Saturday, July 11/12, 1998


Pre-trip days


Menlo Park -> San Jose -> Salt Lake City -> Butte -> Dillon


Super 8 Motel, Dillon, MT



Elevation Gain


Outback Oven

Blond brownies with chocolate chips/Brownies

A full moon hung high in the western sky. "What would it be like to have two or three moons to explore?" In my sleepy stupor I mused at the thought of "extra objects" up there. A 6:30am flight precluded rational thought.

The usual unease of flying with my bike on-board haunted me:

What if it doesn't get on the same plane?
What if it's damaged enroute?
What if Paul/Ann aren't in Butte as we planned?
What if what if what if?

There were no glitches and Ann and Paul (Underdog and Stray Dawg) met me at the Butte, MT, airport. We pedaled the interstate from Butte to Dillon as it appeared to be, if not the most attractive option, the most expeditious. We had 68 miles to cover from noon 'til dark (estimated at 9pm), over the Continental Divide, then generally "downhill." We left the freeway once to ride the quieter, hillier frontage road, but soon scurried back to the gentler grades of the freeway.

As reigning Rain Goddess, of course the requisite short-lived, cold afternoon mountain thunderstorm occurred. White pebbles thumped my helmet and bounced off my handlebar bag. The sun reappeared accompanied by a cross wind, which we hoped would change to a tail wind as we angled south towards Dillon.

We slowly climbed to the Continental Divide, running neck and neck with miles to go versus daylight in which to do them. Ann and Paul's fatigue was obvious, having arrived from England only 18 hrs. earlier.

With dinnertime approaching and 25 miles left, and, I glanced to my right along the freeway fence line -- a woman dressed in khaki shorts and a dark melon t-shirt was hanging her arms over the barbed wire fence, yelling. I slowed, wondering, "What is she doing there?" She called to me - something about dogs.

"Strange woman," I thought. I assumed she wondered if I had a dog, or had lost one. "Look. I'm on a bicycle. Do I LOOK like I lost a dog?" went through my mind. Then I thought SHE had lost a dog. "No," I nearly said, "I haven't seen any dogs out here."

As I stopped on the road shoulder, she, still hanging over the barbed wire fence, yelled more loudly, "Are you a Divide Ride Dog?"

Now THAT made sense.

"Yes!" I yelled back. "Who are you?"

Rita (Guard Dog) and Dave (Phideaux pronounced Fie Doo), new to our group, were on a search-and-rescue mission.

"How did you see us?" I asked, perhaps the day's stupidest question (beginning one of the oft' voiced comments of the trip, "Now is that a stupid question or what?"). As if the freeway were just full of colorfully dressed cyclists with tents, sleeping bags and pots draped off their bikes. Not. Since we were so easily visible, they just waited on the frontage road for us to pedal by.

In volunteer fire brigade style, we passed our gear over the fence for transfer to their car. Ann accepted their offer of a ride into Dillon. Paul and I agreed to nip a ride only if they happened to return.

In my excitement of stripping gear from my bike, I fell over backwards, landing on my Camelbak and waistpack. (Rita probably thought I was taking this "dog theme" to the extreme - scratching my back and wanting my tummy rubbed.) My helmet took the brunt of the blow as it whacked, hard, the road. Instinctively I rolled away from the slow traffic lane, my double-century accident flashing across my consciousness. My bike ("The Donkey") landed on top of me, giving me a puncture wound and unsightly deep muscle bruises. One had to develop excuses early-on for poor hill-climbing performance.... Unfortunately the pavement impact ruined my camera.

As Paul and I began the ten-mile downhill run we had anticipaanticipated all day, Dave and Rita returned. With nary a whimper of lost opportunity, we hoisted our bikes onto the roof rack.

Not only were we chauffeured to our motel, but upon our arrival, Al (Traveling Dog) cloaked in odors of baking cookies, welcomed us by proudly serving warm moist brownies, fresh from his outback oven. What a treat! Although excellent, we determined that he required significantly more practice to make sure to "get it right." Perhaps two to three weeks of daily experimentation. We were willing tasters.

