Yes, we did go out in the midday sun today, and it was HOT, HOT, HOT…
It was a challenging 70-mile ride from our beautiful B&B just outside Darby, MT, over the 7,241 ft Chief Joseph Pass (dedicated to Little Fella) to Jackson Hot Springs, MT. After a stunning, and extremely filling breakfast, we were in no rush to get on the road. So, although we knew that it would be a long ride, it was around 11.30am by the time we finally had the wheels rolling. And the sun was most definitely high in the sky.
After a quick stop at the post office in nearby Conner to send home a bit of excess baggage, we got moving at a fair clip, and soon started climbing. But there was only a light breeze, the road was open (no shade) and the sun was beating down on us. Now, far be it for us to complain about it being too hot, we’re not. No complaints here, but we did have to take our cycle helmets off for the climb and there was an awful lot of perspiration involved before we finally reached the top. The views on the way were amazing (yet again – we’re loving Montana), and before we knew it we were on the way back down in a gentle descent, but only a fraction of the height that we had climbed (see cycle log for the profile – we ended for the day at 6,500 ft, 2,500ft higher than the start point).
Time was marching on as we finally pulled into the small town of Wisdom… the only stop on the route for many many miles… with empty water bottles. Although the store had a sign saying that it closed at 6pm (we rolled up around 6.10pm), luckily, the lady who was closing up for the night took pity on us and let us buy a couple of bottles of Powerade…phew. But we still had another 18-miles to go, and 500ft to climb, and our 8.30pm dinner reservation was looking a little tight to say the least. With no cell-phone reception, we had no option but just to power on.
The next few miles were entertaining indeed. As the sun was dropping in the sky, the mosquitoes came out in force. Not only did they fly straight into our faces, mouths, noses, ears etc etc as we cycled along but, when we stopped to take a quick photo (some of them are too good to miss, no matter how late you are), we got bitten to death…Kat counted 16 bites tonight, and nearly all of them were through our cycling clothes!
We also had an amazing day in terms of wildlife spots… first, a WOLF (yes, a real one this time), crossing the road just a little ahead of us. Eak squeak. Then a coyote, sprinting across the road en route to chase some baby cows. As usual, we saw plenty of fabulous looking birds, and even managed to snap a pic of the yellow-headed blackbird, and a mystery bird (see photos). In preparation for Yellowstone, we also happened to notice, as we stopped for the photo, that there were bear tracks in the sand next to the road, that went on for quite some way but, thankfully, were going in the opposite direction to us (otherwise it would have been a double eak-squeak).
Somehow, against all the odds, and a fair headwind, we made it to Jackson before 8pm, with time to get showered before hitting the restaurant. While eating dinner, we were lucky enough to meet the owners/managers and some of their family and friends, who were on the table next to us. We had an entertaining chat about the World Cup, and Anthony was overjoyed to find someone to talk with about F1 …thanks Andre! A big hello to Andre, Piet, Jill, Denise and Kevin. While sipping our drinks courtesy of Denise in the bar after dinner, we also met Terry and Jesse, on a bird-watching tour around Montana, and had a great chat with them…we’re sure they’ve found a lot to see (we should have asked them about the mystery-bird). And a further “hi” to Bob the chef and our waitress, Whittney. Whittney has lived in rural Montana all her life, getting up at 5am in the morning to get to school and, wait for it, has never seen the Ocean. We feel awful for her, as we just can’t imagine not having experienced the wonderful, uplifting feeling of being near the sea/ocean, and we really hope that she gets an opportunity to put this right soon.
A shorter ride tomorrow, thank heavens, since we are shattered already, and we still have 3 days to go until our next rest day.
P.S. Sorry for late posting – no internet access last night.