Canada to Montana to Idaho: Andrea from Iowa does Tour Divide.

So I made it to Canada. Did I explain that? Probably in the last run on sentence in the last post on here and it’s pretty important, but either way I made it to Canada.

In the hostel I organized my bike and gear. Milling around the space I found fellow riders, you could see us from a mile away, lugging boxes around with eyes wide. Arriving in Banff 3 days early left me with plenty of time to fret and get out of my comfort zone immediately. Having dinner with someone I just met because of this bike ride, uncomfortable. Walking around Banff mostly alone, buying things like a new water filter the day before I left, not great. Most of the prep for Tour Divide hadn’t been comfortable. It isn’t supposed to be. The night before I wrote about being in the right place, and it felt good.

Just like right now. Trying to write about this is making me cry. Remembering riding to the start, flying through a town that only exists for my purpose of starting a tour. The people who made me the most comfortable who aren’t here with me in Iowa, the roads that I can see in my mind every night. When I let myself think about those things it sucks. One of the tips from Jay Petervary about the Tour was something about making sure you have everything all lined up before you leave; bills, jobs, responsibilities. Those things are fine, missing being gone from all that is a privilege and sharing my time on the Tour Divide will help.

Anyways. I rode to the start with Isaac. Arriving late we dipped and bobbed through streets and joined the group at the tail end. Then I was on the Tour Divide route. Riding with 160 people. Who all apparently had the same idea, go ride 2,750 miles. So I pedaled. The first day would be 100 miles of single-track, a swinging bridge that I walked over, and it was hot. I wore my full Salsa kit and was just jamming over groomed roads and trails. The trees were giant.

Arriving towards the end of the day I was around mile 90. The roads ended and we had found Koko Claims Pass. Canada showed it’s true self. There was a group of folks hanging around the start of the pass. Some man shouting about going up the single-track. Another remarking that, “wow a lady on a SS in front of me, let me take a picture.” I said, “no.” With that I powered myself up the first bit, using anger to get me some 4 miles up the hill, then things were not able to be ridden. The first hike a bike. It was around 8 pm. The days were much longer, daylight until 9pm. So I hiked. Ripped my shoe open, hiked some more. Pushed my bike. Yelled at rocks. Got caught up by the guy who wanted my picture, who I ignored. I ignored everyone around me until Wendy caught up. We were trying to get over an avalanche pile, looking for footholds, then Wendy just came out of nowhere. Some little Australian lady. It started raining around 10:30 pm. We ended our first day together camping on the pass together.

Waking up early in the rain we pushed on together, maybe 1 mile of going up was left. Then it was down something similar, hiking down was worse than up. The roads evened out and we got a little lost, lots of weird logging roads and mud. The sun came out for a minute, it gave me a chance to take off a layer and warm up. Then the layer went back on a mile later.  It rained most of the day. I made it to Fernie with Wendy. At this point I was all sorts of muddy and grumpy. We have ridden 55 miles or so and had agreed at mile 25 of the day to get a hotel. So we did. The man at the hotel was feeding us and we bought a room. Jason would show up a couple hours later. Sam, the other lady on a SS, would pass us by. Wendy remarking that she was racing me. (that doesn’t make me want to race, it makes me want to say something snarky to Wendy.) We did some laundry together.

We ordered way too much pizza and agreed to wake up and leave at 4am.

Leaving at 4am was easy, then it started raining again. Pedaling up hill was fine. Kept me warm. Downhill was freezing. At one point I was wearing all of my clothes. (bibs, longs tights, rain pants, socks, rain socks, plastic bags on feet, wool base layer, jersey, long sleeve shirt, puffy, rain jacket, MTB gloves, Pogie Lites)

Day 3 sucked. Hard.

In between the rain Jason and I found Butts Cabin, where we made a fire and where I melted my gloves and socks. We spent probably 45 minutes there. Isaac popped his head in the door, watching us melt our things, and laughed at us. I liked him.

Moving on from that cabin things got a little better. The plan was to make it across the border, to mile 267. That would mark 110 miles for the day, or something. The miles in-between Butts Cabin and the last pass before the border were a blur. Sam messaged me somewhere at some point letting me know she had a hotel room. So I made it to the pass before the border. But before that was the wall, and before that was some sort of single-track-river-swamp. I was with Jason, he has some shitty Go-Pro footage of me crying about the Wall, it scared the shit out of me.

