Day 13 Harlowton to Billings Mt. 91.2 Miles

Cycling in The Big Ride Across America – Gentle Flat land on top of Montana’s  mountain range

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Barren Range Land along the Musselshel River Valley
Becca on the Big Ride
Flat tires are part of the process – another wire from exploded radial scraps
Lavina
Charles from VeloSante supports a Lunch stop in the tiny town of Lavina
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Lavina in Golden Valley County. Population was 175.   The town is situated on the north bank of the Musselshell River. Area: 1 sq mile.
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Deadman’s Basin – Flat Barren Land

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The Big Ride Across America - Barren Range Land
The Big Ride Across America – Not a lot of people around these parts!
Looking down into Billings as we head to Montana State for a rest day on Day 14.
Looking down into Billings as we head to Montana State for a rest day on Day 14.
Getting Ready to Descend the Mountain
Getting Ready to Descend the Mountain into the town of Billings, Mt.
Prarie dog family checking out our bicycles
Prarie dog family checking out our bicycles

Day 12 Townsend to Harlowton – 99.4 miles

Day 12 Townsend to Harlowton 99.4 miles - Through the heart of Montana
The route was gentle rolling hills with epic views of the sky and flat-lands on top of the mountains.

Through the Helena National Forest we head east on Route 12 up and down several mountains that were gentle enough to be called rolling hills. The trip traveled through White Sulfur Springs, a town with flowing hot springs. The water was very hot to the touch and smelled like rotten eggs. It was exciting to see this natural water coming from springs on the land with a rapid flow. The locals capture the water for sulfur swimming and hot tubs.

Breakfast was at the Mint in Townsend, Mt.
Breakfast was at the Mint in Townsend, Mt.
Sunrise cycling
Another glorious sunrise as we take off at 6 am.
How does rock like this form in nature?
How does rock like this form in nature?
Montana farm
Old McDonald had a farm

 

Day 11 Avon to Townsend 60.8 Miles – Through the Continental Divide

Lewis and Clark County
Lewis and Clark County, The Continental Divide where the water to the east runs to the Mississippi and water to the West runs into the Pacific.

Today’s Bicycle Ride took us up into the Northern Rocky Mountains through the McDonald Pass where we climbed to an elevation of 6325 feet in the rain.

Aero Tech Rain Jacket
McDonald Pass cycling in Montana
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Avon, Montana

We started the day in pouring rain, although we stayed dry and comfortable with our Switchback Safety Yellow Illuminite Reflective Rain Jacket.  We were kept warm and dry with these highly visible cycling jackets.

The climb up was smooth as silk with a nice shoulder and minimal traffic. The climb was slow and steady. When we reached the top, the temperature was in the 30’s, and there was snow nearby. We could see our breath as we spoke. Our feet and gloves were soaking wet from the morning rain so we got cold as soon as we stopped climbing. It was 4 miles of climbing to reach the summit then we descended the other side enjoying a 12 mile descent that started out very steep with lots of wide curves.

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Almost to the top…elevation 6356 feet.

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antelope

At the end of the day, we had dinner at the local bar and grill.  We had spaghetti and meatballs to carbo load for our 100 mile bike ride tomorrow.  Thanks for the Hospitality Townsend, Montana.

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Day 10 Missoula to Avon, Montana 98.6 Miles

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Up and into the Rocky Mountains.

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We left the University of Montana and our dorm rooms, started the day out on a bike trail which led to SR 200 where we headed east out of the city of Missoula and up into the Rocky Mountain ranges.  As we traveled up and into the mountains,  there were vast pastures and grass fields.  The Montana Cattlemen keep their cows happy with green grass and lush pastures to graze.  We continued eastward on US route 12 towards Helena where we looked for the Avon Cafe. The local ladies were gracious to our Big Ride participants, they served us a wild caught salmon dinner,  with home made mashed potatoes and several types of pie for dessert.  It was a wonderful home-style dinner that was much appreciated by all in attendance.

The rain started early evening, with more rain and lightning forecast for the next two days.  The night is all about preparing for a big climb through McDonalds Pass the next day.  The group is all happy about the great cycling experience each day has to offer.  I am very happy to be alive, feeling strong, and taking in the sights of America – on this Big Ride.

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Camp for the night was at a pleasant indoor campground where we bunked in little cottages for the night.

