MONTANA

Photos are here.

AUGUST 5: A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT

 
Today was one of those days that, had I had many of, I’d have quit the ride. It just was not fun. It rained all night without letup. Woke up to a bit of water in the tent and on the sleeping bag but nothing major. It is absolutely miserable to be cold and wet and that’s what I was after I tore down the tent. Thank God I bought a poncho in Lander. It came in handy but I was still cold. We stood around a while contemplating our next move and finally decided to move on. Rain or no rain. Kurt had to hang around and make the ride to Jackson. He was hoping to get a limo service in the area but we came to find out later there was nothing reasonable so he had to do 100 miles in the rain.

Scott’s tent had been put up over a natural small drainage so guess what? He was up in the middle of the night trying to divert water away from his tent. In the morning it looked like a river was running through the bottom of his tent. We were all very unhappy campers. We met up at the diner in the camp area and downed lots of coffee in the hopes that the luck that had been with us this whole trip would hold out and that with enough time it would stop raining. But now we had to pay the piper.

On leaving I put plastic bags over my shoes and put my poncho over my handlebar bag to keep things dry. Climbed quite a bit but it was not as bad as I thought it’d be—again. Went over the Continental Divide two more times. The first was at 8391 feet and the second was at 8262 feet. Had the same problem with downhills—I’d get cold from the evaporating sweat. Tried to keep my poncho wrapped tightly around my body but it was not possible. It kept flapping around and was a nuisance and a menace. So I put my windbreaker over the poncho. Guaranteed to sweat now.

As the day wore on my nerves would get more and more shot. The traffic is so intense and the people driver like they are in herds. It was so stressful to try and keep the bike on the roadway in the rain, wind, and traffic. Also, as the day wore on all I wanted was a warm place to stay but was concerned we’d not find one at either the hostel or any other hotel for that matter. The thought of another campsite was too depressing. As cars and RVs drove by I thought of how nice and warm and dry they were in there as opposed to the situation I was in. WAAH! WAAH!

Stopped at Old Faithful and arrived in time to watch it erupt. Taking good pictures was a totally different story because the gray of the sky and the gray of the steam tended to blend too much. No contrast. Stopped at the snack bar and had coffee to warm up. Scott was concerned about hypothermia so I told him he should get a poncho. He did and as the day wore on he said it helped him out.

Couldn’t find Dennis at Old Faithful (we’d agreed to meet there) so Scott and I left about 1 PM. The rain got worse but at least we had a shoulder to ride on. At least until the construction began. What a pitifully miserable stretch of 6 miles. The potholes were enormous and in such large quantities that it was dodging contest between me and my bike, the cars, the potholes, and the washboard surfaces of the road. On a couple of occasions I found myself in mud or soft gravel which almost caused me to keel over and crash.

I feel like writing the NPS about the road situation and how inexcusable it is to charge people $20 to get into the park (especially bicyclists who have no shelter) and then have the road so miserable for so long a period of time. I’d read in Donna’s book that she had these problems three years ago! Imagine – – three years to fix a small stretch of road. Our taxpayer dollars at work. It is gross negligence. Why couldn’t they tackle the road a mile at a time?

That aside, there was a certain mystical quality about riding through a burnt out forest on a mist filled rainy day surrounded by dozens of geysers and steam vents. Almost like out of an old black and white industrial film. Very black/white/gray.

One thing for certain: I will be so glad to get away from the roar of cars, RVs, and motorcycles. Yellowstone is a cars-only park, no doubt about it. Whereas the Tetons could be enjoyed by bike or on foot, Yellowstone absolutely can not. It is far too big.

Got to see elk and deer along the Madison River. It would have been nicer without the rain but beggars can’t be choosy.

Wonder of wonders I finally got to Montana, state number eight of this journey. There were no campgrounds nearby and it looked like all the hotels were full. I could find neither Dennis or Scott so I called the Hostel to see if they’d called or made a reservation. No luck. But……..they did have a room so I reserved it. HOORAY! Scott showed up shortly afterwards while I was cycling around looking for Dennis. Turns out Dennis waited for us at Old Faithful but in a different location from where we were so we never saw him. Plus he got a flat tire alongside the road.

