This article is from the Misc Bicycles FAQs, by various authors.
Day 4 - Thompson Falls, MT to Missoula, MT. 105 miles, 2850' climbing.
We had a time change the night before, and since the day was so short,
they decided to let us sleep in an extra half hour, so we started at
7AM. I had a little extra energy and ended up with a little bit faster
group after the first snack stop. We were taking a detour that Pete
was supposed to be painting, but he was riding a bit too leisurely and
we caught him before he had painted all the arrows. We found the
correct road and rolled along happily though. Susan kept a small group
of us together with her stories for a while. The group was pretty
fast, but stuck together for conversation. It would be the only time I
could keep up with Robert, practically a neighbor from nearby Belmont
MA, who I had just met a month before the trip. Also riding with this
group was Darren a field engineer from Atlanta, Craig, who worked and
trained with Darren in California, Jane, who's name I recognized from
a RAAM qualifier in Johnstown, NY, Susan, Renee and Julie.
We stayed together until just before lunch when we hit some big
rollers. A fifteen mile gradual climb after lunch broke the group up,
but Renee, Julie and I finished together. I had hoped to get into the
massage line first that evening, and I hovered around waiting for Phil
to set up. Then Renee, Julie and I explored Missoula in search of
interesting places and a bike shop, and eventually found one, but with
nothing I really had to buy. After dinner we did walk by the
bikeCentennial offices, but they were closed. I did find some really
great postcards at the hotel and bought enough to last the three days
that we would spend in Montana. The cutest one showed a bird on a bike
passing a deer on a bike and was labeled *Passing the Buck*.
Day 5 - Missoula, MT to Butte, MT. 134 miles, 4850' climbing.
I rejoined a smaller Team Extreme for the day. Robert from New York
was starting to have some trouble with his Achilles tendon and was
trying to take things easier. Let me regress for a minute here. It
almost seemed that riders could only come on this trip if they found
another rider sharing their name, since in our small group, we had two
Roberts (and a Bob), two Pamelas, two Craigs, two Martys, two Johns,
two Eds, two Kurts, two Jerrys, three Mikes and three Dans.
Just before lunch, we encountered another friendly policeman who
watched every rider roll up to a stop sign, look and turn right if
clear, without coming to a complete stop, and then announce over the
loud speaker that we had broken the law. The nasty little hill, we
were turning right onto, was a great way to release our frustration.
This was my last encounter with law enforcement in the 3400 mile trip.
I really am a very cautious law abiding rider, never running traffic
lights, and always careful at stop signs, but when I can clearly see
that no cars are approaching a stop sign, I do not think it is
necessary to put a foot down.
Our group shrunk a little after lunch, since we had a major climb. I
really prefer to climb alone, since I can't stay with most riders
anyway, and it just depresses me to watch them pull away. Instead, I
left a little earlier and got to be passed and then watch them pull
away! (I did pass five riders also, so it wasn't totally depressing.)
The climb was about 5 miles of 8% with a few switch backs and some
really great views. We seemed to be following a stream at first, but
as it got steeper, the stream became a waterfall. At the top we were
rewarded with incredible views of Georgetown Lake, surrounded by
beautiful snow covered peaks. I stopped for a few photos and regrouped
with Ray and Robert. The other riders had started down the great
descent on the other side. A flat about halfway down gave us a second
chance at picture taking and regrouping.
At the final rest stop, Robert was really starting to have trouble
with his Achilles, and I was feeling a bit tired myself. The three of
us tried to stay together, but Robert really seemed to need to ride
alone. He kept insisting we go on. So we split up for the final 20
miles. It was a tough section, with a lot of interstate riding,
headwinds and long gradual grades. The last few miles were kind of
scary, as we hit bridges with only one lane open and no shoulder. I
rolled into the hotel really wiped out. I didn't think I could feel
much worse. (Little did I know that I would consider this one of my
better days later on). I talked to Pete about a booster shot the next
day in the form of a tandem ride. We decided to ride from the first
rest stop to the second. Jim and Diane would get the pleasure of
riding the bike over the Continental Divide. Then we'd get to change
pedals and rear saddle and head out.
Robert decided that his tendon needed a day off and planned to take
the sag the next day. It was a tough decision. We all came to do the
whole ride, and it was really heartbreaking to have to sag. The flu
and various injuries had already taken a lot of riders down for a few
days. Robert would definitely not be the only one to take a ride in
the van. I would certainly do whatever I could to avoid it short of
endangering my life. In the end, no distinction was made between those
who rode every inch and those who didn't. I'm really proud that I made
it all under my own steam, but if that van had come along at the right
time on the West Yellowstone day, it might have been a different
I misread the board about laundry that evening. There was a Laundromat
right there, so they planned to do it that evening, and I missed it
altogether. I decided I would do it the next night, but it left me
potentially short on shorts. I had a new pair of shorts that I decided
to try the next day. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER do this! Don't even pack
them. I can't believe how stupid I was, but more on that later.