After brownies, pizza/burgers and DQ dessert (Dairy Queen - our second home in Dillon), I received sad news. "Judy. We won't be joining you. My bike was stolen last night in Butte." Dave (Hang Dog) and Lou Ann (Lucky Dog), friends from Eureka, MT, whom we met at Holland Lake last year, wouldn't be joining us. Our group of eleven dwindled to nine. We parceled out group food and gear and dispersed for the night.



Monday, July 13th




Sunny and warm (upper 80's)


Dillon -> Bannack State Park


Bannack State Park campground



Elevation Gain


Outback Oven

Blueberry muffins

For breakfast, our noses drew us toward the fresh baking bread odors emanating from Anna's Oven, a bakery with salad-plate-sized cinnamon rolls and full breakfast service. The bakery items were mouth-watering and properly caloric, of the butter and sugar kind. Perfect! While we ate, a sturdy woman with blond-brown frizzy hair, wearing a generously oversized blue camp shirt covered by a well-washed white cotton apron, surveyed with a careful eye the status of the patrons at the Formica tables and long counter. Anna, no doubt.

After last minute errands including yet another stop for food, both for our individual lunches (three days worth) and two group camping dinners, we convened one last time at the DQ for a group picture. This depicted Divide Ride Dog mentality - ice cream at every opportunity!

We pedaled past newly mown, rolled hay, and fields of sweet smelling yellow clover; to the far right was Fleecer Mountain, infamous gear-eating downhill trail from last year's ride. Snow frosted the peak. Creeks and rivers rushed at the tops of their banks carrying grass and dirt clods downhill. June had been a rainy month and we anticipated mud mucking with our bikes.

Quickly our group split - Tom (Mad Dog) and Melissa (Good Dawg) in their (usual) lead position carried the neon pink "Campsite Occupied" sign which Alan (Party Dog) created last year. The rest of us strung out for the long pull over 6,720' Badger Pass - 2,000' of climbing. The grade was long and gentle, but the headwinds hellacious.

A headwind on an uphill. Training! I didn't know whether to be pleased or depressed that I could see the road over Badger Pass snaking in front of us. We were experiencing three out of Al's four pestilences of cycling:

Hills; but no
Humidity (rain).

Buffeted and blown - nearly off our heavily laden mt. bikes - Norm (Doc Dog) and I crested the top. Looking for a protected site to enjoy lunch, we gave up, laid down the bikes, and gobbled deli sandwiches and a large mouth-watering salt-replacing kosher pickle. Dessert was an exercise in cherry pit spitting - Rainier cherries, a select type of Washington (state) cherry.

Our last eight miles required downhill pedaling, on pavement, until the turn into Bannack State Park where our bikes were immediately put to their on-dirt use.

We camped at Bannack, an old mining community, restored as a state park. I was quite taken with the construction of those old buildings.

The multi-storied Meade Hotel, in use until the 1940's, had attractive moldings, a long curving ante-bellum staircase, transoms over the doors, and plaster falling away from the lath.

Most of the small homes were log construction. A layer of tightly woven bleached cotton fabric covered the log walls, and in one house we counted at least four to six layers of musty smelling wallpaper atop the cotton. The outside was visible from the inside through the chinks in the walls and rents in the cotton.

The Methodist Church was stark with uncomfortably hard wood "theater" seats. One was to concentrate on the preacher's stern sermon. I sat listening to the howl of the late afternoon wind, hoping it would dissipate by morning.

Last summer, as the last rider into camp on the final day, Paul won the red lantern for the winter, and took it home to England with the admonition to return with it. He did, and presented it to the last "Dog" into camp, reviving our daily tradition which reflected the Alaska Iditarod tradition of presenting a red lantern to the last dog sled.

(As I write at 9:30pm, I've escaped into my tent to avoid bloodthirsty mosquitoes. The sun has barely set; Ann and Melissa sit at a picnic table discussing tomorrow's route, assessing elevation gains; a fire burns in the fire pit, unappreciated as many of us have retreated to tents.)



Tuesday, July 14th




Sunny and hot (90's) (45F at 6:30 in my tent)


Bannack State Park -> Grant -> Hildreth Livestock Guest Ranch





Elevation Gain


My faux pas of the morning -- dogs share their plates, right? And we were the Divide Ride (DR) Dogs. I took this to a new level. (Higher? Lower?) As I grabbed my yellow bowl and emptied packets of grits into it, I wondered why a spoon was already there. No matter. I exchanged it for mine, added hot water and stirred up a grits slurry. Dave, in his unique ability of the understatement observed, "You must have a bowl just like that...."

