Day 17 – June 17th – Clearwater Camping Area at Junction of Hwy. 83 and Hwy. 200 to Helena, MT – 90 miles

Packed up camp relatively early this morning. A coating of dew lined the outside of the tent after a relatively pleasant night. I stopped at the rest area right off of Highway 200, one mile from where I camped to do a quick cell phone charge and water bottle refill.

I was off.

Two things really started to get to me today. First off was the climbing. Hills would take me up a little ways, but then, much to my dismay, they would go down again. One would think going down would be great, but when you know that crossing a mountain pass is on the agenda for the day, you don’t want to go down until you’re over the pass.

By far the largest inconvenience for the day, however, was the wind. I chose to go west to east for the principal reason that the winds are almost always from the west, making it easier for me to pedal along. The opposite was true today.
A perfectly horrible ESE wind blew into my face almost all day.

One event that could not be overlooked today was the dog attack. About 15 miles west of Avon, MT, I was passing a residence not too terribly far from the road. As I was even with the house and passing by, a sprinting, barking dog bolted from behind an old, rickety fence.
My pedaling rate instantly doubled.

I reached the maximum running speed of the dog as it was within 5 or 6 feet of my bike. The distance between the dog and myself grew slowly until the dog gave up about 1/5 of a mile from the house.

That was too close for comfort.

The turning point for the day was definitely reaching the pinnacle of MacDonald pass at 6,325 ft.

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From the scenic overlook just on the east side of the pass, the landscape opened up, and in the distance (and a long way down) was the beautiful capital city, Helena:

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The exhilarating ride down included passing semis and logging trucks at speeds up to 35 mph. I could have went faster, but knowing a little mishap would mean serious injury at best, I played it safe on the speed.

After exhausting all momentum at the bottom, 10 miles separated me from the discounted motel room at Super 8 that I reserved a few miles back when I was at the cafe in Avon (Ironically Avon, MT marked my halfway point of the trip to Avon, MN almost to the mile).

It seemed like a joy ride would ensue the next 10 miles until I looked behind me. A dark wall of clouds made their way over the mountains behind me :
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The rain drops began to fall as Super 8 was in sight.

I made it.

Today easily rivaled the day I went over Washington Pass as the most difficult day of cycling I’ve had.

Small town of Ovando:

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The Stray Bullet is an excellent stop:

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Saw an elk and antelope today:

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Picture of clouds in Helena:
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