traciwentling

Inspiration Day

Storm the Castle and Mowbray Metric – July 21 and 22

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Another weekend of great riding in Kansas.  On Saturday I rode “Storm the Castle”.  I told you a little bit about it a few posts ago, but now that I’ve ridden it, I am reminded how dang hilly this part of Kansas is and even more so on the gravel roads.

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The ride begins each year at Riverside Park on the most southern edge of the lovely small town of Lindsborg (known for its Swedish ancestry and culture).  This ride shall not begin without a selfie under the Swedish Valkommen (Welcome) sign marking the beginning of the Meadowlark Bike Trail (Rails-to-Trails initiative following the former Union Pacific Railroad).  We immediately cross the Smoky Hill River to continue south under the canopy of trees for a couple of miles and then we are on gravel roads most of the remainder of the 51 miles.

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Today I rode my Specialized Crux (The Boss) which is my gravel bike.  I bought it a couple of years ago when I decided maybe I could race cyclocross with John in the winter months.  Ho Ho Ho.  Just a few races of coming in dead last was too hard on the ego so in order to eliminate my suffering (and before I broke a bone), I gave it up and went back to being a cheerleader for John and his team.  The Boss makes a great gravel bike though and I have a distinct advantage over those riders who choose to ride a mountain bike on gravel.  Gravel has become so popular over the past few years thanks in good measure to the most epic gravel race known as Dirty Kanza.  I’ll tell you more about that annual race another time.

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Today we rode the 51 miles with very little stopping.  The SAGS were a necessity to refill water bottles and to grab some fruit or cookies for sustenance.  I managed to get a few photos mostly at the beginning and end of the ride.  When I stop for photos when I’m with Lori, she goes on and I have to catch her.  It’s a great interval workout but not something I can do too often.  I forgot my mirror again so all day I looked down at my left bar end out of habit.  There was very little traffic so not having a mirror was a nuisance only.  This photo of the corn field was just begging to be taken because the corn glistened from the sun like sparkles on a lake.

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This sign marked several miles of fence line on both sides of the road.  Obviously from looking at the surrounding grassland that bombing is extremely rare where we were riding.  A quick internet search revealed that ANG stands for Air National Guard and the range is 34,000 acres extending all the way to Salina.  The Kansas ANG’s purpose for the range is to practice air tactics training.  In addition, they manage the natural and cultural resources and generate revenue from agricultural leases.  Looks like they are doing a great job to me.

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The most annoying pests today were gnats.  They were horrible, and they were not just along tree rows where they usually hang out.  They swarmed in large balloon size batches all the way across the road and could not be avoided.  Our bodies were covered with their bodies (including some in our teeth) and the conversation at the SAGS included how much protein we were all consuming.  The only thing that made it okay was that no one was exempt.

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Once we were at the top of Coronado Heights, we heard that an “elderly” man had passed out at the last SAG and fell off his bike.  I asked just how elderly he was, and was told 60’s. Oh my goodness, 60’s?  That is not elderly!  I say 60 is the new 30!  Okay, how about 60 is the new 40?  The ride in general and the climb up to the castle specifically was easier this year than last.  Perhaps being 20+ pounds lighter helped my power to weight ratio.  My power meter didn’t register on my Garmin so that data was missing, but, I do know that my assent for the day was 2,160 feet.  That’s a lot of climbing for only 51 miles.

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Behind us in this photo, you can get a sense of the challenging road we climbed to get to the castle.  It was a great day of 80 degree temps and light winds.  God willing, I hope to be back every year.

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On Sunday Lori and I met in McPherson for the 39th Mowbray Metric named after Clinton Mowbray who is no longer with us.  An avid cyclist and evidently beloved in this part of the country, this ride continues year after year.  John and I have ridden it on and off since the 80’s and is just a nice road ride around McPherson County.  I drove in from Wichita and HAD to stop for a photo of the sunrise.  It had rained just a bit and the lingering clouds made for a beautiful sunrise, don’t you agree?  Stopping along the interstate is most definitely dangerous but early in the morning the traffic was light and I was not stopped but for more than a minute.

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As I was walking around waiting for the ride to begin, I heard a familiar voice say my name.  I knew it was Red from his distinctive voice even though I have not seen him in over 10 years (maybe longer).  He was riding Bike Across Kansas back in the old days and we always got along so well.  His hair used to be red and he wore a ponytail.  Neither of those things remain, but it was so so great to see him again after all these years!  After the ride, I caught this photo of him (in the patriotic jersey) as he was partaking in the provided lunch and ice cream with other friends.

