I have to go back to Strava at this point to look at the days location before writing. It all comes back to me immediately, once I see the towns and the route. Day 4 ended towards the top of Lolo Pass, up at the Lochsa Lodge.
The morning of day 5: today was the first day it felt like someone hit me with a sledgehammer as I got out of bed. I mean I was stumbling to catch my balance and stay upright. I slept later this morning- maybe until 5:45... This lodge has a shower facility but honestly I'm too tired to try and figure out which of the buildings it is. There's no signs on any of these small buildings, and there's about 20 of them sprinkled around- everything looks the same except the restaurant. No energy to try and read a map that isn't a route map, or talk to strangers. The main focus is food, and immediately. This place has a restaurant, and it opens at 6:30.
It's probably worth talking a little about my wardrobe choices at this point. The only piece of non-bike clothing i have with me is a pair of running shorts. No sandals or regular t-shirts. In order to go anywhere I have to wear my bike shoes. They're mountain bike shoes, which make them easier to walk in, but they are still bike shoes. So to stumble over to the building with breakfast, it's mountain bike shoes, running shorts and a dirty yellow cycling jacket. I look like something from Mugatu's Derelicte campaign.
Breakfast is quiet- it's a large hunting cabin type feel and I'm the only one there. I order a few meals and the Hippy stumbles in. He's a few tables away, and i'm surprised to see him at the top of Lolo pass this early. I stop over on my way out and we chat for just a minute. He mentions sleeping in that shitter that I was eyeballing last night. Lovely.
If you haven't been able to tell yet, I've made a decision to continue with the hotels. Those first two nights were rough sleep- I just can't get any good sleep in a bivy, or the hard floor of the church... and if I want to continue pushing out these kind of miles each day, every bit of good sleep is needed. I begin to realize that most of the leaders are doing this (when they decide to sleep), and I'm kicking myself a bit for packing such a large sleeping setup... that I won't use again for a while. I try to remind myself that it's good for emergencies, and there's still a lot of remote riding ahead.
I roll out of the Lochsa Lodge somewhere around 7:30- a pretty late start. I'm beginning to think of a plan- 3 large days, 1 shorter day type riding strategy. We'll see. Hell, this whole thing is just shooting from the hip. Plans will certainly change again several times.
It's still a short climb from the lodge to the top of the pass, where we enter into Montana! New state, new attitude.
A nice gradual descent begins into the Lolo area, where we turn south and pick up a small but solid tail wind. The road is pretty busy, and there is a consistent bike path that's calling my name...but it meanders and has plenty of driveway crossings. Do I take the road with the straightest line, but with traffic and possible flat tires, or be safe and lose a little time on the bike path? I end up doing both- changing back and forth as I can't make up my mind (small decisions like this are becoming more drawn out). The bike path bites back- a huge sharp lip in the concrete comes up out of nowhere- not enough time to stop and I attempt a sad excuse for a bunny hop, on a fully loaded bike. Doesn't end well, and I slap the rear rim right on the sharp edge. POP! The only spare I have left is the slow leak tube that I changed the day before. I do have some patches, but I found that when your tire is slicked with leftover sealant, it's pretty damn hard to find your leak or to get a patch to stick. I put the tube in (I have no choice), pump it up and see how it holds. It's holding.. a bit. I ride for about 3 mins, pull over, pump, repeat. I just need to get 12 miles into Hamilton. I've called a bike shop there who confirms having some 80mm tubes.
I finally make it into the shop, and am greeted by the shop owners. There's a few things I didn't like about racing, and one of which was the continued rush you were in when meeting cool people or being in bike shops. You should never be rushed in a bike shop. I was tired, pretty frustrated with the flats and wanting to keep moving fast. It's just not the right attitude to have when coming across cool people. If anyone is reading this and knows the good folks that own the bike shop in Hamilton, please pass along my apologies for likely being short and probably rude.
Must keep moving. Irritation with time off the bike is growing. I remind myself that I still need to get some food in Hamilton before pushing out of town- I'm about to head back out into the middle of nowhere. Mexican hits the spot, with about 3 cokes. There are limited times in your life when you can chug 40 oz of coke and feel "even".
Food is in the belly and with a slight tail wind it's back into the mountains. Chief Joseph Pass isn't necessarily difficult, but it's a consistent 5-7% grade for 7 miles. It's remote, with little traffic. The bigger issue is the thunder rumbling in the distance. I push a little to get over the pass and barrel down into Wisdom. Several racers missed the turn off Chief Joseph pass towards Wisdom, which honestly I don't see how. Either GPS failure of just really beginning to drift off at this stage of the race. The storm is only a few miles away- I can see it moving in over this vast prairie in the middle of the ranges- it's almost as we're both racing to see who makes it to Wisdom first.
Wisdom is a one street town, and luckily I catch a local bar that is still open and willing to make me a few cold cuts. While the bartender makes the sandwiches, I do get a chance to chat with some locals. It's always fun to see the awe come over their faces as you explain what you're doing.
I take them all to go and pedal down to the only motel in town (i think it had a total of 5 rooms). I'm lucky to nab a room- Dave is also there for the night. I rush to the room right before the storm hits. Let's hope for more miles tomorrow.