Biologist on a Bike

Day 19: Hamilton, MT to Wisdom, MT

Distance: 74.93 mi
Average Speed: 11.5 mph; Max Speed: 37.7mph
Elevation gain: 4,324
Average Temp: 69.6 F; Temp range: 55.4-87.8 F


Jo and Craig set me up with coffee and a breakfast of fruit, granola and yogurt. I also packed my leftover dinner from last night (even when on tour, I can’t eat an entire pizza by myself in a single sitting), an energy gel, and a hardboiled egg. I had done some laundry last night and it was almost dry, so that got stuck in the dryer for a few minutes to finish the job. The rainfly and footprint of my tent, which I had also hung up to dry since I packed them wet after the rain the previous evening, were dry and ready to go. In short order, I was on my way, relaxed and refreshed after another wonderful warmshowers experience.

Where I woke up, day 19.

Yesterday, after Missoula, I actually finished map section 3. 9 More to go!

It was slightly cool, but not unpleasantly so, and it felt like my bike was just eating up the miles at the start of the day. I had a favorable wind, which definitely helped, and the first 30 miles or so were a gradual climb.

The morning sun on the mountains

I passed through Darby, which is a cute little town. Yesterday, I was passed by a guy out for a ride who told me about a hostel in Darby, and I almost wish I could have made it that far just to stay in the town, but Jo and Craig were such great hosts, and anyway, I doubt my legs would have appreciated the extra miles. The main drag of Darby is quaint, with several of the stores possessing log-cabin type fronts. There was a taxidermist (because of course there was), a business offering skull bleaching, a store selling handmade hats, and a candy store selling fudge, among other things. I didn’t stop at any of them, but under other circumstances I might have explored a bit.

I stopped on the outskirts of town to take a picture of the sign with my phone. How could I not, when I know somebody named Darby? While I was sending the text, a TransAm racer came up and stopped for a brief chat. Jeff Boorsma (@mycycle_trip on Instagram) rode the TransAmerica trail last year as a tourer, not a racer. He thought the racers were a bit crazy, but got caught up with the mentality of pushing himself when they began passing him. The result, at the end of the trip he had decided he wanted to race this year. We leap-frogged each other a few times between Darby and Lost Trail Pass, and had a long chat at Sula with the people who are buying the store/restaurant/gas station/cabins/campsite there. They want to be able to cater to the bicycle micromarket, and asked us what kinds of food and amenities we would like. We both gave them some tips and information on other people to talk to.

On the way up to Lost Trail Pass, which I rode almost entirely in my lowest gear, I got caught in a rainstorm and stopped to put on all my rain gear. At the top, I pulled into the rest stop there partially to rest and partially because I was hearing thunder. Jeff joined me there a few minutes later and said that he had been caught by some hail. Yikes.

Lost Trail Pass

I used the hand-dryers in the bathroom to dry out my gear (jersey, sports-bra, and rain jacket….not all at the same time) before continuing on. About a mile after Lost Trail Pass was Chief Joseph Pass, at 7,241 ft the tallest pass I have reached so far AND my first crossing of the continental divide! It was a good thing I had dried my clothes, though, because the initial descent was quick and windy.

Hand Dryers: for when you need to dry your clothes in a hurry.

Chief Joseph Pass and the continental divide.

From there to Wisdom was about 16.5 miles, and during that time I got rained on a few times, and hailed on once. They were little pea-sized hail that stung where they struck but didn’t really do any real harm, and the storm was over in under two minutes. But knowing that there was more significant rain due tonight, I pushed on down the mountain into the Big Hole Valley and Wisdom. Although today wasn’t the first time I had a tailwind, it was one of the stronger tailwinds I’ve had and I was able to cruise along on the flats at 20mph easily. I can only imagine how much faster I’d have been without all the gear.

Right now I’m at the American Legion Memorial Park just on the west side of Wisdom. Camping here is free (donations accepted) and they have pit toilets, wifi, and some electricity. Only it seems that somebody blew the fuse, because neither the wifi nor the electricity is working, and I have no cell signal. Even inside the shelter, the wind is significant, but I plan to sleep in here nonetheless. The storm is still gathering in the distance, and I’d rather not risk more hail in a tent.

Tomorrow is going to be a long day, and I’m debating stopping at a local café for breakfast (Jeff and the new country store owners both recommended it) to fuel up. I’ve been craving pancakes for a few days now.


Roadkill count: 4 birds

Asshole count: 1 dude who purposefully generated a huge cloud of nasty exhaust as he passed me in his pickup.

Map day 19

9 thoughts on “Day 19: Hamilton, MT to Wisdom, MT

  1. Andrew Roth

    Rolling coal I believe that is called. People sell kits on the internet to allow the diesel pickup to smoke like that. What a jerk.

    Yes when you get close maybe we can figure something out. I’m not much of a bike rider though.

  2. Connie Joki

    I love that you are bonding with other cyclists. I hope your asshole count doesn’t grow to much. I have to have faith there are more loving and respectful people in the world than dickweeds. 🙂

    Stay warm and dry and keep eating all that good food to keep your strength up.


    Old Faithful, WY forecast:

    A chance of showers, with thunderstorms also possible after noon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 56. Light and variable wind becoming south southwest 5 to 7 mph in the morning. Chance of precipitation is 50%.

    FRI Night:
    A chance of showers and thunderstorms, then showers likely after midnight. Cloudy, with a low around 40. South wind 5 to 8 mph becoming east southeast in the evening. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

    1. Spin Doctor Post author

      In Duboius right now. Got some snow over Togwotee pass (lower elevations got rain and slushy hail if there is such a thing). Should be in Lander tomorrow and Muddy Gap the day after.

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