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At a SAG stop today, these two young boys came out to the road to greet us and asked if they could hold our bikes for us while we filled our water bottles.  What an great service to offer!  I saw a couple of the men in the group were wearing scouting t-shirts so I asked the boys if they were boy scouts.  “Yes” was the response.  I asked them questions and found out they are both Tenderfoots working towards advancement.  I wanted to tell them that I thought they should be in uniform but decided to let that go.  Being the mother of an Eagle Scout carries certain prejudices I suppose.  I know it is difficult to get scouts to wear their uniforms these days.  Time marches on and things do change.  Never truer than with scouting.  Our grandson, Tristan is in scouting.  We are so very proud of the continued Wentling tradition.

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This ride today took us through Inman, Buhler and Burrton.  As we approached Inman, I mentioned to Lori that I had an aunt and uncle that lived there, but I didn’t know their address.  I said that there would be Fords in the driveway and a garage for woodworking.  I pointed to the first red house that we saw and said it would probably be like it.  After we finished the ride today, I decided to send my Aunt Melva a text and ask if they were home.  Yes, they were and guess which house was there’s?  Yep, the one I pointed to.  I drove there and drank a glass of iced tea which is a Barlow (my maiden name) thing.  My dad used to snap his fingers and say, “Kathleen, get me a glass of iced tea”.  There was no delay in getting it for him either and he had it in his hand within a minute.  Daddy called me by my middle name because that is what he wanted to give me as my first name.  My mom put her foot down though and told him that since he named my big brothers, that she got to name me.  They both won I guess since he NEVER called me Traci.  My Uncle Jim in this photo and my dad, Larry Barlow were brothers.  They also had two sisters, Sharon Joyce and Diane.  I have ALWAYS loved my Aunt Melva (Jim’s wife).  She is a treasure and as I told her today, she is beautiful and does not age!  I got my hugs after a too short visit and had to head home.

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If you’re counting the miles I’ve put in since leaving for Montana, they are adding up!  I’ve signed up for the First Annual Women’s DIrty Kanza Training Camp in September.  I don’t want to be the weak link at the camp even though I’m very likely to be the oldest in attendance, so the training will continue and even step up about two notches.  I have the blessing of my Wrench (bike lingo for bike mechanic) a/k/a John Wentling 💙

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Be a Fountain, Not a Drain – July 13-15

NOTE:  I took so many photos that I decided to display them mosaic style.  To look at them full screen, I believe you will be able to double click on them individually.

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I had a full weekend that began with leaving Dodge City on Friday morning.  I had no agenda this day other than to make it to Lawrence in time to get settled in and organized for the weekend rides.  What an awesome day it became!  I don’t use the word “awesome” except for when describing things of God.  I needed this weekend get-away from the stresses of work and God provided just what I needed from start to finish.  AWESOME!

When traveling alone, I have gotten into the habit of stopping just anytime and anywhere.  I stop for the unexpected.  I stop for beauty.  Kansas is full of both.  In the past, I have taken photos from the highway of these two old granaries, (located east of Offerle) but today I stopped and walked the railroad tracks to get a closer look.  I wonder of their history.  I wonder what the people in cars driving by think about this woman walking the tracks.  Ha!

Going through Pawnee Rock today, I decided to venture into the small town.  Pawnee Rock is used to strangers because sitting on the north edge of town is the historic “Pawnee Rock” made of Dakota Limestone.  Truly, after years of erosion, there is not a lot to see of the rock itself and I failed to get a photo for you because on this day, there were workers everywhere mowing on the site which messed with my opportunity.  I did drive to the top where a overlook has been built and found a sign which reads:  

“In 1846, Private Jacob Robinson described what he saw from the top of Pawnee Rock:  I witnessed one of the grandest sights ever to behold.  Far over the plain to the west and north was one vast herd of buffaloes; some in column, marching in their trails, others carelessly grazing.  Every acre was covered, until in the dim distance the prairie became one black mass…extending to the horizon.”  I am reminded of the actor who spoke to us in Butte, Montana last month who also described how he was “told” that the buffaloes were forever endless in numbers.

Driving back into Pawnee Rock I was touched by the porch on this beautiful old home, the screen door on an old building “downtown”, and by the message on the marquee at the New Jerusalem Church Swedenborgian.  How many times have I driven by this lineup of antique tractors parked along the highway?  Today I parked nearby and walked through the weeds to get a photo.

And just before leaving town, I noticed the train depot with an American Flag in the window under guard by Presidents, Washington and Lincoln.

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Today I finally got a good shot of the tiny yellow flowers that have been illusive to me for several weeks.  Are they on the downside of life?  Still beautiful to me.