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My Electric Bicycle – Touring Coast to Coast

Everyone wants to know about the electric bike…

I am probably the first woman to ride an e-bike coast to coast.   I absolutely love the electric bike.  The Pedego Interceptor bike is the most wonderful bicycle I have ever ridden. People ask me why?  Well, most people have never ridden one, so they don’t know what they don’t know.  To shed some light on why the e-bke… there are some details below.

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I have been an avid cyclist since age 12 when I rode my brother’s spider bike at Girl Scout Camp for bicycle touring in 1968.  I remember while cycling…this is what “happy” feels like.  This is where I fell in love with cycling.  I love to ride because it makes me happy.  I have bicycle toured all through Europe.  I have done several long tours, the longest from Tampa up the east coast to the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  While riding all my life, I have slowly given in to the inevitable – old age.  I have three adult children, and have retired from my job as a school teacher.  As an old lady, the e-bike has breathed new life into my cycling aspirations.  I can keep up with my husband.

The e-bike is a great equalizer, we ride at his pace and he never has to wait for me at the top of the hills or when he has a burst of speed.  I am always there.  We both love it!!  At big rides, I love being the old lady who passes all the racer dudes.  Ha Hah!  We all want to be the fastest, the stronger rider in the group…right?  It is the cheater method to speed.  It is thrills-ville for me.  My husband thinks it is the transportation of the future.  Efficient, fun, and fast.  My husband said “It is the renewable transportation alternative” he thinks the e-bike is fantastic and is just as thrilled as I am.  It is a transportation alternative for people who live in hilly cycling areas (like my home Pittsburgh – in the Allegheny mountains).   What is the carbon footprint?  I will have to find this answer, but I know it is low-maintenance and designed with options like pedal assist and hand throttle – both of which are good for different purposes.

I own many bikes:

  1. 1974 Schwinn Varsity
  2. 1978 Schwinn Paramount (SECOND BEST EVER)
  3. 1979 Schwinn LeTour
  4. 1981 Terry Precision Road Bike
  5. 1984 Nashbar Mountain Bike
  6. 1992 Nishicki Tandem
  7. 1996 Specialized MTB Tandem
  8. 1999 Giant Cruiser
  9. 2009 Powabike 1 & 2 (first e-bikes)
  10. 2011 Crappy e-bike
  11. 2012 Pedego Interceptor – Orange
  12. 2014 Pedego Interceptor – Fluorescent Orange  (BEST EVER)

For the Big Ride Across America, I am set up to carry 3 batteries with me on the bike.  I am averaging about 45 to 60 miles per battery depending on the terrain and mileage.  In all I have only ever used the 3rd battery once for a night time ride while the other two were charging.

The Big Ride Across America - Three Batteries
The Big Ride Across America – Three Batteries

The battery:

  1. Volts:  48
  2. Type:  Lithium Ion
  3. Weight:  about 8 pounds
  4. AMP Hours:
  5. Watt Hours:
  6. Top Speed:  25 (cuts out at 25)
  7. Avg Speed:  13-17  depends on terrain and ride partners
  8. Range:  40 – 60 miles
Nightly Re-charge
Nightly Re-charge

The battery takes a long time to charge when fully discharged – about 8 hours or less.  On this Coast-to-coast bicycle tour, I carry three batteries and have only needed two.   With each day being between 85 – 100 miles, it is important to both my husband and I that we are self-sufficient and try to carry what we will need for the entire day.  We chose Ortlieb waterproof panniers to carry the two extra batteries.

Controler - MPH, Mileage and Mode (pedal assist levels 1-5)
Controller – MPH, Mileage and Mode (pedal assist levels 1-5)

To ride an e-bike requires a certain amount of cycling skill.  The throttle is the easy way to get started on an e-bike it is pretty much like you would imagine.  You pull the throttle and the bike moves forward.  It could be a lot of work to pedal the heavy bike from place to place.  The throttle helps you catch up, gives you a boost up the hill and makes multilevel terrain more tolerable.

