July 13th GDMBR South, Day 12th

Did 17 miles today. Went from the Trading Post campground in Swan Lake to the free Forest Site on Fatty Creek Road.

Got going late today. Woke at 9:30. Paid for my campsite last night at 11 this morning — the people were really surprised I came in and paid.

Meet John one of the Adventure Cycling subcontractors right as I got onto the route. He was cleaning up the route flags for a tour they have running this week, and invited me to the lunch stand that was 5 miles up the trail. Told me if I didn’t take too long it would still be there. As the trail would have it, the route was all down hill from there. Right when I arrived, I helped them find a brake pad retaining spring for Don’s bike; instead of on the ground it was hanging in the chain. They told me I earned a second sandwich for finding it. I got a laugh out of it since something similar happened to me up in Canada. Sat and talked a bit about the trail, their jobs, and my bike while eating a watermelon. Told them I hadn’t had a flat yet. Helped them take down the awning, since it needed 4 people. Truck drove off, John biked off after telling me I could get dinner 30 miles up if I got there by 6:30.

Biked a bit up a rocky hill, then into some pines with a squishy road of pine needles. All of a sudden it became too squishy. I have my first flat tire of the trip. Any slim remote chance of making it to Condon to get free food just flew out the window. Did the usual routine of taking all the gear off and flipping my bike over to remove the wheel. Got the tube out and aired up some and found the whole was caused by the rim and my silliness. I left one round of tubeless tape in there and it wasn’t installed flat, so the tape caused the flat. Took 900 pumps to seat and fill the tire up. I’ve got a better rythm of holding the pump base in my left hand and the handle in my right. Quicker and takes less energy, but I still had to rest for a minute between each 100.

A big intermediary goal for today was to get to the Condon convenience store because I had heard from some North bound riders that there was a gas station there also. Gas stations normally have Heet alcohol needed for my stove. 4:00 came around and I was still 20 miles away and there was a campsite to the left. I have no idea the store’s hours. Decided the smart thing to do was call it a day. Visit the store(s) in the morning.

What that decision meant was more cold food tonight. Anne was at the camp and offered her stove up, but she is running low on fuel also. I’m not about to use her fuel when my brain is the one who spaced out up in Columbia Falls. Ended up eating raisin oatmeal first. Then I was curious how a cheddar broccoli Knorr meal would taste not cooked. The stuff really needs more than an hour of soak time. The rice hydrated in probably 20 minutes, but the little noodles took much longer.

Not sure my route tomorrow. Currently considering Holland Lake. I hear that it is really scenic.

Looked at the maps here before shutting my eyes. Encourage that the huge elevation climbs go away after Montana and stay gone till Colorado. Was getting a bit discouraged, but checking the future maps has helped my outlook on getting this route done. Read about a long rail trail with a lot of squishy volcanic ash and I’m looking forward to biking it with my fat bike. Still haven’t done any proper sand riding and this rail trail sounds like a good and proper test of my bike. Further down the GDMBR, I’ll probably ride the paved alternate routes in New Mexico to avoid rain delays; suggested to take them if down in that section in late summer like I’ll be. Also noticed the 150+ mile sections with no food options throughout all the maps. Maybe I’ll become superhuman like the Divide racers and cover that in a day. Then I won’t need to worry about how many days of food to purchase.

July 12th, GDMBR South, Day 11

Today I biked 46 miles from the Arnone’s house to the Swan Lake Trading Post campground.

The initial 24 miles to Ferndale were not bad. Mostly flat, a few mild climbs, and one short hill I pushed the bike up. The whole way the weather was cool and it was very cloudy.

In Ferndale I was expecting a small convenience store hoping that I could get some alcohol for my mini stove, but there was none. I read the the most current addenda for the route. Knew the B&Bs were closed; saw no mention about the store. Reread the map services panel closely and saw that the store was part of a B&B. Frustrating. I didn’t want to take the river trail to Bigfork knowing I’d get stuck there for awhile with all the stores, traffic and bikers. Saw that Swan Lake had a store and a campground (if I got in late)

The ride out of Ferndale starts climbing right away. The 1800ft climb all the way up to the top is bikeable. For me I biked a bunch, but I didn’t have enough stamina to do the whole thing. Took me about 4 hours. I was lucky that the sun stayed hidden for half the climb. Was able to duck into shadows for much of the rest. There were only a couple overlooks with views of the Swan Mountains across the valley. The cause was tight tree cover and shrub trees on both sides.

To get to the town of Swan Lake I had to go 5 miles off route. Missed the store being open. Maybe if I hadn’t filtered water on the downhill. I was thirsty, so I think it was the right a call. One of the locals outside the store said he doesn’t think they have Heet alcohol for my stove. I’m going to stick around past 8 to check.

Made up a cold pot of quick oats and raisins. I actually like it soaked, but not cooked. Also easier to clean the pot because it isn’t all sticky. Took a shower after dinner. Last time was Sparwood. Wish I could say I was doing a better job of wiping off at night.

Going to get 9 hours of sleep tonight. So so tired.

July 11th GDMBR South, Day 10

Today was busy. Up at 5:30. Out of camp by 7:45 to bike the largely downhill route. Into Whitefish at 11:30 to have my rear spoke tension checked for free since I bought the wheel there. Picked up a general delivery package containg my summer sleeping bag at the post office at 12:30 and shipped my super warm winter bag out. Ate pizza and tried to transfer photos to the phone at which point I found out the microSD card in my phone is either going bad or the filesystem is corrupted. Out of Whitefish at 4:30. Bought food at Columbia Falls for the next 3 days of biking. To the biking only hostel by 9 fighting a headwind on the way there. Setup the tent to dry. Texted with the family a bit, payed credit cards, downloaded some free albums from Amazon. Been a good day. 48 miles total.

July 9th, GDMBR South, Day 8

Feels like a short day today even though I stopped at 4 and biked 30 miles. 26 were uphill.

Phil woke me at 5:30 as I asked. Packed everything up and made my way to Cafe Jax for 3 pancakes. Ate with Anne, Phil, Jerry and Morgan. Morgan is biking the Northern Tier east, and when he isn’t biking he is a cook at a school. Pancakes were good like last time.

Hit the road at 8. Immediately began climbing right out of Eureka. Thankfully it was mild enough that I could bike it nearly to the top. Walked the last 1.5 miles. Could have cranked away hard and done it, but I don’t want to tire my legs when they are needed for many more miles. The top of Whitefish Pass is also a Continental Divide crossing. Gorgeous views before and after the pass.

Found the crew at Tuchuk Campground at 4. Kind of surprised they stopped here after only 30 miles. I stopped today, but need to put on more miles truly. I’m writing this blog early, 5pm now. Going to eat, setup the tent and go to bed by 8. Wake up at 5 and try to leave by 6. Goal would be to do the 60 miles into Whitefish tomorrow.