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I spent the evening with the Lawrence Wentling’s.  Our son, Cody and his beautiful family, Mechell, Tristan (10) and Isabell (9 months).  Most of you know how sick Isabell became soon after being born and fought for her life in NICU for weeks at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.  She is doing “awesome” thanks be to God and the prayers of His people 💓

On Saturday, I was awake at 3:00 a.m. to go through my morning routine (coffee, journaling, devotions, stretching, etc) before driving to Leavenworth for the Fourth Annual Leavenworth Metric Century (wanted to get an early start to beat the heat).  A seriously great ride of beautiful mountains ‘er I mean hills, wind-y twisty roads, trees and wild flowers galore.  No wind.  Did you catch that?  Not a breeze except that which I created pedaling sitting through the flats and standing to climb.  I stood on my pedals A LOT today!  I heard it once described as “dancing on the pedals”, but I’m certain the Camelbak I wear for extra water greatly distorts that visual.  I rode awhile today with a man who was negative about life.  Bicyclists are not normally negative people, but I heard enough of his life story to understand a bit of it.  Perhaps my enthusiasm and joy helped him out some?  Perhaps not.

There were three fast young gals in their 20’s on Cervelo triathlon bikes.  I didn’t get a chance to visit with them much, but they did look good on those bikes!

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The ride went right by the Leavenworth State Penitentiary on a secondary road which was originally part of the Santa Fe Trail.  I saw and crossed the Santa Fe Trail, the Oregon Trail and the California Trail several times this weekend.

The ride went through the small towns of Easton, Winchester, Nortonville and Potter.  There were no official SAGS today and so we bought our water and snacks at convenience stores and in the case of Potter, at the Potter Country Store and Bakery (a MUST stop if you enjoy “quaint” as you know I most certainly do).

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A long breather in Winchester as I had to photograph the Reformed Presbyterian Church with its amazingly gorgeous purple stained glass windows.

Down a side street I came across this garden of Tiger Lily’s of many varieties,   Winchester had a population in 2016 of 530 people (according to Siri) and they all must be readers with this nice new library.  Had I been on a long multi-week tour, I most certainly would have spent time inside.

I give the Fourth Annual Tour of Leavenworth a 10 out of 10 and will be back!

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On Sunday, I rode the Lawrence Lizard Under The Skillet.  The tag line of the ride being:  “Hot?  It was so hot I watched a lizard crawl into the campfire just to get in the shade of the skillet.”  I have ridden this ride once or twice when it was indeed extremely hot, but today I began riding at 6:00 and again beat the heat.  90 degrees as I rolled back into finish at 11:30.  Another day of no wind!  Another day of hills, but the roads did not twist and turn and the landscape was more farming and less trees.  An equally great ride though! At one point, I laid my bike down to get a shot of a tiny purple flower and a woman rider rode by and saw what I was doing and said “God bless you” to me.  I’m just thinking road photography is something she doesn’t do but appreciated the thought of it?  But…I always appreciate the sentiment of thoughtful Christians and I did indeed, have a day blessed by God.

The weekend of rides gave me 128 miles on the bicycle.  The wonderful weekend was topped off with joy as my husband, who worked Friday and Saturday rode his Harley to meet me in Wichita Sunday evening.  We dined at one of our favorite eateries while enjoying an adult beverage.  Back in Dodge City by 7:00 a.m. Monday morning.  Here is to making the most of a weekend! 💛😍💙

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Friday, June 22 – A glorious day!

Butte to Three Forks – 70 Miles 

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Flower of the day: Elephant’s Head?

Today was glorious!  We did wake up this morning to the sound of sprinkles hitting the tent walls but it was short lived.  We put away the wet tents, packed up, and out of camp at 7:45.  Sue led the way as we skirted the edge of Butte and then began the climb over Pipestone Pass, crossing the Continental Divide and down over the other side.  We had tail winds most of the day and temps got into…wait for it…the 70’s!

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The Jefferson River

We followed the Jefferson River much of the day and estimated the water was moving at 10 mph.  At mile 55, we had an option of riding into town on Highway 2 or taking an alternate route which included four miles of gravel.  As an alternate to riding the gravel, they had the truck ready to shuttle us through.  They really encouraged us to take the alternate route because there was no shoulder on the highway and it was supposedly a very busy highway AND it was very hilly.  When we got to that point of the day, Sue decided to take the alternate and even rode the gravel and I took the original route braving the traffic.  Ha!  The whole 15 miles, only 21 vehicles came up behind me and all of them gave me wide birth.  The hills were moderate rollers and gave me no trouble.  It was a joyous ride but Sue said her route was wonderfully scenic too.  I had three less miles to ride so got to camp first and dug our wet tents out to dry in the SUNSHINE and wind.

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This storm missed us!

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One of our riders coming down out of the mountains

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Yep, another barbed wire photo

This is our last night in our tents and that is a good thing because my rain fly zipper is failing.  Who can survive in Montana in June without a fully functional rain fly for heaven’s sake!

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Not good! My rain fly is failing!

Near Three Forks is where three rivers (The Jefferson, The Madison and The Gallatin) merge to form the headwaters of The Missouri River.  It is off our route to go there in the morning, but if the weather is not threatening or miserable, we will ride there tomorrow.

