We are headed south on I-15 back to Idaho and then home to Utah. Although a large part of me feels like I’m leaving home as we near the Montana/Idaho border. I cherish trips back to Montana, especially after spending most of your waking hours pedaling through beautiful scenery under the famous Big Sky. Not to mention the slower pace and friendly faces and attitudes that make small town Montana so pleasant. I’m sure our family and friends would agree that we don’t come home to Montana often enough, and weekends like this are a good reminder of what we are missing. If only we had a private jet and a few more long weekends every year.
This weekend was a maybe until 2 weeks ago when we got a call that we had moved up the waitlist for RATPOD and had spots in the ride if we wanted them. We hustled to find a hotel room and donation money and then started to get ready/nervous for a 130 mile ride. RATPOD (Ride Around The Pioneers in One Day) is a benefit ride for Camp Mak-A-Dream. The ride is in its 11th year but only our first time and definitely won’t be our last. They limit the riders to 650 which makes for an intimate setting and allows for 1st class food stops (more on that later). The Start/Finish is in Dillon - home to rodeos, Western Montana College, and a Patagonia Outlet store.
|Pre-Ride Pasta Feed and Music at the Elks Lodge|
We were able to leave SLC by 1p Friday afternoon and arrived at Patagonia in time for registration but no time to shop, no worries since they are open on Sundays. We jumped on our bikes for an hour spin around town then headed back downtown for the pasta feed. Unfortunately the food line was very long and standing on the hard sidewalk in the heat for free chow wasn’t as inviting as walking down the block to a family restaurant. We had a great meal and then back to the hotel for an early bedtime in prep for the 6am start.
We rode from the hotel Saturday morning for a few bonus miles which seemed easier than loading the bikes and finding parking. We rolled up to the start, called out our numbers, and without clipping out, we were on our way to accomplish the longest ride either of us had done. Our major concerns were heat and wind, but were hoping to keep up a high pace and finish before the late afternoon weather hit.
The ride was better than we ever expected. The first couple hours flew by, maybe because we weren’t quite awake and were also in a long paceline, even up the climbs. At the 1st stop (Mile 15), we filled up on fruit and Heed (Hammer Nutrition, a Montana company, was the primary fuel sponsor) and headed downhill. We met up with Gabe from Missoula and the 3 of us made great time to the breakfast burrito stop (Mile 30). Imagine my surprise in the middle of cattle country, a vegan option along with veggie and meat. In fact, the volunteers and I were both so excited (I was the 1st vegan to come thru and maybe the only one) that we all started cheering. My burrito had rice, beans, green peppers, and tomatoes and was hands down the best meal I’ve had during a ride, even before I was vegan. We sat on the grass and marveled at the views then headed back out for some more climbing.
|Breakfast Views & my wonderful domestique/husband|
|Post Breakfast Climb|
Terry capturing me passing Gabe
We started climbing at Maverick ski area and Terry took off at his fast climbing pace. I climbed strong, even though I was worried about the burrito digesting. During the climb, I met up with Amanda who was riding alone but we were pretty evenly paced, so we visited a bit. I was wearing my Mellow Johnny’s jersey and she was decked out in Livestrong gear, including a Mellow Johnny’s saddle bag. Turns out she’s a cancer survivor and came from Portland to do the ride since she has involvement with Camp Mak-A-Dream through her work. We regrouped at the top and then began the long descent to lunch. Terry pulled Amanda and me for the most part, letting us take turns now and then. It was an awesome descent with unbelievable views. I might have stopped to take pictures but we still had several hours to go. Just as we came into Wise River, we got hit with a few wind gusts that brought us back to reality.
Lunch (Mile 70) consisted of sandwich fixings and more Hammer products, including Endurolytes Fizz. Unfortunately, every mosquito in the Big Hole Valley came to the picnic. We moved fast - starting with bug repellent, a fast eat, quick stretch, port-a-potty (including in my case some additional chamois butter), sunscreen, and clothing drop. We were now just past the halfway mark with only some small climbs on the horizon… and a stinking headwind! The 3 of us took 5 minute pulls along the Big Hole River towards I-15, again with fantastic views including an eagle carrying off a fish (good eye Terry!). We continued south toward Dillon along the frontage road and were jazzed for the watermelon stop (Mile 85) since the heat and wind had left us with dry bottles and mouths. We demolished several slices, reapplied sunscreen, and hit the road. Amanda was especially fired up since our next stop (Mile 107) was homemade pie and ice cream. She put her head down and knocked out her first pull as if on a mission. Terry followed suit since he is just as enamored with ice cream. I was hoping for fruit pie and wasn’t disappointed with a large slice of strawberry rhubarb plus a fruit popsicle. We were almost done, plus there was no way the wind could get any worse, or so I told myself.
|Lunch Stop - 11am and over halfway done!|
|Amanda and Terry anxiously waiting for me. Ice Cream was calling.|
|Final Stop - Pie and Popsicle not to mention shade and wind protection|
The last 20 or so miles were tough. The wind got much worse plus we had a few nasty climbs. We tried to keep up the 5 minute pulls but had to slow the pace down to 10mph on a -2% grade. Thank goodness Terry was patient and did the majority of work back to town.
We finished around 3:30pm, with 8hrs riding time and 90min rest stops. Our longest stop was likely the last and I bet several riders got there and called it a day and just filled up on pie, ice cream, and soda. We hung out at the finish so Amanda and Terry could have chocolate milk and more ice cream. I had some fruit and then grabbed a beer, since it was all I could think about for the past 10 miles. After almost an hour, we put our shoes back on and cycled back to our hotels to shower before dinner.
|Finish Line Moose Drool - Terry enjoying mine, Amanda returning with hers|
|RATPOD Finish Line - We did it!|
We had a great evening with Amanda and the McCarthy’s from Butte. Which means we had to see how many people we each knew from Anaconda and Butte and where they were – a Montana tradition. Teri is also a cancer survivor and involved with Camp Mak-A-Dream, so they drove down from Butte to volunteer for RATPOD! During the announcements, we heard from the top fundraiser ($27K) and 2 former camp attendees. These young adults spoke about their experiences at Camp Mak-A-Dream as teenagers and how it was (and still is) one of the most important parts of their recovery process. Riding 130 miles is absolutely nothing compared to what so many of the crowd and others with cancer are battling, but every time I thanked a volunteer, all I heard was “No, thank you for riding”. Incredible attitudes.
|RATPOD Dinner Celebration |
Our table is back right, 3 white shirts and Terry
This morning, we got back on the bikes for a recovery ride before meeting up with Terry’s parents. We ate a huge brunch (why not, plenty of calories to replenish) and then after a quick Patagonia bargain-hunting session, were back on the road. I was so glad to be involved with RATPOD and will have it on my summer ride list for years to come. Love to see Montana people doing such great things (RATPOD raised over $400K just this year) and proud to call Montana my home state. I’ll be back soon.
|Sunday Morning - Views of the Pioneer Mountains|
|Montana - Big Sky Country|