Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pinedale, WY

Everything continues to go really well. The weather has been fantastic - nothing over 80 degrees, and no rain since our last report.

The bikes continue to run like clockwork. And our legs just keep going round and round.

We've had some fantastic campsites - last night we were up on top of the divide, at ~9500' elevation, with views of the sun setting over the Grand Teton range. Very lovely.

We've just come down out of the mountains, and now head out into the dry desert of southern Wyoming. We won't see mountains again until we reach Colorado. Pinedale is at mile 1174 of the route (but we've ridden 1285 to get here due to side trips).

After 25 or 26 days of riding (is today Thursday?), here is our summary of the scenery ... There have been only two sections of a day or two each that we didn't care for. The whole Whitefish/Flathead valley seemed over-subdivided, although the landscape was probably beautiful (we couldn't see much due to wildfire smoke), and Haydi and David's place was stunning. The second area we didn't care for was the Island Park area in Idaho, which has just been invaded by ATVs - motorbikes and little four-wheeled things. What a wretched form of personal entertainment - right up there with jet-skis -- noisy, dusty, and prone to carry people who leave bud cans and other trash scattered next to the roads and trails.

Other than those couple places, the scenery has been stellar and the riding has been fantastic.

We seem to have increased our pace to something like 50+ miles per day. Until we start getting bad headwinds or other bad weather, it seems like we'll continue to move ahead of our planned schedule.

Bird highlights:
Sandhill Cranes have been pretty common - lovely birds, but particularly wonderful because of their loud projecting voices that echo through the valleys.
Great Gray Owl, hunting in full daylight, just 30 or 40 feet away -- we watched it for half an hour.
Pair of Three-toed Woodpeckers scaling bark off two trees adjacent to our tent. Unlike most woodpeckers that stay in one tree for 5 or 10 minutes, these two seemed to work those two trees for days -- beneath the trees were huge quantities of flaked bark. Stayed all evening, and returned in the morning at first light. Very cool.

Not sure when we'll find another internet access point, until then -- happy trails!

Amy & Jim

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lima, MT

Wow, we've been travelling through small-town MT recently. The ranchette sprawl is long gone, and we're in very sparsely populated lands now. The last few "towns" have had no services (Grant used to have a cafe, but it didn't open this summer, and Polaris has a small mercantile but she's closed on Wednesdays.) We're at a nice old 1950's or 1960's motel in Lima, which offers free laundry and laptop -- everything a hiker or cyclist could use. Lima is on the Continental Divide Trail as well as the Great Divide Route, and she says she gets about 175 hikers/cyclists per year here.

19 riding days done. We're at mile 847 (of 2700) on the route, and we've ridden another 100 or so on side trips (visiting Elke's folks, Haydi, grocery stores, campsites, etc). We're tracking a little ahead of our planned pace of 40 miles per day - which we're happy about since we really didn't know how hard this would be when we started. Although there are a lot of forest fires burning in the general vicinity of our route, so far none of them have caused us to re-route around them. There have been a few days in which the smoke has obscurred the view, but currently the skies are smoke free.

We continue to be extremely lucky with weather. Highest temps have been 85 or so. Lowest temp was 24. A few afternoon thunderstorms, but only one included heavy rain.

The route has been FANTASTIC. Most of it so far has been on well surfaced packed dirt/gravel roads in the mountains - very easy riding if you subtract all the vertical feet we have had to gain. Most of the roads have had little to no traffic. There have been a few stretches of a few miles of rough surfaced road or single track - but we've done fine with that, which is saying a lot since we are not mountain bikers. I can imagine those stretches could be miserable with a heavy load - lifting the bike over the occasional log or pushing it up a steep hill.

The scenery (other than the ranchette sprawl in NW MT) has been great - although I'm starting to get really disgusted by the fact that cows graze EVERYTHING everywhere. Back in West Marin county many ranchers have fenced their creeks, so you get some healthy riparian zones. But out here, everything is grazed to the dirt.

Not sure where the next internet access will occur, but we'll post again when we can.

All is well, healthy, and in working order. We're having a great time. Amy & Jim

Monday, August 20, 2007

Butte, MT

Butte MT on Aug 20, all is well. We're at the bike shop here (Outdoorsman, great shop) and ready to head over to the ranger station to find out if the fires south of here will block our path.

Yesterday's ride included 4 miles of very rough partly unridable track. We were very happy we didn't have another 20 pounds of trailer and gear to push up those hills!

Things are quieter without Rickson, we've already run out of new things to talk about :)

Amy & Jim

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Helena, MT

We made it to Helena this morning, Saturday August 18. Rickson will fly home from Helena and Jim and I will continue south. Interesting notes so far...

About 13 days of riding. We are all healthy and well, as are the bikes. One flat tire (4 inch nail in the tread and out the sidewall, ouch) and no other mechanical issues. The bikes are smooth as butter.

We came out of the smoke yesterday for the first time since we hit the Flathead river valley back in Whitefish quite a few days back. It is nice to see blue sky again.

We had our first serious rain yesterday afternoon - about an hour of a real downpour with a bit of hail, and later in the evening another hour of light rain. We still have not had any hot weather, and we are extremely happy about that.

We've been in some beautiful forests and valleys, but cows and logging take their toll, and much of what we have ridden through since leaving Whitefish is pretty worn out. It's still a ton of fun, but it's not "wild" in any sense of the word.

We've generally been going for 1.5 or 2 days between towns where we get hot meals and another load of groceries.

The ACA maps and route info have been great so far, we haven't missed any turns or gotten lost.

Now, we're off to find a bike shop for Rickson to ship his bike home, a motel for the night (first showers since Haydi's about a week ago), and a place to wash a load of laundry. We'll spend the rest of the day here in Helena.

