Sent: Thursday, 7/31/03
To: Friends and Family
Subject: Helena to Butte, MT
We are about 5 days ahead of schedule. It's hard to say whether we will gain or lose days for this point forward. If you want to hook up with us, the best way is to call both cell phones Internet access is scarce, and the cell phones are a little better. Leave messages on both phones since sometimes one phone will have coverage when the other one doesn't.
Wednesday, July 30 - Helena to Park Lake Campground (drove motor home)
Jim and I took a day off to run errands -- grocery shopping, washing a layer of bugs off the outside of the motor home, wiping the layer of dust off the inside, laundry, sending email, buying bike parts, and making a new set of motor home keys to replace the one Jim lost out of his swimsuit pocket while cooling off in a river outside of Missoula. By the time we got to the next campsite it was too late to ride. Evan's description of the ride eased my disappointment about missing it. Although it was only 20 miles, 17 of it were uphill.
As we were driving up that steep, dusty hill, we passed 7 bicyclists pulling BOB trailers (the recommended means for self-supported riders, BOB stands for Beast of Burden). One group of 5 men plans to ride 10 days of the trail, and 2 brothers are going all the way to Mexico. Ray, a man in the larger group works for the Bureau of Land Management was responsible for mapping the Great Divide Trail through Wyoming. He told us about several water sources in dry areas that are not on the map. The 2 brothers are traveling with Norm, their 72-year-old father. Norm planned to do the ride, but hurt his back on the 4th day. He shipped his bike home and rented a SUV. The group of Great Divide adventurers is growing!
Evan has been calling his wife, Janeen, whenever he passes a telephone. He's usually not much of a drinker, and he confessed to Janeen that we've been having beer or wine NEARLY every night. They seemed to think this is a bad thing, while I've been feeling virtuous that's it not EVERY night and that several nights while Vern and Jarla were here we didn't even finish off one bottle of wine between 5 people.
Thursday, July 31 - Park Lake Campground to Butte (53 miles, 3330 feet)
If I don't need smaller shorts by the end of this trip, I'm blaming Evan. He's the only person other than my Grandma Mabel who ever told me I don't eat enough. He's concerned that with all my "gourmet" cooking, I'm not getting enough energy food. After a hearty breakfast yesterday morning, he forced me to choke down a soy protein drink. I hate to admit this to him, but I did have plenty of energy for yesterday's ride, and it tasted pretty good.
Jim developed some numbness in his left hand and decided to give his hand one more day to recover. After all my worrying about my hands, I never imagined Jim would be the one to have trouble. He drove the motor home to Butte and Evan and I rode our bikes.
The ride started out on a steep, narrow trail with lots of rocks and tree roots. I loved it, but figured if I'd been pulling a BOB I would have left it there. The group of 5 started out about 30 minutes before us, which was hard on Evan with his admitted "racing mentality." We caught up with them during this challenging section since they all had fully loaded BOBs. Evan and I pulled away from them after a while, and even after a long leisurely lunch we beat them to the campsite by several hours. Evan's honor was intact, even with me slowing him down.
The outcome may have been different if those other guys KNEW it was a race. Kurt, the guy who's possibly only the second best rider in the group, was formerly ranked 18th in the nation in mountain bike racing (expert class, category 2). Perhaps it's not fair to make snap judgments based on their riding abilities after one limited observation. After Evan crashed and I walked my bike down a steep section of loose dirt and large rocks, we watched slack-jawed as Jeff rode straight down it with a fully loaded BOB. Kurt did a fine job too, but he put a foot down once or twice.
Jim and I celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary tonight by going out to a nice dinner in Butte. Our actual anniversary isn't until August 2, but this was our only chance to have someone else do the cooking and wash the dishes for the next several days.
When we returned to the motor home after dinner, I was walking by Jim with bare feet. I misjudged my step in our dimly lit, tight quarters. My little toe caught Jim’s heel with a loud, bone-snapping crunch. I let out a howl and hit the ground. Within minutes, my toe was a black as a piano key. It’s pretty sore, but I hope it doesn’t interfere with the ride.
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