Friday, July 18, 2014

This is not a eulogy, but the end of a chapter...

I know, I know. It's taken a week to offer any insight or explanation. Needless to say, we had to 'tap out' at Helena. Weary bodies, weary wouldn't be surprised at the names we called our BoBs (besides Thing 1 and Thing 2). We enjoyed our rest days and after reviewing the map and our pace at great length, we determined that it would be another 12 days before we could reach the next town to easily depart from. Lorne and I also came to the agreement that we were behind schedule and would have to "chunk" this route anyway -- heck, 600+ miles and over 35,000 feet of climbing isn't a shabby start to Conquering the Divide. Many factors, including a lot of irons in the fire at home that really needed tending, lead to our decision to come back and assault this dragon another time.

This trip was a kick in the pants, or kick in the butt - however you wanna look at it. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything and we both learned so much from this endeavor. We definitely aren't quitting, and won't stop till this route is completely ticked, every last mile. We're already planning our assault for next summer and are thinking panniers are a better way to travel. B.o.B. (Beast of Burden bike trailer) is great for road touring, but may not be our tool of choice for a mountain bike adventure (personal preference). We named our BoBs many things besides "Thing 1 and Thing 2" along the way, and now the term "third wheel" makes total sense. Dang BoB was always dragging his feet on the hills and wanted to take over when we were trying to enjoy our short downhill bursts. (There was also that dang gravity thing scrubbing off our downhill speed.)

Long story short, Lorne and I were together 24/7 for 21 straight days and we're still in LOVE! How's that for an accomplishment :)   We're totally excited and looking forward to our next adventures, whatever they may be. We met incredible people along the way and want each of you to know that you hold a special place in our hearts and memories - we hope you know you are welcome to drop in on us if you ever find yourselves in the San Diego area: warm bed and showers await!

Thank you everyone, for the thoughts, prayers and well wishes. I know I've said it before but it bears repeating. I hope you'll continue to follow us in our adventures and endeavors by land and by sea and look forward to hearing from everyone soon!

Peace & Love ALWAYS,
Melani & Lorne

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Ferndale to Seeley to Lincoln via Ovando, to Marysville via wrong turn, to Helena PHEW!

Checkin' the map

Missed fireworks but got an early start out of Ferndale (Base Camp) and started some long climbs through some snow crossings at the top at gorgeous Red Meadow Lake. Rigorous climbing was FINALLY rewarded with screamin' downhill fun. Of course, it didn't last long enough and we were forced to grunt our way uphill on the way to Cold Creek. I wouldn't say we make a lot of noise getting uphill but at the crest there were 3 couples in their rhinos waiting for us - "You'll never see any bears making that much noise!" one of the guys hollers. "That's the point!" I holler back. We all had a laugh - nice running into friendly people to chat it up and take a breather. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has been uber friendly.
Lorne hiding from the mosquitos!
 Found a perfect campsite complete with pre-built bear hang, to call home for the night...apparently the world's largest colony of mosquitos liked the location too! We've been planning our days around the steepest climbs happening early in the day; not sure if that's a great idea yet, but it's working so far. "Little" climb before we rolled into the one and only gas station/market/post office in Condon. Again, we meet the coolest people -- this time we met a couple of fellow "Dividers", Jeff & Cameron, from New Brunswick. They're traveling light and fast (and 1/2 our age LOL). We all ate some snacks on the porch of the mini-mart and joked about trying to find the right foods to keep our bodies happy under the new pressures of cycling all day.
Seeley Lake tent cabin
Took the road to Seeley Lake where we enjoyed the luxurious tent cabin and showers at the RV Park. We thought that the fireworks were over and we were in for a quiet night sleep -- NOT! Apparently Montanans LOVE their fireworks. The first batch started at about 10:00 (just after sunset) and set off what seemed like the Great Seeley Lake Firework Wars. One side of town put on a 7 minute show, then the other side of town answered with 10 minutes. The North Side followed with another 10 then South with another 10. Each time the pyrotechnics seemed bigger and louder; we were too tired to get out of the tent to watch, but lay silently watching the colors displayed on the side of the tent.

