Rob's Blog Archive

June 28, 2015

Archibald Loop










Late afternoon during high summer, we’re normally pushing toward 90F.   It was just about that when I left the house.  I learned to enjoy running during summers I spent in Pasadena, 40 years ago.  Running in hot weather, breaking a hard sweat, felt good.  Breaking a hard sweat on a sunny day, either jogging or riding my mountain bike, still feels good.

Just like those runs in Pasadena, I started out late, about 6:45.  Unlike Pasadena, we’re both north and at the western end of a time zone.   I still had three hours before it would get dark.  I’d get my views of the Swan Range before alpenglow really hit, but late afternoon sun is still pretty dramatic.

The first five years I lived here, my hip kept me from doing much riding.  The riding itself was a little painful, but it was getting on and off the bike that was impossible.  After I had my hip replaced, I took another few years before I started riding regularly.  That was two years ago.  I don’t think biking provides quite as good of a workout as jogging, and certainly not as good as x-c skiing, but a long bike ride will only leave me tired, not sore.  Well, that’s after I get a few rides in and my seat and crotch have toughened.  With this it’s easy to ride through areas that brought me to Montana in the first place.

The climb up my driveway is steep enough that I have to lean forward to keep the right balance on my bike.  Archibald loop, the route I planned to take, has just over 1,000’ of gross elevation gain including the steady 650’ climb on the loop, proper, but it has nothing close to that steep.  My driveway ends only a quarter mile into the ride, but I still feel like I’m past the hard part whenever I get to its top. 

About a mile later, on Westside Bypass, I noticed that my front derailleur wasn’t shifting.  Memories of the grief the old rear derailleur gave me linger and as I stopped and got off the bike, I started down my standard list of expletives.  A perfect hot summer day looked like it might be wasted.  Not far along in my diatribe, I took the time to look at it under the off chance I could fix it without tools.  The cable was slack, but still connected at both ends.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to shift between middle and low.  When I tried to shift it to high, I could kind of get it to go, and the derailleur did move.  Looking carefully at it, I saw a bit of a twig jamming the derailleur.  It was almost free with the shift to high, but not quite.  A quick flick knocked the twig out and, with this, my ride continued. 

I haven’t pushed myself during a bike ride for more than a month and planned on just doing this ride at a moderate pace.  That meant it would take right around two hours----my P.R. is just over an hour and a half.

Late June is when wildflowers are at their peak.  Pushing moderately meant I could enjoy these as well as the views of the Swans.  Daisies blanketed open fields along the way.  They may be invasive, but they’re still beautiful.  With altitude, the flowers changed.  The Daisies were at the bottom.  Fireweed was at the top.  

Cresting Archibald and getting ready to start dropping back to Westside Bypass, I again thought about just how strong my dogs were.  Even after their prime, they easily pulled me and the sled up the hill faster than I was moving.  My times are similar to theirs, but I make up for it on the downhill sections where my bike speed is limited by turns, my nerve, and my desire to keep from crashing. 

Only a few tenths of a mile after I start going down, I spot a coyote on the road.  Depending on who you ask, either coyotes or foxes are the fastest predators in North America.  I let my speed peak between 15 mph and 20 mph, and the coyote easily stays in front of me for about a mile before it ducks off the side of the road and out of sight.  Thinking about it now, that it didn’t duck off the side sooner, it was probably leading me away from a den with pups. 

On a sled, the turn that’s hardest is the one from South Archibald loop onto Westside Bypass.  On a bike, even though there’s a bit of a trench there, the fact that Westside Bypass is a good dirt road dominates and the turn doesn’t force me to concentrate near as hard as when I’m on a sled. 

Part of what I like about the route is that Westside Bypass has several hills and drops.  They’re quite a bit smaller than Archibald Loop itself, but they still make me work and then let me glide.  The last glide leads to the turn from Westside Bypass to Fawn Creek with just short of a mile to my house.  Fawn Creek has a slight downhill grade, then there’s thirty yards of paved road, then my driveway.  Having fallen twice on recent rides, I’m taking my driveway slowly.  Even so, I clear the quarter mile in a minute. 

Coming up on my garage, I twist out of my clips and step off the bike.  Tired and happy, I put the bike in the garage, grab my GPS, and walk home.  Looking at the clock as I enter the kitchen I see, two hours, on the nose.

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