Today was a day that brought out the worst in all of us. Dennis lost his cool at a Ranger and several drivers. Scott cursed at several drivers and so did I. I was at the point where if anyone had confronted me I was prepared to go into a stark, raving mad mode and threaten them with bodily harm.

Got to the room (small) and unloaded our stuff after first hosing down our bikes and panniers. We got totally filthy due to the construction work and all the cars driving by and spraying us. The bikes were a mess and I found out my panniers are not waterproof. Good thing I had my stuff in plastic bags. Then we went to the laundry and returned to shower and eat dinner at an all-you-can-eat soup and salad bar in the Timberline Restaurant.

The Hostel we are in is really the Madison Hotel. The rooms are arranged just as they were in 1910 when it was built. Obviously the town resulted from the opening of the park and the hotel is very quaint and rustic. Three to a room is a little tight but all we do in there is sleep so it is not as bad. The hotel has a lobby with TV and reading areas so it is quite nice.

Got into a discussion with Scott concerning the purity of making this kind of trip and whether or not staying in hotels violates that purity. He thinks we should spend less time in hotels but my idea is born out of the concept that life is too short to be miserable and that we should make it as pleasant as possible. For example, why should we suffer through another night of wet tents and sleeping bags when we can afford to stay in a warm and dry room? It is just not worth the grief and aggravation, pain, suffering, etc.

After dinner we went for drinks to celebrate survival of a miserable day and the achievement of having done 3000 miles. I had a Glenfiddich. Sure was nice.

Read in the paper that Alan Iverson had been picked up on drug and gun possession charges. OOOHH! Now there’s a surprise! He’s the same guy that, while in High School in the Hampton Roads area, beat this woman over the head with a chair. Got sent to jail and the governor pardoned him completely because he was such a star basketball player and felt justice would be better served that way. His buddies and accomplices, of course, were not given this preferential treatment.

AUGUST 6: REST DAY

 
Sure was nice to sleep in today! Slept until 7AM, went downstairs, fixed coffee, spoke to a couple of tourists from Korea and Czechoslovakia. She (Korean) is touring the USA by AMTRAK and says it is often delayed–by as much as 12 hours. That’s a disgrace!

He (the Czech), is traveling by Greyhound and realized he can’t hike through Yellowstone so asked my advice on where else in the USA he could visit.. After much discussion I told him either Rapid City (gave him Danny’s number) or Yorktown/Williamsburg/Jamestown. I then called Danny to tell him of a possible call.

Did some grocery shopping and went to the Post Office to mail off stuff and get postcards. Also got some silicone spray and treated my wind breaker and tent fly. Also treated the seams of the fly to keep water from getting through there.

Took a break after washing all my gear and treating the tent and wind breaker to have lunch. Then proceeded to do a little bike maintenance since poor Betty Boop took such a beating yesterday. Tightened all bolts and nuts since many had loosened; lubed the chain; brushed dirt off the wheels and tires; and just overall cleaned the bike. Heard a chirring noise in the front bearing whenever I rolled it so I took the wheel off and walked to the bike shop, (Yellowstone Bicycles) and had Les, the mechanic, take a look at it. Turns out it had water in the bearings so I had him rebuild it. He only charged me $6. Not a bad deal, I thought. I felt a lot better about getting that done now vs. having a catastrophic failure later on down the road.

We kept our bikes on the porch on the second floor and the hotel manager asked us not to hang around up there for safety reasons. Plus the cops don’t like it. So we’d scurry out there, put our stuff out, and get back in. Had our tents, sleeping bags, and flies hanging to either dry or air out. I also used the area to treat my clothes against water intrusion.

Well…Scott goes up there and on his way out the door gets momentarily distracted and falls through this huge gap between the porch and the door. He fell all the way to his upper thigh. We feared he may have been hurt quite badly so had him sit and put ice on his thigh for several hours. Tomorrow will tell if it helped. No telling how badly he could have gotten hurt had he fallen just a bit differently. I had visions of a compound fracture.

Turns out the hostel we stayed in used to be the first hotel in town and is on the Register of national Historic Places. Started out with six rooms and we stayed in one of them. Famous people that stayed in the hotel were Gloria Swanson and President Harding.

