Tour Divide 2011: Day 5 (Ovando to Jefferson City)

On July 12, 2011 by Nathan Jones

Last I left off we had decided to spend the night at the Ovando school under a covered walkway. Around 4AM a massive wind started blowing, like a sort of tornado type weather system had moved in. Fortunately there’s not much worry of tornados on the divide. We were both awakened by the wind and were just waiting for the rain. Our spot was covered but it wasn’t quite good enough for a sideways monsoon.

It started pouring and we realized our spot was going to be flooded in no time. Fortunately there was a higher spot to move to that was still covered! Dylan did the quickest camp move known to man. Dude was up and down the stairs like a madman, all after being up at 4AM and having ridden for 4 days straight. I was seriously impressed. I rather comically hopped up some the stairs in my sleeping bag with my pad and laid back down. The super storm was all the reason we needed for a slow start to the morning. It worked out pretty well. I needed to consolidate my bike stuffs and proceeded to do so.

Around 6AM the storm had mostly passed and we were ready to get on the road. We headed back into Ovando to see if the store was open, it wasn’t and we bailed. I had six twizzlers for breakfast today as that’s all that really sounded good, my stomach was still roasted from the “Chicken Coop” the night before. We started off for the easy morning roll out.

After searching for the first good break spot of the morning, we found a nice spot out of the wind and in the sunshine. I snapped some photos.

The essential bike ditch shot.

There were still some remnants of the superstorm drifting around.

It was a mostly solid tail wind along 30 miles of pavement to reach Lincoln. The Unabomber lived in a cabin near Lincoln, not sure where though. That’s about all of my local knowledge for the area! We passed some old ladies touring, their bikes were loaded, and they were moving. I started to feel bad that some old ladies on loaded touring bikes were going so fast in comparison. Dylan agreed they seemed to be cooking, just goes to show you what people are capable of.

We arrived in Lincoln in no time. I sprinted in a good mile ahead of Dylan. For some reason I was excited to be able to push it so hard on just six twizzlers for breakfast. I stopped feeling bad about the old ladies and pulled into the first grocery store in town. “You guys got coffee?” I asked. “Sorry, no.” replid the cashier. Off to the gas station I went. I stopped here last year and knew they would be stocked. Dylan and I started buying snacks and chugging java. The place was blaring some crap pop country, Dylan and I strangely enjoyed it. We had been on the bike too long and were starting to go crazy, it was funny in the “OMG am I enjoying crap country sorta way.” There was a pizza shop inside the gas station, they had vegan breadsticks so I ordered six to go. Never in my life have I been so excited by breadsticks, but it was and it was my incentive to ride so we hit the road.

I remembered the climb and the descent pretty well from the year before and knew it was a piece of cake. The climb was moderate but the downhill was amazing, one of those that makes it all worth it. Dylan and I arrived at the bottom with smiles on our faces. It may have been day five and we were showing wear and tear, but good times were indeed being had.

The ecosystem wildly changed after getting down into the valley. We had finally got into the drier, “big sky” country of Montana. We stopped for a sec to eat, it was windy as all get out. I rather deftly set my bike in the ditch and used it as a wind block while I laid down and ate. Dylan was jealous of my setup, we laughed pretty hard at the fact that I was so cofmortably lying in the ditch while snacking on some breadsticks. Several cars drove by and gawked, I’m sure they were thoroughly confused. We were on a reroute so people through there weren’t used to see divide racers/bike bums.

After break we pedaled up the hill. Oh yeah, it was dry over here! We stopped to shift our attire to handle the dryness, off came the warm socks, leg warmers, and arm warmers. Wouldn’t need those until the evening, as opposed to every hour or so like up north. It was a chill climb up to the Maryville ski resort followed by a curvy bomber descent. We attempted to race to intersect a train down the hill but it beat us by a long shot. The road curved more and still mostly descended until we reached the highway into Helena. It was either pizza or subway and neither of us seemed to be feeling pizza, subway it was. I wasn’t paying much attention when the “sandwich artist” made my sub but she didn’t put jack for veggies on it. Sometimes people aren’t used to making veggie subs and forget that where there is normally meat and cheese that there is room for more vegetables. So I got kind of a weak dinner.