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Fly fishing lesson in the campground

One more day of riding…

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Thursday, June 21 – Rest/Utility Day

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Butte, Montana.  I slept in this morning!  We’ll sort of.  I woke at my usual time but saw no need to crawl out of my warm sleeping bag and fell back to sleep.  I woke up again and listened to hear if Sue was making any wrestling noises from her tent. No.  Fell back to sleep. I finally woke for the last time at 6:30 and decide coffee is in order.  Our caterer has coffee ready every morning no later than 6:00 so it was just a matter of getting my lazy warm body out the door.

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Our “spot” on the field

We are camped at Montana Tech University near “uptown” Butte.  I got an education from a local who said “Uptown” is the older and original part of town and named that because it sits up high on the hill.  The “Flats” is the newer part of the city and we can see it from here but I have no desire to head there on my bicycle.  For one thing, my soft body tissue is telling me to stay off the saddle today so that is a good reason to stay close.  But also, I will always opt for Main Street or what I would call downtown just because of the older buildings, the mom and pop cafes, the independently owned coffee shops; and where people live as well as work.  This is where it seems important to spend my tourist dollars.

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Somebody’s fence in a residential neighborhood of Uptown Butte

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Uptown Butte residential area

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Uptown Butte

Sue developed an issue with her eye and decided this morning she had better go have it checked out in the emergency room.  Dave, the tour director took her and they were back within an hour with no definitive diagnosis.  They did numb her eye and checked it out thoroughly, and the numbing med helped not only with the pain, but also swelling.  They recommended an eye drop and we made it to a pharmacy this afternoon.  We are thinking she might have had an allergic reaction to the grass when we got in yesterday afternoon.  She laid directly on the green blanket of fescue and perhaps they had sprayed something toxic on it.  The great news is that her eye is already much better.

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I stayed up late last night and got Monday’s blog posted and then today wrote Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s.  Not many people read this blog but I think someday when I’m old (I’m talking really really old) I will enjoy going back and re-living each adventure through it.  My faithful husband reads it as does my daughter, Angie and my aunties who love me like a daughter.  I have some great friends who follow me and are even so kind to comment every once in awhile.  I love reading the comments!  Blogging is really a time consuming job and I had decided before I left home that I wouldn’t bother this trip, but then I thought, how else will I remember years from now?  Actually, I think it was Sue who talked me into it.

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Back way into a remote part of campus.

Sue also blogs and we often use the same photos but her memories of the day’s experiences are often quite different from mine.  It’s all about our perspective of things as they happen.  She also picks up on details that I don’t and I pay attention to things she does not but then we share our photos.  Obviously she takes the ones of me and I take the ones of her.  Some years back we collaborated on a few blogs and they are absolutely the best.  Like the day on the Northern Tier in 2012 when we discussed worrying about how we would find the important resources.  Or another where we were so honest about our differences and laughed ourselves silly writing it.  The other one that is vivid in my mind is when we discussed the local co-ops and our experiences that particular day.  Those blogs were funny beyond funny to us!

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Tonight’s map meeting

Today the vans shuttled us uptown to a laundry mat / coffee shop / tanning bed operation.  Can I just say that I am happy in a laundry mat?  It’s downtime to blog and begin to smell human again all at the same time.  Normally people kind of keep to themselves and it’s quiet except for the hum of the spin cycles and the beeps of the finished cycle of the dryers.  Today though, many of us were there at the same time and world problems had to be solved.  The chatter and laughing were refreshing and we were asked about past adventures.  I never tire of sharing my stories and when they involve both of us, which tons of them do, then we tag-team the story telling.

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Someone told us today that she was sitting in the van the day that Sue broke her spoke and she was so worried that we were left on the mountain to wait for later rescue.  After today and hearing about some of our extreme adventures over the years, she has decided that we do not need to be worried about.  

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Where else might we have lunch?

We walked Main Street and found The Uptown Cafe where we had a delicious lunch.  It was quite good and a nice change from the sandwiches we throw together ourselves every morning to be carried in an ice chest to the designated lunch stop.  Nancy and Cammie, our lunch ladies, set out fresh fruit and sweets also.  There is no excuse to ride away hungry.

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Last night after supper, they brought in a 1800’s period speaker who dressed and spoke in first person (Jim Deacon) as a man who avoided fighting in the Civil War by leaving Illinois and traveling by steamboat to Montana and becoming a buffalo hunter.  He was a very talented actor and I would have enjoyed it immensely if I had not been so tired and if we had not had to fight off mosquitos the whole time.  It went on a bit long as we were sitting on a hill on the damp grass. As the talk ended, a short rainbow appeared over the flats of Butte.

