Tour Divide – Day 6

Adventure by Bike, Butte, El Mariachi Titanium, GDMBR, Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, Magic Cycles, Montana, Salsa Cycles, The Outdoorsman Bike Shop, Tour Divide

Day 6 – Helena to Butte

After a good nights sleep in the dingy motel downtown Helena we rolled out of town looking for a gas station.  The buildings eventually started thinning out and we were heading up a pretty narrow canyon.  We stopped to ask a city worked if there was anywhere to get food up ahead and they said that we would have to go back to town for that!

Ok, so we were off to a pretty slow start!  Good thing we had only gone a mile or two before we turned around and found ourselves just down the street from our motel at “The Man Store.”  The Man Store was basically a gas station without the gas.  Just junk food and beer.  The stretch ahead had a reputation of being pretty narly with several hike-a-bikes and not many services for a long ways so we stocked up and headed back out of town.  For the second time.

First GDMBR sign!
Another GDMBR sign!
Sean, excited to be leaving another town and heading South!

After climbing some really steep sections of gravel road and getting back up into the mountains and  out of Helena we hit Lava Mountain.  This area is known for rough roads so 4-wheeler trails and some epic hike-a-bikes.  It started off right away by being super steep with tons of roots and rocks.  It was like being back in the mountains of North Carolina.  Trying to pick lines through the technical sections was fun for a little while.  Until my motor ran out of gas.  Then it was back to walking.

Lava Mountain – Steep, roots, rocks and mud are all I can say
What I was hoping would be the top – it rolled on for a while before dropping off so steep I couldn’t even ride the downhills!

Eventually it opened up and the terrain eased and I was able to stay on the bike again.  The area was absolutely beautiful.  And now that my head wasn’t glued to the ground I could enjoy it.

 Coming down off Lava Mountain – The steepness finally eased and we could ride again!

We ripped down some really long and steep sections that seemed like forever, passing a bunch of old mines and mining towns.  Once we hit the little town of Basin, we stopped in for a coke and some chocolate milk and thought about getting something to eat but Butte was so close we just ate some food outside the restaurant, drank our drinks and kept rolling.  The next little bit was supposed to be a gradual uphill along the I-15 corridor to Butte.

The gradual uphill had a couple super steep spots!
Sean rode, I walked
Tunnel #9 – Riding along the I-15 cooridor
We hit the pavement and an incredible side-wind that would sometimes blow you into the road.  Between that and the endless straight-away it seemed that the miles to Butte would never end.
Eventually, we turned onto I-15.  In Montana it’s legal to ride bikes on the Interstate.
Once we hit the top of the gradual climb on I-15 it was an epic long and fairly steep descent into Butte complete with one interchange and a few exit ramps (which seem to take forever when on a bike).  The Outdoorsman, the local bike shop owned by Levi Leipheimer’s brother Rob, was right off the exit ramp.  I stopped in and it was like NASCAR pit row.  They had people to take your bike, put it in a rack, brought you beverages and snacks, told you where you could get pizza or other meals, where the gas station was to restock food and even had a hotel attached to the back of the building for a discounted rate.  One of the workers asked if I needed any work done on my bike and I said I figured it was running pretty good but he offered to clean my drivetrain for free so I said sure!

My rig getting cleaned up – Thanks guys!
Kevin Campagna putting a new rear tire on after limping into town with a torn sidewall from days ago.  I still can’t believe he made it all that way with that thing!
Ron Babington and Nick Legan probably talking smack to each other about who is faster – or maybe not.
Sean Putnam just looking cool.

The weather was looking pretty grim and there was snow in the forecast up in the mountains south of town, the direction we were heading.  The infamous Fleecer Ridge wasn’t too far away and it would surely be snowing up there.  It was only 5:00 and I really wanted to keep pushing on.  I picked up some chain lube and butt butt’r, ordered a pizza and went across the street to the gas station.  My bike was cleaned up and I was ready to go.  Then it started pouring rain. 

One of the biggest challenges for me on the Tour Divide was getting to these towns and starting to drag your feet and look for excuses to stay.  In this case, the weather was pretty bad and I told myself I would just get some good rest and get up super early and roll out.  I always found a way to justify staying.  In the back of my head I always thought about pushing on but I guess it’s my nature to always be on the conservative side and play it safe.  Something I would hope to change if I ever attempt the Divide again.