Taking a moment to wonder why he would make such a comment.... Oh. MY yellow bowl was at home. I was eating from Rita's. I brought a gray bowl, but apparently old dogs don't learn new tricks, nor recognize new bowls. "One of these bowls is not like the other...." The one with the spoon in it. We laughed about me taking "plate poaching" to the extreme.

Later, as Rita and I were readying our bikes, I suggested that I might grab hers by mistake - it, too, was a Trek.

"But," she said, "mine's yellow."

"That's okay. Mine's gray," I replied.

Paul was convinced that the heavy dew in the morning was "mosquito piss." Quite likely considering the army of them which attacked during the night. Like Lewis and Clark, we found the mosquitoes "very troublesome" through the evening and night hours.

Fields of sagebrush predominated our early morning route, with accompanying sagey odors. A sign pointed toward Grant, population of about 30, in the Horse Prairie Valley. We were ready to escape the heat of the morning and buy cold drinks.

Pulling into the Horse Prairie Hilton B & B, we were greeted by an odd sight: ten dogs, many barking and yapping from a rooftop outpost, where family members painted the gutters blue and worked on the roof.

The new B & B owners were working diligently at fixing up the two-story large ranch style home. Inside, exquisite inlaid woods patterned the floors. Redone and refurbished for summer visitors and autumn hunters, the spaciousness of the rooms was accented by light oak and pine furniture and handmade quilts.

I wandered through town - in reality down the block - to a small grocery store. A sign posted on the outside bulletin board read: "Dead Stock Removal." Interesting concept. Obviously there was a need.

How to describe the scenery? Rounded mountains, valleys sectioned by skinny creeks, eventually joining forces and heading downslope, startlingly blue sky, snow patches high on the hills. An occasional wild rose hedgerow but too early for rose hips. Crayola (tm) colored wildflowers filled the meadows. We followed Medicine Lodge Creek and as the day progressed our Big Sky views narrowed from open rolling vistas to hills closing in toward the road. The predominant odor of sage continued to tantalize us.

On to Hildreth's Livestock Guest Ranch. A long hot ride with less serious hills than the Adventure Cycling map indicated, but continuous climbing nonetheless. Two walking hills - once after my chain caught and I couldn't get re-started up the loose rocky road, and then the final 100 ft. into Hildreth's. Near the top of the Hildreth driveway, a wee-sized (about three inches long) mole scurried across my path. How strange that it should be out during the day. And how tiny it was!

The Hildreth's greeted us warmly as we arrived hot, filthy, and tired. Tall cool sodas in frosty glasses appeared on the patio table. We were given the choice of tent areas, and the Hildreth's hospitality extended to permitting us to use their personal bathroom, much to their own inconvenience, I was certain.

Trudy, and daughter Donna's "groaning board" was truly fit for nine starving, overworked cyclists: a shredded carrot and pineapple ambrosia salad, baked potatoes, sliced beef (this was a cattle ranch, but our meat was not home grown), mixed veggies (I ate around the cauliflower chunks), rolls, butter, homemade berry jam and gravy - the kind that encouraged you to drown everything on your plate with it. For dessert, orange juice, coffee, and dark chocolate cake. We were stuffed!

Pat (Henry) Hildreth, in his late 60's, grew up on the ranch, although earlier relatives came to Montana from Fresno, CA. (Nearby was Hildreth Creek, indicating long history in the valley.) I tried to imagine owning land as far as my eye could see, in Big Sky Country, as the Hildreth's once did. It was instructive to hear Trudy's story of "immigrating to the United States from Germany when she was a teenager, forty-two years ago," meeting and marrying Pat within months, and beginning their family, with all the hardships involved in living in a secluded Montana valley.

Eventually there was indoor plumbing, but hot water came later. Electricity didn't arrive in the Medicine Lodge Valley until the early 1960's. Trudy then got a "real" washing machine. I hoped that the her daily real-life Thomas Moran painting spread before her compensated for the paucity of "modern life."

Donna, Trudy and Pat's youngest at 26 years old, had returned to the ranch after college. Her eyes danced when she talked about her plans. As a horse woman and a developer of a specific strain of cattle, she had in addition, specific managerial duties for the ranch. As designer of the ranch's web page, she straddled two cultures.