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I feel this is a good ending to today’s long-winded story.

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Wednesday, June 15 – Oh Happy Day!

Wise River to Butte – 54 Miles

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Carrying bags to truck in Wise River

It stopped raining last night about 10:00 and there was a ray of sunshine from whence we came so we were playing the glad game practicing optimism and even packed some sunscreen in our daypacks.  It was a day of pictures.  It was a day of visiting with others.  It was a day of warmth and partial sunshine.  At one point the temps made it to 69.  Woot!  Woot!  We rid ourselves of rain gear and at lunch I even removed the 200 weight smart wool shirt under my jersey and my leg warmers.  Freedom!  With the sun came Vitamin D and happiness; a renewal of all that is good about being outdoors.  THIS is a day to remember!

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Sue was feeling her oats and took off along the Big Hole River passing fellow travelers with the spirit of a teenager.  I was smiling ear to ear and hearing the rushing over-full river that sounded much like a strong Kansas wind.  First stop was a bridge over the river.  Another rider also stopped and asked me what kind of swallows were swarming around.  I told him I only knew of barn swallows and I couldn’t say that I even knew there were other kinds.  He pulled out his phone and opened an app and snapped a photo looking down over them and unbelievably to me, the app identified it as a Cliff Swallow.  I said what?  An app and photo of fast flying birds could identify species?  He told me he had three apps that will do the same thing.  I asked him what did he do for a living (thinking it surely had a connection to birds) and he said he was an engineer living near the Columbia River.  He said that the local conservatory suffered pay cuts so he now volunteers as a bird guide on weekends.  He made fun of himself that he knows nothing of birds but with the apps he can fake it.  It is a volunteer position after all he said with an ornery smile and I felt we had become friends.

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Big Hole River

This stirred a long ago memory and Sue patiently rides along and listens to my stories.  This memory of my beloved Grandmother “Gram” who had a small record player and albums of bird calls.  She would open the front door and place the record player by the open door.  We would sit outside and listen hoping the bird calls might actually bring in the real McCoy.  I can’t remember if it ever worked and it doesn’t matter.  But once again, I am reminded of how important she was in my life.

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Wise River

We stopped again at the Wise River.  We stopped again at a large patch of Indian Paint Brush and again at another meadow of purple Canus.  I think God painted it all just for me!  Feeling my inner artist, I took photos today of tangled balls of barbed wire and wooden fences and and and…

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Flower of the day: Indian Paint Brush

We rode the steepest climb of the trip so far right after our morning SAG.  It wasn’t a long climb but many people walked it pushing their bikes.  I sure was surprised to see a husband pulling his wife and her bicycle up the climb.  I’ve NEVER seen THAT before!  He had an electric bike so he had some help with a motor.

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Just a picturesque view

The other side down was loooong and much of it was extremely steep.  The electric bike and his wife came flying by me on the steep descent and I could only hope they were not over estimating their descent skills.  Thankfully everyone made it down safely.  Another husband and wife team came flying down the calmer descent; passing us like we were standing still and I looked over at Sue and put the hammer down.  Sue stuck with me and we FLEW by them like THEY were standing still.  It was sooooo much fun!  This couple came up to us later at lunch and we talked about the whole speeding/racing scenario and did I mention, it was so much fun!?!  I estimate they are in their 40’s, so these 60 something women may have shocked them just a bit.  Ha!

I have been trying to name my Kestrel.  She is my oldest bike but still my lightest.  I have named all my other bikes (I know…corny, right?).  But anyway, this bike has never been on gravel until today but we had to ride 2 1/2 miles on a gravel trail to get into Butte.  That was interesting and I wished for Justice with his wider tires underneath me.

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Trying to dry out before setting up tents

We rolled into Butte with the sun shinning for about an hour.  Just enough time to dry out the tents and crawl in.  It rains on and off constantly.  Tomorrow is a day off here in Butte and another utility day of laundry and just general rest.  Happy day.

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Tuesday, June 19 – Mechanical drama in the Pioneer Mountains

Dillon to Wise River – 75 Miles (I captioned all these photos, but WordPress won’t post the captions – grrrr!)

I woke up this morning to quiet tent walls.  No rain at 5:30 a.m.  I went through my usual routine of letting the air out of my mattress, stuffing my sleeping bag and sheet into its compression bag, putting on my riding clothes and packing everything into the appropriate NorthFace bag.  Then I peaked outside to see what the day would bring.  This day had the usual gray skies with the threat of imminent rain.  I tossed my bags onto the grass and took down my tent.  The rain fly and footprint were soaked but the tent itself was just a little damp.  Ants had made their way inside my tent by hitching a ride on my shoes that I had left under the front porch for a while last night.  They were little ants so I squished them against the floor and left their bodies for later disposal.  So this morning I shook out the tent really well before packing it away.  The rainfly and footprint I stuffed into a plastic bag for dealing with tonight.

