Leaving Lincoln we knew we’d need to do a road detour. In the end we did an extra 29km and didn’t lose any time (overall). We went via a different pass, then tracked back to the route from Canyon Creek.
Lincoln, in hindsight was the end of “hot” weather, and everything since has been significantly colder, with temperatures in the “60s” even on bright days. We’ve begun to have new snow on the peaks that comes and goes (so far). Frosts are now every day and we’ve got better at picking our camp-site for the earliest morning sun to allow us to get going earlier with a dry-ish tent.
Back on route after our detour, the conifer forests continued with meadows full of beef cattle. We passed a number of “divide crossings” – going over the Continental divide that our route roughly follows. Some of these were more effort than others, though now we’re in the States they pretty much all have a sign to say you’re at the top.
The days into Butte (a big hole in the ground with attached town) were pretty wet and cold. Despite map instructions about “virtual walls” in Canada (Elk Pass), the morning we spent dragging our loaded bikes in steady, chilly rain over tree roots, boulders and up eroded single-track was probably the most physically challenging of the trip thus far. (Lava mountain, shortly after Helena, which we bypassed, up Rimini road).
Coming down the other side would have been a spectacular gorge with granite boulders and a rushing river if we weren’t distracted by inches deep claggy mud that coated us and our bikes. Thankfully the rain stopped as we came into Basin, and the Merry Widow Health Mine (an amazing concept – Radon gas to “cure all pain”) with it’s campground hall and drying room :-). Butte went by in a rush. We timidly went into the Outdoorman bike shop, to be deftly taken in hand by the owner (brother of Tour de France cyclist Levi Leipheimer). Before we’d put a thought together and consulted our “to do lists” we knew all about food shops, outdoor shops, and had our every need seen to. Quite an experience, and very generous. I now own a single 5mm hex key needed to get rid of the noise in my back brakes – finally. We think he’s more used to the Tour du Divide racers who come through every june doing 100-200miles a day and need everything very quickly :-)
Our mood and progress are at the whim of the wind and weather. No surprise really, but our doubts increase with days of head-wind and rain, then an hour of sunshine, a following wind and some spectacular scenery erase them.
The last 3 days have seen a change in scenery – gone are the forests and conifers, and now we have sage-brush and the wide open spaces Montana is famous for. It makes the wind even more of an opponent. We’re learning to draft properly (the stronger rider keeps just up-wind of the other, breaking up the wind and easing the impact).
Now we’re at the Lima motel and RV park (in a tent), where we’ve been greeted by an amazing Hiker/Biker box with stuff people have left, a computer to use all afternoon (for free) and a proper towel to use for a shower (rather than a camp-towel).
I’m picking a new front fork up from the post-office here tomorrow (we’d not notice the US Labour Day public holiday when we planned that one). This will allow me to leave the steerer tube uncut and mean that I’ll be able to sit up more than the older one did. (it’ll teach me not to cut steerer tubes any shorter than they need to be ever again – sorry for the boring bike nerd detail, for the majority of you not interested).
In a couple of days we’re diverting from the route to go through Yellowstone National Park (in through the western entrance, anti-clockwise round the grand-ring, then out the southern entrance heading for the Tetons).