On the GDMBR, there is nothing quite as satisfying as starting your day off with a huge serving of bacon, eggs, hash browns and pancakes. After we ate, we took off on a roller coaster of a day. We set out from Lima and traveled a small dirt road with lots of little grinds. It was getting quite warm and dry, but we happened upon a small creek and splashed water on our faces and soaked our helmets. We had favorable winds for most of the day, until we took a turn and faced an 11 mile section of absolute agony. The 20-30 mph direct headwind had us traveling at a crawl. By this point, we had come to the conclusion that climbs are fine, because they are finite, but headwinds are ruthless, unpredictable and relentless. We eventually made it across the section of death and were greeted with ominous clouds across the valley. We took our chances and took a quick break for food, and then picked up the pace. A little while later and after a short climb, we made it to the border of Montana and Idaho! As we stopped to grab our arm warmers, Matt realized that his bag had been open and one of his had flown away. He was in terrible spirits because there was no way we would backtrack 30 plus miles to find it. So we pushed on and made it to our warm showers stay for the night.
After a good nights rest, we powered up in the morning with a hot breakfast of oats, nutella, and pb. We probably threw pop-tarts in the mix for good measure since we knew today was going to be a long one. We set off, continuing down the second half of the descent we had started the night before. It was fast and fun. After bottoming out, and sending off a package at the post office in Polaris, MT, we continued on paved roads. About 40 miles in, we turned onto a gravel road, The Big Sheep Creek Back Country Byway, where we almost immediately encountered a headwind. The road was decent, but it was a slog, slowly leading us through remote wilderness where we gained elevation for the next 25 miles. It didn’t help that this was the first hot day of the trip and there was no shade to be found. We pushed on, cursing the headwind and finally, after a short steep climb, we crested the Medicine Lodge – Big Sheep Creek Divide. We stopped for lunch and after talking to a hunter, began the descent. Having said some pretty awful things about the wind all day, we were forced to eat crow (in the best way possible) as the wind shifted and became a tailwind. We were now cruising, averaging well over 20mph for the next hour or so. The road followed down a narrow canyon with epic rock outcroppings. As the sun began to set, we could see the lights of Lima in the distance. We took a right turn onto a dirt frontage road and right into a slight headwind. The next hour was a slow grind and we eventually entered into town, found a cafe just before close, and chowed on delicious Bacon Cheeseburgers. We then rolled across the street and set up camp behind a motel. Sleep came pretty easy that night.
For this trip, we put a lot of thought into our gear. Taking into account the lack of resources available along the route, we needed our equipment to be bullet proof, lightweight, and if possible, serve more than one duty. This is what led us to the Solo Stove.
The Solo Stove is a compact, wood burning stove. We knew that this would be a good choice for our ride as we would be camping in forests throughout the entire route, where sticks and twigs we would be plentiful. Since we could pull up to any camp and quickly find enough sticks to cook with, we were able to forgo packing fuel canisters, saving precious space and weight. The stove itself was very easy to use, and we quickly discovered a few techniques to help get the fire started in various conditions. In good conditions a small piece of toilet paper, balled up and placed at the bottom, was all that was needed to get smalls sticks going. When it was raining or wet, we would use solid fuel cubes to help aid this process. We also traveled with a small bag of dry twigs just in case.
Another great feature was that it came with a .9 L cook pot, which doubled as our eating vessels. The two pieces nest together making it compact and easy to pack. There was virtually nothing that mechanically could go wrong, since the stove has zero moving parts. That combined, with the abundant source of fuel, made us confident in choosing this piece of gear.
However unlike gas stoves, the Solo Stove did need to be tended. While this may seem like a hassle on paper, there was something soothing and meditative about feeding the fire. It was not only fun, but also something to look forward to doing after a long day on the trail. We were also able to use the embers from the stove to help start a larger campfire after dinner, which was clutch on many cold and damp nights.
In the end, the Stove ended up working perfectly throughout the trip. There was never a worry that we wouldn’t be eating a hot and delicious meal after riding our bikes all day. The Solo Stove is awesome and will always be in our bike-camping bags.
We woke to the sound of rain, never a pleasant sound, and solemnly packed our bikes. We headed back up to the lodge to seek warmth and coffee. As we were about to leave, a worker decided to feed us leftover eggs, which were absolutely delicious. Finally, after our fill, we set off. Nearly right away we saw a big black wolf run across the gravel road! It was huge. We continued on the day to Elkford through a misty fog and dense evergreens. Every so often, the land was scarred from logging and coal mining. It was a long day, 72 miles with plenty of elevation. Along the ride we also saw more wildlife,two moose and one bear! As we finally rode into Elkford, we were nearly depleted. We found a store, bought whisky, and camped out at the campground across the street.