Friday, June 28, 2019

Elite Ridge of the Rockies 2019 Epilogue

It's hard to know where to begin in summarizing a trip of this difficulty and magnitude but I suppose it makes sense to first thank the many people who helped make it a success. This list includes Lon and Susan, owners of Pactour, and the great crew we had that helped us complete each and every day. Besides Lon and Susan, there were eight other crew members that cooked, cleaned bikes, carried bags and perhaps most importantly, were always ready with an encouraging word or sound advice. As well prepared as I was, I could not have completed this trip without them.

Next I need to thank the other riders. To a person they were wonderful to be with for twelve days. I rode a little with all of them and some of them I spent many hours and many miles with. A special thanks goes to my roommate Jon. You're a class act and a great rider to boot. Hope to see you again soon. And to Ed from Indiana; we showed them that we flat landers know a thing or two about riding mountains, didn't we? Let's do it again some time. And Kevin; you're the best. I always learn something interesting every time we talk. I hope our paths cross again soon.

And to those at home following the trip by internet, thank you for the encouragement and support. To my mom and dad, knowing you were waiting for my arrival each day was motivation to get there quickly and safely. Thanks for caring about me in the way that you do. I'm a lucky son. To Michele; none of this would have happened without you. You're the best wingman a person could ask for in life. Thank you for the unconditional support. To Kate; thank you for the well wishes on Father's Day, the first day of the trip. I started things off right hearing from you that morning before trekking through the hot desert. To my brother Greg, wife Andrea and niece Sophie and nephew Luke; I know you did a lot of blue dot watching on your phones as you tracked my progress each day. I tried to move that dot down the road as fast as I could. Knowing you were watching was great motivation. I'll have a Wild Tribe in your honor next time I'm in Jackson and I'm not staring down a ten hour bike ride.

I know many friends were watching as well. I won't try to name them for fear of leaving some out and hurting feelings but thanks for taking the journey with me. The more people that go the more fun it is and boy was it fun. Hope you enjoyed the pictures and the stories and maybe it will inspire you to push the boundaries in whatever area your passion lies.

Out of the four Pactours I have ridden, this was by far the hardest. I showed up in El Paso in the best shape of my life and my back was up against the wall on three or four occasions on this trip. It truly took every bit of experience and physical and mental strength I had to complete it. The day from Vernal to Evanston nearly beat me but I decided I was going to stay out there until I either couldn't turn the pedals any longer or until I ran out of daylight. When I arrived at the hotel as one of only four people to finish that day, all the crew and riders in the parking lot applauded me. It doesn't get much better than that. I was one of only three riders out of 16 on the tour to ride every mile and therefore one of only three to qualify to race in the Race Across America, a transcontinental bike race. I'm very proud of that. The past RAAM qualifying events Pactour have held have always had a qualifying rate of well over 50% of the riders and sometimes pushing 90%. Susan told us at the banquet on Thursday that this is the most difficult tour they've ever done. Not only had they never had two snow days in a row but it was the overall coldest trip they've ever done. In fact, she says it was the hardest event she's been involved with other than the Race Across America, an event she won twice. So as a person who has organized hundreds of tours over thirty plus years; you better believe this one was a monster.

I want to close by briefly eulogizing an old friend. We adopted a wonderful cat, Raindrop, in 2003. She passed away from complications from surgery just four days before I departed for El Paso. The veterinarian and we did everything we could to save her but it wasn't enough. Raindrop herself fought valiantly to the very end but unfortunately lost the battle. I was so inspired by her will to live and her fight that I would like to dedicate this ride to her. During the tough times out there I would think of her and I'd keep going because I know that is what she would have done and what she would have wanted me to do. Raindrop, this one is for you. I'll see you on the other side my dear friend.

The little gold plaque on the bottom right almost didn’t happen!

And here it is - the whole route completed

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Day 12 - Missoula Montana to Kalispell Montana

As if the challenging weather conditions we have had to date were not enough, we had some more cold and rain today that was not forecasted. Most of the 148 mile ride was very cool with temperatures in the upper 40's to lower 50's and probably 50 miles were in the rain. Then as a final insult, as we were packing our bikes in boxes in the parking lot to ship, we had a violent storm with high winds, rain and hail. Everyone had to come inside to take shelter and drag their partially disassembled bikes with them.

I had hoped to take lots of pictures along the many lakes we passed today but between the rain and fog and the fact that my hands were so cold, it wasn't possible other than just a couple of quick pictures after the rain stopped. Today was so different than this ride in 2014 when the weather was perfect.

So we have no ride tomorrow. Today was the final day of the trip. Normally I am sad about that but this trip was so grueling I'm really ready for it to be over. I ride Amtrak east toward home tomorrow and will post an epilogue of the trip from the train. I want to sleep on this one and gather my thoughts before I post. There are many thank you's and kudos that need to be said and I think I'll do a better job of that when I'm not so tired. I'll post that some time during the day tomorrow.

Day 12 - route profile Missoula to Kalispell

Some of the lakes on the way in to Kalispell go for many miles along the highway

Just after the rain stopped