Tour Divide Diary Day 17
Lost Llama Cabin to Helena
39 miles 3497 feet of climbing
572 miles 28280 feet of climbing
We woke up in the awesome Lost Llama Cabin at Prickly Pear Creek, the weather was fortunately not as bad as what was forecast, but it had been raining heavily all night and and it was grey and threatening.
Heading out onto Little Prickly Pear Road we knew we had three decent sized passes to negotiate before reaching our target for the day, Helena. The first leg stretcher of the day was up Lost Horse Road, we didn’t find any lost horses, but there were a couple of cool abandoned mines and we stopped to look around and take some pictures.
It was fifteen miles to the top of the first pass and by the time we got there we were feeling pretty wrecked, the view off the top was into a more open forested area and it was pretty spectacular. We recuperated on a very enjoyable long gravel descent and stopped to chat to a couple of riders who were on their way up in a weird camper van with a front bike rack on it. They had been riding near the Grand Canyon and it had been 43ºC and were looking for some cooler weather, well they got their wish because it was windy and bordering on chilly, we couldn’t chat for long because we were getting cold! We soon warmed up though as we blasted all the way to the bottom of that road and set ourselves up for the last effort of the day Priest Pass.
As it turned out Priest Pass was only four miles long and a really steady grade so we chatted away all the way to the top, took some pictures and then got ready for the delicious prospect of fifteen miles to Helena without turning the pedals.
The descent off the other side was a lot of fun, initially we had to do cattle slalom, but once they were out of the way the gravel road down was a lot of fun. We had to watch ourselves though as it did encourage a bit of madness and there were a lot of tight corners and also the proximity to Helena meant there were some pickups coming up the road too.
Hitting Highway 12 into Helena we did about eight miles at 20mph down the hill with very little effort on our part, nice! The phone went on and we located a Starbucks and we headed there for WiFi, power, coffee at last and to research where we were going to stay that night. I ordered myself everything that was on the menu, twice, and made myself feel thoroughly sick, oops. I managed to find a suitable campground and we went to the nearest supermarket to get supplies for the night.
At this point thought I was going to hurl, so I sent Tom in for the food and sat on the bench outside, looking like a tramp with my head in my hands. I really felt rough.
It was at this point we got another visit from the trail angels, Jeff and Sue approached me and asked what I was doing there, so I told them what we were up to. They suggested that we went to stay at their house. So I got directions and they headed off while I waited for Tom to come out.
I told him the news and being British and not used to this sort of behaviour he wanted to know if they were going to murder us in our sleep. I pointed out that the campground was fifteen miles away, their house was about two, so it was a risk I was willing to take in my current state. We really are not used to people being helpful and friendly and it is such a shame.
Eventually we found their place and sat on the porch and waited for them to turn up. We put the tent up and they made us a cuppa and we sat and chatted in the back garden for about an hour and a half, lovely people, trail angels personified for sure. They had done lots of riding including from the top left to the bottom right on a tandem when they first retired. Lots of riding in Europe too. It turns out both them and their children always made a habit of inviting any touring cyclists or similar they saw in Helena to use their facilities.
They have seen quite a few Tour Divide racers coming through the town and Jeff told the story of seeing two riders turn up on a tandem and head into the supermarket, so he went to find them and see if they needed anywhere to stay, it turned out it was Jay and Tracy Petervary, previous winners and tandem record holder. They didn’t stay as they wanted to get to Butte that night and they were marching round the supermarket, stuffing food into their mouths as they went.
So we had a good evening of chat, Jeff told us about the trail system in Helena and they kindly said we could stay for two nights so that we could have a day off and hopefully sample the local trails too. We put all our kit through the washing machine and had a hot shower too, awesome!