Swede Gulch, MT to Bannack, MT
Mileage: 210.8 km (131 mi)
Riding Time: 16 h 59 m
Standing: 13th place
|Day 6 Map|
Up and on the trail by 5am. It was a little chilly, but clear skies. The road was nice and easy to ride on the way into Butte. It still took a while to get going in the morning and I was starting to feel sleepier and sleepier as I was riding.
|Sleepy riding on the way to Butte|
It was nice riding on some pavement for a while and saw some cool sculptures on the way. They were made with what looked like horseshoes. Skilled craftsmanship.
|Horseshoe sculptures (not real animals)|
The gravel veered off up a hill and back down a steep switchback into the town site. I was glad I did this section in the daylight. It would have been sketchy to maneuver the tight corners and loose rock in the dark. I was happy to be riding into a larger town and thought it was awesome riding these little back roads that cut through back alleys and abandoned lots. You could tell a local plotted out the GPS track.
|Thing with the town's name on it|
I rolled into a gas station across the street from the Outdoorsman. I had some breakfast and cleaned up in the bathroom. I spoke with Kristin and she said Tom had just left town. It turns out knowing your place in the race does provide a sense of urgency. After the moral uplift from the phone call, I was on my way. These daily phone calls were so valuable. It was great to hear all of the encouragement from those watching the race on Trackleaders and Facebook. Our fundraising was doing well too. We were raising funds for the Cross Cancer Institute through the Alberta Cancer Foundation. My Dad passed away from brain cancer several years ago and during his battle with this disease the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton, Alberta provided amazing support. Kristin would update me on who donated and how our total was rising.
After some highway riding I was off into the woods again. I was happy that my Achilles pain was disappearing. Moving the cleats worked! Riding through the forest again was nice. Up and over another pass and back up again to Fleecer Ridge. The forest was beautiful! I loved seeing the different rock formations and trees. I saw a little grizzly on the way. Once I blew my whistle, he ran off. Fleecer Ridge was awesome! More wide open spaces. It’s hard to describe how far you could see and pictures never do it justice. The trail snaked up the grass covered hill and I was looking forward to the descent.
|On the way up to Fleecer Ridge|
I walked my way pretty much all the way up the last part to the summit then the descent began. It was fairly gentle at first, then it dropped off to a pretty steep grade.
|Off the edge of Fleecer Ridge|
The loose shale-like rocks were pretty sketchy so at the steepest parts, I decided to walk. “Chossy!” I would say to myself. As I slid-walked down the trail, I thought about how rideable this would be if I was not so concerned about crashing. The last thing I wanted was to flip over the bars in the middle of nowhere. Finishing was always my top priority and the bragging rights about riding all of Fleecer Ridge was tempting, but not tempting enough for the risk. After the super steep part was over there was a fast and fun descent that went on forever. The feeling was amazing when you could roll along quickly for so long knowing that you would not be riding the same trail twice. I’m not really an emotional guy, but would feel emotion welling up feeling so blessed to be able to ride this race.
Next resupply was Wise River. I got some food and as I was leaving, Bailey Newbrey, Luke and some other riders rode up. I can’t remember who else was with him. Maybe David Stowe or Justin Chadwick? I found out Bailey was another single speeder and he had a harder gear ratio than I did. He must be a strong rider to push that ratio! Off I went with a sense of urgency knowing there were riders right behind me. The road was paved for a long while with headwind. I tucked into the aerobars and settled in. Once I got relaxed, I got sleepy again. Nodding off and pedalling. I decided to stop for a cat nap to fend off the unconsciousness. I sort of slept for a few minutes and expected the other riders to catch up. They didn’t and I continued.
I kept pedalling and pedalling up to the summit of another big elevation gain. The rain had set in and it was pouring by the time I reached the top. I was still riding alone always expecting someone to ride up behind me. I still had not put on my rain pants once during the whole trip. I didn’t want to go through the inconvenience of stopping to put them on just to take them off again. It was never cold enough that if felt necessary. I debated even bringing them before the trip. I never used them so I guess I could have left them home. After the summit was a cold, wet, finger-numbing descent. Luke caught up at this point and we rode to the entrance of the High Country Mountain Lodge together. Luke was a veteran and a really nice guy so it was great riding with him. He gave a lot of good advice and told stories about his run last year with his brother. We talked about gloves and I showed him my Dollar Store rubber gloves over wool. They cost $2 and worked better than every $50 pair of waterproof breathable gloves I ever owned.
At the entrance of the Lodge, Luke tried to convince me to go up to have some food. It was getting dark, but it was still early and I didn’t feel too cold so I wanted to continue on. The rain had stopped so I thought if I kept riding, I would warm up. Tom was on his way out so we rode together for a while. It was nice of him to ride slow at my pace for a while so we could chat. He told me some great stories about the Highland Trial in Scotland. He found out about a shelter in the Bannack Park that we could sleep in. It was a bit closer than we would have liked, but the rain set in again. By the time we reached the state park, it was a full on torrential downpour. We rode around the park a while looking for the shelter. We stopped at the ghost town entrance and Tom was about to go past the gate and “No Entrance” sign to find a place to sleep. Right as we crossed the threshold, a light turned on and I saw a security camera pointed right at us. I expressed my reluctance to continue and Tom asked if it was a bit too “cheeky”. I liked hearing his Europeanisms. We eventually found the shelter. It was huge and a godsend! The thunder rolled and sheets of rain blew all around us. I had a great night’s sleep glad I wasn’t out in the open among the sage bushes. As I slept I would hear Tom rustling in his bivy. Later in the days to follow, I would wonder if I was snoring and he was trying to snap me out of it by making some noise. If you ever read this Tom and that was the case… sorry about keeping you up!