November 5, 2012
The loop sounded awesome, 160 miles of single track and logging roads around Missoula, MT, typically accomplished in 24 hours, hmmm .... well, maybe not?
Most folks who know me know that I love sleep, I kind of worship it, I mean I daydream about my down comforter, so the whole 24-hour test of endurance wasn't going to fly. Not to mention needing to ride my bike through the night, and oh yeah the stats: 34,000 feet of elevation gain, including summiting an almost 8,000 ft high point, and riding 160 miles of single-track, all in 24 hours, yeah right! Don't get me wrong, it's not like I'm a couch potato, actually this route was very enticing, I have lived in Missoula for over 11 years, and never experienced some of these quintessential rides. And heck, at any point on the route we would technically be no more than 10 miles from my cozy bed, as the crow flies, that is, and at a few points along the journey we would cross some main roads and services, so technically there were lots of 'outs', and even a few re-supply points. However, I really had no intention of entering the 24-hour pain cave .... ever, well maybe...
Most folks who know Bill know that he can endure lots, and lots of pain. And this route was strictly Bill's, known as the Remember Marcy Vision Quest (RMVQ). Carefully designed for various reasons to take in the local 'high points', to be a 24-hour test of endurance (that's the pain part), and most importantly to honor a friend, Marcy. Granted Bill is known for his ' bicycling madness' but there was just no way I could even begin to follow him on a traditional RMVQ journey. This route is beefy! However, the lore of it had me hooked and I really wanted to test my multi-day chops, not to mention just have a great adventure by bicycle, and in my own backyard to boot. In 2010 Bill rode this route in 23 hours, for me this feat is truly spectacular, and I cannot even comprehend it, it blinds me and weakens me just thinking about it. But, I was in luck, I think, Bill was willing to accommodate a team effort and this year we would inaugurate the first RMVQ bikepack edition! And of course, there was absolutely NO WAY I could complete the journey in 24 hours, so we settled on me needing 4 days (no laughing). No problem, right?
We started Mo style,* well, sort-of, taking off at the Blue Mountain trail head around 11am. The day was a gift -- beautiful fall weather, not too brisk, and the Salsas (Bill's fatty and my El Mariachi) seemed to fit all our gear; tent, sleeping bags, pads, coffee (we actually forgot the coffee), 4 days of food, water, etc. With a shake-down cruise through the parking lot we headed up the trails to the first check-point, Blue Mountain Lookout, to post the first picture of Marcy and to 'check-in' along the route. Everything was going well, sort-of, Bill had a 'loose' bottom bracket, and the steep hills required equal amounts of energy pushing the loaded bike as well as preventing myself from sliding back down the hill.** I mentally checked-off the 'ignorance is bliss' theory as still being true (someday it will officially become a proof), and pushed/slipped onward. This first day was hard but the magnitude and expanse of the Grave Creek Range was awe-inspiring, I had never been on these trails and the newness (ignorance) ruled the stage for me that day.
With both darkness and drizzle descending, I had to make my first executive decision of the trip: to stop and set-up camp for the night. I wasn't going to make it across the valley as hoped, but Bill was super supportive and a true powerhouse (he would have just kept on going, but I think he felt like he was killing me). I was fine, I was outside and riding/hiking my bike, I never wanted 'to be' anywhere else that day, but I needed food and sleep. So, with city lights twinkling down below we filled our bellies, and drifted to sleep in the soft fall air, doubts rumbled like sliding gravel in my head, I wasn't exactly sure I could pull-off another 128 miles, 30,615 ft of climbing in the remaining 3 days ... but I had embodied 'ignorance is bliss' and the 'one day at a time' attitude: sleep first, then pancakes in the valley tomorrow morning, everything would be fine ...
Please stay tuned for another 90 degrees of RMVQ fun, the second day challenged my sitting power, but we had a BBQ to attend in the Rattlesnake .... would we (I) make it?
This blog is dedicated to following your instincts, taking a chance, trying something new, maybe something a little over your head.
* A true Mo-style start would have been 1pm, the 11 am start was pure compromise.
** Please note that Mo pushes her bike. On very, very, very rare occasions does Bill ever 'push' a bike.
Photos by Mo.
BIKEPACKER this week was written by Mo Mislivets.