Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I'm happy and proud to report that I successfully rode my Search for Plummer's Gold 237km Permanent on October 19, 2008 and my Martinsdale Mail Run 300km Permanent one week later on October 26, 2008. In the process I learned a lot about my own abilities, equipment, and especially riding at night. My main inspiration for doing these rides despite the lateness of the season was the use of a Garmin GPS unit loaned to me to map rides for Bicycling Magazine's Rides Website. The results of the mapping with route info and photos are at the links below:
Search for Plummer's Gold
Martinsdale Mail Run
Search for Plummer's Gold
I started this ride at 10:00 a.m.-a bit of a late start, but I wanted to make sure I was in good weather and any ice and snow which had accumulated in the last few days at higher elevations had a chance to clear. The temps were cool, but the sun was bright and the clouds from the previous days were moving out. The mountains were blanketed with a fresh layer of white snow and the bright sunlight lit them up magnificantly.
The first 60 miles of the ride are dominated by three climbs: Harrison Hill, Norris Hill, and Virginia City Hill. I've had previous experience with the first two, but I had only ever driven over Virginia City Hill in a car. It's substancially longer than Norris Hill and just as steep. I got into my first checkpoint in Ennis in good time and fueled up for the big climb. With the sun bouncing off the bare hillside I actually started to overheat at the foot of the climb and had to shed a layer. Half-way up I stopped at a scenic turnout and shed some more. I also snapped a picture of the Madison Valley highlighting what a spectacular day it was.
The rest of the ride flattens out, but I had to deal with steady headwinds all the way to Whitehall so I was slow. Though I was well within the randonneuring time window, I was going to be out later than I ever had been before. The ride through the canyon along the Jefferson between Cardwell and Sappington Junction was very quiet, with only one or two cars passing me. It was also moonless and very, very dark. The payoff was an incredible display of stars overhead. Once I got used to the darkness and trusted my lights, I was fine and rather enjoyed the solitude. The last 11 miles to Three Forks was a little more busy as US 287 is being used as a detour for trucks while US 191 through Gallatin Canyon is under construction. I had no trouble though as my lights and reflectors did their jobs-and the trucks gave me lots of room when they passed. I got into the start/finish at the Three Forks Town Pump at about 10:30 p.m.-tired, but happy.
Martinsdale Mail Run
I approached this ride with some trepidation. The weather forcast was dry, but high temps were expected to only get into the high 40's. It was also the first day of hunting season so I knew there would be a lot of guys running around in big four wheel drive pickups who may not be super tolerant of cyclists (yeah I admit I'm stereotyping a bit here).
I set off from Bozeman a little after 6:00 a.m. and headed up Bridger Canyon. It was dark and as expected I was passed by a steady stream of pickups loaded with hunters. But the traffic was all going in the same direction, and without exception everyone gave me a wide berth as they passed. I have found that motorists generally give me way more room when passing me at night. Dawn came quickly as I made my way through the canyon. The sun was bright, but the air was not warming up very fast. I had a freezing descent into the Shields River Valley. Temps in Wilsall were under 20 degrees and the bottles in my frame cages were frozen solid! Fortunately, a reserve bottle in my Carradice bag was still liquid.
As expected, I had headwinds from Wilsall to Ringling. Most of this stretch is uphill so it was slow. The ride to Martinsdale on Highway 294 was fun. After an uphill five miles it was a steady downhill with light tailwinds all the way to the town. Mom, Brenda, Jackson, and our dog Ernie met me in Martinsdale for lunch at the Crazy Mountain Inn. I was in no hurry and ended up staying for an hour-and-a-half. The ride back towards Ringling was slow with uphill and headwinds, and faster to Wilsall with more favorable grades and light tailwinds (the wind died to nothing at sunset). I got into Wilsall with plenty of time to stop for soup and coffee at the Wilsall Bar and Cafe. The folks there were very friendly and their soup really recharged my batteries. After Wilsall the temps dropped into the mid-20's while the stars came out. I was well within the time limit and not in a hurry. The bottle in my bottle cage froze again going over Battle Ridge Pass, but I had another in my bag that didn't freeze so I was fine. I made it back to Bozeman at 11:45-a little chilled but feeling fine and elated.