AUGUST 7: TAIL WINDS ‘R US

 
After a day of rest in which we contemplated our mortality and the lousy ride on the 5th, today was a real pleasure. Although we climbed several hills, none of which were too bad, we picked up quite a nice tailwind right after Earthquake Lake. The lake was interesting in itself due to its unusual method of creation in 1959.

Gradually rode up to the area where all the dirt had sheared off the face of the mountain and had to ride through a cut sliced through the dirt by the Corps of Engineeers. This “cut” into the mountain of dirt that fell also created the hill we climbed.

Scott was feeling better from the fall he took yesterday. We were concerned he messed up his leg badly but all seemed OK today. The ice packs worked well. Before leaving we even re-enacted the fall and took photos. It all looked pretty funny the day after and considering how he fell it is a wonder his leg did not come crashing down upon some poor hapless victim’s head since the location was right above the entry door.

The day started sunny but as I am writing this we are in camp in Cameron and it is getting cloudy and I hear thunderstorms approaching. It sure is nice to be able to set up camp without worrying about bears and having to put all your gear in bear proof boxes or up in a tree! All of a sudden it started to rain so now I will get to see how well my waterproofing holds up. The storm did not last long as the winds were very fierce and blew it away. At times I felt as if I were going to be blown away by the wind like Dorothy was swept away by the tornado in Wizard of Oz.

Ate 3 spam and cheese sandwiches. Yes, SPAM. Do not remember the last time I had the stuff but it was OK. Then again, when you are hungry, even crackers taste great.

For lunch we stopped at the Grizzly Restaurant about 23 miles south of Cameron. It was a fairly expensive burger but it sat like a rock anchoring itself in my stomach and lasting till we hit town.

Noticed the bike kept making weird sounds and was not sure if it was related to the beating it took in Yellowstone or just some other problem related to the weight of the panniers and their effects on system components. I figured it was something loose so I tightened everything I could think of, took it for a spin and heard no more noises so I guess the adjustments I made yesterday were not good enough.

Scott blew a tube and the tire so we stopped for emergency roadside repairs. Since he had no spare tire and his earlier effort to patch the tire with a dollar bill were unsuccessful, I let him borrow my spare tire. Just hope I do not need it before getting to Missoula!!

Most of the day we rode along the banks of the Madison River. It was so nice to get out and away from all the nasty park traffic. The temperature got up higher than usual today so for the first time in a long time I rode without my windbreaker.

Our stress level was incredibly reduced today and the beauty of the day was magnified by the wonderful floral scents we had accompanying us along the way. Sure made the day a lot nicer!

Got to Cameron (population 9) and the RV Park was not yet opened and ready for campers. There were no showers or bathrooms so we were allowed to camp for free. Since the store was open until 9, we at least had access to bathrooms in there. The owners were nice about it and we appreciated it. Additionally, the bar next door will be open for a bachelor party (complete with a stripper) so we can go there if required.

We then decided to use the money we’d not spent camping and spent it on beer in the Blue Moon Saloon.

Spoke to a young lady who works for the Forest Service and we talked about all sorts of stuff. When she found out I was in the service she asked questions about government jobs and what I thought of the FBI, etc. Because of her degree and desire to move around a lot, I told her she should try getting a job with the Foreign Service. We then got on the subject of children and she went on about how her friends were all pretty smart, well educated folks who were not too crazy about bringing kids into the world. Well, her philosophy used to be that but now she figures that if intelligent people do not have kids, the gene pool will dilute and we’ll have a bunch of dummies. So her plan is to have a lot of kids and try to counterbalance that effect somewhat! What a concept!

She also raved about what a great job she had so I will check into a possible job with them. She works as part of a team that horse packs into the boonies and blazes trails for hikers. She works for 10 days during which she stays in the wilderness and has to pack in all the food and water. Then when she is off, she stays in cabins provided by the FS and gets charged $2 per day rent. When in the wilderness she also gets a per diem in addition to her wages.

