Tuesday June 30
Wow! What a trying day. We managed to beat the mosquitos as we left the Sula Campground RV park store/restaurant by 10:00. The little boogers were just starting to get active as we packed up our backs in preparation of pedaling away. It was serious cold last night in our tent and Lewis payed for it. He goes to bed and the temperature is moderating from the highs earlier, but it is no where near where it eventually settles. We get after him to put some more clothes on or he’ll get cold and he doesn’t listen or grudgingly listens and doesn’t follow through. Last night was no exception. He goes into the fetal position as he becomes uncomfortable. His whole body is inside the bag and scrunched up to the size of a laundry bag. We woke him up and had him put on another shirt. The knucklehead had a short sleeve t-shirt on after we told him to put on something with long sleeves. Will he ever listen without questioning our judgement? I stayed warm enough with a hooded sweatshirt and pants on. Donna did so as well.
So let’s get back to our departure from Sula. We filled all the water bottles and bought a jumbo gatorade and were on our way. Breakfast of porridge and granola bars was consumed earlier but didn’t fill any of us up. So we’re all just a bit hungry and that’s how we remained until lunch. Our ride today was broken into 2 parts; The first being the 13 miles of climbing immediately after mounting the bikes and then the remaining miles of downhill or slightly rolling that followed. We conquered chief Joseph Pass (7000+) feet but only after spending over 3 hours spinning to eclipse the 13 miles (3000+ ft elevation gain)to the top. This was once again a very tough climb. Donna chose to ride the entire stretch while I got off once and walked a quarter mile or so. I don’t believe that there is any advantage to riding over walking. The time spent on the climb drops as the average spent when riding the worst inclines is in the 4.3 to 4.5 mph range. When walking the speed drops down to 3.0 mph. The bonus part for me when I walk is that it seems more like resting when I’m pushing the bike up these hills. To just keep grinding away and pedaling, the same muscles get more and more work. After I walked that short stretch today I was able to get back on the bike and easily climb the last 2 miles. This was when Donna was at her slowest. But she did it!
It’s about 2:00 and we’ve got the worst part of the day done (or so we thought). The next community called Wisdom Montana was a 27 mile ride (mostly gentle downhill). We breezed through the first 20 miles in a little over an hour. Then we ran into the hordes. Hordes being the plague of mosquitos that we’d been warned about back in Sula. They told us that Wisdom had more mosquitos than Sula and they were right. We hadn’t noticed any of the buggers until we had to slow way down climbing out of the Big Hole National Battlefield Monument. This was a short climb of just a couple hundred feet so it wasn’t really a challenge but again our speed dropped from 20 mph to 7 or 8. Instantly the skies darkened and a shiver went through my body. It wasn’t a thunderstorm or any other meteorological event darkening our skies. It was mosquitos. And all we could do was swat aimlessly when one started sucking as we had to have one hand on the handlebars and our attentions on the road rather than deterring these pesks. Lewis was of more help to me yesterday than at any time previously. He had my back, literally. Donna’s back was a mosquito buffet. So we end up racing up this hill in an effort to get away from the hungry horde. We couldn’t outrun the pesks until our average speed reached about 16 mph and even then a few of the pesks still followed in our slipstreams. So after climbing Chief Joseph Pass during the morning, we spend the rest of the day racing up and down the hills of Montana, not unlike the tour de France. We’ll call this the tour de Mosquito.
We pulled into Wisdom at 3:30 and stopped at the Big Hole Restaurant and Gift Shop. We had to race around getting the bikes secured as the hordes were here just as promised. The locals seem unaffected. They look at us and smile and ask ‘how you liking the mosquitos?’. It could be that they get up in the morning and instead of using toothpaste to brush their teeth, they use Mosquito repellent. Same thing with cologne and antiperspirant. Could be that they bathe in the stuff too! Donna and Lewis and I felt like crazed antelopes that couldn’t do anything except run to avoid the biting insects. And they run and they run and they run until exhaustion wipes them out. Fortunately the restaurant offered us a safe haven while we ate and did some wifi. We spent an hour there enjoying the tranquility of relatively few flying insects while consuming our late lunch. Donna and I both had a Patty Melt while Lewis had fish with tomato soup.
We had one more chunk of riding to be done before the day would be complete. Destination: Jackson Montana. This was another 18 miles down the road. Before departing Wisdon we asked a local about the plague and if it was normal. Yep, happens every year. They’ve had a bit more rain than usualy but even if it was a dry year, the farmers irrigate intensively until early July typically flooding some parts of every field in an effort to get a good cutting of hay. So this year the farmers are irrigating in addition to all of the rain and we get to suffer the consequences.
So we depart the restaurant leisurely, until we step outside the door and then it’s a frantic dash to get moving at least 16 mph. Dang, we had that miserable climb and now we have to race the rest of the day! So we raced to Jackson! There were plenty of rolling hills so there were plenty of opportunities for the skeeters to dine. Donna and I were quickly approaching exhaustion. But we more quickly approached the town of Jackson so we got there first! The hungry hordes are not as thick here. Must be they know our name. We went into the Jackson Hot Springs Lodge and got a tent sight. Lewis found a big screen TV in the lodge that had PlayStation 2 hooked up to it. Initially a couple other kids were using it and would let Lewis play intermittently. But in an hour or so they disappeared and it became Lewis’ entertainment for the remainder of the night. We relaxed a bit in the lodge while drinking massive quantities of ice water and a couple of beers. Had another hamburger for dinner and then we left to clean our mosquito squashed bodies in the shower. There had to have been 20 or 30 spots on my body where a spot of blood and a squashed mosquito were co-mingled. It’s now time for bed, tomorrow is another day. Mosquitos?