After the Wall I could ride, then it started hailing and that just hurt. Then it was snowing, then probably both. By the time I got to the hard climbing portion I was pissed, so I rode the whole thing. Getting to the top I realized that I had nothing to protect my hands except the Pogie Lites, which had gotten me from Butts Cabin to this point. Jason gave me his rubber kitchen gloves, without those I wouldn’t have made it down the other side. Jason also remarked that when he attempted the Tour 2 years previous it was so hot they were laying the in snow. It was around 30 degree fahrenheit at the top of this pass. By the bottom of the pass my hands were mostly frozen, but could still squeeze the brakes. I could see America. After some 2 hours of riding up and down a pass, after crying up the Wall, the sun was out.

The border passing was uneventful. All I could think about was the hotel room Sam had. She was still another 10 miles of pavement away. I pushed it hard. I wanted to get there so badly. 10 miles later I was in the convenience store with Sam, she was giving me a hug. I was eating chips.

We shared a room with a Canadian man that was having feet problems. While he talked I lined up my things below the register to dry them out. I ate a burger with Jason and Wendy, they shared a room. Then I slept.

The next morning I was the last to leave, watching everyone pack bikes and head out was nice. It was a good thing I checked my bike, my feedbags had worn through my headtube. I spent my time duct taping the worn spots. I also bought some gloves to replace the melted ones at a hardware store, they had a dog that wanted pets, a really good way to start the day. Plus I saw a school bus, by day 4 I had decided that school buses were good omens.

Day 4 was also hard. Pretty sure it rained most of the day. I made it to Whitefish, MT. I stopped at a bike shop with Jason and bought some new socks, because I melted mine. The bike shop let us know about a creepy camping spot outside of town. Jason and I ate some nachos and tried to find Sam and Isaac. All the while my period started. COOL. Sam found us, gave me a hug, and I spent 15 more minutes in the bathroom fixing the situation.

After that we all rode together to the spot. Right as we arrived it started raining again. Setting up our bivys and tents we quickly got to sleeping.

Waking up the next morning was slow. The sun was out and we found it, we dragged out things to the rays to dry them. While we soaked it in, a local neighbor asked us if we were bothered by bears. They had seen some in their cameras. Neat.

I was the last to leave again. Something about watching people leave makes me want to catch them.

Whitefish was mile 380. Ish…. I was using a Garmin eTrex 30, it was trusty, my imaginary mind numbers were not. Day 5 would prove to be lots of pavement. Isaac found me and asked if he could ride with me. I said yes, as long as he didn’t mind my SS pace. We stopped and got coffee, he fixed a stuck XT pedal of mine. There was no rain today. We made it to Holland Lake, and by that I mean I shoved watermelon sours in my mouth until I made it to Holland Lake. I covered 110 miles that day. Listening to music helped. Nervosa, thrash metal. I saw a black bear. I chased Isaac up a pass and beat him. Somewhere within 10 miles of Holland Lake Jason remarked that he could see the highway. Then I bonked. I watched Jason and Isaac roll away from me and I limped into the Holland Lake Lodge.

Dinner ended up being $70. The rooms were at least $280. I already wanted to camp. Rooms were annoying and trapped me. I watched Gary Johnson and Wendy get rooms. I ate as much cheap bread and butter as I could. Later tucked away in my bivy I listened to the mans talk about paying for camping with the campground man. They figured it out and I fell asleep.

Waking up the next morning I was wanting to get moving. I didn’t want to be the last one out of there. I didn’t really like Holland Lake. I left early on day 6 alone. Reminded by the Holland Lake staff to not get lost, I didn’t. There was a mega tailwind that day and I ended up in Lincoln, MT early. I rode 100 miles. Jason, Sam, Isaac, Dan, Karl, and probably 4 other people camped at the Wheel Inn. They had broasted chicken, blasted 90’s jams, and let us camp in their front yard. Is this RAGBRAI?

From Lincoln, MT to Helena, things got weird. More tailwind. The riding was very fast, but I wanted to wait for Sam and Jason. I didn’t want to be alone. Isaac got away. Boy bye. Trail hi.