I wiped down our chains and Sue had brought some lube so I meticulously placed one drop on every link of both chains and then went to breakfast.  My riding shoes were still wet from yesterday’s ride so when I put my feet in them, my nice dry socks soaked up some moisture immediately.

I took the long way to breakfast walking the road because the grass was absolutely bogged with water. I thought I had found a way to make it to the food line but about my third step into the grass, water filled my shoe.  Wonderful.  The whole process from waking to leaving camp takes about an hour and a half and can be exhausting and we haven’t pedaled a stroke.

It began to rain and today we battle a cold headwind about 30 miles while also climbing Badger Pass.  We went from 5,000 feet in Dillon to 7,000 at the summit all within 18 miles.

Several times during the climb I rode ahead and would find a pull off and have just enough time to pull out my phone to snap a photo of Sue as she rode by.  Once we started down the pass on the other side, the rain stung our faces and it was COLD BABY COLD!

The past two days we have been riding on the same roads that I rode on my first bicycling trip across the U.S. in 2008.  My friend Kathy (from California) and I rode what is called the Transamerica Trail beginning in Virginia and ending in Astoria, Oregon.  I told Sue some stories of memories that were made on these same highways all those years ago.

Today we left that trek and are now riding highways I have never been on before.  The real beauty began when we turned onto a new highway and the scenery changed from sagebrush and mountains, to mountainous cattle (Red Angus) country of lovely small homes to sprawling log mansions set on the hills further away.  The wind died down and the rain became intermittent.

We stopped at The Grasshopper Lodge to have our sandwiches with a great cup of coffee.  After lunch we begin the climb towards the Miracle Ski Resort and the views became breathtaking.  The road curved and climbed with blankets of Lupin covering the meadows dotted with yellow Glacier Lily’s thrown In to add spark to the purple. I was not able to catch even one really good photo as the purple fades in translation and just won’t capture the beauty.

Just a mile from the summit, I went around Sue and was up the road a bit when she yelled that she was stopping.  I turned around to see her looking intently at her back wheel.  She had broken a spoke.

Once we stopped pedaling, we began to shiver so she wasted no time and went to work.  Sue always works on her bicycle turned upside down and using the all purpose tool that John had put in my seat pack, she loosened the back brake and removed the back fender.  We wrapped the broken spoke around another to keep it from getting in her derailleur.

I carried her fender precariously woven through my Camelbak and she rode her wobbly wheel very slowly to the summit to wait for rescue. An Adventure Cycling van arrived and they loaded Sue and her bike into a van full of riders who didn’t want to tackle the climb and they headed down to where we were camping.  It was already 4:30, and I had 35 miles to ride solo.  I was told it was mostly downhill except for the last seven miles so I said “going to make tracks” and I put my bike in the big chain ring and rode like the wind passing some of the prettiest meadows I have ever seen in all my born days.

I stopped briefly at one point to take off my rain coat and nearly died a mosquito death.  I jumped back on to outrun the little monsters and rode to that seven mile stretch of flats when a squall came through to give me a strong headwind along with a good soaking for good measure.

The bike mechanic was able to replace Sue’s broken spoke tonight so tomorrow we are back in business and have an optimistic weather forecast.  Thank you to my daughter Angie who asked fellow prayer warriors to pray for sunshine in Montana.  God is good!

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Monday, June 18 – Mountain Fog

Ennis to Dillon – 72 Miles

We arrived so late into Dillon, that I didn’t have time to write a post.  In a perfect world, I write in the evening when the experiences are fresh in my mind.  

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Wet morning in Ennis

Sue’s parents live in Dillon during the summer months and she had told them we would try to get in early, but that didn’t happen.  We planned on an early start and did the best we could considering the relentless rain and wet gear to put away.  As we were getting ready to set out, Sue discovered another flat tire which caused a delayed start.

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Finally we were Dillon bound with a steady climb on a 7,000 foot pass in deep fog and moderate rain.  It was like we were riding our bicycles on the clouds.  Everything was white with not a breath of wind.  There were cows mooing down below but we couldn’t see them.  It was a spiritual experience for me because I felt peaceful even though it was most certainly perilous being on that mountain top under those conditions.

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Flower of the day: Blue Daisy?

We arrived in Jefferson City and found the Pioneer Bar was open with a coffee pot on the back counter.  We drank our coffee and Sue talked to a local man drinking a beer at 10:00 a.m.  As we were leaving and snapping some photos, I noticed I had a front flat tire.  Gratefully, our bike mechanic had just stopped in for a cup of coffee too and I asked him if he would make a quick tire change for me.  Sue bought him his coffee as we walked to his van for his bike stand.  He made short work of it, but it still put us another 30 minutes behind.