If our motel offers internet access, I'll try to check mail again later in the day. If not, I'm not sure when our next post will be - I haven't studied the maps beyond Helena to know what happens next.

Amy, Rickson, Jim

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Bigfork, MT

We've now ridden ~400 miles in 8 days. All is still going well.

We are spending the night with our friends Haydi and David. David grew up near here, and is in the area for his 50th high school reunion - and we are staying at the wonderful cabin that his father built 60 years ago, right on the Flathead River less than a mile north of the Flathead Lake. It's wonderful, and full of birds. We're lucky that they happen to be in the area.

Of the 8 days of riding, roughly four have been in beautiful wild backcountry gravel roads - and the other four have been riding through the Elk River Valley in Canada and now the Flathead River Valley in MT. Montana seems to be taken over by ranchette sprawl - anything ouitside of public property is subdivided and developed and is not very attractive. But soon we will be back on public land.

Bikes are still serving us well, no mechanical problems and no flats.

Somebody asked about cooking and water treatment. We use Aqua Mira to treat water. And we don't cook. We get hot meals at cafes or deli counters at grocery stores when we can. And when we pack meals - crackers, cheese, carrots, red peppers, chips, deli lunch meat, tuna, apples, hummus, chocolate, cookies. For breakfast, muffins, fruit, yoghurt, cliff/power bars. For us, that tastes better than the Mac&Cheese type dinners, so there it is no sacriifce for us to not carry a stove, pot, and fuel. Some people like the aesthetics of a hot meal so for those folks a stove makes sense - but it isn't needed in terms of nutrition.

Wildlife report: one bear (probably black bear) on the road across the Whitefish divide, three moose, a marmot, many small rodents, and many birds (too numerous to list).

We continue to be lucky with weather. Temps from 29 to 85. It looks like we have hot weather coming later this week, which will be unfortunate.

When we crossed the pass into the Flathead Valley we hit the smoke from the intense fires burning in NW Montana. So far we have not had to change our route. We'll stop a the Ranger Station tomorrow to get current information on the next 100 miles. This is a very bad fire year here.

Our next post will probably be next Sunday (Aug 19) from Helena.

- Rickson, Amy, Jim

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Fernie, BC

We arrived yesterday in Fernie, after four great days of riding. Here are the highlights...

I hugely appreciate having such a good friend in Linda and her daughter-in-law Sharon, who drove all the way from Seattle to Banff to pick up our car. They are stars.

No mechanical problems of any sort, all the gear is working well.

The weather has been great. In July there were three weeks of really hot weather (40 degrees C) which would have been miserable. We'll get our share of hot weather, but at least we got to start the trip with 60-70 degree days instead of 85-100 degree days.

The first two days of riding was all in National and Provincial parks, with stellar scenery, no logging or mining operations, no paved roads, and few cars. The third day was on dirt/gravel roads in areas with coal mines and some logging. The fourth day was crummy riding on a primary highway with lots of traffic.

The only other GDR riders we have met are Chris and Jack, at the Safeway in Banff. They rode the US portion several years ago with the ACA group, and are now back alone to ride the Canadian portion, and then as far south as Whitefish. They both had bob trailers, and what looked like heavy loads.

Once we started riding we were particularly happy to have smaller loads. Riding uphill is hard enough with a big load, but the places we had to push the bikes uphill would have been tough with heavier loads.

We are now staying with Linda and Heiko, parents of our friend Elke. Elke's parents live in Fernie, at the ski resort, where Elke was raised. They have been kind and generous hosts, and we appreciate their hospitality.

Life is very good. Amy, Jim, Rickson

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

We leave home tomorrow

We are now fully packed, and will leave home in a few hours, drive to Banff, and start riding on Sunday.

I realize that people are reading this blog for different purposes. Some of you are reading every GDR trip report you can find because you plan to ride some day, and you want to glean all the info you can. Some of you are friends and relatives and don't even own bikes. Unfortunately, I can't tune the content to make it interesting for everybody - but I'll try to keep things brief so you don't have to wade through too much stuff.

Fires. One thing we may encounter that could cause us to change route, or otherwise cause grief, is wildfires.
As you can see from the map, there are many fires up in the area we'll be riding through. Climate change or not, the past few summers in the northern rockies have been particularly warm.
Heat. Chances are we'll have some very hot riding weather. Forecast high temperatures for the next week in western Montana are in the 90's. Yuck.
Gear. We're completely packed now. All the last little decisions about what to bring are done. We have our final list, and our final weight.
The two bikes, with everything that is attached, weigh 35.5 pounds each. (that includes racks, odometers, compass, bells, water bottle mounts, handlebar bag mounting bracket, and so on).
Everything else weighs a total of 50.1 pounds. So the total of everything is 120.1 pounds. That includes helmets, shoes, panniers, etc. That's 10-20 pounds more than we would have liked. As I mentioned in a previous post, we've never done this kind of thing, and we've been a little cautious about what we do and don't need. When the trip is done I'll debrief about the gear - so those of you reading to research your own trip will get an update in a few months.
Excitement vs Anxiety. Up until a couple weeks ago, I was 100% excited and not anxious about this trip. In the last couple weeks, as it gets closer, I've gotten more and more anxious about all the things that could go wrong. I'm so eager to get rolling so I can stop worrying about everything and start enjoying it.
Mechanical failures. I've read many trip reports reporting only very minor mechanical problems, and other trip reports that aborted due to failed gear. This is another thing that could cause us grief. One reason our bikes are so heavy is that we when making a trade-off between durable and light, we always chose durable. Riding up the hills will be harder, but hopefully we won't get stuck on the side of the road with a broken seat-post.

Stay healthy, and enjoy the rest of your summer. - Amy & Jim