Trans Am Bike Race Day 7 Report
Friday June 9, 2017: I was up at 6 am which left me plenty of time to sort everything and be downstairs for the hotel breakfast which opened at 6:30 am. I was definitely getting quicker and more efficient in the mornings. Who would have thought? I certainly wouldn’t have, given my procrastination laced mornings of earlier in the race. I was definitely sliding into a routine of sorts. My left knee was a little worse than the day before despite me giving it a good icing overnight but again it wasn’t affecting forward progress on the bike so not even worth thinking about.
The hot buffet breakfast looked really bad which really pissed me off for some reason. Hangryness perhaps. There were breakfast pastries and yogurt but I had a real need for a decent hot breakfast. Should have gone to the Maccas over the road. Sometimes the standardised devil you know is the better course of action.
Not really in a mood for conversation I was of course engaged in conversation with the only other person in the breakfast room. A nice bloke though, a motorcyclist who was part of a large group of bikers who were road tripping around Montana. I would meet and see a lot of bikers on route and couldn’t help but feel a real sense of kindred spirit. Cut from the same cloth in essence although their’s took the form of dark leather and mine, multi-colored lycra. Our “uniforms” belied different worlds but our attitudes couldn’t be more in sync, a shared love of the open road, fresh air, and grand adventure.
I wished my new biker mate all the best on his travels and made ready to leave. Whilst wheeling my bike past reception I noticed a Trans Am Racer cap on the counter with a yellow post-it note attached to it. “JJ Simon” it read…..mmmm I wonder who that is?
Bike Path Out of Lolo
I was on the bike at 7:11 am heading out of Lolo on US Route 93. It was a very busy road and with some relief I joined a bike path that popped up not long out of town. It really is amazing how much you can relax when you can switch off to vehicle traffic.
My wife called me to wish me well for the day and reminded me that it was our eldest son Max’s Pre K graduation ceremony that day. A big day which I knew I was going to miss before the race but hearing about it at that moment really brought into sharp focus how much I missed my family. I was so proud of our little champ and just wanted to be there to give him a big hug but obviously, that was far from possible. I had been away from them for over a week and still had more than 5,000 kilometers to peddle before I would see them again in Yorktown.
What the f*ck was I doing. The isolation and the sheer enormity of the task at hand really seemed to hit home and my mood took a turn for the sad.
But not for long.
My mate Scotty called. Given my mood, I wasn’t going to answer but was glad that I did. He’d been looking ahead at the route and informed me that I was getting close to Yellowstone National Park, only about 2 days away at my current rate of progress. He was genuinely excited for me and I couldn’t help but smile. Yeah, I was by myself and weeks of hardcore peddling from home but I had his support and that of many other friends and family.
Besides I was getting close to Yellowstone National Park one of the Seven Natural Wonders of North America and I would be riding through it on my bike…….Giddyup!
1st Dotwatcher Sighting: Roger DiBrito
My desire for real food from earlier in the morning had not let up and so only an hour or so into my day I stopped at a Subway on the outskirts of Stevensville for a 6-inch sub and a juice
I was sitting out the front enjoying my second breakfast and warming up in the morning sun when all of a sudden a van came roaring into the almost deserted carpark and came to a screeching halt just meters from where I was sitting. Out jumped the driver, who proceeded to frantically unload a bike from the back of the van and quickly peddle off in the direction I had come.
Strange yeah but I really thought nothing more of it.
About 5 minutes later he was back and his attention turned to me. “Mark Croker” he said. It was more a statement than a question……..WTF?!
Turns out he was Roger DiBrito, a local retired Phys Ed teacher and avid Trans Am Dot Watcher who was interviewing as many racers as he could as they rode through the area. He had been watching my Tracker and had not realised initially that I was actually meters from where he had parked his van.
He commenced his interview but before he had finished the first question he spied another racer on the bike path and was off……yep, just like that!
All was made right further down the road however where Roger was waiting for me. He rode alongside me for a while, asking his questions and filming me. Quite a skillful effort on his part. No doubt he had had plenty of practice.
It was really nice chatting with him and served as another reminder that I was not alone out there.
(Hey Roger, if you’re out there mate and have the original video you took of me, I’d love a copy please?!)
My chat with Roger had really buoyed my mood and energy levels so I put the hammer down for the next few hours to Darby where I stopped at a Conoco Gas Station for food and drink.
I had phone reception so checked Trackleaders whilst I was munching on an early lunch of delicious pulled pork sandwiches. I noticed that there were are few other racers in town and a couple more not far down the road so I ate quickly thinking it would be a great opportunity to ride the feel-good wave and jump a few places in the race.
