Tour Divide 2011: Day 4 (Swan River National Wildlife Refuge to Ovando)

On July 7, 2011 by Nathan Jones

The birds woke us up today with daylight.  Their were tons of them.  They were loud.  I think there might have been a light rain coming down.  We had gapped a bunch of people by doing the late night climb and descent, we knew most probably didn’t make it up the climb at all.  We gapped a bunch of people the day before by skipping the Big Fork resupply which is 4 miles round trip off route.  I had planned on gapping people here before the race even started, I knew the rookies would be all over it as it’s the biggest town around for a ways.  It’s also easy to skip if you have extra food, and Dylan had stocked up as well.

I was ready to ride today knowing that I was starting to get into the groove of the race.  The morning was pretty uneventful, it looked like we were due for a relatively easy cruise.   About 20 miles of flat, a 10 mile slow climb with a 5 mile descent, and then a 15 mile pavement ride into town.  I think today  was probably one of the best days of the divide in terms.  The weather was solid, I felt good aside from wear and tear on the body, and I just knew we’d gapped people.  It made me happy to finally use my experience on the divide last year to better my placing rather than just have to force my way to the front by riding extra hard.  My confidence was starting to grow, though I was still mildly disappointed with overall daily mileage.  I knew it was minimal though at that it could still well be made up.

We made it to Seeley Lake around 4 or 5 PM.  I had looked up a restaraunt on my GPS and were cruising to it.  It was a mile off route and we were willing to settle on whatever we found closer.  It was about a quarter mile down.  It was called the “Chicken Coop”.  It was a mistake.  So let me set this up.  I just wanted to something to eat that wasn’t from a convenience store, maybe some fries and a crappy salad.  Not too much to ask for in life right?  Well they didn’t have salad and I’m nearly certain the fries were fried in the same oil as the chicken.  I don’t know maybe not, but that shit was gross, undercooked, and greasy.  Dylan’s CFS and burger didn’t fair well with him either.  Neither of us ended up hospitalized, but wished we could have been.  We reluctantly got on the road and pedaled out of town and up a mild climb.  I like taking a break after eating, but Dylan and I both HAD to take breaks after this place.  Just wretched!  We were both sitting their, miserably full and grease-bombed when this crazy lady with her dog on a choke chain comes along.  Except the dog was pulling the lady down the rode, essentially choking itself the whole way.  Both lady and dog were miserably stupid and it was sad.  The dog barked from second he saw us until he passed, gasping for air in between screwed up choked barks.  The grease-bomb plus the weird encounter put things into full on over the top divide racing moment.  It was so sad that we could only laugh, we weren’t sure if we felt worse for the dog, the lady, or ourselves.  It was an introspective moment that revealed little, but it was a memorable moment nonetheless.

Storm clouds were moving around from all directions and the sun was at that angle that makes them look worse than they actually were.  So we didn’t really worry about them.  It turned out to be a beautiful evening, tranquil as all get out.  So I finally broke out the photo camera, as opposed to the video camera I had been using.   I hurriedly snapped a photo of Dylan when I saw the rainbow, I kind of caught him offguard with it.  I would have said to smile but that would have just seemed to cheesy with the rainbow in the background so I took it anyway.  I keep joking that the face says “Don’t eat at the Chicken Coop”.

I decided to keep the camera handy.  It was picturesque.  If you want to see an idyllic section of Montana, go hang around in the mountains around Ovando.  Good times will be had.

I got this really cool pic of my shadow and the bike in the ditch.

I think this may be one of the coolest pics I’ve ever taken.  Others may be underwhelmed but this one goes really deep for me.  The ditch is your home on the divide.   It can be your bed, your kitchen, your bathroom, your friend, and your enemy.  You have to try and stay on the ditch’s good side.  It’s always there ready for you to bail into if a car comes too close.  It’s always there if you want to get off the road and just take a break.  It might be a good ditch, it might be a really bad ditch.  There is no telling except by constant examination, this is why it’s a good idea to keep your eye on it.  You need not focus on it as you will most certainly ride right into it, but be aware of it at all times!  When things get bad, it could be your only real bail point.  I could go on and on about ditch life; how to make oneself comfortable in the ditch, how to find a good ditch to sleep in, and how to just enjoy the ditch!  I will save that for another blog post.

A sideshot.

Nature is rad.

We enjoyed the sunset, it was from a nice vantage point and knew we weren’t too far from a good stopping point.  Today was ridiculously textbook.  We were total pros aside from slightly short mileage.  We made it into Ovando just as the last of the daylight escaped.  We rolled by the hotel and saw a couple bikers, it made me happy to see them in a hotel.  Wusses!  Hah hah, while that was me in 2010, this year I was Captain Bivy and proud of it!  Dylan wanted to find a legit camp spot.  I could have cared less and just wanted to go to the school which was just down the road.  I had marked it off on my GPS as a possible sleep/water spot.  Dylan was tired and gave up on finding somewhere legit.  We realized school was out for summer and that there was little worry.  I suspected rain was coming and opted for a covered piece of concrete with the lights still on above.  Dylan again was less than stoked, but I tried to point out the cover.  It was a crapshoot, sleep on the grass behind back in the dark and get some serenity or play it safe and not get rained on.  We opted to play it safe and slept on the covered concrete with the lights.  Dylan set up a makeshift tarp thing to block out the light.  It was funny to me how adamant he was about the light, I just kind of knock out after the day.  But sometimes it’s the little things in life that drive you insane, and I fully understand his tarp light blocker.  We knocked out pretty quickly, the “Chicken Coop’s” toxin’s still hard at work.

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