I am writing you from the small town of Lincoln, MT, population 1,000, a would-be layover town for hunters and outdoorspeople to access the surrounding wilderness. Comfortably ensconced in my 70 degree motel room, a 40-degree wintery mix on the other side of the window pane descends onto the damp tarmac. Good to be indoors on a day like this. Today marks day 9 of riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, and I am tired. A kind of tired spurred on by the climate-controlled luxuries of the motel, my sharpened outdoors-metabolism dulling when the heater kicks over. On tap for tonight: a cheeseburger and fries, salad, too, and perhaps a movie!
That said, it’s been a great week of riding. I’m already feeling ready for tomorrow - a day of climbing which will see a max elevation of 6,800 feet and the first crossing of the continental divide. It should be nicer, too, sunny with a high of 50. The riding so far has been almost exclusively on gravel and rock-bed Forest Service roads, with short stretches of pavement only to connect through small towns like Lincoln. Camping: state parks, unimproved USFS sites, and informal roadside patches in National Forest land, some even have fire pits.
Riding gravel is a slow affair, I’m averaging 7-10MPH. With a fully loaded mountain bike, several days worth of food, and no lack of gumption, I have learned to enjoy it. In the age of COVID, I can go several days without seeing another person in the forest. I’ve been moving with a couple of other riders, although as we’ve all found our own rhythm I find myself separated by a day in each direction, from the other two. That’s no bother, as I have more time to write.
The scenery so far has been excellent if not predictable. Much of the time at lower elevation is spent in piney, forested forest service tracts. Beautiful in their own right, yes, but making the high mountain pass views all the more rewarding. Passes of which there are many, as the GDMBR is self-described as the most circuitous, wandering way possible. For the first time, yesterday I encountered desert-like terrain. Descending from the Lolo National Forest, a valley of golden crop field, cactus, and sand bore witness to a repressive sun and pure blue sky. In the middle of it all, I devoured three hot dogs, a danish, and a cup of coffee from a small outpost in Ovando, MT, population “around 50”. I’ve included the town’s sign below - it’s amusing.
The next couple days will see me drop into Helena, MT I am supposed to be staying at a llama farm tomorrow night. It’s listed on the official map - “call Barbara Nye for more information”. I’ll be sure to take pictures. From there, ever further south. I’m starting to like the off-road touring deal, as I haven’t done much in the past. Pandemic or not, it’s nice to feel the dirty crunch below the tires, and be able to hunker down just about anywhere (one perk of riding through state and national forests). Enjoy pictures below, and be sure to check my facebook for more frequent updates. Please reach out if you would like a map link to chart my progress.