29.7 mi / 11.9 mph / 745 ft. climbing
Home: Ovando Hoosegow
Two long rides in a row meant that today would be a short day. We were still up at 5:30am though, because we would finally be completing our slow counterclockwise loop around (and under, through, and over) Glacier National Park, and returning to Ovando, where we camped 32 nights ago. We were shut out of their charming cyclist accomodations last time, so wanted to be there as early as possible to increase our odds of finding an opening.
Again, despite the afternoon heat, it was even cooler (45F) this morning than yesterday. I took all the food out of our portable bear box and spread it out on the picnic table to give it maximum cooling while we ate breakfast. Otherwise packed together it hangs onto the previous day’s heat, and conversely, once cooled and repacked tightly into my “refrigerator” pannier, the thermal mass delays the re-warming well into the hot afternoon. This whole summer in the mountains with careful management like that we’ve been able to carry sticks of butter, and even kept their stick-like shape largely recognizable!
The water from the spigots at the campground had a strong taste of iron, and Rett’s taste-sensitivity meant she skipped filling up there. The grocery store (we hit the tail end of the town when we rounded the south end of Seeley Lake) oddly didn’t have bathrooms or water available (except for purchase), nor did a small park area nearby. A stop a little later at the visitor’s center/history museum (where a pile of loading touring bikes revealed this to be the spot that the group I had seen yesterday at the lakeshore had somehow gotten to spend the night) a spigot pumped forth water that tasted nearly the same as the campground water. Ugh! Well, we have less than 30 miles of morning riding to do, so who needs water anyway!
We finally hit the Salmon Lake construction area that had concerned me when we saw the signs for it 32 days ago. Since then I had learned from talking with people (like John and Els) that it wasn’t a big problem, but it was probably the roughest construction zone we’ve been through in a long time. A 10+ minute wait, then we proceeded without any guidance in the middle of the long line of vehicles, over a constantly-changing (but not too rough) surface of dirt and gravel, sometimes wide enough for vehicles behind us to pass, but often not, so a large gap opened in front of us (especially in the uphill sections). But we made it through the far end before the oncoming vehicles clobbered us. As our reward, we then were granted the next 5 (and last 5) miles of MT-83 all to ourselves, reaching MT-200 and the left turn that brought us back into charted territory, before the next caravan caught up to us.
MT-200 brought plenty of its own traffic though, and then when mixed together with MT-83’s caravans, reminded us why we hadn’t loved this section the last time we did it. There is a (small) shoulder all the way into Ovando, it’s just that there are too many jerks who pass way too fast without moving over an inch.
I knew the traffic was stressing out Rett again, and then when we reached the Ovando square to see a big crowd of cyclists already at 11am in front of the town jail/cabin that we’d worked so hard to get to before them, I wasn’t at all surprised that she broke down in tears. I left her to go talk with them, and it turned out that they weren’t early-arrivers, they were late leavers! So the hoosegow was ours!
I was surprised that when I relayed this news to Rett, that she was still upset. It turns out that her tears had nothing to do with the jail, and had started even before we’d turned into Ovando, drawn out by longing for her mom. Which unfortunately meant that telling her the jail was ours wasn’t the easy cure I thought it would be. But, I think it at least helped a little!
For a $5 (per-person?) suggested donation, we got a 2-room (er, one cell, one jailor’s office) cabin with a desk, chair, and two rope-strung cots hanging from the walls. The cots wouldn’t really work with our two-person sleeping pad and bag, but there was enough room on the floor between them.
Rett took a record $10 shower (equalling the cost of our accommodation!) at the inn next door (reportedly very nice, as in, big fluffy non-camping towels included). Then around 2pm a European guy showed up and would have taken the hoosegow if we hadn’t already (he was considering staying an extra night just for the opportunity to sleep in the jail like us!), so it’s still good we got there relatively early!
We then shared the nearby picnic table with an unlikely pair of met-on-the-road Great Divide cyclists stopping just for lunch (him a 60-something Australian, her a 20-something Swiss), where Rett got some heat-surviving tips (spray bottle!) on this hot day from a guy who knows the Outback. The big group we’d seen twice around Seely Lake also caught us, with their matching red-diamond reflectors on their backsides revealing them to be an Adventure Cycling group doing a short Montana section of the Great Divide. That explains their special accommodations at Seely Lake, though we think that’s not quite worth the cost.
We returned to Trixie’s Saloon for an early dinner (unfortunately too early for their Friday Prime Rib special) to fill up, wait out the afternoon’s heat, and feed more into the economy of this town that is so good to travelers like us. In the end, I think it was only four people (in three parties) spending the night, but that was enough to fill all the “indoor” accommodations.