Day 33 Clearwater Junction to Lincoln, Montana: Shaky but Still Standing - Grampies on the Go - CycleBlaze

June 2, 2011

Day 33 Clearwater Junction to Lincoln, Montana: Shaky but Still Standing

Yesterday I wished ourselves sunshine and good health, and of course I meant it. On the other hand sunshine and good health can be a bit boring to write about. No problem on that score this time, I'm afraid.

The dawn started with light rain, but we knew we could not hang out sick and damp in the tent for another day. Fortunately, the rain let up for a short time and gave us our break. We packed up and made excellent time down the road for 1/4 km, where we naturally stopped at the gas station.

A big feature of Clearwater Junction.
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The gas station had several booths and tables, but the offerings were limited to hot dogs, coffee, hot chocolate, and saran wrapped muffins. We bought the lot (except the hot dogs, we're not that desperate yet, and besides they weren't ready!).

The station contained the lady behind the counter, her son, an apparent family friend or acquaintance, a young woman gas customer, and a cowboy. The cowboy deserves mention first. He was 62, lean, tall, had on a cowboy hat and jeans, and spurs. He had a firm jaw, no doubt often used to look out with calm resolve over the distant hills. This guy was 120% the image of a cowboy as the Marlborough Man. We marveled at how far East we had had to pedal to get "West". THe cowboy said he had trained over 4000 horses, but what he really wanted to do was cycle across the country. After inquiring why he did not do this on horseback (too many fences) we answered questions about our saddles. I thought I was pretty perceptive in recommending the Brooks leather saddle. Something, I figured, he could really get "in to". We discussed pressure and prostates, it was great.

The son was having trouble in school, and Dodie and the "other" family friend had advice for this. The friend referred to the children of the valley as "young'uns". He also told us he had once bicycled up the Pass on a mountain bike, and would never, ever, try that again. I would guess his age at 40. Well he has 23 years to follow our example and try it. The cowboy, at 62, needs to buy that saddle now.

The young woman customer was also interested in adventure cycling and noted our gear. In particular she commented on our dish gloves, with REI glove liners inside. This is something we figured out way back in Cobble Hill, when we got caught in a cold rain, near a grocery store. Having your hands be 100% dry is a big advantage. Because it is now "Summer", I swapped my insulated breathable "waterproof" winter gloves for this system. My gloves were actually orange paint stripping gloves from one of my favourite Missoula spots: Quality Supply. They are grippy and just a little heavier than dish gloves.

Dodie makes a point at the coffee party. It's fuzzy because of no flash on this stealth shot. I did not want the cowboy to think I was a "greenhorn".
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Everybody in the shop joins in.
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From Clearwater to Ovando the road was very tame, but the rain now set in in earnest. Our breathable rain jackets held up pretty well (see review at the end) but were not perfect. Significantly our Merrell "MOCS" did not do the trick. We had chosen these for their fairly large expanse of solid leather. Shoes with laces, we felt, would let water in, and we did not want to wear, store, or deal with those unstylish gators. In Missoula we slathered the MOCS with SnowSeal. Right now we are not sure if the seams leaked, or more likely, if the rain poured off us and into the shoes.

By the time we reached the Stray Bullet, in Ovando, we were pretty thoroughly sopping. A study of our socks showed large wet patches, the Planet Bike computer had flooded out, and one of the cameras gave up the ghost.

(p.s. further to giving up the ghost, this highway has at least 50 white crosses, festooned with plastic flowers, along the length we travelled. It was when I went for a picture of a three pack of these all together that the camera died in the rain.)

The Stray Bullet made an excellent breakfast, and of course the other customers got to ask the UQs. We now also have UQ,s for locals: Are you from here? What is the road like from X to Y? Is there anywhere to stay/eat/buy groceries at Y or from X to Y? Plus there are the "advanced" UQs: What keeps this town alive (or not)? How are all the steers around here marketed? Can you sell ones you butchered yourself? ... and etc. etc. if the victim happens to be a farm hand.

Rough outside, good food inside.
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No time for Museums today.
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With all the best wishes of the staff and customers of the Stray Bullet we sallied back out into the intensifying rain. Actually this whole ride (planned to Lincoln and beyond to Aspen Grove Campground (total day of about 73 km - not a problem)) should have been easy and enjoyable.

Classical Montana terrain, with low cloud.
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This gift shop did not look too inviting. However it could have a local monopoly on teepee sales.
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River and horse scene
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The problem was SNOW. The temperature soon dropped and the rain became driving snow.

I should mention that even from the start of the day I was very sick. We had each taken one yellow cold tablet, but Dodie was stronger. I just followed her BoB wheel doggedly, like a little duck. She carefully did not pull far ahead, while keeping me going as fast as possible. She called out if she was stopping, because she could see my head was down and just focussed on the wheel.

Before leaving home I went to my doctor, and in the list of 15 complaints I wanted him to fix was the poor circulation in my hands and feet. He checked pulses and said "Yup, weak circulation". This is about all the repair success I have come to expect from the medical profession, (I think I will resubmit that 15 item list when I get back - I must be a slow learner - ok, that addition would make 16 items on the list!)

In the snow my soaked feet started to lose sensation. I wiggled the toes continually. I put my hands behind my back and flexed the fingers continually. Finally, although the hands got alternately a little better and a little worse, the feet just froze in place. We started to walk some stretches, to see if the heel/toe action could revive some feeling. No luck, and the snow got heavier.