AUGUST 8: HER PUSSY TOUCHED MY NOSE

 
After a long day grinding up hills and fighting head winds, I was looking forward to a nice hot shower, a decent meal, and some time to write in my journal. But, NO!!!!, we get to Jefferson River Campground and notice a “FOR SALE” sign hanging out front. Not good news for us. We ride in and see only 3 RVs parked there, thought that maybe it was open, so we walked our bikes down a dirt path to the gate. The owner meets me at the gate and asks how I’m doing. I told him I’d be doing a lot better if he told me his CG was open and we could camp there. He tells me its $20 and asks how many tents. I told him only 3 small ones and he says it’s 2 tents per site. By then Scott arrived and asked him what difference it made as long as we were on one site? And, oh, by the way, if an RV pulled in with more than 2 people in it and RVs were $20, too, what’s the big deal. The guy then went on to say that RVs were limited to 2 people, too, (although there was no mention of this on his pricing chart) and that he’d charge them $5 extra per person which is what he wanted to charge us since it costs more to clean up after 3 people. I asked him if he had a grocery store and he said no. By now, Dennis had arrived. So Dennis says that we’re being charged $25 for a shower, basically. This set the guy off, he gets all belligerent and said he’d just as soon not have us there. So we left. As if he cleans the showers and toilets after every person uses it! So what if 5 or 50 people used those facilities. He just did not want our money badly enough.

Maybe it’s that kind of attitude that is causing him to have to sell the place. If he’d not said anything and allowed us to stay for $20, he’d have made a quick buck because we really are low impact campers. I hope he never sells the place and that he goes bankrupt.

So we went to Silver Star and the lady at the market said we could go to the fishing access area and camp there even though it said NO CAMPING. This was, after all, Montana, and Fish and Wildlife officials understand. It was by the Jeffrey River and had a magnificent view of mountain ranges to the East and to the West and the valley we rode through is miles long. This area of the country really is absolutely lovely. I have to return.

Overall, the ride today would not have been too bad had it not been for the 2000 foot climb we made to reach Virginia City from Ennis. To Ennis from Cameron we had a beautiful tailwind and a slight down hill so were able to average 19MPH.

Ennis is quite an interesting little place used as a jumping off point for many outdoor activities. The young lady from the bar yesterday recommended this little town highly. She said the restaurants in Ennis were very good and that the IGA was well stocked. She was not lying. It had a deli, a bakery with fresh baked breads of all sorts including a jalapeno bread and a tomato loaf.

Found out the owner of the campground in Cameron also bought the whole town! He showed us his cabins and I’d love to live in something like what he had. All it needed was a wood stove. Lots of fishermen come from all over and rent them out for evenings while they spend all day fishing.

Spoke with a woman who moved here from LA two years ago. She got tired of the money chase so she rents a trailer from the nice owner of the grocery store in Silver Star. She said she just loves to sit and watch the ospreys fish from the river, the bald eagle that makes his home in the area year-round, the elks in the field, and the fish jumping out of the river.

For entertainment we sat by the edge of the river while Scott jumped off the bridge into the water. YEEHAW!

As I wrote this I was witnessing the setting of the sun against the eastern range. Soon it will be dark and since we are not in tents the BIG SKY will be our canopy. So far two days in a row without showers. Tomorrow will be the third. We will be pretty rank by the end of the day.

Virginia City and Nevada City were fairly interesting little towns. When they were full fledged mining towns, life was quite exciting there. Now it beckons only tourists. They certainly bear further investigation and visits after this is all over.

Last night’s bachelor party was certainly wild. It woke me up once with whoops and hollers. I guess the stripper started to do her thing. I can just imagine how these country boys acted when she began disrobing. Dennis and Scott said she arrived about 11. They also said they’d been awakened later on at night by the guys leaving the bar and commenting on what happened. Seems they got a little too frisky and began touching her. She told them she liked being touched but not when she was working so if they did it again she’d have to hurt them. One guy was really thrilled and commented that, “her pussy touched my nose!” I can not begin to imagine how that occurred but he was ecstatic.

Amazing how many college kids we ran across (and retirees too) who work for the Park Service in the various parks. It’s really a good deal for kids. It gets them into a totally different environment and allows them to meet other people, make a little money, enjoy the beauty of our parks, and develop a sense of responsibility.

