Sunday 9 AM. The adventure started out last Sunday when my eyes strolled through the map I have up on my wall at home. At first it was “I wonder if” and then “if only I could get here from there”. Before long the coffee I was sipping hit my pleasure centers and a decision was made to go for not only a route that I had not done before but three routes that I wanted to try. I decided to link up the Fish Creek Road, the Graves Creek Road, and the South Side Road in one big glorious loop. I quickly drew it on Google maps, ignoring the estimated length of 130 plus miles, and posted my plans on the interwebs. I was committed.
The ride was going great even though there was a gun shot incident just outside of Frenchtown. The weather was holding out and I had 9 hours of Carbo Rocket strapped to my back. Within hours I strung together and executed a route through the 6 mile and 9 mile valleys. I arrived in Alberton with high hopes of this magnificent loop and wasn’t slowed down by the hail storm stinging my face. Once I had to jump a fence twice and race across the interstate like a deer dodging multi ton bullets. I crossed a river and trudged along some rail road tracks. When I emerged from a train tunnel I realized this would be a true epic and I started to feel confident that I could endure at least a full attempt at completing this giant idea. The unknown disappeared to some sort of clarity.
I started thinking about “the unknown” and why it is so exciting as I spun down a paved country road. I passed a piece of property where the owners half buried kayaks in their drive way. A gate made out of kayaks. I thought to myself about how much those dudes must like the river and instantly my mind raced back to the Grizzly Man Adventure Race just a week ago. For me the unknown below the surface of a body of water is terrifying. What lies down the rapids at the next bend could be white water and a plunge into certain death. That scares me too. But these folks must think of it like I think of the unknown bike loop. Exciting and fun.
Many times on these big adventures my mind sticks to a theme and I can completely inspect each cornice and crevice of it. Today I thought a lot about my friends, specifically two of them that in the past year helped me overcome some fear that I manage to avoid. Jill and Dave are the friends that I thought about. I arrived at a sign at the beginning of Fish Creek. It implied a 31 mile journey to Route 12 and I knew of at least one mountain pass in between. Unknown … but exciting.
As I pedaled up the freshly dragged gravel road (freshly grated = spleen tingling bumpy ride) I though back to the Borah Peak climb. I have been at altitude many times on exposed ridges. Many times scared shitless. My thoughts are that I was with people more skilled and I just felt their enthusiasm interfered with my “overcoming fear pace”. Back on Borah, however, I went with Jill and Norm. Jill who had the same apprehension to exposed heights seemed to be at my pace. It was a good match and as we all topped out I realized that I had done something that maybe in the past I would of turned around on. Most of that trip I had a perma-grin on my face. It was unknown if I could make it, which is exciting, and I did.
Sunday now 3:21 in the afternoon. I began climbing up a sustained climb. At mile 74 I was still on Fish Creek Road but found a similar perma-grin as the road went up and up and up. My mind started drifting again but only back as far as last weekend (sorry to jump around so much here folks). It was another one of those overcoming fear moments this time with my friend and teammate Dave. And surprisingly enough I had the same shit eating grin on my face as I presently had climbing up the switchbacks.
Grizzly Man Adventure Race. I hate water, I fear what’s under it and I fear drowning in it. Last Sunday as Dave and I approached “River Put In” I was completely distracted by all the events that had happened that morning. The morning “situation”, overcoming and capturing all those checkpoints, and all the trail running that we were STILL doing. This was going great. I was thinking about how much I love adventure racing but when we reached the end of our current heading. Running down a kayak access road. I saw all the boats and I panicked. “OH SHIT”, I screamed internally. This is the part we ….
“Start by putting on your dry suit and then your PFD”, Dave distracted my glaze at the river.
“Personal floatation device.”
Moments later I was suited up, PFD attached, and helmet snuged down.
“don’t forget your paddle”, Dave seemed to be enjoying this part. But he was calm and didn’t show any enthusiasm. He was just giving simple commands. Simple commands that someone holding onto a cliff frozen in fear could understand.
“Grab the boat there, get in and face forward, now pedal, pedal pedal, keep it smooth”, are just some of the simple phrases that were seeping into my subconscious.
Dave is a master and he steered us through all the big waves. At one point I came out o
f my butt clench to actually crack a grin. In fact I started grinning a lot. I didn’t even mind that I realized he was actually guiding us over the “big parts” and at one time almost folded the boat in half. I may have even squeezed out a “Yeee Haaa” but I am not certain.
Sunday now 4:51 PM at mile 98. I had found Route 12, pedaled down it, and got almost all the way up Graves Creek to Petty Creek when I turned off to take a pee and a breather on a foot bridge. I was standing there starring out over the rushing water when my mind stopped drifting back. I was smiling again. Within a years time two friends, two fears, lots of very big grins. All that time reliving last weekends race and reflecting on it all. I hoped back on and proceeded to Tarkio where I would hook up with my final route along the South Side Road.
It all worked out. Later I found the South Side Road, a road I had been on before. I had biked all the unknowns for the day. I stopped to call my friend Julie to set up a ride finale standing in line at the Big Dipper Ice cream shop. I set it all up and continued on. As the sun set to my back and I coasted down Mullan Road past the big Wal Mart I glanced down at my GPS. 135 miles in 10 hours I whispered to myself as if I had to say it or it wouldn’t register. My mind was kind of fuzzy now and it drifted back in time. Back to the GMAR. One last time.
Grizzly Man Adventure Race. Dave and I had a brief celebration at the end of the white water section and began to drag our craft up the steep bank to the transition area. We had a handful of hours until the cut off time for the race. Where to next? We had some planning to do and some decisions to make. But since it was all unknown I was happy with that. I loved the unknown and my big smile represented so.
“So now what?”, I asked Dave. I had not even considered anything past the “water” part.
To be continued…