The pedal assist setting on the controller is another story.   I have had pedal assist on a previous bike, but never really liked it till now.  I was surprised how much I like the Pedego power-assist setting.  My husband (riding partner) really likes the pedal assist because I can pace him and a steady speed and cut the headwinds with my upright position and create a vacuum behind me for him to ride with ease.  He also can help me control the level of pedal assist between levels 1, 2 and 3 depending on how fast he wants to ride.  Level 1 is about 8 mph (up steep hills), Level 2 is about 14 mph for flats, Level 3 is about 17-18 mph and good for pace-lines and tailwinds.  He sets the pace and lets me know when to pace him at a higher or lower level of assist.  I can pull the front for most of the ride and push a higher speed than we might otherwise ride.  The pedal assist is very steady and wonderful for pulling through a headwind.  It is heavenly!

Motor and Cog set
Pedego Interceptor motor and cog set

The front and back wheels have disk brakes which may get a little squeaky, I keep them clean with an alcohol wipe that helps keep the squeaking to a minimum.  The brakes are very responsive and soft, as we descend some of these mountains.  It has 7 speeds which pretty much meets most of my needs, I guess I would prefer a double chain ring in the front for a greater range but that isn’t an option right now.   I haven’t found a hill I couldn’t climb with the range of gears on hand so I am very satisfied with the components.  I replaced the click shift on the second day of the tour with a Shimano click shifter because I dropped the bike and broke the plastic parts inside the original click-shift component.  I have been cleaning the chain weekly and have had no trouble with the components.

I would like to apologize in advance to all of you cycling “purists” who fight against the e-bike.  I know the hard-core bicycle industry people are having a hard time advancing this type of bike.  Just know that for me, it is the ideal situation to get me back on the road, having lots of fun.  Thanks Pedego for making it possible for me to ride my bicycle across America!

This is me…in control…yay!

My Control Panel
My Control Panel

 

Day 8 Thompson Falls to Missoula, Montana 102 miles

Pedaled out of Thompson Falls fully carbo loaded with Minnie’s Mountain Cafe’s giant breakfast.  We started our journey out of town with a wild life warning to watch for Jackalope and Moose crossing.

SAM_1890We traveled through the state of Montana with the epic views of ice capped mountains that got closer and closer as we road up and into the Rocky Mountains.

 

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4 1/2 mile climb up to the Flathead Indian Reservation

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At mile 97, we entered Missoula to stay two nights a the University of Montana.  The school hosts 15,000 students during the school year.  The city is at an elevation of 3,209 feet (978 m) above sea level, with nearby Mount Sentinel and Mount Jumbo steeply rising to 5,158 feet and 4,768 feet.

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Every 20 to 25 miles we can expect to see a refreshing sight – the VeloSante hospitality of Charlton, Lynn, Will and Gene, all who work together to treat us riders to cold drinks and carbs to keep us going.
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Day 7 Sandpoint, ID to Thompson Falls MT – 88 miles

Entering State #3 on Big Ride
Entering State #3 on Big Ride

Rode out of Idaho and into Montana. There are a few drivers who do not want to see cyclists share the road so we got a little jabbing from the cowboys in Montana. It wasn’t too bad just a little tense at times. More than a few pokes from the locals, but otherwise a glorious day.

The weather could not be better and the hospitality from the crew of VeloSante is just perfect. We rode the 87 miles through beautiful lakes and mountains.  The route was SR 200 East the whole way.  We passed lots of waterways like Tresler Creek, Lightening, Creek, Bull River, Fork River and Trout Creek.  These little waterways kept the route fairly flat but gently uphill as we prepare to enter the top of the Rocky Mountains.

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The little town of Thompson Falls hosted us with bountiful meals at Millie’s Montana Cafe. At night, it is bear country so all food was locked away in the trucks. A small surprise for the tent next to us who awoke in the middle of the night with a sprinkler blasting into the air vents of their tent. They were blasted in the face with water and everything got soaking wet. The morning will bring us our first ride over 100 miles, so everyone turned in early and prepared for a 4:30 am alarm so we could get to breakfast at Minnie’s by 6 am.

Day 6 Spokane, Wa to Sandpoint, Idaho 76.4 miles

The cyclists participating in the Big Ride Across America, started the day together as a group and cycled out of Spokane after breakfast at the Gonzaga University cafeteria.  There are many cyclists in Spokane so the town’s drivers were courteous and tolerant when sharing the road with cyclists.  Most of the route has a nice shoulder on the side with ample room for both cyclist and trucks.  There are lots of big trucks carrying pine logs that shed bark bits as they pass.

