Friday, July 12, 2013

Day 11 - July 12 - "When it rains, it pours" - 2 flats, a lost pump, thunderstorm, gusty winds and a Continental Divide

Day 11 -July 12 - Lincoln, MT to Helena, MT - 57.9 miles (93.2 kms) -total so far: 849.4 miles (1366.2 mms)

Distance: 57.9 miles (93.2 kms)
Total time: 5hrs26mins (including 2 flat repair stops, a search for the pump, a thunderstorm sheltering and a few photo opportunities) 
Average Moving Speed: 14.4mph (23.2kph)
Maximum Speed:38.4mph (61.8 kph) 
Calories burned: 3022
Elevation gained: 2283 ft (695 meters)
Weather:  Sunny and cool at first but then mostly cloudy with temperatures rising from 56F (13C) in Missoula to 86F (30C) in Helena.  Thunderstorm in mid-afternoon with very gusty winds mostly from the south west and remained very strong from the south west all the way to Helena.

Powered by: 2 egg and cheese sandwiches, a banana, and a cranberry muffin for breakfast; 3 liters of Gatorade,1 liters of water, 1 protein bar, 1 banana  and a peanut butter-banana bagel sandwich with a huge dollop of peanut butter (again very messy). (3 bananas in toto).

The morning dawned clear and cool with the low temperature at 47F (10C).  I dawdled at breakfast waiting for the sun to raise the temperature and left at 9am enthusiastically looking forward to the climb over the Continental Divide via Flesher Pass, a little used road to Helena.  My enthusiasm was curbed within 400 meters as the rear tire went flat slowly.  I pulled over  and tried to replace the tube, though I could not find the hole in it. The problem was that I did not know how to operate my new pump and it took a lot of experimentation to work out the proper positioning for it on the nozzle in order to get air into the tire.   I pumped it up as vigorously as I could with a small hand pump but it was probably no more than half filled.  Rte 200 was a lot less busy than last evening and the first 11 miles towards the turnoff south to Helena passed quickly.  I was calculating how many state capitals I have visited (28 as it was, 29 now) but to calculate, you have to know the capitals and remember which ones you visited, It was almost like a 3rd grade Geography Bee.

Once more with care - finding the goat head

Just before the turnoff, that now familiar sinking feeling hit again as the rear tire deflated.  I'm not much of a believer in coincidences (1 flat in 750 miles and 2 flats in 11 miles) so I figured that there must be something in the tire causing the flats.  Once more into the shade, and after much more careful checking than previously, I found the culprit -  a goat head thorn sticking through the tire.  I wished I had remembered to take a photo of it but threw it away in disgust.  This is an amazing strong thorn that has the sharpness and resilience of a needle and is found throughout the dry parts of the West.  It's the bane of cyclists - and of dogs, horses, and other animals whose pads it can damage severely.

This seemed like a good time for a second breakfast and suitably fortified, I set off up the grade climb to the pass.  Whomp-whomp-whomp went the rear tire but this time, it was not losing air.  Instead, a quick inspection showed that the tire was not seated properly on (fully inside) the rim so off I went again and removed the panniers and rear wheel. By now, I'm getting skilled at this procedure and at re-installing.  Having let the air out and reseated everything properly, I looked for the pump to inflate.  No pump; I must have left it back at the previous repair site. So I hoofed it back the half-mile to the site and after some searching, found it.  Back to bike, inflate as best I could, and decide it's time for an early lunch.  It was beginning to feel a bit Monty Pythonesque.

Finally, I got to climb the pass which was a lot shorter and easier than I expected.  The actual climb is only about 2 miles (3 kms) at a grade of between 4-6% most of the way, with some short bits up to 8%.  Since it was cool and the road was empty, it was a relaxing climb - except for the concern that the last repair might not hold.

For a while, it seemed as if Helena was 480 miles away

More nice stream views on the way to Flesher Pass

View from near the top of the pass on the road that I climbed

There was no one around to take my picture at the top of the pass

The road down was potentially fast and curvy but I was more cautious than usual because of the doubts about the rear tire.  The wind picked up and was quite inconsistent, and at times threatened to blow me over.  I emerged from the trees into the Canyon Creek valley which, as it widened, looks remarkably like parts of the Colorado Front Range.

The valley was filled with ranches, and closer to Helena with 'ranchettes' 

The day threatened to turn ever worse as a thunderstorm appeared ahead of me - between me and Helena.  The wind picked up considerably, and it started to rain.I put on a rain jacket for the first time on this trip and as the wind and rain strengthened, took shelter in the lee of a red barn which was adorned by a large poster of Ron Paul, the Libertarian candidate for US President in the last two elections.  It claimed that Montana is his strongest region of support.

I don't know if it's true - but it's plausible

The barn that sheltered me from the rain and wind

The wind remained strong all the way into Helena and I was generally fighting it into town. The outskirts of the city suffer from the worse sprawl that I have seen in a long time with 'ranchettes' and large acreage homes present up to 10 miles outside a fairly small city.  Traffic also picked up and the lack of any shoulders (margins) meant that I had to on guard and ride defensively for a long time.  I went immediately to a bike shop and bought 3 new tubes - hopefully, enough to carry me for a while. I have a couple of patch kits and could patch some of the others as spares.  How many is too many tubes? 

The center of Helena turned out to much more interesting and pleasant than I expected - or certainly could have imagined from the suburbs.  It was founded as a mining camp and this legacy is strongly remembered in its buildings and markers.  It has lots of interesting architectural styles and some impressive public buildings. I spent a happy 2 hours touring the city on my bike, shorn of its heavy panniers and with a rear tire blown up to its proper dimensions thanks to the pump at the bike shop.

The very impressive Cathedral of Helena on a hill.  I'm guessing that there were many Irish amongst the miners, as was the case for nearby Butte.

A retired streetcar, now used as a play space for children on the pedestrian mall which was deserted at 6pm on a Friday.

The State Capitol on another hill. I like the outline of the state on the flowerbeds

The train station dating from 1903 and the many rail lines that intersect here

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