June 21, 2019

Tour Divide '19: Day 8 - Basin to Wise River

The Basin Community Center began stirring before first light. I was my normal slow self as a few riders headed out. While I packed up I noticed Pat had also spent the night there. He seemed a bit disappointed with his route progress so far, I reminded him we still had a long way to go and there was plenty of time to make up ground. He took off with another rider to find some breakfast. I was good to go on food and Butte wasn't too terribly far away.
Posh accommodations for $5.

Basin, MT seems to be one of those forgotten towns in the wake of the interstate.

I started going the wrong way out of town & took a bit more effort to straighten out in my groggy state.

Back on route, heading the correct way, we follow an I-15 frontage road for a while.
My backside couldn't quite figure out if it wanted to settle in to the morning's pace or make me stand and pedal the entire way. Up, down, up, down, but at least the road was mostly level so I could coast a bit with some momentum giving my legs a short break.

Doesn't look like much, but these types of grades were really giving me fits of discomfort.
I was waiting for my morning round of Advil to kick in and taking note that I needed to buy another bottle in Butte. I was paying attention to not take too many during the day. I limited it to two in the morning & two in the late afternoon. I was really hoping I could track down the PRID drawing salve that Hal recommended the day before. He was fairly convinced it would give me some relief. That became my No. 1 task/goal while in Butte.

Cool looking cabin tucked off the beaten path.

I needed a break...and snacks, so I took 5 minutes by the creek as Pat and the other rider passed by. It was the last time I'd cross paths with Pat as I found out later he scratched.

A few miles down the road, another break was needed. This was getting old. I was becoming increasingly frustrated at my slow progress especially since this was relatively easy riding.
I heard a couple more riders coming up from behind and as they rode next to me I took notice of the shear amount of gear on the first fella's bike. Yowza!! Turns out, he started in Alaska and was touring down to Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina!! The Tour Divide route was only a small section of his plans. How cool. I believe his name was Sam, from Germany...maybe. Sam it is. The other guy, Jorgan (sp?), was also touring the route, but 'only' the Divide. He was from Belgium and had met Sam a couple days prior. They had a similar pace so they decided to ride together. Really nice dudes, glad we crossed paths. It wouldn't be the last time.

Sam and his very loaded rig on 1.5" tubed tires.

Jorgen with a bit more traditional Divide setup.

The thick cloud cover kept the temperatures hovering around 50ยบ.

Cool rock features along the way.

I was getting the feeling my luck with the weather was about to run out. Snow & rain showers could be seen nearby.

Highland Mountains covered in snow.

An entire Zoo made out of metal.

Cool overlook entering Butte, MT.
A few years ago the route was modified to include some singletrack coming into Butte. I had heard the old route just followed the I-15 frontage road, I think all the way from Basin. I was glad to have more of a back country experience instead of listening to traffic speed by. For some reason I thought the singletrack portion was around 10 miles. Not the case.

Panoramic city view before a short climb up to singletrack.

Here it is!! Great trail, but don't blink!! It was over in a flash, barely 1/2 mile long. Oh well.

I soon picked up a nice multi-use pathway through town.

I'm going to guess they specialize in mining.

Still dry as I circle into town.

Slight route detour.

Rogue singletrack took me by this landmark, Travona Mine.

I love these types of random singletrack connections in an otherwise urban setting.

I had seen one of these in Helena, I couldn't pass on it twice. Wish I would've bought a large. So good.

My buddy, Evan, had recommended this place. Evel Knievel used to eat here on the regular. I screwed up and forgot to order their famous Wop Chop sandwich. Gah!! I guess I'll have to go back.

No surprise here, founded on mining.
I tracked down a pharmacy and they had Hal's recommended PRID drawing salve. I picked up more bandages for my ever filling Camelbak and tended to the first application. Time would tell. The Orajel I had tried in Helena only worked for a very short bit, not really worth the effort.

A missed a few turns on this zigzagging path as I tried to leave town. Backtrack, then backtrack some more.

The skies cleared as I crossed I-15/I-90. I somehow avoided all the surrounding storms of the gloomy morning.

A few fast paved miles, but not much of a shoulder. Not a fan of these situations. Give me dirt, all day, all night...or at least a wide shoulder.

Another overshot turn, I went straight for a bit instead of veering right.

Milwaukee Rd. Blacktail Trestle. I began the all too familiar cycle: sit, stand, sit, stand, walk. Then walk a bit more. This climb turned into a real grind and seemed to take forever.

The clouds returned and brought graupel, aka soft hail.
The climb eventually topped out and a group of riders were camped off the route, they had a nice campfire going and hooted & hollered as I rode by. It was tempting to pay them a visit as the graupel continued to fall, but I needed to press on. Time to break out the rain gear.

