As many of you probably know, the challenging terrain and snowy weather conditions on the Tour Divide have already begun to take their toll on bikes and bodies and the racers make their way through the great state of Montana. Ten riders have already withdrawn from the race, most due to various illnesses or injuries -- knees, ankles, stomach troubles, and one fractured collarbone.
But so far, the Mountain Turtle is keeping on his slow and steady pace, sounding strong and full of good humor. "I feel terrific!" "The weather is great, it's a beautiful day!" "I'm having a lovely time!" If you listened to his podcast from Columbia Falls on Monday, you know that he has revealed his strategy to all. "I start out slow, and then back off, and that is working great for me. I have tracks to follow through the snow, and I'm sure I've lulled (front runner) Matthew Lee into a total sense of security."
The biggest difficulty has been taking in enough food to fuel the ride. It takes a lot of calories to keep a Mountain Turtle going through the snow, and opportunities to replenish supplies are few and far between. The Holland Lake Lodge was nearly deserted when he arrived, with no one cooking or selling anything to eat. He left a note and money in the gift shop to pay for the 11 candy bars he was able to find, and was on the road again to tackle the snow on Richmond Peak.
Last night he called from Seeley Lake, where he had headed off the trail in search of something to eat, stopping at a place that he described as "half Texaco, half Ace Hardware, and half Mini-Mart." Yeah, I'm aware of the math issue here, but the important thing is that they had FOOD! Kent was able to feast on a spicy steak and cheese taquito, a coconut cream pie, and his favorite chocolate milk, and to load up on Spam and Pop Tarts for the miles ahead.
Kent continues to delight in seeing the wildlife on the trail. He saw a red fox and a gray fox during the day, and lots of deer. He was able to get good pictures of the deer; he says they seem curious. I imagine they are, as it is probably a rare thing for them to see people, especially a person who seems to be nearly as much at home in this remote wilderness as they are themselves. He bivy'd up by Seeley Lake last night, and was rolling again around 5:00 this morning, heading toward Ovando and then to the next checkpoint at Lincoln.