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Big Sky Country

Here’s a photo recap of the ride through Montana, a slice of Idaho and over the Tetons to Jackson, Wyoming.

The town park was crammed full with tents, bikes, random assortments of gear, a six-pack of Deschutes paired with chips and salsa. For the night, Eureka, MT was host to a mini reunion of Divide riders, all slightly surprised by the number of late-season dirt seekers.

Bruce, Dave and Jim stayed for the night, lured by juicy burgers, beer and a shower. A speedy Kiwi had passed through earlier in the day, eager to cover more ground southward. There was the burly Dane, hauling the kitchen sink in full panniers and trailer, just days from finishing his ride in Banff. Greg and Sadie were sipping cold beer and dining on gourmet vegan food, resting for the day while Greg’s achilles soaked in ibuprofen.

The weeks ahead were bound to be fun.

The Great Divide continued to impress from the border through the Whitefish Mountains, along Glacier National Park and into the vibrant mountain town of Whitefish. The road was wide open descending Whitefish Divide; under sunny skies I rode 25 miles without seeing another soul, a perfect morning on the bike.

A lighter, cleaner Troll, courtesy of the Backroads leader house in Whitefish.

If you find yourself on the Divide in northern MT, a night at the Arnone's is a must!

Tom and his wife Pat have been hosting cyclists as long as the Divide has been around. A frame builder (notice the decal?), former racer and all around avid cyclist, Tom is still riding strong just shy of his 80th birthday!

Tom had cold beer waiting when I arrived and Pat walked me through the garden to whip up a fresh salad for dinner. A pot full of fresh raspberries was the perfect dessert. The following morning I was woken by the sweet sound of Pat grinding spelt for pecan pancakes and before I could finish unzipping my tent Tom was halfway across the yard with a glass of OJ in hand! These folks know how to treat a touring cyclist!

Tom gave me a tour of his shop, showing off his motorcycle collection and a few of his favorite bike frames, along with a house full of hand-carved rifles, furniture and other decorative wooden pieces.

This little Italian job looked like a blast to whip around. Before I could finish breakfast Tom was down the road, riding with the spirit of someone half his age. I nursed my coffee, soaking in the sun and chatting away the morning with Pat, in total admiration of their life on the farm.

Sunset behind the Mission Mountains above Seeley Lake. Not long after, I spooked a massive elk while rounding a corner, rounded the next and launched into a game of hide-and-seek with 3 wolf pups.

Soaking up the Big Sky sun on my way out of the Swan Mountains.

I reconnected with Greg and Sadie a week after meeting them in Eureka.

Sadie crushing it on her 700c Specialized CrossRoads.

With similar paces and laid-back styles, we were happy to join forces against the brutal terrain of Montana. Try as we did, we quickly discovered these mountains were beyond conquering.

Through all of the jello-legging, we were treated daily to blue skies, quite roads, lush forest, expansive views of uninhabited wilderness and nights around campfire wrapped in the blanket of a radiant Milky Way.

Thanks, but I'll walk.

Resupply in Basin, MT.

A dream deferred.

Since when did Interstate rest areas stop stocking cold soda? The 2-mile diversion for an icy, caffeinated beverage at least provided a shady retreat from the midday sun.

The LEGENDARY Fleecer Ridge. Warning: Ride at your own risk!

More downhill hike-a-bike.

Greg and Sadie live in Duluth, Minnesota where they've helped form the Bike Cave Collective, work closely with the Catholic Worker movement and ride bikes year-round. And yes, that means in -30*F weather, too. Greg also sews with Black Rose Bags, a collective of cyclists crafting beautiful handmade bike bags from recovered materials. Check 'em out!

Idaho, for a day.

Jackson, Wyoming

Ah, the comforts of town: shade, soft green grass, beer from a bike bottle...

...and a couple nights with a Warmshowers host. No better way to cap a blissfully grueling run through Montana!