Greg Courtney of Ames, Iowa stopping for a photo op along the Madison River
On July 3, 2009 I rode my Hollowtop 200 Permanent for the second time this year and the third time overall. But this ride was special because I was joined by Greg Courtney from Ames, Iowa. I rode with Greg on my first ever randonneuring event, the St. Anthony Sand Dunes 200k Brevet, out of Driggs, Idaho in May of 2008. We've managed to keep in touch over the year via email and a few months ago Greg contacted me and said he was going to be in Bozeman visiting relatives and was interested in riding one of my permanents. More recently, Greg finished the Shenendoah 1200k Randonnee-coming out of that with a sore achilles. Given that we decided on my most "mellow" ride-the Hollowtop 200. Plans came together, Greg made it to Bozeman, and I had the day off on the Friday before the 4th of July, so we set up a start time of 7:00 a.m.
Greg is the first person, other than myself, to ride one of my permanents. I was very excited and interested to get another randonneur's perspective on the route.
The weather forecast was a little concerning. Our wet spring has extended into summer. The forcast was for a relatively unstable weekend with a good chance of thunderstorms most of the day. As I was getting ready to leave my house the sky was cloudy and some light sprinkles were dampening the pavement.
Between Three Forks and Sappington Junction we encountered a rain shower and there were more black clouds all around. The clouds also obscured the route's namesake Hollowtop Mountain. We broke through the rain shower in Jefferson Canyon and suddenly blue sky and pleasant temps took over. It was a nice 70 degrees in Whitehall.
Rain no longer seemed to be a concern, but the wind was kicking up as we left Whitehall and headed over Highway 359. I was definitely feeling the wind's effects. Fortunately for me, Greg wanted to stop several times to take pictures-I was grateful for the little rest breaks. Other than the wind, it was really turning into a nice day-except the clouds partially obscured Hollowtop and the rest of the Tobacco Root Mountains most of the day.
A major theme of the day was traffic. When I did this ride in April-before tourist season-I had very little traffic. Today-the day before the 4th of July-traffic was quite busy. We must have been passed by 100 horse trailers-probably due to the big rodeo in Ennis. But other than the constant annoyance we didn't have any major trouble. The cool weather did keep the drunk rafters coming from the Madison to a minimum.
We had a few sprinkles in Norris as we took a little lunch stop. I was sure the rain would follow us through Bear Trap Canyon along the Madison-as it tends to do-so I put on my jacket. My thought was if I put on my jacket-it won't rain. That seemed to work! About five miles down the road I was peeling it off-getting wetter on the inside from sweat than on the outside from rain.
We had cross headwinds the rest of the way until we dropped into the Gallatin Valley after Anceny Hill. I struggled mightily with these winds as I watched Greg ride off into the horizon. Thankfully-he was always at the top of the hill waiting for me and taking pictures. For some reason this season I've struggled with hills more so than in the past-I'm not sure why. With hills and wind I slow to a crawl. I suppose being 6'5" and relatively unflexible, I have the aerodynamics of a barn door.
Greg rode magnificently. His recent completions of extremely tough 600k and 1200k rides have him in great form. He was fun to draft with on the flatter sections of the course where I could hang on.
The mostly downhill glide back to Belgrade on the last 20 miles was fun and fast and we finished the ride in a respectable 8 hours and 30 minutes.
Greg made my day when he told me this was the most scenic permanent he's ridden. It sure was fun having his company on the ride. Other than the traffic and the wind it was a perfect day.