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Coffee stop in Virginia City

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Stopped for coffee in Virginia City

Another 40 miles and we stopped to eat our sandwiches in Twin Bridges where the lunch ladies had everything laid out for us.  We arrived in Dillon around 4:30, set up our tents and showered just in time to be picked up by Sue’s parents and taken out to supper at a very nice restaurant.  The restaurant was very quiet with hardly any customers and Sue’s dad told us the rivers are too high and the fishing is terrible because of it.  No fly fishing means no tourists and Dillon is very much a tourist town with two very nice campgrounds.

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Our two lunch ladies. Sweethearts both of them!

I was out like a light when my feet were warmly tucked into my sleeping bag and my head hit the pillow.  It might have helped that I took two Athlete’s Vitamin A (Advil).  Many thanks to Bob and Betty Joerger for taking me out to supper!  Don’t forget, if you’re ever in Dodge City, supper is on the Wentling’s!

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Sunday June 17 – Did somebody say rain?

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Rainbow over the campground last night

You would have died laughing at me trying to get situated in my sleeping bag last night.  My first mistake was that I laid it out upside down.  Then I laid my silk sheet inside it and climbed in only to realize that I was set up to sleep with the long side on top of me rather than under me.  So picture me shimmying – slight bounce – shimmying – slight bounce, all in an attempt to remain in the bag yet shift it 180 degrees.  Keep in mind that I am on my noisy air mattress so all my neighbors have to wonder what in the world is going on inside that tent.  This went on for a full five minutes and I felt I had accomplished the feat.  Go me!  But then I realized that the sheet was so tangled up in the bag that my legs were trapped and I literally could not move my legs or feet and claustrophobia began to set in.

The next step had to be to unzip my bag and to begin again.  Yet ANOTHER problem presented itself in that with all that shimmying , I jammed my zipper somehow and it’s stuck in place.  It’s dark, and I could not see to get it to release.  By that time I am in full fledge claustrophobia and I use my arm strength to pull myself out the top of the bag.  That placed my body right up next to the front of the tent with no where to go.  I have to turn around while sitting cross legged (just try to do that sometime) and unzip the tent in order to have room to figure this mess out.  I reach in for my forehead lamp, put it on and light up the night.  MAN ALIVE the light is so bright in an instant that I temporarily blind myself.  I’m not kidding!  My eyes finally adjust in my pretzeled position and I reach in to grab the sleeping bag and sheet, I see what the problem is with the zipper, and force the dang thing unzipped, pull out the sheet which is twisted like it came out of the spin cycle of a washing machine.  Toss the bag back on the noisy air mattress this time with the appropriate side down, re-insert the sheet, crawl in, zip the bag, and I’m almost instantly too dang hot to breathe!  I start sweating and grab the zipper, unzip the bag all the way down, toss out the sheet, pull off my socks and lay there exhausted and wet.  Exactly one minute later I’m freezing again because it’s unbelievably cold and I’m wet from sweat.  Geemanee!!!  I couldn’t get back under the covers fast enough!

Okay, enough of that.

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Pelicans on the Madison River

This morning we had a long enough break in the rain to just barely get the tents down and packed and the bags safely closed.  Breakfast in the rain.  SAG stop in the rain.  Pull into Ennis In the rain.  Then, amazingly, the rain stopped long enough to unload the truck and get the tents back up.  The wind was howling which made it harder than normal.  Sue noticed that her front tire had gone flat.  At the meeting tonight, our leader Dave asked the group how many flat tires did we all have today and the answer was “6”.  That’s a lot of flats but it could have been worse as there are always flats to be had on wet pavement.  I think the rain floods debris out of cracks and places it back on the highway.  Those folks who had flats while out on the road were in serious danger of hypothermia.  Some were picked up and delivered to town in vehicles.  We are very thankful that Sue’s tire held air until we arrived.  We are also thankful that most of today’s ride was a stiff tailwind which kept the rain from painfully stinging our faces.

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Sue wins the prize for getting the first flat!

We rolled into town and my feet were squishing water in my shoes but I managed to stay comfortably warm enough in my rain gear throughout the ride.  Once in the locker room the water in the showers came out so forcefully that a girl could not face the shower head without suffering pain in tender places, but the water was hot so no one complained too long or hard.  We all took turns at the hand dryers trying to dry out our shoes.  I’m not sure why though because we will all have wet feet again soon enough according to the weather forecast.

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It appears that this will be my riding ensemble all week

Our highest point today was at 5,400 feet and I’m guessing the steepest grade was 7%.  Sue and I sit in our camp chairs blogging in the school cafeteria waiting to be kicked out for the night at 9:00.  Going to get this posted and then head to my tent to get organized for tomorrow.  We ARE having a great time and eating way too much.  Such is the reason we bicycle 😎

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Saturday, June 16 – Utility Day

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Motel room clothes line. That’s me blogging behind a wet pair of bike shorts.

