Sunday, August 21, 2011

More Cow Country Adventures

So, I told you about my near death experience with the cattle.  There were other aspects to the ride, but when one comes eye to eye with the specter of death, it tends to take center stage!

I had stopped at the local bike shop the previous day to inquire about different routes that I could take that would be safe, yet provide scenery.  Eric, at Great Divide Cycle, perused his records on, and decided this would be the perfect ride for this sea-level, middle-aged visitor.  It was not, however, on, so he gave me verbal directions how to get there and the route to take.  Uh-oh....I wrote it down and hoped for the best.

After a 25 mile drive, I arrived at the jump off position.  The weather was perfect--about 55 degrees, so I filled both my water bottles, put on a vest and  colorful arm warmers, and I was off.  I immediately turned the wrong way, but heck, it was a 50/50 chance!  Fortunately, the road deadended; that's how I knew it was the wrong way....  

Back on route, the correct route, I got into a tempo and began to enjoy the ride. Nothing compares to that feeling of freedom and the appreciation of good health as it does while rolling down a smooth road in the cool early morning sun.  I was smiling, and soon I was climbing...  I hadn't even ridden 3 miles, and the road rose up and up; my legs were still a bit stiff and hadn't even warmed up yet.  Nonetheless, up, up I went, climbing a steady 6% grade that occasionlly popped above 10.  On and on it seemed to go.  My heart was racing, and I was sucking air; this, I knew, was caused largely because of the elevation, but my muscles didn't care....they wanted oxygen. Gasp...gasp...gasp...  

At the five mile mark, my arm warmers were down and my vest was unzipped. Depite the cool weather, I was sweating and slugging down water to replenish the fluids I was losing.  Finally, I reached the top, and sailed over, and into the cows from yesterday's post......mooooove over..... Despite the fright the bolting bovines gave me, I was secretly glad for an excuse to stop......  As I watched their boney black backsides run away from me, I drank more water, and stripped off my outer layers.

The trouble with stopping, especially when perspiring, is that once going again, one becomes chilled.  I really didn't have to worry about that, though, because that well deserved descent that was interrupted by the cows...well, it didn't last.  Around yet another curve, the road began to rise again; this time I had a good view of what was coming.  At this point, I had done 1700 ft of climbing, and only 300 of descent... This is when that little voice in my head started yammering at me....

"You could turn back'd get 16 miles in." "You don't have to keep going; no one will know if you quit."  "You don't have to climb those would be so easy to turn around and go get a nice cup of coffee!"  

This is the toughest part of any ride, and in an odd way, it mimics life; it is confronting those self-defeating conversations and pushing through them.  Only one person would know I didn't ride 50 miles in Montana--me.  So what did it matter?  Was it really that important?  Yes, it is;it boils down to is a matter of integrity; one either has it or they don't....  I do, so I drank some more water and pedalled on.  Heck, I only had 42 miles to go--so what if it was all up hill!

The scenery along the way was beautiful; breathtaking in a desolate sort of way.  Other than the cattle, there is nothing out there....nothing but golden grass, rocky outcrops, distant mountains and sky.  I understand why they call Montana the Big Sky state.  I don't know how or why, but the sky is big!  So on and on I rode, a speck against the big sky.
Can you find the moon?
I made a right turn onto a state route. My beautiful, quiet, smooth road turned into knobby chipseal, with a narrow shoulder that had a huge rumble strip running through it.  Lovely.  The traffic on this road, which is actually a highway by Montana standards, was moderate and fast, 70mph.  Lovely.  Fast traffic and bad road.....and more climbing....and now the wind was picking up, enough so that it was moving my bike.  Well, nothing to do but pedal on, and be diligent.

Vrrroooommmm, swish, vrrooommm, swish.  Traffic whizzed by me as I slogged up another grinding hill.  I know it is steep when I can hear the deep whining of the semis as they struggle up with me.  I also know that that sounds means there is a long line of traffic behind them.

When climbing a steep grade, it can be challenging to steer in a straight line; this is called 'holding your line.'  One's speed drops significantly despite how fast one is pedaling, and as the speed drops, so does stability.  Riding the thin strip of pavement between the rumble strip and the pavement drop off takes skill; I have found it most effective to focus far ahead and not worry about the pavement immediately in front of my tire.  Still, it is unnerving to be creeping a long, trying to maintain your line, and have traffic whizzing by.  And, once at the top, there is no downhill reward.  Still straddling the rumble strip and the edge of the pavement, one has to be diligently alert for road hazards as well as harried drivers trying to pass the slower moving traffic.  And then there are the over-sized loads--you know, those big trucks that are hauling pre-fab homes or other such things.  I have only one thing to say about that; if you see one coming, just get off the road, way off!
Just get way off the road.....
I had just summited at rather steep, long climb when an over sized truck came along.  Fortunately, there was a turnout, and I pulled into that, deciding to take the opportunity to get a drink and rest a moment.  Oddly, there was a port-a-pot the middle of the field, in the middle of nothing.  What the heck?  I reached down and grabbed my water bottle.....two swallows left.  Uh-oh....both bottles were empty, and I still had 25 miles to the middle of nowhere.  There weren't even houses out here, but it was a cool day, and though I might get thirsty, I should be ok.  As I was pondering the sitation, an Army Hummer with a big gun mounted on top stop a short distance from me.  A GI got out on the far side, and I could tell by the way he planted his feet, that he was watering the plants.  (I wondered why he didn't use the portapot). Once he started walking again, I decided to ask them if they had any water.  I rode over to them, and they actually looked scared!  Maybe they have never seen a slightly overweight, middle aged woman in spandex on a bike....maybe they thought I was a cougar!  After picking up their jaws, the driver refilled my waterbottles and I went on my way.  While he was doing that, though, another GI had climbed up on the Hummer and was messing with the big gun.  What were they going to do, shoot the portapot?  Things that make you go 'hmmmm'   Anyway, it's not everyday you get SAG support from the Army!
Not my picture, but this is what it looked like.
When I stopped by the bike shop today to thank Eric for the ride info, I was telling him about being sagged by the US Army, and wondered aloud what they were doing out there.  Apparently there are a number of missile silos in the area, and the Army regularly checks on them, and are armed when doing so.  I suppose I really messed up protocol approaching them like that and asking for water.  I guess it is a good thing that I was a middle-aged woman in spandex; it leaves little doubt about me being a terrorist..... and here I thought they were dumbfounded at me being out there riding.
On the top......
Still riding the top.....anyone know what that is called?
Darn it....I had a whole lot of pictures uploaded, and the site just dropped them all.  I'll have to upload them again tomorrow.  It's getting too late tonight to do it.

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