Next, it’s on to Helena where I stopped at the ‘Garage’, the bike repair shop next to Great Divide Cyclery. With a nagging clicking noise from the rear of my bike, I though it best to get it addressed. After a drive train cleaning and headset, I proceed on after a free beer at the Garage. Still annoyed by the sound going up Grizzly Gulch, I decide to put chain lube on each of the rear spoke nipples – problem solved. It didn’t look good, but the noise was gone.

At Park Lake, 20 miles outside of Helena, I find a grass covered opening in the timber to stay for the night, only to find Andy Green camping there as well. The next morning we ride up a rough 4X4 trail on the way to Basin for lunch and on to Butte, Montana.

The route around Butte had been rerouted since TD2015 and the route took us by The Outdoorsman, which is owned by Rob Leipheimer. It’s one of those stops where they monitor your progress and then upon arrival, greet you at the door by name. Rob invited myself and bike inside. He wanted to give me a tour of his shop while my bike was looked at. Honestly I was a bit hesitant, after spending $$ in Helena, I didn’t want to keep throwing cash into the trip. However, for only $10.00, The Outdoorsman provides TD rider’s bikes a once over. Its a must stop! Not wanting to bring up his brother, I mentioned that I still have one of Levi’s posters up at home. Rob wanted to show me the display from Levi’s career, it was quite impressive.

Continuing on toward Wise River and High Country Lodge, it’s first over Fleecer Ridge, a beautiful incline of 10 miles of almost 2,000 ft of climbing. The night at Beaver Dam Campground at first was only me and my sleeping bag on a concrete picnic table, only to quickly get my pad out to keep the cold concrete slab from keeping me up all night. Fleecer Ridge in the morning with it’s extremely sharp downhill it was on to Wise River to eat at on towards High Country Lodge.

Christien Smeja, the traveling vagabond and I rode the tarmac south towards the Lodge. I knew if I stopped there, I wouldn’t be able to leave. It was another place they await your arrival by name – and food. I sent Christien on his way and waved at the lodge as I passed by it. The terrain changes to less forest and more open range land, desolate. Not long after, Christien rode up on me and was smiling. He had stopped at the Lodge!

‘Dude, I told you not to stop! You’ll get sucked in!’ ‘I know, they greeted me with a homemade pie!’

We chat a bit and he pulls ahead, never to be seen again.

I passed Lima after a meal and restocking, then it’s on toward Idaho. The night at Lakeview, which is by Red Rock Lakes – a.k.a. the most mosquito infested area of the route. That night I set up just my screen of the tent to keep the blood sucking insects off of me.

At Big Springs, Idaho, it’s resupply and the dreaded deep lava sand of the rail trail section. Thinking I’m off route, I called daughter Kristen to check my tracker to make sure I was headed in the right direction. Turns out I was good. Failing to either secure my map, or happened to leave it on the ground, I head off without my map. I called TD2015 alumni Travis Waters, who lived in the area. I arranged to meet up with him to pick up a replacement map. However, thankfully I was fortunate to have Andy Green behind me and he found my map on the trail and picked it up – Trail Magic!

Wanting to stay ahead of last year’s pace, I push on towards Flagg Ranch well after dark. Another annoying noise causes me to stop to discover my ThudBuster seat post was broken. All types of things went through my mind on getting another seat post or part. Can I find a bike rental shop around Yellowstone? I was able to secure the post with the 3 remaining bolts and made it to Flagg Ranch at 1:00 AM, now almost a day ahead of TD2015 pace. Sleeping in the wooded area of Flagg Ranch Lodge was interesting. This 4 star lodge has rooms at over $300/night and I was sleeping in their parking lot!

The next morning at Colter Bay C-Store, I see a car pull up with a Salsa Cutthroat on the back. It’s Josh Kato and his parents. Josh had been run off of the road and had to pull out of the race. He was now enjoying the trip, taking pictures of racers along the route. We all sit and visit a while. His Mom said she was glad to meet me and that she had followed me last year! They’re such a nice family.

Past Moran Junction, Pinedale then Atlantic City came the Great Basin. Sleeping in the desert is fun. I love how the stars light up the sky at night. This is one of my favorite spots to sleep on the route, going into Atlantic City. I had lunch at the Miner’s Grubstake and I was to do the Basin. Having ridden it last year, I know to not take the wrong fork in the road. This year, I put a waypoint on my map for the location of the Diagnus Well, where I could fill up my water bladders. Basically, it’s a pipe coming out of the ground to provide water for pronghorn. Going at the Basin alone, I made sure I had plenty of food and water for the trip to Wamsutter where I would arrive the next morning after spending another night in the Basin.

The Love’s Truck Stop on I-80 is a welcome site for the racers. Even though it’s not a place where employees run to greet you with open arms, it’s still a good stop. Refueling here is the last place to get supplies until Colorado. That next day was tough, real tough. It was hot and windy with a 3/4 headwind all day. It seemed much further than last year to Colorado border at Slater. Twelve miles to Brush Mountain Lodge where I arrived at 10:00 pm, Kirsten was waiting up for racers. A hug, water first – then beer and pizza. For a donation, racers get food, bed, washer and dryer and the best blueberry pancakes in the world! Brush Mountain Lodge is many racer’s favorite stop on the route!