I chatted briefly with a lady and her two daughters who had seen a few Trans Am Racers come through town that week and wanted to know what it was all about. They were absolutely incredulous that such a race existed and wished me all the best.
I Met Sula from Seattle in Sula, Montana
30 kilometers down the road I stopped briefly at a gas station in the tiny little town of Sula to top up my water bottles which I had ridiculously forgotten to do in Darby. John Richardson was just pulling out as I arrived and Kevin McClain was donning his wet weather gear making ready to head off.
Inside the gas station I met a lovely couple who were on a road trip from Seattle, Washington to Sula Montana and back. It turns out that the lady was called Sula and on a whim they were doing the almost 2,000km round trip to pick up some merchandise with Sula on it.
People eh! Adventure comes in all shapes and sizes.
These guys were also just so interested and in awe of the Trans Am. The bloke wanted to help me in some way and went to his car to retrieve a white chocolate Snickers bar that they had got on a recent cruise. The exchange was quite ceremonial and he took great pleasure in explaining how rare this type of Snickers bar was.
Tasty too as I was to find out not long after!
Lost Trail Pass
The 13 kilometer climb up Lost Trail Pass on US Route 93 starts pretty much immediately past Sula.
I was feeling really strong and before too long pasted Kevin and then John a bit further up. It was on this climb that I really noticed how my climbing was improving. My only competitive cycling outlet to date had been a half dozen or so Sportives on which I could hold my own on the flats but would get destroyed on the hills. Granted an extremely different event and circumstances but here on the Trans Am I was starting to pass people on the hills.
It was a nice feeling actually seeing my increasing fitness and improving climbing ability.
A quick word of WARNING to those future Trans Am participants. At the summit of Lost Trail Pass it is extremely easy to continue on down the rather enticing looking descent on US Route 93 and miss the left turn onto Highway 45. You could quite easily be 10 to 15 km down the hill before you even realised the error. It almost happened to me.
Big Hole, Montana
After a 15 kilometer descent from the summit of Lost Trail Pass through relatively thick bush and forest the scenery just opened up into this massive valley. Big Hole, Montana.
Wow! Just Wow!
The scenery was simply awesome. Hard to put into words. A treeless valley that would have gone on forever if it wasn’t for snowcapped mountains that kept it prisoner on all sides. Low and fast moving dark clouds added a sense of foreboding to the scene as did the drop in temperature.
I had a visceral reaction to the Big Hole which I will never forget.
I took a few photos but they just can’t do the scenery justice:
Jackson to Dillon
I had not even been in the valley for 2 hours, yet I was feeling very alone in the wide open expanse. Literally no sign of life. The tiny little town of Jackson was thus an extremely welcome sight when I rolled in just before 6 pm as was the friendly face of John Egbers who was out front of the Jackson Mercantile getting ready to hit the road.
There was a fire on inside and the coziness of the restaurant had an instant impact on my appetite. I grabbed a seat at the bar and ordered what turned out to be a massive plate of homestyle chicken Fajitas. A beer or three would have been the perfect accompaniment but I resisted the temptation knowing that I still had a good 80 kilometers still to peddle to reach Dillon, my final destination for the day.
I was back on the bike at 7 pm having stayed in the warmth and comfort a lot longer than planned. It was noticeably colder and windier outside and with gritted teeth picked up my bike that had blown over and headed off with a sense of ‘this next bit is gonna suck!’
Which it probably would have if it wasn’t for the company of racer Chris Owen, from Michigan who seemingly appeared out of nowhere as I was battling away up Big Hole Pass. We chatted pretty much the entire 2.5 hours to Dillon which made the time go a shedload quicker and easier than it otherwise would have. A lovely bloke is Chris, his Facebook bio gives a slight insight into his character; “Adventure Addict. Ultra-Endurance Athlete. Life Enthusiast. And Prolific Doodler.”
We finally got into Dillon at around 10:30 pm and each got a room at the Super 8 on the far side of the University town.
Another big day which signaled the end of my first week on the road. 1,811 kilometers in the bag with only another 4,919 still to go!
Day 7 Territory Covered and Stats
3D overview of Day 7
2D overview from Strava:
- Distance = 283km
- Cycling (ie moving) Time = 12 hours
- Stopped Time = 3 hours 8 minutes
- Elevation = 2,152m
- Money Spent = $131 ($41 on food, $90 on accommodation)
Keep reading…..Day 8.
JJ SimonPosted at 09:20h, 23 October
Another good read Mark. 20 days to go. Yikes.
Mark CrokerPosted at 10:28h, 23 October
Thanks mate. Yep, only another 30,000 words…