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Day 6 - Butte, Montana to West Yellowstone, Montana
160 miles
7070' climbing

I was so excited about my tandem ride with Pete later in the day, that I almost forgot about the climb up Pipestone Pass at 6418 feet to get over the Continental Divide first thing in the morning. Well, not really. It was weighing pretty heavy on my mind. I didn't want Pete to have to wait too long for me, so I was really eager to get started. Three of the slower riders on the trip, who soon became known as the Three Amigos, were allowed to leave a little early each morning, but Susan refused to let anyone else to leave before 6:30. I tried to convince her that I was slow to start in the morning, but she wouldn't budge, so I was off at 6:30. The climb was a tough one, but not too bad, especially with my granny gears. Lon did some videotaping of riders from one of the support vans and then stopped at the top to take pictures of riders in front of the Continental Divide sign. This was when my camera first started malfunctioning. It just wouldn't auto wind anymore.

Anyway, I finally got a picture and went blazing down the other side. A few miles later I was caught by Jim and Diane on the tandem. They were relieved to see me, since they were worried about holding us up waiting for the bike. I pointed out that Pete might be waiting, but I was no speed demon. I graciously accepted a pull into the snack stop from them.

We reached the snack stop and I tried to quickly change over my pedals and my saddle, but had a lot of trouble trying to get my saddle on the clamp on the softride beam. It seemed as ifthe rails were too wide. I finally gave up and decided I could probably handle a Brook's leather torture device for a while. I put my saddle back on my bike, got my bike on a van and we rolled out.

Well, we had lost a lot of time with the saddle issue, and there weren't too many people around when we left, but one rider, Paul, decided to ride with us a while. The winds started to pick up and apparently we were climbing a bit, as our speed slowly decreased. Then the saddle became the saddle from hell. As great as it was riding with Pete, and having the great tandem advantage in the wind, I actually began counting down the miles until I could get off of the bike. We stood a lot to relieve saddle pressure, but it didn't help. My bottom is clearly not shaped like Debbie's (owner of the saddle - It's Susan and Debbie's bike).

Pete did tell me a pretty funny story about riding with Lon on their record setting tandem RAAM a few years ago. Apparently Lon really prides himself on being able to fix a bike with what he's got and what he finds on the side of the road, like using a banana peel to lube a chain, or a candy bar wrapper as a boot. He's been pretty creative at times. So it came as no surprise to Pete when they were riding through Texas, and came upon an armadillo all blown to bits by a speeding car, that Lon stopped to look for usable parts.

Despite all the wind, and the great stories, I was never so happy to get off a tandem in my life. Maybe it wasn't the best choice given the conditions later that afternoon, but I was thrilled to be back on my own saddle. I lost a little more time moving the pedals back over, but did eventually get back on the road. I caught up with Richard in the ghost town of Nevada City. Richard is an old friend from North Carolina, who at 66, was the oldest rider ever to do a PAC Tour. Richard had just started riding a few years ago, and in fact cut his long distance teeth on the brevet series that I ran in NC. He was an inspiration to me then and still is now. He is very steady and a great ride companion. We rode along to the next ghost town of Virginia City where we stopped for a couple of pictures, before beginning our next tough climb of the day up Sphinx Mountain. As we wound our way up the mountain, we had headwinds, crosswinds and tailwinds. From the top we had a view of the Tobacco Root Mountains and the Madison Range with it's 10,000 to 11,000 foot peaks. Coming down off the top with a tailwind for a while, I hit a top speed of 51 mph, just before slowing to take a picture at the lookout. It was a good thing I slowed, since a few seconds later a crosswind tossed me into the other lane. When taking the pictures I had no idea that we would be following the valley next to those beautiful mountains. If I had I would have realized that I was about to ride into the worst headwind I ever had felt. I took it easy the rest of the way down the mountain, as the winds were really making it hard to keep the bike in one lane. I then continued onto lunch, where I struggled to hold onto my plate in the wind.

The afternoon was the source of my drive and motivation for the rest of the ride, and is the one I opened the article with. I'll never forget the feeling of desperation as I plodded along barely moving in that headwind from hell, but like I said, it was just one afternoon in a 3+ week ride.

I missed my massage that night after getting in so late, but I did get to walk very quickly through West Yellowstone in search of dinner. On the way to the restaurant we passed a bike shop with a sociable, a side by side tandem, if you will, in the window. We stopped in to take a look before heading out. I thought to myself that this bike would have truly been hell this afternoon, and realized that things could have been worse! Needless to say, I didn't have time for laundry.