Day 6 - Butte, MT to West Yellowstone, MT. 160 miles, 7070' climbing.
I was so excited about my tandem ride with Pete later in the day, that
I almost forgot about the climb up Pipestone Pass at 6418 feet over
the Continental Divide first thing in the morning. Well, not really.
It was weighing pretty heavy on my mind. I didn't want Pete to have to
wait too long for me, so I was really eager to get out and ride. Three
of the slower riders on the trip, who soon became known as the Three
Amigos, were allowed to leave a little early each morning, but Susan
refused to allow anyone else to leave before 6:30. I tried to convince
her that I was a lousy climber, but she wouldn't budge, so I was off
at 6:30. The climb was a tough one, but still not too bad, especially
with my granny gear. Lon did some videotaping of riders from one of
the support vans and then stopped at the top to take pictures of
riders in front of the Continental Divide sign. This was when my
camera first started malfunctioning. It just wouldn't auto wind
Anyway, I finally got a picture and went blazing down the other side.
A few miles later I was caught by Jim and Diane on the tandem. They
were relieved to see me, since they were worried about holding us up
waiting for the bike. I pointed out that Pete might be waiting, but I
was no speed demon. I graciously accepted a pull into the snack stop
We reached the snack stop and I tried to quickly change over my pedals
and my saddle, but had a lot of trouble trying to get my saddle on the
clamp on the Allsop. It seemed that the rails were too wide. I finally
gave up and decided I could probably handle a Brook's leather torture
device for a while. I put my saddle back on my bike, got my bike on a
van and we rolled out.
Well, we lost a lot of time with the saddle, and there weren't too
many people around when we left, but one rider, Paul, decided to ride
with us a while. I have to remember to contact him to get a copy of
the picture he took. The winds started to pick up and apparently we
were climbing a bit, as our speed slowly decreased. The saddle became
the saddle from hell. As great as it was riding with Pete, and having
the great tandem advantage in the wind, I actually began counting down
the miles until I could get off of the bike. We stood a lot to relieve
saddle pressure, but it didn't help. My bottom is clearly not shaped
like Debbie's (owner of the saddle - It's Susan and Debbie's bike).
Pete did tell me a pretty funny story about riding with Lon on their
record setting tandem RAAM a few years ago. Apparently Lon really
prides himself on being able to fix a bike with what he's got and what
he finds on the side of the road, like using a banana peel to lube a
chain, or a candy bar wrapper as a boot. He's been pretty creative at
times. So it came as no surprise to Pete when they were riding through
Texas, and came upon an armadillo all blown to bits by a speeding car,
that Lon thought there still might be some usable parts.
Despite all the wind, and the great stories, I was never so happy to
get off a tandem in my life. Maybe it wasn't the best choice given the
conditions later that afternoon, but I was thrilled to be back on my
own saddle. I lost a little more time moving the pedals back over, but
did eventually get back on the road. I caught up with Richard in the
ghost town of Nevada City. Richard is an old friend from North
Carolina, who at 66, was the oldest rider ever to do a PAC Tour.
Richard had started riding just a few years ago, and in fact cut his
long distance teeth on the brevet series that I ran in NC. He was an
inspiration then and is now. He is very steady and a great ride
companion. We rode along to the next ghost town of Virginia City where
we stopped for a couple of pictures, before beginning our next tough
climb of the day up Sphinx Mountain. As we wound our way up the
mountain, we had headwinds, crosswinds and tailwinds. From the top we
had a view of the Tobacco Root Mountains and the Madison Range with
it's 10,000 to 11,000 foot peaks. Coming down off the top with a
tailwind for a while, I hit a top speed of 51 mph, just before slowing
to take a picture at the lookout. It was a good thing I slowed, since
a few seconds later a crosswind tossed me into the other lane. When
taking the pictures I had no idea that we would be following the
valley next to the beautiful mountains. If I had I would have realized
that I was about to ride into the worst headwind I ever had felt. I
took it easy the rest of the way down the mountain, as the winds were
really making it hard to keep the bike in one lane. I then continued
onto lunch, where I struggled to hold onto my plate in the wind.
The afternoon was the source of my inspiration and motivation for the
rest of the ride, and is the one I opened this article with. I'll
never forget the feeling of desperation as I plodded along barely
moving in that headwind from hell, but like I said, it was just one
afternoon in a 3+ week ride. It was also during this afternoon that I
developed a pressure point saddle sore that would stay with me for the
rest of the ride. I will never, ever again wear new shorts on a long
or important ride.
I missed my massage that night after getting in so late, but I did get
to walk very quickly through West Yellowstone in search of dinner. On
the way to the restaurant we passed a bike shop with a sociable, a
side by side tandem, if you will, in the window. We stopped in to take
a look before heading out. I thought to myself that this bike would
have truly been hell this afternoon, and realized that things could
have been worse! Needless to say, I didn't have time for laundry.