Creekside for lunch
Ginormous Fungi (?) who can tell what this is?
Made it to Ovando for a late lunch then rolled into Lincoln (think Lincoln logs) - another quaint Montana town with a main strip about a mile long. The plan was to be in Helena by Wednesday, crossing the Divide twice with strategically timed camping in between. What ACTUALLY happened was this: we climbed the first pass (FOUR HOURS of pedaling uphill). Stopped for lunch with the mosquitos by a creek and filtered MORE water - then tried to go as far as we could toward the next pass before camping for the night. HOWEVER, we kept going further (CLIMBING) thinking that there would be a better spot ahead. At about 5:30pm we decided the safest/best place to camp was near the entrance to a huge property where we could secure our food from the beasties. BUT NO...that was not in the cards (remember, Montana allows gambling). So we pushed. Um literally. I pushed, while Lorne hammered away at his pedals. Still climbing and ever closer to our second Divide crossing we decided to go for it. 

Between Divide crossings - views of forever
Second Divide crossing in ONE DAY = VICTORY!
Loving the LOADED Carbon wheels!
FINALLY, at about 8:45pm we made the crest of the Divide for the SECOND TIME IN ONE DAY. We took our victory pictures, scanned the map then agreed on the wrong turn. It was too much fun flying downhill for miles - should have known it was too good to be true. Finally, approaching a turn at Ottowa Gulch Road, we realized our mistake. Now nearing dusk, we look back up at the mountain we just conquered and consider riding back up to get on route. NOT! NO WAY, I'm not going back up. We agree to roll down into Marysville -- I mean, it has to be a town -- it's on the map, right? 

Elevation profile
Passing the cool cabins with endless yards of green, we come to the sign indicating Main Street. Better not take any more chances so we turn. There are literally eight buildings, six still standing and two actual businesses (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, of course). It's so late now everything is closed, but we hear the banging of a hammer on the rooftop of the Mason Lodge. Lorne shouts up to the workmen and inquires about setting up our tent in the vacant lot next door. "Come on round back here. There's a better spot for a tent, and you can even use the outhouse," came the reply. Pat and Paul gave us a couple bottle of cold water as they ended their work day. They assured us we wouldn't have trouble with bears, but we set our bear containers aside to be sure.
Masonic Lodge
Masonic Lodge (outhouse!)
Our earliest start this morning found us in Helena a day ahead of schedule and at Big Sky Cyclery by 10:30am. The parts for Lorne's fork were overnighted by DT Swiss (no charge, and no charge for the seals! -- thank you!) and the bike shop is ready to go to work. We'll be here in Helena until Thursday morning. Resting, recuperating, jacuzziing (is that a word?), swimming, walking, laundering, evaluating our map and schedule. 

Every climb, every mosquito bite, every time I feel frustrated or tired - I remember all of you who are following our journey. I imagine you cheering us on, enjoying the adventure vicariously - and I don't want to stop. Thank you for the love, prayers, well wishes. Thank you Dennis - every time we get a tail wind!

Happy Trails!
Melani & Lorne

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Everybody was Kung Fu fighting

Got up early to beat the heat but when Lorne opened the door to load the trailers he groaned, "It's raining." I called back, "Ya right. You're so full of it - that's not even funny." Sure enough, it had rained last night and was still drizzling. We decided to stall with breakfast at the Buffalo Cafe and let the roads dry out. Ran into a new friend, Hayes, on our way out - his company (Alpha Bar) is developing a new energy bar and he offered to mail some ahead for us. Woohoo!

Got off to a great start and 7 miles outside of Whitefish the dark clouds caught up with us. We could literally see a wall of rain coming toward us. By the time we pulled to the side of the road and Lorne threw a tarp over us, the skies opened and the buckets poured down. We could hear thunder in the distance as we struggled into our rain gear.  As we mounted up to tough it out, the first crack of lightning sounded like a gunshot overhead. We could see the strikes across the valley getting closer and you could smell the electricity in the air. I suggested we make a break for it and hustle back up the road to a barn we saw - either that or hop the fence and duck Into a chicken coop/she'd and wait out the storm. We were about to make a run for it when a truck slowed to a stop next to us and the driver signaled to ask if we were ok. Lorne gave him a thumbs up as lightning struck so close that our ears rung in the aftershock. The truck had started to pull away but stopped abruptly. We RAN for it and started tossing gear and bikes as fast as we could. Lightning continued to strike so close that when we all jumped into Reed's truck we just stared at each other in silence. We all agreed that was the closest we've been to a ground strike. Thank you, Reed, for stopping in spite of our "ok" signal!

