Thursday June 26: Avon to Townsend

Approx. 52 miles, or so it was supposed to be. Snow at McDonald Pass out of season caused the route to be closed 1.5 hours into the ride.

Well, we left camp in Avon around 8am (later than usual) because of the rain that was coming down as we were breaking down the tent!! We were layered all over the place, but as we'd found out the day before, the gore-tex/lycra socks let lots of water in if you're riding in *rain* or through lots of puddles!

However, we did our standard descend-upon-the-nearest-gas-station/mini-mart and totally bought out it's stock of latex gloves, plastic bags, duct tape, and garbage bags. I'm fairly sure it was a Cononco, next to the "Last Chance Motel". I've got a picture of some us inside the shop.

The summit was at 6,230 feet or so, 10.8 miles out of camp, and it was raining harder than ever as we set out up towards the top. It seemed to Ro that it wasn't as steep as the hill up to Lolo Summit, but for the first time my glasses were fogging up on the portions of the switchbacks where my back was to the wind. So, with no begrudgement on my part *smile* I had to stop and let my glasses clear by turning my head to the wind on those portions, and we walked while they were clearing to stay warm. Because it was *cold*!!

So, we eventually made it all the way to the top! Pit 1 was at the top, 200 feet beyond the summit -- we pulled in (presumably to add more plastic baggies to our hands for the descent) and were immediately told that we were done for the day, the route was closed. We think the snow that had started falling a few hundred feet below the summit had something to do with it!! I had pretty much had lost the battle between me and the wind over the temperature control of my feet -- they were *cold*.

We got bundled into the RV that was on-site, and found it crowded with other riders. Actually, I found out later that my bike got into the picture on the front page of the Helena newspaper "Snow Stalls Cyclists" -- mine is the silver Marin on the end with the green-walled tires. whoo-hoo!! We were handed space blankets, and huddled with everyone while they shuttled the coldest-people-first down the mountain to the Baxendale Fire Station, a completely volunteer-manned station about 4 miles west of Helena. Pat, "just one of the grunts", as he puts it, was one of the extremely helpful and warm-blanket bearing rescue workers. We stayed there for a while, then once everyone was off the mountain they shuttled us over the longer distance to camp. Some of the riders were staying in town at a high school, but only those too sick or out-of-sorts to camp. Ro and I weren't in that group, luckily!

The gear trucks weren't at camp (?? Rodeo & Fairgrounds) yet but one of the barns had been opened and people were warming up inside. Ro and I were industrious, though; our gear truck arrived not too long afterwards, so we ran out and got them (even though were were soaked and cold) and got dry clothes out, changed into them (with the other holding up a blanket, one of the several donated by a local group), and strung up a clothesline and put all our wet stuff on it! We were soooo good! heehee. Later we put up our tent and started taking pictures of the campsite. A couple of pictures, actually.

After all that was set up we were hungry, so we took the school bus shuttle into town (at Townsend, a Really Cool little town with awesome nice people) and ate a late lunch at Jaspers, a renowned pizza and chicken joint which had a pool table *and* a foosball table! Ro beat me at foosball, of course. *grin*. Then we tried to get to the bank before it closed but failed by about half an hour...oh well, we get to Billings Sunday night and banks are usually open on Monday, our next rest day. We staked out the rainfly really really well and read for a while until the sun set and then went to sleep -- we were hoping that the next day would be better, but already rumors were circulating that the pass the next day was 12- to 1500 feet higher than McDonald Pass! We really don't have the gear for that...

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