We watched the sunset from Trudy's "Mother's Day Bench," constructed years previously by Pat. Situated on the hill's summit with a near 360deg. view of the valley, Trudy could retreat from the daily hassles of ranch management (imagine cooking for all of those ranch hands), and enjoy moments of serenity.

(As I write at 10pm, birds are chattering , a lone coyote howls from quite a distance, and the mosquitoes hum and buzz angrily between my tent and rainfly.)



Wednesday, July 15th




Hot and sunny


Hildreth's Livestock Guest Ranch -> Dell, MT


Dell City Park across from the Dell Mercantile; 1 block from Yesterday's Calf-A; 200' from the active railroad; 1/4 mile from I-15.



Elevation Gain


(As I write, sitting on Trudy's Bench watching the valley below me awaken, the sun tips the low mountains across the way, patches of snow reflecting brightly. Cattle low and crows caw. Soon, the red ranch house across the valley is highlighted. The big creek - I can easily hear it and trace its progress by the twisting pattern of the willows; the horses, standing nose to tail statue-like, unnuzzle from their night stance, separate and graze. Gradually our group arrives to welcome the morning, be a part of the serenity, and photograph mother nature showing her wares. Will the sun rise over the eastern hills fast enough to dry our tents before we pack up?)

Our Hildreth's breakfast: Donna, leaning over the hot patio grill, flipped stacks and stacks of the feather light pancakes onto plates. Plus: eggs, bacon, carafes of coffee, tea, cranberry juice. No one left the table hungry!

Dave and Rita departed along the access road on which we arrived. Soon thereafter, Pat returned on his ATV pronouncing the short-cut to the main road as "rideable," having just checked it for us. We could avoid the steep hill that Rita and Dave were climbing.

Half way across the grass "shortcut" we envied Rita and Dave on the main road. Primarily, we pushed, not rode, our bikes across the swampy grasslands and through a muddy stream. At the main road my weary legs were only one-half mile into the day! We knew we had a steep climb out of the Medicine Lodge Valley and down into the Sheep Creek Valley. The hills looked doable. The one that looked too steep appeared on the map to be just a four-wheel-drive access road and therefore not ours. No matter that it paralleled the route of the power lines into the valley. It was amazing what you could talk yourself into.... Then we hit the bottom of the hill. We hunkered down, geared down and started up that steep dirt road, each with our 60-plus pounds of gear hanging off our bikes.

One by one we dismounted to push our bikes the final half-mile to the top of the pass, stopping and laughing about one thing or another as we gasped for breath and leg strength (even pushing took work). Ann and Norm were in front; Paul next; Al was drinking water - we didn't know if he were going to push or ride...he usually rode. I was off my bike. Rita and Dave were pushing. It was a long way to the top! And sweltering.

I looked back. Al, too, was pushing.

The route rumpled along - ups and downs through extremely remote territory - not a place I'd like to be cycling alone, for although we saw cars yesterday, we were far enough into the valley that there were none through those early miles. While we weren't necessarily in sight of one another, we had a lead pair and 2-3 people together riding sweep. No one was without help if needed.

The sun blazed. We were surrounded by bright snow-covered mountains. The trees followed the creek, not the road, and did not provide cover: not from sun nor for "into the bushes" privacy. I learned to look carefully and act quickly.

At lunch along a creek, Paul pulled out a colorful KITE from his pannier and proceeded to demonstrate that we didn't have enough wind to fly it. One wondered what other useful items were hiding in his panniers.

Canyon Ranch. Could it be the Ted Turner/Jane Fonda place that we heard about? [No, it wasn't it. Ted/Jane lived in the other valley near Clark Canyon Reservoir.] Canyon Ranch had been built with external money. Lots. A new pale pine western-rail wood fence encircled the expansive property, while acres of tall vivid green grass surrounded a newly constructed "Western Montana Trophy Ranch House." A stunning spread, totally out of character with the neighboring long-established more disheveled looking working ranches dotted along the river.

We left the Big Sheep Valley, following Sheep Creek through towering red rock narrow-walled canyons. I could imagine being watched by hundreds of eyes, invisible behind the rocks, ledges and crevices.

