Monday, May 01, 2006

Day 9 – Clinton, MT to Helena, MT

. Monday, May 01, 2006

Temperature: 45°F to 70°F
Conditions: Rain changing to partly sunny
Wind: SE 6 mph

Ride Info
Altimeter Trip: 3,820 ft
Altimeter Odometer: 24,160 ft
Maximum Speed: 41.5 mph
Average Speed: 17.5 mph
Distance Trip: 96.0 miles
Distance Odometer: 670.0 miles
Elapsed Time: 5 hr 29 min 09 sec

Coach wasn’t kidding when he said there was a chance of rain today. It was coming down cats and dogs. It was fortunate that I was staying in one of the teepees because it didn’t let any rain in. The tents that Wandering Wheels had were kind of old and weren’t very water proof. A lot of people’s stuff got wet even though they had their rain tarps over their tents. It seemed like there were a fair number of people who weren’t prepared for rain in terms of the gear they had. WW was handing out garbage bags for people to wear under their jerseys. I grabbed some plastic bags to wear around my feet.

Being that the temperatures were only in the 40s, my concern was about staying warm. The first layer I wore on my top was one of my tank-top jerseys. Over that, I wore one my long sleeved winter jerseys, and over that, I wore a short-sleeve summer jersey and my arm warmers. To top it all off, I wore my rain jacket. My rain jacket was a “cheaper” rain jacket (not one of those expensive GoreTex ones), but it does a decent job of keeping me dry. On the bottom, I wore my knickers under a pair of tights. I wore a pair of wool socks, the baggies, and my neoprene booties on my feet. I don’t remember if I wore my winter gloves or not.

After everyone ate breakfast and everything was packed on the truck, Coach had us gather inside one of the campground buildings. He gave us encouragement and advice for battling the rain. He said that the WW kitchen would set up shop about 25 miles down the road to offer hot tea and other things to warm us up.

My initial panic quickly changed to excitement once we got on the road. There’s a certain enjoyment that comes with suffering conditions. It wasn’t raining quite so hard once we got going. It didn’t take long before I needed to stop and take off some layers because I was starting to overheat. The temperature was slowly rising and the activity of riding my bike was keeping me adequately warm. I was able to stuff the layers I took off in my back jersey pockets which were now bulging beyond belief. I’m glad WW set up the kitchen where they did. My legs were still feeling sore from yesterday’s ride, and the hot cocoa warmed me right up. The rain had pretty much stopped by the time we left our pitstop. Chip and Jim must have been hurting worse from yesterday’s ride than I was, because I rode the rest of the way into the state capital of Helena by myself.

Even though I loved cranking out the miles, riding in a fast paceline with Chip and Jim, it felt good to be riding by myself again. There were some pretty mean hills to climb on this ride. We would also reach our highest elevation of the trip (6,300 ft) when we crossed over the Continental Divide. The sun started peaking out from behind the clouds about midway through the ride, and it had warmed up considerably from our morning start. Even though I was soaked through, I was glad that I at least stayed warm.

The climb up over the Continental Divide was one of the most challenging climbs to this point of the trip. Miraculously, I must have hit my second wind when I started the climb. Despite yesterday’s suffering and the final tough climb before the big descent into Helena, I felt remarkably fresh. Hell, I had my ass out of the saddle giving it everything I got as if I were in a race. Had a nice descent into Helena. I wish the roads would have been dry so I could have pushed the limits more heading down the twisty-turny descent.

I needed to get something to eat when I pulled into Helena so I found the nearest convenience store. I plopped my tired ass out near the road where I would be able to see the other rides come down the hill and enter town. I waited and waited and waited. It must have been a half hour before other riders finally entered town. Not that I was in a hurry and definitely needed the rest. Once enough people entered town and we had all rested up, we rode together the last couple miles to the YMCA where we were staying.

Boy, was it great staying at a YMCA. First off, awesome showers - hot water, good water pressure. It felt sooooo goooood taking a shower after being in soggy clothes all day. Another cool thing was all the other amenities we took advantage of. Some people were shooting hoops. Me and some others played foozeball for quite a while. There were some televisions as well so it was nice to be able to watch tv too.

After dinner, I went out into the parking lot and worked on getting my bike call cleaned up. Rain really attracts a lot of grit and grime to the drivetrain. The humidity is so low and the sky is so clear, you can see the rain (not the clouds but the actual rain) several miles away. A bunch of us volunteered to prop up all of the foam sleeping pads on the parking lot fences to dry. Tomorrow's ride is to White Sulphur Springs. Coach told us that there is a motel that has a sulphur springs swimming pool and the motel would allow us (for a fee) to use it when we arrive in town.