Day 19: Lima, MT – Upper Red Rocks Campground

Miles: 57

Climbing: 2247 ft

Improving upon my original idea of the horsemen of the bikepacking apocalypse, today I started thinking about wind. Imagining wind as this god in the ancient Greek style, playing with the lives of us mortals on bikes…..

I woke up in Lima, earlier than usual, despite having stayed up *gasp* late enough to finally see stars! I slept super duper well, even next to a highway and under a street lamp. 81 miles probably had something to do with that.

I said goodbye to Pete, who was taking the day off to give his knee a rest, and hitching a ride to meet up with Travis. (I found out has been staying ahead of me despite my long days by taking the highways instead of the back roads on the route! Ha!!)

I got some supplies at the gas station (slash….gun store?) next to the motel—-and by supplies I mean heaps of junk food. Did you know a honey bun has 560 calories? Yum, and I need every one of them.

Leaving Lima was on rolling hills. Another lesson learned: just because something looks “flat” on the elevation profile does not mean it’s flat. It means it doesn’t have one giant climb, but instead probably has a bunch of little ones. The temp heated up quickly, and I found myself on another hot, cloudless, open plain. Treeless hills and mountains in the distance. Maybe a wandering stream. Cows.

The road was a little tough, and the heat was annoying me. I’m increasingly realizing how much the heat affects me, between yesterday and today. There was also NO cover-no shade, no trees, nothin but bare hill and cows. So I struggled a little through the morning….but I did run into 4 rad northbound riders who were super nice (and included women who weren’t just touring with their husbands!). They also all had sweeeet setups and looked like they were straight out of a radavist post. (I’m not sure they weren’t.)

After chatting for a few minutes, I rode on, only to run very headfirst into a wall of horrible horrible headwind. The god of wind smiteth me. If you’ve never ridden a bike in a headwind, imagine you’re trying to run, but someone is pushing you back, unrelentingly. It doesn’t matter how hard you run, you’re only going to make a fraction of the progress you should make based on the effort. After about 5 miles of this (and me screaming WHY WIND WHYYYYYY into the heavens), I turned and the wind god took pity on me. Now it was just a moderately annoying crosswind.

Whole lotta……field

Around this time I turned around and saw that behind me, where I had just come (in unrelentingly cloudless skies), some pretty dark ominous clouds were forming….while ahead the sky was bright blue and sunny. Pretty quickly I realized the storm was following me east, and it was gaining on me. I spent the next 20 miles trying to outrun it.

In front of me…..
…and behind me 😬

While I didn’t really want to get rained on, the coming storm had two positive consequences: First, I got some sweet sweet cloud cover, which increased my happiness by a factor of 10. Second, the wind god finally smiled on me and sent me a wicked tailwind that propelled me flying and laughing toward my destination. The wind god giveth, the wind god taketh away.

The landscape began to change as I neared the Red Rock Lakes Wildlife Refuge, where I planned on camping. At one point I literally said out loud, “Hello trees, I missed you!” Beautiful ash trees and bushes covered in wildflowers mixed with the pines, and with the smell of rain came these awesome smells of the trees and flowers. Little drips of rain hit me, but I kept pushing the last miles to camp.

I desperately wheeled into the campground right as the rain came, and I’ve never set up a tent so fast in my life. I managed to get it up and throw myself and everything inside just as a wave of heavy rain came. I sat inside my tent and munched some of my gas station junk food while the rain pounded down. Happiness 😊.

When the rain let up and the sun came out (which it did within 15 minutes because that’s what Montana is like), the couple in the camper next door invited me to have dinner! They made food and told me about their new camper (the husband had just retired), and I told them all about the trip. It was so nice to have someone to chat with–they were kind and welcoming.

Then, a few sun setting shots of the Red Rock Lake refuge, which is a refuge for trumpeter swans:

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