Dell, Montana, was a "town" of two crossed roads alongside the interstate, with a few commercial ventures to service the highway. The forest service map indicated six buildings. That'd been about right. There at the Dell Merc (as the sign read; perhaps they didn't want to spell out Mercantile) were Melissa and Tom, waiting. The eye-catching neon pink "Campsite Occupied" sign marked out home for the night at the city park across the road. They smugly announced, "We had a shower at 'Granny's.'" Granny's? Whose Granny? Who's Granny?

Melissa and Tom ate lunch at Yesterday's Calf-A, an infamous restaurant since 1978, and asked about showers. "Oh, go talk to Granny," they were told. Granny and her husband Ken bought the old school house in order to buy the bell in the tower. They then turned the building into a restaurant and museum of old ranching/homesteading items. Memorabilia items which may have been used by Trudy Hildreth not long ago. Widow Granny, still a fixture at the restaurant, graciously offered to let us traipse through her small cottage next door, side-stepping her yappy snappy Pomeranians, to her bathroom and shower.

During dinner, the most interesting characters walked into Calf-A, located near the truck stop:

A short thick man, barely more than five feet tall, with an oversized black cowboy hat low over his eyebrows, and wide belt - like the Shorty Sheriff in a cartoon or B-grade western movie.

The gaunt-faced truck driver with a package of cigarettes rolled in his gray t-shirt sleeve (something I thought was just a bad stereotype joke) and slicked black hair.

Another driver, sporting a salt and pepper beard/moustache, wore mirrored sunglasses (at 8pm inside the restaurant) mimicked the "typical" Georgia sheriff who, with sirens screaming and red lights flashing, pulls you over for going 1 mph over the 86mph speed limit. He was well over six feet tall, lanky, wearing a suede vest with orange lining, and a light beige Stetson. Cowboy boots, of course.

When we retired for the evening, Al pronounced our camping area, in his best real-estate-sleeze advertising lingo, the "'Prairies of Dell' - An Exclusive Gated Community." (A chain-link fenced and gated community with accompanying rumbles of interstate truck traffic. )



Thursday, July 16th




Sunny and hot (90+F). Forecast: more of the same through the weekend. Maybe even hotter. Breaking heat records


Dell -> Lima (pronounced as in lima bean) -> Upper Lima Reservoir


Free-style (guerilla) camping on BLM land



Elevation Gain


Outback Oven

Chocolate cake and frosting

(As I write in the city park/campground, at 6:21am, the sun has risen over the far ridge and the rays splay along my tent floor. The nearby herd of cows [where did THEY come from?] has been bellowing all night and are literally screaming now. The dogs next door [50' away] barked most of the night and trucks growled along the freeway. I never heard the trains although the tracks are a mere two blocks away. My eyes look sleep deprived [euphemism for baggy and awful]. I heard neither Al nor Norm snoring last night even though we are pitched close together.)

Our early morning began with cattle moving down the street alongside our "bedroom." Paul and I, curious early risers, followed the fresh cow paddies down the road and around the corner to determine the herd route. We could see and smell that they had traveled right next to us! No wonder our morning alarm was of bellowing cattle rather than raucous ravens or tooting trains.

By 7am Rita and Dave were ensconced at Calf-A, the rest of us soon along. Caffeine! Decaf coffee was not an option. This was Montana! We chatted with Granny (Ruth) as she perched on the short round red vinyl stool at the end of the counter. I felt that she held forth every morning from that stool. Beside her, Granny had a lone white sock - an orphan item rescued from her bathroom. Al quietly retrieved it.

Oh my! Wooden legs! Yesterday was tough, tougher than I realized. It did help to learn that it was a slight uphill grade for the ten highway miles from Dell to Lima.

My hands were numb in spite of the extensive padding I already had on my handlebars. Norm came up with an absolutely brilliant idea of cutting insulating foam drink can holders in half, and taping them on as bar-end padding. This helped enormously. My bike then looked as if it were sponsored by Igloo.

We refueled at Lima with short detour to Jan's Cafe for a late morning Dutch apple pie a la mode and iced tea. (Ride to eat and eat to ride.) Not yet a lot of forward mileage. Lima - "Record hot temperatures predicted today."

