw. Put my face in my hands and cried. So embarrassing, but I couldn’t stop myself. I wound up eating a snack-sized bag of chips for lunch, and Bugman went to inquire about sagging to camp, bless his heart. I tried to get another glass of tea, but the lunch station was packed up already. A volunteer took pity on me and found the iced tea container so I could get a refill.
We interrupt the regularly scheduled program to bring you this insect photo, possibly a spotted pine sawyer. (Bugman, true to form.)
No time or energy to explore the Bannack ghost town, we got loaded into the bag drop van to sag to camp.
We weren’t the only ones sagging. It’d been 64 miles already, and it was another 24 miles and a hill climb to Dillon still.
The gear drop driver, Thomas, was a witty, mile-a-minute guy. His repartee, me being seated on something other than a bicycle, and the van’s air conditioning began to lift me out of my funk.
The first thing I saw in camp in Dillon charmed me. A playground swingset had been turned into a makeshift sun shelter.
I got my shower and then lay in the tent on top of an uninflated air mattress, which I was too tired to mess with. I just lay there. It was quiet. I didn’t sleep, but I kind of dozed. I still didn’t feel hungry – not a good sign.
Bugman set up the tent that evening – a chore I usually do.
At 5:30, we wandered over to the mess tent. The meal that night was tacos, with options for black beans and veggies and cheese – a meal I would ordinarily eat at home. There was also fish taco toppings. I took some of that as well. The food tasted good, and my digestion was surely helped by the soulful mealtime entertainment we had from the Dillon Junior Fiddlers.
Announcements that evening started on a somber note – the ride organizers relayed that a cyclist had been taken to the hospital after suffering a heart attack on the course, but they couldn’t share more information without the family’s permission. Bugman and I looked at each other. Was it the older gent? The one who’d had trouble getting started again after the Lupine break? The one we’d passed on the hill? I sent out some positive vibes into the universe for whoever the stricken cyclist was.
After dinner, I had hopes of visiting the Patagonia outlet store in downtown Dillon, which had advertised a clearance sale. I wanted to see if I could find a replacement for my broken sandal, which duct tape had failed to fix. Alas, the store closed at its regular 6pm time instead of staying open late for us cyclists (I don’t think they sell footwear, anyway), so I spent the rest of the journey flapping around with one loose sandal.
There were some interesting things to see in downtown Dillon, even if most of the stores were closed.
The Dillon post office has a New Deal mural from the 1930s, “News from the States” – one of just six such murals in Montana (and one of the few in the nation painted by a female artist).
The Dillon library charmed me, too. It stayed open late for us cyclists!
It’s a Carnegie library, built in 1902.
We chatted for a bit with the staff person on duty. Apparently, Andrew Carnegie was not enamored of the turret in the building design, so he refused to fund that part of it. Local townsfolk came up with the difference, and the Romanesque Revivial structure has its turret. Recently, firefighters hosed down the roof so staff in the attic could identify where water leaks might be coming from. Here’s a shot of the ceiling:
I spy a gargoyle!
Further down the street, the name of this furniture and appliance business caught my eye:
A pretty window.
A yarn-bombed tree (and a bicycle in the window):
Presumably, in Dillon, government has a “git ‘er done” attitude.
That not everyone likes.
But, hey, what’s not to love about a town that has atomic boots?
Like stereotypical cyclists, we found our way to the local brewery: Beaverhead Brewing Company – and just barely had time for a pint before closing time at 8 p.m. (We can recommend the Snowcrest Dark Lager and the Pioneer Porter.)
The sunset that evening was a marvelous pink-and-purple confection that perfectly matched this downtown mural.
One more stop before heading to bed: Muffaletta’s, which put out the welcome mat and was also opening early the next morning for cyclists who wanted fancy coffee.
One of the schticks at Muffaletta’s was the self-serve frozen yogurt machines and jars of shake-on toppings, which you put into an oversized paper cup and paid for by the pound. Bugman was one happy camper and would sing Muffaletta’s praises for days to come.
Day 5 stats
127.9 miles (days 4 & 5 combined)
6,656 feet of climb (days 4 & 5 combined)
10.2 mph avg (days 4 & 5 combined)
low temp 50
hi temp 82
wind 11-28 g 36 NE
Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw