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I tried to get up and moving early out of Big Fork. I learned that I should’ve packed most of my stuff the night before. Instead I was lazy and left it to the morning. Big Fork is two miles off route, but it’s connected by a nice dirt trail. The town at 6am was dead and it was a damp ride back to the main route. Dreary and cold. In just a short while I’m back on course and pedalin’ south towards Ferndale. There was supposed to be a store in Ferndale, but I didn’t see it so I kept moving. No warm breakfast for me today. Just granola bars and Pop-Tarts.
Just outside of town I started a six-mile climb. Then it was about sixty more miles of dirt with out services. The weather all day would be grey and cool. I didn’t get rained on, but the dirt was still somewhat damp. Good for grip I guess, but some sunshine would’ve gone a long way for my morale. I was alone again and was hoping that someone would either catch me, or I could catch someone. The latter was wishful thinking though.
Riding alone may have been one of the toughest parts of the ride. When you aren’t feeling well, thoughts of dread creep in. Why am I out here? What am I doing? I’m in over my head! Like a slow water leak, the negative thoughts get more and more intense. Slightly lifted when the road tilts downhill, a tailwind pushes you along or some sunshine peeks out from behind the clouds.
To try and stay out of my head I listened to podcasts and music. My podcast of choice was WTF with Marc Maron. He’s a comedian interviewing other comedians. Most of the time it’s funny, occasionally it can get pretty deep. The podcasts are about one hour or so. So I looked at climbs based on podcasts. For example, today was a six mile climb. So I figured that if I averaged 3mph I’d be able to listen to two episodes (give or take) before I hit the summit. That made the time pass much easier. I remember this day’s episodes. Marc Maron interviewed Carlos Mencia and they spoke about his alleged stealing of jokes from other comedians, which he denied. The second episode Marc Maron interviewed comedians that had material stolen from them, then he re-interviewed Carlos Mencia after talking to the other comedians. Bottom line, he takes material, but believes that he’s paid for it. Oh look at that, I’ve made the summit! Awesome! See how that works.
This part of the route was one of my favorites. Also one of the spookiest. This was one of the last sections that went through Grizzly Country. So I was on alert. Riding alone, listening to Marc Maron interview Ben Stiller to keep my mind off of things, but always looking ahead for bears. At one point the road ended and turned into single track through the forest. I remember rounding a corner and a meadow appeared complete with a deer watching me ride though. It was so perfect I felt like I was in Disneyland. You know, when you’re on the train and a new diorama appears. This is what Walt was trying to recreate. Paradise.
Around 2 or 3 pm I finally made it out to the other side. A short pavement connector and then four miles up to Holland Lake and hopefully a hot meal. I didn’t know, but there was a restaurant just a mile or two the opposite direction that many riders ate at. Instead, I pressed on towards the lake. About two miles off course was a campground and the Holland Lake Lodge. I kept my fingers crossed that they would have some food.
As I rode up the owner(?) walked out of an office building. I asked if they were serving food and he said yes, to cyclists. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had missed their lunch hours. However, he was aware of the race, so was cooking for every racer that came in. Awesome! I ordered a burger and a Henry Weinhard’s Orange Cream soda. I learned that there were some riders just about an hour ahead of me. As I finished my meal a group of four riders came in to eat. They must’ve been just about an hour behind me.
It was really nice to talk to other riders. I don’t remember all of their names, but Tom Sap and JP Evans were in the group. I asked if they had seen any bears and one of them did. A grizzly! That kinda freaked me out. Knowing that I’d just ridden through there alone. They were planning to stay the night there and I was tempted to do the same. However, they had already ridden 100 miles, having started farther north than me. I felt like I could go on, so as much as I wanted to stay, I pushed on. Alone again. Damn.
I started the climb out of Holland Lake listening to yet another podcast. I can’t remember who it was right now. Sorry. A rider was coming down the hill towards me. WTF? We stopped and chatted. He said that he’d gone up a ways but saw no tracks. This part of the course was a re-route, but we both had different notes on the route. My notes said to climb, his said to descend. We agreed that we’d prefer to descend so we turned around and headed back towards the pavement. I was told at the Holland Lake Lodge that Seeley Lake was “all downhill from here”. It was about 20 miles of pavement so we headed that way. I quickly learned that it’s never “all downhill from here”. It may be “mostly”, but it’s never “all”.
The ride to Seeley Lake started out uneventful. We rode together for a little while, but I was dropped on the climbs. The climbs that weren’t supposed to be there. To add insult to injury the rain started again. One of those rains where the sun is shining and you don’t know where it’s coming from, but it won’t stop. It wasn’t long before I was drenched, but I didn’t want to stop. I knew I was getting close and decided I’d just get a room again. I got to town at about 8:30pm and headed over to the hardware store for more duct tape and fresh batteries. I saw some other riders at the motel, but they didn’t seem very social, so I grabbed some dinner and retired to my room. Ate my dinner, talked to Serbrina and cleaned up. About 100 miles down for the day. Not too bad.