Day 4: Helena – Lincoln

Hard day. Really hard. Did I mention how hard it was? No really, I mean it was hard.

Managed to leave Helena at 8am,which for me is pretty good. I figured that if I rode my usual pace it would take 9 hours, so done by 5,no problem. What I didn’t count on was how ridiculously hot it was going to be today!

I made it to priest pass road, the first 10 miles, by 9am. Not bad, I thought, now I only have to ride 50 miles in 8 hours, that should be no problem! Ha!

But this area was very reminiscent of boulder, very dry, little shade, and when it starts heating up, it’s like an oven. Still I made it to the top, the first 2k of 5, in the first 2.5 hours.


As you might have read in yesterday’s entry, I decided I didn’t need to take as much water from now on because there’s surface water everywhere. Well, not on the Helena side of the divide. I was getting very worried about running out.  The route indicated that the road was going to cross something called “Dog Creek”, so I figured I could filter water there. Well, when I got there it was surrounded by cattle. Yecch! Nevertheless, I had to get water so I did. But I kept aside the last half bottle of water I had brought with me, hoping that I’d find something better before I had to drink dog creek.

The ride got a lot prettier now, and I passed through a meadow that was outrageously full of wildflowers.


I was heading up my second climb of the day, getting near the divide,  and suddenly I heard water! There was a small, fast running creek next to the road. Thankfully, I was able to ditch the dog creek water before I had to drink any of it.

On the other side of the divide, I got some big views and a really fun downhill.


I  met some BLM workers at the bottom of the hill and they said I would have good roads all the way to Lincoln. I had one more 2k climb and then it was all downhill. Even though it was already 3pm, I figured I could easily be done by 6.

Unfortunately, as I descended to the bottom of the next climb, it started to get hot again. Marsh creek road was the final climb and it was much like priest pass in that there was very little shade. As however I climbed, however, the landscape abruptly changed to this sylvan paradise:


Still, it was hot and I was dying out there. I made up my mind that if the creek got close enough to the road, I was going to jump in. Soon I had my chance, but the creek barely covered my toes. But I did soak my shirt and put it back on, and that was refreshing if you enjoy screaming.  🙂

Soon I started to notice that every time I would try to predict when I’d get to the top, I was not making any progress. When I had 3 miles to go, I was doing 6mph, and I figured I had another 1/2 hour. By the time I had 2 miles to go,  I was down to 4mph –  still 1/2 hour. Then I had 1-3/4 miles to go, and I was doing 3.5mph. It was like some twilight zone version of Zeno’s Paradox. Eventually I had to get off and walk. I came to this spot where clearcutting had taken place and they didn’t clean up the road. Those pine cones are just like big ball bearings and the bike slid right out from under me.


So I’m walking past this mess, and just as I’m about to get on and ride again, I hear running water. I look around for the source and I see an old bathtub that is overflowing!


If you look carefully you can see that there is a pipe filling the tub. Probably an old cattle watering trough, though I hadn’t seen any evidence of cattle this high up. No matter, I filtered the water coming out of the pipe just to be safe, and it was cold and delicious.
So I ride a bit, but I have to keep getting off to walk because the equipment they used to move the logs around – either a bulldozer or a track loaders has churned up the road surface so badly that it’s impossible to ride – heck it was hard to even walk through this stuff. (picture the sandbox at Valmont bike park. Now put it on a 10% grade. Finally, add 25lb of baggage to your bike!) I began calling it “bulldozer excrement”.


Finally I re reached the top at about 6:30 pm. There was a road grader parked there. Great, they’re probably planning to grade the road tomorrow.

Now according to the route description, I have 4.4miles of “extremely steep” downhill. Well, they were not kidding! I had to stop a few times to let my brakes cool down! And just to keep things interesting, apparently this same tracked vehicle had been up and down this road and torn it up real good. There were long sections of clearcut – probably beetle kill. At one point it looked like War of the Worlds, except that the aliens assumed that trees were the dominant species on earth and attacked them instead of people.


It was ugg-ly and not fun at all.

I finally hit the main road into town at 7, and still had about 9 miles to ride, so I just cranked it out and got it done in about 40 minutes. Whew!

I checked into the first hotel I saw. The Lincoln hotel Is this very cool old log building. I’ll post pics tomorrow when I have better light for pictures.

Door to door, the ride took 11:45. Yikes! But what’s even crazier is that, according to my bike computer, I was only pedaling for 7:15. That means that for every 2 minutes I spent riding, I spent one minute panting in the shade of a tree, or filtering water, or a trying to cool off some other way.  That’s  crazy!

Here are some pictures of the Lincoln Hotel :


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