I shot some texts back and forth to my parents to check on my placing. We had made it up to the high 20′s, this was the sort of news I had wanted to hear. I may have not been on track to finish the race as fast as I wanted but at least I was advancing fairly rapidly. It was the sort of shot in the arm I needed, it made me really determined to get to Butte and in good placing. Knowing that I was advancing on some of the top endurance racers in the world was a confidence booster. I’ve been able to hang at the back of the pro pack in local races, but something of this distance is in my favor. It was cool to finally have some sort of comparison, life changing in some ways.  I knew I wasn’t faking the funk at this point, not that I ever really doubted I was but it was a sort of validation for my efforts.

We went to the grocery and did the routine gatorade stock.  Helena is kind of a weird town, I don’t like it too much.  It’s just a bit too exposed I think.  The weather probably gets pretty rough there I would imagine.   There was a nice city park on the way out of town that was inviting us to stretch out in a shaded area with lush grass.   It was a solid break, one of those where you really stop to smell the roses.  Helena didn’t look so bad after eating and chilling in the park, but we had riding to do.

The climb out was pretty gentle, there was a detour before the actual climb so it really didn’t even count as a climb.  Just a big roller.  After the summit was a good 10 miles of pot holed roads.  I didn’t have too much fun going down them.  My packs were not loaded tighly enough and I ejected a water bottle as well.  This stretch caused me to really wish for a lighter setup.  I was starting to realize you don’t need much on the divide except for the will to ride.  Every single thing just weighs you down.  If I were to do this again, I’d adopt a more strict strategy.  It’s easy to take too much clothing, extra socks, extra gloves, extra ear warmer or something.  It’s stupid, you don’t need that many back ups.  If you lose the one you have, deal with it until you can find a replacement.  There is peace of mind in losing pieces of gear and knowing that while you may be suffering more, your kit is lighter.  For me at least,  maybe I’m nuts!

I could feel my feet were taking a pretty serious bruising from the potholed descent.  I was well aware before I started that they were going to be taking the brunt of the blows and I really hoped I could just tough it out.  Nearly everything else on me was fine, but the relentless pace plus a poorly loaded bike does not add up.  This stretch of road fully convinced me to mail some junk home when I got to Butte.  Once again, I was on the divide with “TOO MUCH CRAP”.  My Americanness finally caught the best of me.   I was doing less with more and was disappointed in myself.  I brought so much junk in 2010, how could I still bring too much a year later?!?!  The small sandwich I ate at subway was fully burned up and I was kind of in the dumps mentally.  I knew what the highs and lows of the divide can be like though, so really this was just an irritating footnote.  I was still riding 115+ miles a day and could at least hide my pain, which means it’s not a “big deal”.

Finally we hit some pavement, this lifted my spirits mostly.  I can’t complain about pavement, it started to turn the night around.  Dylan and I strategized for the evening.  Dylan had a wild hair to push another 40 miles to Butte.  I knew there was no way I could do it without turning into a late night psycho monster.  I started moaning about the upcoming climb and figured we would end up getting trapped in the cold most likely rather than making it to Butte.  Dylan agreed and we searched for a bivy spot, we found a really stealthy spot just off the side of the road with good coverage and a fairly scenic setting.  I would rank it a B+ for a divide bivy.  We had to push up a slight incline to get to it and there was the remnants of a barb wire fence.  Just enough to be a little tricky but not really a deal breaker.  I was worried about forgetting about the fence in the morning and stabbing myself or popping a tube.  There was cell service though, so it was cool to know I could say hi to my GF before going to bed and a hello to the parents in the morning.  Dylan and I agreed to an “up and at ‘em” 4:30 start and knocked out, day five was over!

One Response to “Tour Divide 2011: Day 5 (Ovando to Jefferson City)”

  • Ted Bear

    Hey, those ear warmers look familiar! Thanks for more of the story from out there! You are a talented writer.

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