The road through the Centennial Valley toward the dam was as desolate as anything we'd seen. Our grand views were of lumpy sage-covered hills in front of low mountains. Shade trees along our route would have been nice to mitigate the blistering 105F heat. It smelled of scorched grass and dust, with sagey overtones. Most of the day we followed the north bank of Lima Reservoir, up and down the hill contours. Climbing the steep deeply rutted roads and rocky hills at the end of the day, my mantra was: "Don't stop/Can't stop." Someone observed, "Even the butterflies are outrunning us." The road would have been impossible and impassable in the rain!

We free-style camped on BLM land. "On the trail turn right at the old tennis ball" were the directions we gave to late riders into camp. Al designated this camping area with another yuppy real estate moniker: "Reservoir Flats, A Gated Community." (Barbed wire.)

Our camping area was "rustic" - no services of any kind. Consider the privacy issue of having a level expanse of sage meadow and not a tree in sight. Fortunately, a small rise 1/4 mi. away lent some privacy to the call of nature. One person at a time wandered off southwest, "taking the trowel for a walk," until out of sight.

After walking along an overgrown primitive path of goose dropping and feathers we reached goopy marshland water for filtering. I didn't dwell on the resident Canada geese population and their swimming habits.

Our cooking spot was a packed dirt area near our tents. Careful! You could break an ankle stepping in the huge gopher holes obscured by grass and stubby sagebrush - antique cow paddies interspersed.

Al and I were the evening chefs: Top Ramen (12 packages) with four cans of chunky chicken, and, finally, the broccoli and zucchini which I had been carrying since Dillon, four days earlier, baking in my panniers - still edible (with judicious trimming). They were the veggie components of our one pot meal. Tang for a slight evening drink modification. And the dessert course, he again baked - chocolate cake with warm chocolate frosting. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate to complete the meal. Not bad for guerilla camping.

As the hot sun lowered toward the horizon, a field of translucent webs, glistening in front of me, reflected the golden sun, warping and wefting low across the sagebrush. Tightened up with a loom and shuttlecock, it would have been a truly silkweight fabric.

(As I write, at 9:45p.m, camped in the short grass, with ankle-breaking gophers holes, my tent faces west, the sky fading pale gold into the blue of sunset and deep dusk. The temperature has cooled from ~100F to 66F. Cows moo in the near distance. Canada geese honk, frogs redeep. I'm driven again into my tent by the mosquitoes. Next year bring the mosquito head net, something I've carried for a few years and used nearly not at all. )



Friday, July 17th




Hot and sunny. Not a cloud in the sky.


Upper Lima Reservoir -> Upper Red Rock Lak


Upper Red Rock Lake campground



Elevation Gain


Outback Oven


Last night the stars were stunning! Billions of pavé diamonds thrown against the midnight sky. A sight which reinforced that we were not the center of the universe.

Exquisitely small mayfly-type insects which flew only early in the am/pm landed all over us and molted. In fascination we watched them crawl out of their old "skin" and merrily fly off. At first we thought we were surrounded, again, by a jillion mosquitoes. After an hour our clothing was mayfly-molty and they were gone.

While savoring yet another hot water and cereal breakfast, I watched the white pelicans fly and dive along the marsh. A great blue heron stalked for his breakfast. Surely more interesting than my cheese flavored grits.

On our way to Lakeview, still transversing the grand Centennial Valley, we were surrounded by snow capped mountains silhouetted in the far distance. Just a lot of not very much except grasslands and an occasional conifer. There was a certain beauty in this landscape. The lumpy route was difficult to cycle...all day on loose "gravel" (rocks of about 2-3" in diameter that passed for a "gravel" road).

Lakeview, between Upper and Lower Red Rock Lakes - was reported to have food. Wrong. I extracted a can of coke from a drink machine on the old wood-slat porch of an apparently abandoned building, when I saw a young girl ring the come-and-get-it triangle hanging on the porch of the B & B across the road. I thought, "Hmm. A call to lunch. Maybe we can buy something."

"Yes," the young looking woman said, she would make us sack lunches, "$5 each. Two sandwiches, cookies and a candy bar." One of the more expensive sack lunches I've had ($ paid vs. goods received), but as Al observed, "Location. Location. Location." Indeed.

It was, so far, the only time on the trip where we all lunched together. Resting on the porch next to the coke machine, lingering quite a bit longer than necessary, we knew we had only four miles to camp. We could see it - the point down the road with the trees.