Pend Orielle River
Pend Orielle River

The ride was gentle rolling hills that softly move eastward with wide 12 ft. shoulders on Route 2. We followed the Pend Orielle River.  The geography was interesting as you can see the gouging from glacial ice that cut through the land formation.

Pend Orielle River

The weather was perfect with a crystal clear blue sky. When we arrived at the campsite at the Athletic Club, we were so happy the showers were soft and hot. The shower is part of the daily ritual of riding high miles in a day. A great shower is invigorating before the group heads out for dinner.

We chose the local Steakhouse which had aged beef that was delicious.  The town of Sandpoint was easy to walk to from the Athletic Club where we camped and the houses in town were very cute.  Dinner was at the Hydra Sandpoint’s Original Steakhouse where we thouroughly feasted and enjoyed.

Day 5 Rest Day at Gonzaga University

The Big Ride Across America has several free days worked into the schedule. Day 5 was at Gonzaga University in Spokane Wa.  A sweet Catholic school with a lot of rich, ornate campus buildings. We spent our off day doing laundry, washing our bikes and filling up on deliciousness.   After several days of camping it was a sweet reward to be able to charge all of our battery devices.  Phones, cameras, bike lights, battery packs and computers all got re-charged and ready to roll.  Once we got our bags re-packed and all the bike repairs complete, we rested.

These fish taco dinners were on the menu.

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Thanks to Marich  a family owned confectioner out of California for sending us this delicious (and healthy) chocolate to enjoy.
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Washington state has some u-pick strawberry fields for all to enjoy…sweet and yummy.   Thanks for Sharing!

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Chamois pads and spandex shorts are best air dried. We all got to do laundry for free in our dorm building.

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The next bike ride is Spokane to Sandpoint which is about 76 miles.  The Big Ride starts early, as we report to Charlton and Lynn (ride organizers from VeloSante ) at 6:00 am to load luggage, have breakfast and get on the road early before traffic starts.  We are being welcomed into town by the Bonner County Bee, a local newspaper.

In terms of comfort for long distance cycling, the bike short product testing over the past four days have demonstrated a clear winner.  For long distance cycling, the elite chamois padding is the best I have ever worn.  I have been testing two high end cycling chamois pads.  The Top Shelf chamois pad has always been my favorite and the one I recommend for cycling up to 50 miles.  I have been testing and riding in the Elite Chamois pad which is a thicker, more dense chamois pad.  I absolutely love it. anatomy-of-bike-pad It is miles above the Top Shelf for long distances and has completely eliminated all discomfort in the saddle area.  I am now a big fan of the Elite Chamois pad.  It is one of those pads that feels thick and “diaper” like when you are standing around, but on a long ride (over 50 miles) it is fantastic.  It is by far, the best long distance pad I have ever tested.  I have seen many chamois pads come and go in my years of cycling and this elite pad is excellent. The Chamois has multiple layers of foam that create a dense shock absorbing pillow for the ischial bones.

 

Women’s Elite Chamois Padwomens elite chamois pad
Men’s Elite Chamois PadChamois Pads

 

Day 4 Odessa to Spokane Wa. – 77 miles

The day out of Odessa was supercharged by Odessa High School’s FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) who made us a hot breakfast that was delicious and fulfilling. Their FBLA students got a state championship and are headed to Nationals, so we passed a hat around to collect cash to contribute to their trip to nationals.  Good Luck Odessa High School!

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This day started out like this!  It was amazing, fantastic and truly thrilling as we cycled on perfect roads with almost no traffic.  DSC00308

The scene was totally silent except for the sounds of nature like the strong winds that howled through the hollows, the birds and insects.  We could ride in the middle of the road for hours without a car in sight.  The houses are miles apart because there is no water and hardly any rain.

Cycling near Odessa WA

We arrived into Spokane just after lunch.

Gene and Charlton are ready to call it a day...
Gene and Charlton are ready to call it a day…

The tour organizers set us up for two nights in a dorm room where we will have access to private rooms, laundry, electric and lots of yummy restaurants.

Thanks to the Sigle famiy for this fantastic photo of the Big Riders heading into Spokane for a two day stay at Gonzaga University dorm rooms.

Big Ride Across America 2014
Tomorrow….rest day!