If you followed the SPOT, you saw that we made excellent time this morning for about three miles as we entered Columbia Falls - where Reed so kindly dropped us off at the Coffee Traders. Sure enough, the skies cleared and the great Montana heat lamp started beating down. Thank you, Dennis, we had a favorable tailwind to keep us cool as we pulled into Ferndale. Base Camp is our home for the night - a couple allows cyclists to camp down on their property. Our little site is fenced (to keep bears out!) and has a hose and 1st class outhouse. Accommodations for the next few nights won't be as "luxurious" and I'm sure we'll be bathing in the frigid creek rather than a frigid hose! Haha

Until we meet again, peace and love,
Melani & Lorne


MORE Water!
River crossing, black bear,
Flat tire, yurt,
SPOT retrieval time trial,
No one got hurt.

Grizzly bear, map lies,
Sushi truck in Sparwood,
Hot shower, hot tub,
Drying out feels so good.

Border crossing, soggy rain,
Tap house in the boonies,
New friends, warm bed,
Not camping with the loon(ies).

Avalanche, downed trees,
Snow, rocks and scree,
Rolling into Whitefish
For a rest day - YIPPEE!

Red Meadow Lake

Whitefish, Montana is a beautiful little mountain town on the shores of a pristine lake surrounded by thick forest of pines. Everyone is so friendly and just like everywhere we've been so far, we want to stay. Ok, well we decided to spend an extra day here after nine straight days of riding because we need a break. We mailed home 10 pounds of excess "stuff" today, did some laundry, stopped at Glacier Mountain Cyclery, where Tyler gave our bikes a look over and made some quick adjustments. The seals on Lorne's fork need replacing but no one here has a rebuild kit - we had to call the closest dealer in Idaho and have it shipped to Helena, MT, where we hope to be in 4-5 days. It'll be 4-5 days off grid so you won't be hearing much until then. Just keep an eye on the SPOT (link - cut and paste from bottom of blog page) and you can see where we are. We joked with the kids, "If the SPOT doesn't move for 3 days, send in the mounties" haha. 

Looking forward to updating y'all in about 5 days (or less if we have internet access). Till then -

Peace & Love,
Melani & Lorne

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The German said, "YOO CANNOT DO IT" (6/30/14 Day 8)

FIRST, let us give a huge, heartfelt thank you to Dennis, Sue and Sally -- we met them literally as I published the last post from the Homestead Ale Brewing Co. Dennis & Sue's daughter rode her bike from Montana to the Sequoias and related the most memorable part of her ride was when complete strangers offered their home for a hot shower and a bed to sleep in. Sue's sister, Sally, had driven past us earlier in the day (in the rain) and when she saw our bikes in front of the taphouse, she felt the urge to introduce herself. Long story short, we met some of the most genuine, friendly and gracious people in those three. They opened their loving home to us for hot showers, laundry, bed for the night, and warm evening company on the deck to watch the grazing deer. Sally mixed up some epsom salts and essential oils for me to enjoy a scrub and soak in their huge tub, then loaned me her roller to work out my IT band. Dennis cooked up a delicious breakfast and we enjoyed the craftsmanship and artwork the talented duo of Sue & Dennis had lovingly incorporated into their home and gardens.

NOW FOR THE GERMAN. We spent two hours of climbing on our approach to Whitefish Pass when a jeep heading downhill stopped -- a nice German man wanted to let us know that there was no way we could get through "zee road ees blockade" and he showed us the pictures he had taken of fallen trees. He was very adamant that we couldn't do it. He just didn't realize who he was talking to -- not that I'm big into horoscopes, but Lorne and I are both Taurus and literally stubborn as bulls! The gauntlet was on the ground. It's ON now! We thanked him and proceeded our climb. Sure enough, there were several sections of the road blocked by downed trees. We took turns helping each other navigate the obstacles and laughing at the ease of our success. We just didn't know that the true challenge lie ahead.

AVALANCHE: now I'm not using the term lightly. The previous trees and rocks we had to negotiate were a spit in the bucket of the true avalanche that was smack dab at the crest of the Pass. According to our odometers we were a mere 3-tenths of a mile from the actual crest where we planned our victory pose for the photos. We just hadn't planned on it taking so long to get there. Trees with 2-ft diameter trunks were snapped off like matchsticks. Boulders and scree littered the 50 ft high mounds of snow. BUT we figured if the 130+ racers that came through two weeks ago could do it, then by golly so can we! It took two solid hours of huffing and puffing, pushing, sliding, two steps forward-one step back, to travel the half-mile across the avalanche debris but WE WERE VICTORIOUS! The pictures and video really tell the story. (I have to add that once again, we were in grizzly territory -- motivation to keep moving!)