Dodie too was suffering, particularly with her right foot. I was wondering what I would do if she broke down and could not continue. I was wondering exactly how long my weak feet could survive without permanent damage. Finally I said "we have to find a house or some shelter". Around us was absolutely nothing by way of shelter - no house, no picnic area, not even a grove of trees not protected by fencing. I could see no way of switching socks or rubbing feet in the conditions. Throwing up the tent by the roadside was one option, but it would have been a wet one, and requires a certain minimal manual dexterity.

So, we plowed on. Dodie says she was going faster than her strength would usually allow, trying to get me out asap. She was sure I was the one who would collapse, and she was not far off. I could now see that I was becoming generally hypothermic, quite aside from the feet and hands.

Finally we pulled into Lincoln, where the first motel is Leepers. I think we are the only guests. The owner was gracious - here is a large room, you can bring the bikes in, there are special towels you can use to dry off. Fill in your name and address on this card... Problem, neither of us could move our hands! We had to dictate the info.

Restrictive sign in motel office. Good thing they don't read this blog!
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Our home in Lincoln, Montana.
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We did not actually try this, but out here it could be a good idea.
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In the room we took off our shoes and socks and Dodie poured lukewarm water into the tub. She was able to stand in it, though her right foot looked red and splotchy. I tried it, and recoiled in excruciating pain. Over a period of ten minutes, she talked me into the water. After a time the pain became itching, and she talked me out of scratching.

Foggy photo due to cold camera. Foot was actually more scary than this.
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Map case 15 minutes after entering the motel room.
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Finally we took two warm dry blankets and collapsed on the bed, shaking with chills. There was then no movement for three hours. It was only 5:30 when we finally stirred. The whole freezing journey of 67 km had not taken that much of the day.

We stuffed our shoes with old newspaper and hung our socks by the heater. The motel man said there were restaurants just down the road, but without shoes and bikes taken apart, they seemed distant.

Finally I put on a pair of dry socks and stuffed my feet into the wet shoes. Around the corner was the Wagon Wheel bar. They advertised "wagon" burgers, or maybe "wheel burgers". Whatever, I ordered a two pack, to go. The lady asked what I would like on the burgers, and I asked about lettuce and tomatoes. She replied that the option "relish" was the vegetable component of a wagon burger. While waiting I accosted a local at the bar beside me with the UQs for locals, advanced version - since it takes time to make a proper wagon burger, or whatever.

I learned that the town survived 1/2 on tourism (weekend visitors from surrounding cities) and 1/2 on social security. Businesses came and went, but there had been no growth. Former economic drivers of forestry and mining were gone.

Beef raised on any local ranches were bought by itinerent buyers and shipped to stockyards in Missoula or Butte. From there they went to Nebraska for processing in huge automated plants.

Finally my stool mate confided that a close friend had just died suddenly of a very rare form of e-coli.

Throughout our chat, though, his attention was continually distracted by the large screen TV program of NASCAR racing. I guess Cars always beat the UQs.

Now "resting comfortably" with the help of the blue and yellow pills, we are looking at the weather forecast. Tomorrow looks like more snow on the pass, while Saturday is supposed to be beach weather. Maybe we will stick, or maybe we will hop to the campground. Only tomorrow will tell.

A couple of quick equipment reviews: Cabella's Describes its Dry Plus Ultra parka as follows:

Cabela's long history of providing the highest-quality, most-advanced weatherproof clothing continues with the release of Ultra 2.5. This 100% waterproof and breathable fabric compresses into a small portable package, so you can always take reliable rainwear anywhere you venture. The tough, 100% nylon face fabric wards off moisture and holds up against abrasions and wear. Dry-Plus provides breathable and reliable waterproof rainwear under the most challenging conditions. A light coating on the inner fabric reduces condensation on your skin. These layers result in potent wet-weather protection with versatility matched only by its effectiveness. The waterproof and breathable combination keeps you dry from the inside as well as the outside. Welted front zipper with interior storm flap, oversized pockets with waterproof zippers, and adjustable cuffs and hood.

They must be proud of the product, because Dry Plus Ultra is embroidered into the sleeve! Our experience was that the outer material repelled (beaded) water for the first use, and then began to absorb water, particularly at the lower sleeve. The inner taped membrane still did not allow water to pass, but the garment became waterlogged - bad news when dragged inside the tent. So we sprayed with silicone. The spray is supposed to dry for 48 hours and should get a second coat after the first 4 hours. We couldn't do that, but still the jackets mostly beaded off water. Not content, we bought some Scotchguard spray at REI. This spray supposedly "activates" in the dryer. The spray at first seemed to know what it was doing, as it "detected" and soaked in to the weak areas of silicone spraying. However, after the drier treatment and taking it out into real Montana conditions, we saw that it had done exactly nothing.

The photo shows that the inner membrane now apparently can fail as well. I guess you can't believe everything you read in embroidery!

Cabella's "Dry Plus Ultra" jacket at work.
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The Planet Bike was totally revived by extensive hair drier treatment at an earlier motel. We though that after extensive looking at the o-ring seal and the clip-in battery cover it could now be waterproof. Not! And Leepers Motel does not feature a hair dryer.

Plant Bike computer. No magic bullet for it this time.
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Canon Powershot SD770 IS. We love this little camera, and thought it would be OK in an inner pocket in the rain. Nope. Christian, should we mail the corpse home to you? Costco in Missoula had the latest model of this camera (SD 1300 IS) for cheap. Maybe we should have bought either a six pack or a dry sack.

Today's ride: 67 km (42 miles)
Total: 1,802 km (1,119 miles)

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