A (Mostly) Downhill Day

Red Lodge, MT to Columbus, MT

I don’t know if it was my early slumber due to last night’s storm or eagerness to leave Red Lodge behind, but I woke up pretty early this morning. No, I don’t know at what point 5:30 AM became “pretty early” – probably about the same time that 100 km became “only a 100 km”. Either way, I was packed up and on the road by 7:20 AM. Destination: Columbus, MT. A mere 80 km away.

Fine campground just not particularly cycle-friendly

With the exception of a fairly steep hill to start the ride, today was looking to be a somewhat easy ride. Sure, there would be a few modest climbs along the way but more in the rolling hills sort of way than mountainous two hour challenges. And the last half was to be mostly downhill … although, only VERY modestly.

For the most part the day went as anticipated. The ride was was a good mix of climbs and descents with some mountainous scenery to admire along the way. I even opted to try another drone shot at one point. It was marginally successful. I think it could’ve been entirely successful but my attempts were interrupted when a rancher in an ATV approached. And that’s how I met J.O.

He slowed down and then stopped when he saw me and then the drone. Clearly a conversation was inevitable so I brought the drone in for a landing. Just to be clear, the conversation wasn’t in any way negative. He was just very interested in the drone. Anyway, we chatted for a bit about the drone, my trip, his ranch, his cattle (there are – or should be – 80 cattle in the photos), the $12 million under-construction bridge that I would see in about eight miles (a bridge he thought was sort of overkill), and other such things. He was a super nice guy and interesting to talk with but, as always, we both had places to be so we wished each other well and carried on our respective ways.

Not long after we departed, I did in fact see the new bridge and saw what J.O. meant by the bridge. The bridge was replacing an older bridge which spanned a river. A river that apparently hasn’t changed in 100 years. Yet this new bridge was about six times as long as the old bridge. I could see why J.O. thought it was overkill.

The rough road on either side of the new bridge lasted for about 3 km in total before I returned to smooth riding again. And much to my surprise there was a gas station (aka. The Rocking J) shortly thereafter. At around the 50 km mark to be exact. And said gas station had a covered picnic table. Clearly I had to stop for lunch. And I did.

Fan of peanut butter

As is typically the case, lunch was pretty uneventful … I mean, bagels, peanut butter and pseudo-jam can only get so exciting. However, I did have a visitor as I started on bagel number two. Said visitor somehow managed to sneak up on me but when I happened to look over my shoulder, there he was. A somewhat aged but still very cute golden retriever. He may have been the most passive golden retriever I’d ever met. And clearly he was there for one reason – the peanut butter. Seriously, I don’t think he looked at me once. The same can’t be said for my peanut butter covered bagel which had his undivided attention. Unfortunately for him, there would be no peanut butter coming his way. Not that I wasn’t tempted but that’s as far as it went.

The remainder of the ride after lunch went as smoothly as I could’ve wanted. Yes, there was a slight headwind but the road was slightly downhill so those factors pretty much cancelled each other out.

Unlike last night, my home for the night was much easier to come by. And MUCH different than my Red Lodge experience although very similar to my Lovell, WY experience.

Itch-Kep-Pe City Park

My day’s destination was the Itch-Kep-Pe City Park and Campground complete with washrooms and water. I don’t know how many actual campsites it has but it seemed like quite a few. While many were already taken, there were still many to choose from.

One of the other reasons I wanted to get started early today was in the hopes that I could find somewhere to work on another video project that a client had contacted me about. I originally considered getting a motel again but then opted to set up at Itch-Kep-Pe and then head over to the local library. To say that plan worked out perfectly would be an understatement.

I staked my claim (and my tent) to one of the campsites before pedalling into town to find the library – a pretty easy task considering the size of Columbus. Three hours later, I had finished the project (well, the first draft anyway) and was ready to move on to the next errand. Groceries. A task I was originally going to do in Red Lodge but opted to wait until Columbus. I was running low on rations but I knew I’d have sufficient sustenance to get me through the day. I did.

Great library

Admittedly, I may have bought a BIT too much as it was a bit of a struggle to get everything into my bags. I figured that was an okay problem as I could just eat the surplus at dinner – it’s always nice to have an excuse to be a little bit gluttonous.

As I prepared dinner, the dark clouds once again were preparing for their daily show. And once again, they waited until I had eaten and cleaned up first. I was very appreciative.

The only other excitement of the evening came much later. As in after midnight. I had drifted off a couple of times during the storm and woke at midnight with the realizations that I hadn’t brushed my teeth and I kind of needed to use the facilities. Reluctantly, I found my headlamp and strolled over to the washrooms. As I returned to my tent there were two glowing eyes very intensely staring back at me. I’m not sure who was more puzzled by the situation. As best as I could tell it was a small raccoon … it was actually probably just a NORMAL sized raccoon but I’m just comparing it the Raccoons of Unusual Size back in Ontario. Anyway, we kept our eyes on each other as I made my way back to my tent. I was reasonably confident the raccoon was only interested in the leftover chicken carcass that the previous campers had irresponsibly left in the fire pit. I’d take a look in the morning.

Today’s totals:
Distance: 84.19 km
Ride time: 3:20:30
Average speed: 24.22 km/h
Maximum speed: 70.87 km/h (new high for this tour)

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