Ford Work Center camp for the night

So yeah, the German would have been right; BUT thanks to our gracious host/hostesses, we were able to reset and reboot with fresh frame of mind and outlook for the ride ahead.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sometimes You're the Cat; Sometimes You're the Litter Box....

Woke up to rain in Fernie; thankful again to Snow Valley Lodge for taking us and our bikes in (last room!). Geared up for the long haul in more rain and mud. Fernie to Loon Lake = 52 miles of slogging. Had the map mentioned that the climb after crossing Elk River was, well INSANE, I might have started hitch-hiking. A mile of 15% grade: Lorne cleaned it, I only pedaled just over half, then pushed, grunted, rested, dubbed the hill new names. We can tell we're already getting stronger. 

Prepping for rain
Camped 1.5 mi off-route at beautiful little Loon Lake. Dry camp, outhouse, no trash - pack it in, pack it out: BUT there were recycling bins (GO CANADA!). We headed to the host site to ask about the water and when we said we would just filter from the lake, she just shuddered and took our container and filled it from her 10 gallon jug. Thank you, Lorraine! 

Rained off and on so we set up camp with an added tarp for some dry space. Yummy freeze-dried camp food. (note: don't buy the curry, unless you LOVE curry, but the herb and garlic mashed potatoes are yummeh!) Woke up in the middle of the night and thought my head was in a microwave with a bag of popcorn at full pop; the rain was coming down so hard!
Rainbow at Loon Lake
Charging station -keeping dry
 Makin' a run for the border!
Geared up to a clearing sky this morning (Sunday) and started the push to Grave Creek Campground.
Made it to the US/Canada border at about 11:00 unscathed and dry, but within 10 minutes of the border crossing we were drenched. (note again: if it's sprinkling, don't wait. Put on the rain gear.NOW) Just about 1/2 mile from Grave Creek Campground - home for tonight - and Lorne spots the Homestead Ales Taphouse and Jax Pizza. We had an amazing 2nd breakfast (Hobbit-style) at Cafe Jax in Eureka, Montana, so we had to stop again. I know, this isn't roughing it, but we're going to be TOTALLY off-grid for the next 2-3 days in BEAR COUNTRY. So yeah, I'm enjoying this BBQ chicken pizza, greek salad, and genuine ginger ale (Lorne has the other kind of Ale).

L & Mel @ Loon Lake
More whip cream?
Thanks for following and sharing our adventures! "See" you in a few days :)

Peace & Love,
Melani & Lorne

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sushi & Beer? Elkford to Fernie

Not many pictures today on account of the rain. rain. rain. Headwind. Rain. Did I mention wind and rain? Lorne was a stud and took over in the lead, breaking wind in front of me. I mean, breaking the wind in front of me. It was a little disappointing having some gorgeous vistas and downhill ahead, yet having to resort to granny gear to push against the headwinds. The rain let up enough for us to stop and chat with an old local who runs a packhorse outfit - he was standing by his gate talking to his herd. Gorgeous mountain horses. As we rode away, they galloped and bucked across the meadow. We called it their "happy dance."

Pulled into Sparwood for lunch and Lorne's sushi radar took us to the Yama 2 Go food truck. Great rolls for lunch. Much thanks to Cam for the tip on a place to stay in Fernie - and for the invite to the party at your restaurant tonight (Yamagoya Sushi in Fernie).

Today's ride was on the "highway", which was pretty busy considering the 4-day Canadian holiday weekend (July 1 is Canada Day, similar to 4th of July in the U.S.). Imagine the rain, and the spray from the cars and logging trucks as they whizzed by. Thank goodness for that rain gear!

Rolled into Fernie and the first thing we see is the Fernie Brewing Company. Of course, we had to stop for Lorne! Peeled off the rain gear, warmed up, and again experienced the finest Canadian hospitality -- worried we weren't going to find a place in town due to the holiday weekend, the manager, Abi, offered to let us camp in her yard if there was "no room at the inn". Hot tub, hot shower, last hotel/real bed for about another week.

Peace & Love,
Lorne & Melani