The temp dropped considerably and this descent was quite chilly even with all my layers on.

It never did rain, just soft hail, but enough to saturate the ground and bike.

This may look miserable, but it rode fine. It also helped that it really wasn't windy. I'm a firm believer that if you have solid gear, weather isn't much of a factor...death mud not included!! Thankfully, this was regular mud, the rideable kind.

It took until day 8, but I was getting a firm does of Divide weather.

And just like that, it passed over with a nice reward.

I'll admit I was checking my tires often to see if the mud was beginning to stick. Nada.

Spotted this marker while shedding rain gear.

Clouds trying to fit into the hills like a jigsaw puzzle.

Fleecer Ridge coming into view.
The day was growing long in the tooth and I was staring at a nighttime descent on the infamous Fleecer Ridge. So infamous it'll get you Tour Divide punch card #8. Might as well do it in the dark and wet, right? There was a certain level of intrigue about this one. I had heard the descent is rarely ridden by Divide riders, but so far I had done some fairly sketchy downhills successfully. First, I had to get to the top.

Golden Hour light in these conditions was magnificent.

The route goes right-to-left behind the snowy peak of Mount Fleecer.

Crossing by I-15 once again.

The route doubles as the Continental Divide Trail, CDT, here.


Indigo sunset #skyporn
Like most of the climbs so far, Fleecer Ridge started out mellow. The miles went by as the sun went down. Right about the time the road kicked skyward, it was time for a dinner break & Redbull. It was dark by the time I got going again, but my legs weren't really responding. To compound issues, my backside was just about done sitting for the day. I relented and began walking, walking, walking. Might as well listen to some tunes since this was another area known for Grizzly bears. The miles slowly went by as the hours mounted. I was struggling at best and trying to keep the negative thoughts at bay. As if on queue, I got chills down my spine when the song 'Ride Like the Wind' by Christopher Cross came on the iPod. The first verse of the song seems like it was written for the Tour Divide:
'It is the night
My body's weak

I'm on the run

No time to sleep
I've got to ride
Ride like the wind
To be free again
And I've got such a long way to go (such a long way to go)

To make it to the border of Mexico (or Idaho!!)

So I'll ride like the wind
Ride like the wind'
I substituted Idaho for Mexico for the time being. I was ready to move on to another state. But first, I needed to crest this pass!!
Ride..or walk...like the wind. Nearing the top of Fleecer Ridge sometime near 1a.
The road finally leveled out and I was able to hop back on the bike, standing, but I was riding. The road started to angle downhill and I readied myself for the upcoming pitch I knew was coming. I spotted a tent up ahead next to a cattle guard and a head poked out...Hal!! Never too late for the daily sighting. He was getting settled in and didn't want to do the descent in the dark. I told him I had to get off this mountain no matter how late it got. I was now shooting for a campground in Wise River.

I left Hal and kept on riding. The terrain began to drop away, but it wasn't too bad. I thought I was doing really good as I knew it was steep enough here that some riders would've dismounted. Then things got silly. I could tell my brakes were becoming less effective so I hopped off while I could still control the speed. The 2-track narrowed into almost a chute of loose scree. I held both brakes while I surfed down the slope with my hiking shoes. The good news? It was dry. Seems the rain held on the north side of the mountain. The loaded bike coupled with dry, dusty, loose steep terrain in the dark made for quite a challenge. I had to be extra careful on my foot placement so I wouldn't slide out. At one point the momentum of the bike began to shift and I couldn't stop it. The bike swung around, slide out and knocked me off balance. I took a tumble down the hill about 15 feet!! 'This is so stupid!!' I yelled to the bears, who I'm positive were watching this comedy act. Crashing on downhill hike-a-bike, that's nice. The bike checked out ok, I had a small scratch. Wise River couldn't come fast enough.

I rolled into town a little after 2a. It was in the mid-30's and starting to sprinkle. I couldn't find the campground, nothing I could see looked camp worthy. I backtracked to the mercantile and vowed to not repeat my mistake from Ferndale. I saw a light on inside the tiny Post Office & recalled riders over the years sleeping inside since the doors are unlocked. I went inside, just big enough to lie down for a bit...and heated!! I parked the bike in the entryway and piled my gear under a pack out table. Plugged in my GPS & phone, set the alarm for 5:30a (it was a Friday night & it opened at 9a on Saturday) so I could be at the mercantile by its 6a opening. I left all my gear on, only blowing up my pillow. A quick application of PRID to work its magic and it didn't take long to fall asleep in spite of the hard floor.

Stats: 92.97 miles & 7,256' gained


Here is a full Tour Divide Index from each day on the route.

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