Fellow Randonneurs from Montana Ken Billingsley from Molt and Karel Stroethoff from Missoula take a well deserved break at the scenic turnout about 3/4's of the way up Virginia City Hill
A few weeks ago I happily announced to fellow Montana Randonneurs Ken Billingsley and Karel Stroethoff that I had received approval for a 200 kilometer route over the Beartooth Highway and invited them to ride it sometime. They both quickly replied that they would be available the weekend of August 15. That date was perfect for me too-so we set the plan in motion. Unfortunately, as the day approached we learned that portions of the Beartooth Highway were torn up for reconstruction. Riding on gravel roads with skinny wheeled road bikes is no fun-doing it at 10,000 feet elevation on an out and back course is even more unappealing. Plan B was to meet up by Three Forks and ride my Search for Plummer's Gold Permanent on Saturday, with Karel staying over to ride my Hollowtop 200 Permanent with me on Sunday.
Ken drove all the way from Molt, MT (just outside of Billings), and Karel drove over from Missoula on Saturday morning. I had it pretty easy driving from Belgrade. We all met a little before 8 a.m. at the Town Pump Truck Stop at I-90 exit 274.
Summer 2009 in Montana came late and is apparently leaving early. Thus a mid-August weekend of randonneuring felt more like late September. Temperatures were in the 40's on both mornings and the forecast called for highs barely in the 60's and showers and thunderstorms. Oh well-we reasoned-it was probably better than being too hot.
As with my previous Search for Plummer's Gold rides-wind was a constant nuisance. We had a light headwind into Ennis and a light headwind on the climb over the big hill to Virginia City-a tough climb no matter what. We encountered gusty crosswinds after Twin Bridges and also some sideways drizzle from a rain shower. Fortunately, the wind and rain let up by Silver Star and the rest of the way to Whitehall was much more pleasant and faster. The ride back to Three Forks was a virtual pleasure cruise with a light northwest breeze to help us along. There were still rain showers in the area, but for some lucky reason we managed to miss them.
Traffic was an ever present nuisance-especially on US 287 between Norris and Ennis and again on Highway 55 to Whitehall where the shoulder disappears. But all things considered-and given the forecast-conditions were outstanding.
It was a real thrill for me to ride with Ken and Karel. Both of them are very experienced randonneurs with 6 Paris-Brest-Paris finishes between them (Ken-5 and Karel-1) among a host of other epic rides. They're both great resources for me as I hope to do the big ride in France in 2011 along with them.
Karel on the Hollowtop 200's home stretch
After the ride Ken bid us goodbye from Three Forks, but Karel stayed at my house on Saturday night as we planned to ride my Hollowtop 200 Permanent on Sunday.
I haven't done back-to-back long rides since my cross state tour in 2007 so I was curious to see how I would react. I'm hoping these rides will help train me up for an upcoming 600k brevet (372 miles with a 40 hour time limit) out of Centralia, Washington in two weeks.
Karel and I started off from the Town Pump in downtown Belgrade at 7:15 a.m. It was a little over 40 degrees and very cloudy. We could see rain showers out west where we were headed. We also picked up a light headwind that gained strength as we got closer to Whitehall.
As with yesterday, the rain mostly happened around us, but not on us. After a nice break in Whitehall it even started to warm up a little and we had a tailwind for most of the 23 miles until the junction with US 287 near Harrison.
After a nice lunch break at the C-store in Norris we tackled the final hilly stretch back to Belgrade. Our nice tailwind abandoned us somewhere along the Madison River and a light rain shower came over. I joked to Karel that I could make the rain stop by putting on my jacket-sure enough as I put it on it stopped raining almost immediately. Rain would no longer be a problem, but the gusty winds seemed to come from every direction except behind.
Traffic was also much lighter on Sunday than Saturday. Actually conditions were downright beautiful as we dropped into the Gallatin Valley after Anceney Hill (except for the mis-directed wind).
Fitness wise-this is the best I've ridden all summer. Despite a 273 mile weekend, I had plenty of gas in the tank and never had a bad spell on either ride (the first time that's ever happened for me on a long ride). I was even able to climb the long Anceney Hill, which is near the end of the Hollowtop 200, in my middle chain ring. Normally I'm in my granny gear for most of that hill.
A very special thanks to Ken and Karel for driving all the way over to the Gallatin Valley to ride with me. I was honored to have their company on my routes. I look forward to the next opportunity to ride with them-maybe they'll get that paving done on the Beartooth Pass in time yet this summer (if summer doesn't leave us too soon).