This morning as we woke up it was raining and it continued on and off until about 2:00 and then we actually saw blue skies up until now.  Rain looks like it’s making a comeback tonight, but our tents are up and we’re tucked safely inside.

Today we went to REI to buy some necessities.  I forgot my camp towel.  Good grief!  I only have three or four of them at home.  I have a check list for bikepacking adventures.  How did I miss putting one of them in my bags?  I’ve also decided that some hand-warmer packets will be smart so I bought some of those too.  The year that we rode to Alaska was very cold and rainy also, and I remember putting warmers in my chest pockets under my rain coat and it was quite effective in helping keep my torso warm enough.

What else might I wish I had?  I brought my two North Face waterproof bags.  The rules state that we can have two bags not weighing more than 25lbs.  John helped me weigh them before I left home and I could, if I wanted to, add more stuff.  Experience tells me though, that having more stuff is not necessarily a good thing.

I have two Big Agnes Tents, a one-man and a two-man.  I brought with me the two-man tent and I’m very glad that I did.  I can put both of my bags into my tent with me every night.  It is the ultimate in convenience and makes this tenter’s life so much easier to not have to be in and out digging in bags, often in the rain.

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Our tents set up for the night

My biggest concern that I can do absolutely nothing about at this point is that I may wish that I brought one of my touring bikes with wider tires and fenders.  On the other hand, my bike will be light!  Sue took her bike to the bike shop this morning to have fenders installed.  While we waited, we went downtown to the Rockford Coffee Shop and had a cup of really good, really dark drip coffee.  I kinda sorta would have loved to get a raisin oatmeal cookie, but I exhibited a remarkable amount of self-control.  Not so much control tonight though as after supper, the caterer brought out some gooey brownies.  It would have been a crime to not have a bite and I am, if nothing else, a law-abiding citizen.

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Afternoon coffee break

At the meet and greet this afternoon we found out there are 49 of us.  I’m guessing the ages of most of us are 50’s and 60’s.  I haven’t really looked at the various bikes yet to see what most people are riding.  When we checked in, they asked us to take our bikes to the tour mechanic and he looked at mine and said “I’m not going to have any of those special spokes if you break one”.  I’m not too worried about that happening.  Once he looked it over and asked if I had any mechanical issues with it, I told him no and then walked it back to where the Yukon will be parked for the next week and locked it up for the night.  No sense in leaving it out in the rain when the vehicle is so close.  After tonight though, it will be exposed to the weather just like everybody else’s.

There is a couple here from Corvallis, Oregon and I told her I had relatives in her neck of the woods.  She then told me that they bicycled through Dodge City last September on a tour.  There wasn’t much time to visit, but we will definitely know each other better before the week is over.  During supper we visited with a couple from Colorado.  The main topic of discussion among everyone is quite naturally bragging on past tours.  I have to admit, I love to tell of my adventures and Sue and I tell the story of how we met in 2012.  It’s such a great story, but of course, you all know it.

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Flowers of the day ❤️💛💜[/c[/c[/c[/c[/c[/c

It’s beginning to rain and the temperature is dropping quickly.  Time to crawl into the warm sleeping bag. I’m anxious to see what tomorrow brings!

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Friday, June 15 – Travel Day

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Flower of the day: Since we don’t know what it’s officially named, I’m calling it “Pretty Ain’t It!”

Today we left Whitefish and headed south and east to Bozeman.  On the way, we stopped at the little town of Bigfork.  Sue and I were here in 2014 as we bicycled that year from Missoula, Montana to Denali National Park in Alaska.  The day we passed close to Bigfork, we wandered into town in search of B2 (second breakfast).  Today we stopped at the same downtown cafe called Pocketstone.  This morning was the first time since leaving home that I ate something…shall I say…really really naughty; a delicious cherry scone drizzled with orange rind icing.  So delicious and SO worth the calories.

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Breakfast and journaling at Pocketstone Cafe

Next door to the cafe is a little business in a quaint old house called “Eva Gates Homemade Preserves”.  So I’m kind of assuming that the little tiny containers full of deliciousness in my photo most likely come from next door.

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Eva Gates Homemade Preserves

After breakfast, we made our way down to the Swan River and walked about four miles along the river trail.    I may have burned off a few of those scone calories in the process.

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Ho hum, another photo of Swan River

We finally arrived in Bozeman late afternoon and checked into the motel, went to supper (by golly you CAN find a sweet potato in Montana!) and then began two huge loads of laundry.  This is our last night in a motel as our bicycle tour officially begins tomorrow with a meet and greet and supper at the campground.  We begin riding on Sunday.   I hope you can stick close and I’ll do my best to convey each day’s happenings!

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