The weather was going to get bad again. The rain had held off for about 2 days and it was chasing us. I could see it behind me when I raced myself to Helena. By the time Sam and Jason made it, the rain was steady. We shared a hotel together that night. Doing some laundry, eating a pasta dinner, and they listened to me complain about not riding further. I am sure they wanted to slap me. I wanted to slap me. Then we ate banana splits.

That was day 7. Me arguing with me.

I don’t remember leaving the next morning. I rode to Butte, MT. There was a bike shop and I hung out at a bike shop because I was supposed to get a package there from Jesse Ramsey, but it needed to be forwarded. I drank my first sip of beer and promptly got a headache. I was wanting Jason and Sam to show up. I booked a hotel for us. My only journal entry from that day shows that I was forgetting to take selfies and was in limbo. Jason and Sam probably spent another night listening to me complain about not pushing forward. Day 8 was the same as day 7. I was around mile 718.

From Butte, MT I’m pretty sure the next day was riding over Fleecer Ridge. If I said that out-loud somewhere I am sure someone would correct me. I rode over Fleecer Ridge at some point.

As we were leaving in the morning Sam, Jason, and I prepared. Sam brought me an apricot and coffee. Day 8 was 60 miles long. I rode to Wise River, MT. According to my journal I wanted to have left the night before, but it was raining. I would give myself the next 4 days to feel the feelings and let myself understand there was no right or wrong answer.

I was working myself through the limbo.

Day 10 I woke up with this thought from Sam, “If every porkchop was perfect, there would be no corndogs.” I would ride 138 miles of mud and rain that day.

I left early. Arriving at the High Country Lodge freezing cold at 10am. I ate breakfast and cried. As I was signing my name on their check-in board the man reminded me that once I hit dirt it was 100 miles to Lima, my end point. Nice idea.

Once I hit dirt, it was mud. MUD. MUDDY MUD. ALL THE MUD EVERY. It was Old Bannock Road. It was cold. But the mud warmed me up. I could ride the mud. I passed countless people and made it to Lima, MT around 8 pm. Jason bought a cabin and we ate dinner. It was another day that ended with mind numbing pavement, the kind of pavement that makes me push myself for 12 miles. Sam was going to meet us at this cabin. So would Gary Johnson. While I was waiting and looking for Sam I found Gary, wandering around in the parking lot. Rain pouring down, I basically dragged him into our cabin. Sam arrived 15 minutes later, whispering to me that she had peed her pants to stay warm.

It was a terrible day.

We dried our clothes, shared our food, and went to bed.

Leaving the next day was a struggle. Also it was my birthday. Sam bought my breakfast, which included lots of friends. Dan and Karl, Isaac, Jason, and myself. I saw truth in Dan’s eyes while he talked about missing him daughter. He would pull out in a couple of days.

Leaving Lima, MT we all knew that Idaho was next, we would be done with soggy Montana. My journal also shows the last entry, “I’m 29 now.” I would also crest 1,000 miles of this ride. I WAS PUMPED. to say the least.

Riding through the last bit of Montana I thought I was an hour behind when I wanted to get to Idaho. It stressed me out and I bombed 50 some miles to be greeted by the little pass to Idaho. It stopped me in my tracks. It made me cry. Then I rode up and over it, rain on the way down. A layer was put on, then taken off. As I pedaled forward I found Larry, this was the man who wanted my picture on day 1, because I was faster than him. We finally had a chance to talk. Maybe we had talked before that, but either way, we got lost together, found the trail, and respected each other. I don’t care if Larry finished before me (and I’m sure he didn’t care either), I just wanted him to ask my my name before he took my picture.

alright. that is a third of my ride. I’d made it 1,000 miles in 11 days. That first and only night in Idaho I slept was under a structure to protect us from the rain. All of the friends (Sam, Jason, Isaac, James, Larry, and I)  bought my birthday dinner, leaving me with the best birthday I’ve ever had. Sam also decided to leave the ride that night. A harder decision than continuing onward. Having the backbone to make that decision shows Sam’s spirit, I am proud to call her a friend. But I would miss have a fellow female on the ride with me. Moving forward Wyoming was next. The Basin.


2 thoughts on “Canada to Montana to Idaho: Andrea from Iowa does Tour Divide.

  1. Ryan West

    Reading this is making me look forward to my upcoming endeavors. I don’t know if I’ll ever be mentally strong enough for Tour Divide, but maybe someday…

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