Trees! The first bit of tree shade along the road in days. I'd forgotten how difficult it was to ride through mottled shade on rough roads, where road surface and shade coalesced. To my right was a confer forest with snow at the top, only 500' above me. The smell of evergreens enticed me further down the road. And yet, still the occasional whiff of dusty sage wafted by.

I looked forward to our rest day at Upper Red Rock Lake - trumpeter swan and wildlife refuge area reported by Sunset Magazine as one of the ten most beautiful wild areas in the western U.S.

Not much shade in camp, but a fast and free running source of potable spring water piped from deep in the earth provided icy refreshment. A definite plus after yesterday's water filtering.

We moved a picnic table into the only shade not infested with swarming mosquitoes - beside the large wooden information sign. In short order, cyclists were hiding from the hot sun. Not just humans, but also a nest or two of mice far in the top of the double walled sign - only their bald pink tails hung down and small white noses poked out inspecting the interlopers. Once discovered, we devised creative recipes involving mice: mousetail hors'd oeuvres, mouse nose soufflé, mousemeat stew.

Journals and books came out of panniers and serious relaxing began...along with laundering, both clothes and bodies. Our souls had been in a constant state of cleansing since Dillon.

Wonderful wildflowers surrounded us: wild roses, alpine asters, lupine, bright pink sticky geraniums, small sunflowers, globe mallow (mountain hollyhock), verbena, cow parsnip, among others unidentified.

Returning from moving bulls through the [Centennial] valley, Granny's son (of Calf-A) stopped by - he saw our bikes and campsite from the road above. A modern cowboy with his small holstered handgun (Paul commented that in days past it would be a "ladies gun"), dark Stetson, plaid "cowboy" shirt complete with pearl snaps, Levi's, and silver [colored] spurs. Boots.

Paul and Melissa were dinner chefs. We ate well!

Chili (two large cans, two small spicy cans, one large can of tomatoes) to put over the rice
Raw baby carrots
Cornbread baked in Al's outback oven, complete with "butter"
No-bake cheesecake with cherry topping

(As I write at 9:30pm, a strong south wind is swiftly coming up! Clouds form in the northwest and we have enjoyed a typical mountain sunset - sun sinking behind the mountains, backlighting the cloud bank - skybluemagentamaroondeeppurple. At this time of year, at this latitude, you can pitch your tent almost due north and see both the sunset and sunrise from inside. The "squirrel" bags (no bears here) sway from moderately strong aspen branches. The wind ruffles the lake. I'm sitting at a picnic table and in spite of the wind, a few aerobatic mosquitoes hover.)



Saturday, July 18th






Very hot and sunny


Rest day at Upper Red Rock Lakes, MT



Outback Oven

Morning coffee cake; evening apple pie

During the night a brilliant incandescent light shown through my mosquito netting. "Next time," I mused, "I'll pitch the front of my tent away from the light." But wait. There weren't any campground lights. My sleepy stupor and my myopicism...the half moon.

Very early, 4am or so, I heard rustling near my tent. Rather than hang my food bag in a tree with the others, I hung it from my bike handlebar - away from anything climbable, I thought. Bad idea. I struggled awake and poured a vole out of my food bag. I wondered what damage he had done. (NB: He only nibbled at the old muffin I was going to toss anyway.)

The time between false dawn at 5am and sunrise at 6:15 exactly - peaceful and beautiful. I walked the bluff overlooking our campsites and lake, spending an hour watching the morning break.

The colors of dawn - the reverse of last night's sunset. A scattering of buttermilk clouds through the northeast sky reflected pink, gold and then white gold as the sun came closer to the mountain edges. I'd never seen "shafts" of sun, striations of white light radiating from behind the distant mountain. A mist formed over the far eastern end of the lake and then quickly evaporated in that early sun.

At the moment the sun hit the lake, the waterfowl began yakking and paddling - heads up from under their wings. The calls of birds, some I recognized and most I didn't. We needed a birder and wildflowerer on our trips. Dave and Rita seemed to know many, but they were in their tent, not on the bluff with me.

There can be a certain loneliness on these trips without a significant other with whom to share the experience. Someone with whom to snuggle in the tent and compare notes of the day, or someone to call home for sharing. But, we were all good friends and that was worth much.

