Friday, May 29, 2009

Day 6 – Hamilton, MT to Jackson, MT 93.06 miles

I awoke in Hamilton’s Best Western with my mouth wide open and not a drop of moisture in it, a strange feeling. Kind of aggravating too because I know it’s bad for my teeth. My sinuses were completely clogged, I had noticed the pine trees were pollinating and I’m sure the grass was too. I decided it would be a slow day, kind of a rolling rest day of sorts. My typical averages are around 15 – 16 mph. Today I would do 12ish. I had one pass at 7,200ish feet to get over and the rest of the day would roll into Jackson. Weather was perfect again, wind was in my face the first 30 miles but I accepted my wind fate the prior night.

To start the day I went over to the bike shop and met Randy. I bought a couple water bottles and had them put on a new chain, the other one was about shot as I had suspected. I was also out of the wonder potion Endurox and unfortunately they didn’t have any single servings. I bought the 4.5 lb jug and slung it on top of all my other mess on the rack. Kind of silly looking. I never tried the lime flavor before, it was quite tasty. It has a sour twang which provides a nice distraction on the road. Everyone in the shop came outside to look at the setup on the bike, they said they had seen a race bike loaded before but the guy was using some wheels that kept blowing spokes. The Mavic ES wheels I have are holding up perfectly. Randy said he has a set and loves them too. I was nervous of the wheels and frame at first after seeing them twist whenever I’m shifting the bike around me.
Randy mentioned that the Big Hole area (Wisdom/Jackson) can be buggy in a month (June) with Montana sized mosquitoes. I wasn’t looking forward to it, if they decided to come early. Bugs haven't been an issue so far.
So, now fully in Montana and not feeling sorry myself anymore like yesterday, I headed south on US-93 eager for the pass at the Montana/Idaho border. It wasn’t too bad. The views along the way and at the top were amazing. At the top is a rest area and visitor center. A ski area was also close by and reportedly closed about 6 weeks ago. The gentleman in the visitor center was very helpful and confirmed my suspicion that my original route of heading north from Wisdom may be a bad idea due to a section of road going out of Melrose was dirt and possibly closed.
Leaving US-93 for MT-43 changed things a bit, I maybe saw a car every 15 minutes. I was hoping to see some moose on the way down, unfortunately there were no meeses to be found. I passed the Big Hole battleground at 5pm when it closed unfortunately, but the plateau there affords some amazing views of the mountains to the east.
Rolling into Wisdom reminded me of Randy’s warning of Montana sized mosquitoes. The runoff from the mountains flooded the plains and there was standing patches of water everywhere for miles, future mosquito cess pools. Everything seems to be falling into place with the ride, I left early enough for this trip to avoid the bugs…
I was happy to see Jackson, my left knee did not want to do another 50 feet. There is a hot springs lodge there, and I was going to be part of it. I walked into the lodge and immediately felt out of place. I was in brightly colored tights, the 3 or so ranchers at the large bar to the right of me having a beer were not. Every game animal around the world adorned the walls. A full mountain lion was the center piece of the room, I thought they were maybe 50 lbs or so. This thing was as big as a mastiff, maybe 150-200 lbs. It would definitely knock me off my bike and eat me. The bartender was an ex-Ranger who was knowledgeable about hunting in the area. It would be fun to hunt in the area but -30 degree temperatures to achieve such fun would surely negate the said fun factor. Since I was the only visitor to the lodge, the restaurant/maintenance folks treated me as a fly on the wall as they discussed their desires and I would chime in for clarification. Such as my belief that moose were aggressive. One of the employees had a pet moose when she was younger, and pointed to a picture hanging on the wall behind the bar of the moose eating from a kitchen table. Apparently this moose thought it was a dog.
The bartender told a story about getting chased by wolves to his house and how they run in packs to attack. The wolves in the area reportedly are taking down horses and cattle. At the time he was on horseback and on full gallop to get to the house as the horse understood the house was safety too. When they were almost to the house a second pack of wolves tried to flank them from another direction. He turned into them and split the attack to make it home. The moral of the story was he warned you should have some kind of firearm to protect yourself. He explained the 150 lb wolves in the area were not afraid of humans and the population was out of control. He said PETA was responsible for it, if you shoot a wolf you have to stay with it until the game warden arrives, maybe days later. If there’s evidence that you were hunting the wolf, you would be arrested. To cap the night off, the bartender shared a secret stash of local beef jerky. Quite tasty, folks around here are proud of their jerky.
Time got away from me and I didn’t have time to visit the hot springs in the lodge. I’d recommend the lodge, supposedly it’s already booked through August on the weekends.
Calories today were 4 servings of Endurox (trying to eat my way through that 4.5 lb jug), 2 bowls of Cheerios, 12 oz of OJ, 8 oz beef fillet, ice cream sundae, side salad, 80 oz of water, 60 oz of local brew, and a couple sticks of jerky.
Tomorrow I’m headed to Ennis, MT. 118 miles I believe. I like Montana, time is relative here, and no sales tax.

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