I have gotten myself in a lot of less-than-ideal situations in my life.
One evening several years ago, I found myself at the top of Stuart Peak at 10:00 at night with nothing but a water bottle, waist deep in snow with no idea where the trail was. And one spring day on what should have been a quick 35-mile road ride, a storm blew in, I got a flat, and while I was changing it my body temperature dropped substantially. I had to stop several miles later and have a friend pick me up because I was swerving all over the road in a delirious haze.
This is the story of my ride last weekend, during which I also ended up in a bit of a pickle.
After spending half the riding season without a cyclocross bike (gasp!) I finally got one last week, and eager to put it through its paces, I planned a pretty long and definitely brutal cross ride that would link together several of my favorite rides around Missoula. I met up with my boss, Alex, at 7:30 in the morning to start the ride.
We began by climbing the always-steeper-than-you-think-it-is Butler Creek up to Snowbowl, a good warm-up for what was to come. On the fire road at the top, Alex flatted, which was kind of a bummer, but not the worst thing that would happen that day.
We buzzed down Snowbowl road and Alex left me to head back to town and be productive. I, on the other hand, made the grind up Ravine trail into the Rattlesnake, a wonderfully painful climb on a cross bike. Without incident, I crossed through the Rattlesnake, up and over the Lincoln saddle, and down Marshall Canyon Road. My original plan was to ride up and do the Deer Creek Sneak after that, which would have been a very good way to finish things up.
Unfortunately, though, I was feeling pretty good at that point, and decided to explore a little. I spun out to Turah and up Allen Creek, a road I had recently discovered with some friends and that seemed very intriguing. What greeted me there was a solid 7% grade for the next 10 miles. That in itself was a whole boatload of fun, and then I had to figure out how to get down.
I looked out from the saddle towards Miller Creek, and the maze of fire roads that, if I knew just the right ones to take, would lead me there. I picked a road. It got narrower and more overgrown. I turned around and picked another road. It seemed pretty promising in terms of direction, but again was a bit overgrown. I stuck with it.
The thing about overgrown roads is, you can’t see the surface you’re riding on very well. Rocks are pretty well hidden by the grass and weeds. As much as I tried to ride gingerly, one of those rocks managed to get me good. I felt my rear tire go flat almost immediately, and as I slowed to a stop, I heard the front one start hissing as well. Double flat. I cursed my misfortune, but at the same time patted myself on the back for tossing in an extra CO2 cartridge and a patch kit before this ride. I threw a new tube in the rear, patched the front, and was on my way.
It didn’t last long. Before long, the spare road tube I had put in the rear tire succumbed to yet another pinch flat, and by the time I got done patching it, the patch in the front tire had failed to hold. By this time, I was out of CO2 and didn’t have much faith in the patches anyway. Time for a nice nature hike!
Did I mention I had a friend’s wedding to be at at 4:00? And currently it was 12:45. This gave me, worst case scenario, three hours to get home. I was well beyond the point where the road was gated, so there was no chance of running into any vehicles anytime soon. The road continued down towards Miller Creek for about half a mile, before veering sharply back uphill. Awesome. I just kept walking, because what else was I gonna do? To hike back down to Turah would have been about a 17-mile walk. I figured I’d take my chances.
After about two and a half miles, I reached a gate, which indicated:
a) I was headed somewhere, not towards a dead-end.
b) There became a possibility of running into a car that might be able to give me a ride back to civilization.
It was another half a mile before I came across a car on the side of the road, and two guys off in the bushes picking huckleberries. I explained my predicament, and one of them let me use his phone, which amazingly got reception up there. I called Kailee, who had been busy all morning running up Cha-paa-qn. Turned out, she wasn’t home yet either, and didn’t answer the phone. It was 2:00.
I stopped and picked a few huckleberries while I waited to see if she would call back, but soon it became apparent that wasn’t going to happen, so I carried on. The guys picking huckleberries told me it was about two miles down to Deer Creek Road, which meant that if I got ahold of Kailee and she could pick me up, I would only end up walking five miles total.
Three miles later, it became apparent that the two-mile estimate was more than a little off. I ran into another couple picking berries, and finally I was able to get ahold of Kailee. It was 2:45 by this time. Oh yeah, and they told me, more accurately, that I had another three miles to get down to Deer Creek Road. I gave Kailee directions on where to find me and continued walking, sometimes jogging, although that’s not the most comfortable activity in bike shoes.
I got to Deer Creek Road, having walked a total of nine miles, just as Kailee was pulling up to the intersection. It was 3:20. We booked it back home, got showered and changed, and managed to make it to the wedding fashionably early, with eight minutes to spare.
Fortunately, there was plenty of food at the reception, because we were both pretty starved.
My final ride for the day ended up looking like this:
Upon looking at the map when I got home, it seemed that I had in fact chosen the most direct route I could have chosen. Sure glad I did, or there would have been no chance of making it back by 4:00.
Final ride stats:
60.2 miles riding
9.0 miles walking
Total elapsed time: 7:51
Total elevation gain: 7,913 feet
It seems that there are a lot of times that things don’t go as planned, but as long as you roll with it and keep a generally positive attitude, it all seems to work itself out. I will do this ride again, when I can get someone to do the whole thing with me. Also, I will bring multiple spare tubes and lots of food.