(As I write at 9:50pm it's deep dusk. The humming and buzzing of unusually large mosquitoes flinging themselves against my tent surely could be developed into a new form of torture. A lone loon chatters out on the lake.)

An incredibly lazy day! After discovering that the lodge (with food service) was actually 12 miles away on that rocky road - in the 90+F heat - we (excluding Melissa, Tom and Ann who were on a hike to the Continental Divide Hiking Trail) lazed around talking, drinking "iced" tea, working on bikes, tires, reading, writing, and just being silly.

(Our "iced" tea: 7 tea bags/coffee pot. After boiling a full pot of water (twice), we got smart and boiled a small amount of water and then diluted the resultant strong tea with cold spring water.)

Where else could six cyclists spend three to four hours moving very little? Mostly we moved as far as necessary to stay in the shade of the large sign (with the small roof on top). We moved us, and when necessary moved the picnic table, to stay in the shade. The highlight of the afternoon - watching mice sleep within the roof of the sign, their tails dangled tantalizingly, inviting a poke with a thick blade of dry grass, as said laze-abouts collapsed in giggles as tails pulled in and black beady eyes peeked down, noses atwitch, to inspect the problem. Al dubbed them "Mouse Family Robinson." Rita observed the scene and reminisced on "Dances with Wolves."

The two outhouses: one was the clean, modern-style vault toilet, but the older of the two was a very small log cabin with full cut round logs, chinked as cabins of old (this outhouse was by no means new, nor was it 100 years old), nicely shellacked inside. Both were perilously low on toilet paper when we arrived and the supply dwindled markedly as travelers along the road stopped to collect spring water and to relieve themselves. Then...none. Whoever was servicing the campground hadn't. Not a nice prospect for nine cyclists with little opportunity to dash into town for supplies (and, until then, we were not carrying an Emergency Backup Roll, to go with Paul's Emergency Backup Duck, Ann's Emergency Backup Frog, and all kinds of other Emergency Backup XXXX).

The two women in the adjacent site saved our butts, donating a roll for "cyclist use only. " From then on our group gear included our Emergency Backup Roll.

Trips such as this distill life into the simplest of pleasures and needs: fiery sunsets and dawns; mosquito lotion; pit toilets; toilet paper; potable water; shade trees; and dessert.



Sunday, July 19th




Hot (mid-90's) and sunny; 54degF in the tent at 6:30


Upper Red Rock Lake -> Mack's Inn, ID


Sawtelle Mt. Resort and RV Park



Elevation Gain


We ran out of oatmeal at breakfast. "Some" had to break down and eat my grits. And after all the static I'd been getting about them! Poetic justice reigned. I despised instant oatmeal and ate it only under duress and in emergencies.

One short steep hill on the way towards the top of Red Rock Pass (7100'). During my short hike, a pickup from the other direction stopped to talk. The driver was walking the entire Continental Divide Hiking Trail from the south to north. It was a nice few moments of catching my breath. Once over that hill, it was an easy pedal up to the pass - the ID/MT border and our only divide crossing for the trip.

A 35mph downhill run. YeeHaw! (Squeal of delight!) At the on-dirt/on-road option, Norm and I paid attention to our touring cyclist's mentality (along with Rita and Dave) and stayed on-road for the last five miles. I appreciated the ability to actually look around instead of watching every last grain of sand and small rock coming toward my front tire.

(As I write at 4:45pm, we are congregated in the motel laundry room snacking on pretzels, while the motel maids fold sheets for a full house of tourists and we await dry laundry.)

Post shower my dark sox tan line wasn't as dark. And the water streaming down the drain from the white fiberglass shower pan looked as if I had just washed the family dog! Warm water, soap, a razor - more simple pleasures of life.

At the cafe across the street, the wide banner across the entrance proclaimed, "Bull Fry Next Week!" (We mused as to what that really meant. No one wanted to find out.) A patron wandered in - tall, thin, late 50's (but this land aged people - maybe he was only 27), Stetson hat. I was most intrigued with his gray handlebar moustache, as wide as his ears, waxed into an impressive sine wave.

Interesting - the annual conference of the wool growers association was meeting at the motel and ordered lamb chops for their catered meal. Just couldn't get enough of those sheep?

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Last Updated: February 15, 1999

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