The skies underwent spectacular changes of color against the clouds to the East. Throughout the trip I always was fascinated at how things had a way of working out. Today did, too, since it is much better than being in a camping park.

If nothing else, this trip presents me with countless opportunities for things to do and places to go. I may not have resolved any personal issues nor answered any important questions concerning what I will do with the rest of my life but I HAVE added to the list of possibilities!!

AUGUST 9: ANOTHER UGLY DAY IN PARADISE

 
It was a dark and stormy….morning.

Woke up a couple of times during the night and enjoyed the beautiful stars and the Milky Way. It was so enjoyable last night to witness the metamorphosis from twilight to dark and see star after star make its appearance.

As it got lighter and lighter, more and more clouds made their presence. They gathered from all sides and there was no fleeing them. I had a bad feeling about this and as the day wore on I was proven right.

Made it to Grandma’s Market and hung around outside hoping for a break in the cold and wind when she showed up and invited us in for coffee. It was like having our own little angel show up. It is absolutely amazing how such small acts of kindness can mean so much.

I had a muffin with my coffee and we took off into a incredibly miserably cold and 20 MPH head wind, dark clouds, and obnoxious hills. It was 12 miles of hell. The wind chill must have lowered the temp from 45 to close to freezing. I’d work up a sweat pounding up a hill only to crest it and be chilled to the borders of hypothermia with the descent. I was pretty concerned for my safety and well-being but powerless to do much about it. Unless I wanted to not ride. Not an option!

Even a jersey with 2 windbreakers offered little relief. More clothes would have been worse. Less clothes worse. too. So I was screwed either way.

Made it to the top of Pipestone Pass, our 9th crossing of the Continental Divide, and blasted down the other side. At the top, Scott and I ran across a bunch of local cyclists who were not friendly. So self-concerned and incredibly aloof. As we were climbing Pipestone Pass, Scott mentioned how his day would be much better if a naked woman were to come bounding out of the woods. This was in response to my earlier comment about wanting the sun to come out. Eventually we got down to just coming across some good looking women in tight clothes. Soon as we hit the Pass three women cycled up the other side! Men are such pigs!! I love it!

Made it to Butte (not a pretty city) and had coffee and pancakes at McDonald’s and then went to Taco Bell to eat Burritos. Really just excuses to dry off our clothes and warm up our bodies. I took my windbreakers into the bathrooms and used the blow dryers on them.

Headed out to Anaconda via Interstate 90. Most of it was downhill and what with big semis going past us, we made good time just being sucked along and zipping at a good pace. Anaconda’s an old mining town established back in the 1800s. There’s still some mining going on. Saw a huge mound of some black material along the side of the road (and when I say huge I mean several stories tall and at least a football field length and width) but have no idea what it was. Forgot to ask around in town but I am sure it is related to the mining industry.

Wasted no time getting to the laundro-mat to do dirty, sweaty, stinking clothes. Watched the weather channel while waiting and heard the clouds were to clear but the temps were to get to near record lows of 30s. BRRR!

Did some grocery shopping and finally had lunch about 430 PM.

Went to Dennis’ tent and drank beer. It was too cold to be outside.

AUGUST 10: INDIANS ON THE BEER PATH

 
Another day filled with emotional and psychological ups and downs. I find it amazing how powerful the sun is in lifting one’s spirits. Yesterday we were in cold, wind, clouds all day long with only a few moments of sunshine that occurred while we watched some “Class C” state softball championships.

Whereas yesterday’s ride ended in cold and clouds, today’s ended in glorious sunshine.

Last night was not easy to bear. We had to contend with softball matches that went on past midnight. I slept through most of it but found out from Dennis and Scott who’d gone to town to drink beer and eat at Subway. Then the assholes in the three tents next to mine decided to go on a yelling, hooting, and hollering binge at 230 AM brought on by too much beer. They woke up campers who yelled at them to shut up–which only antagonized these yahoos and caused them to increase their pitch, volume, and fervor. I heard challenges to kiss ass, accusations of honkey and whitey, threats to take scalps, etc.

If I hadn’t had to pee so bad I’d probably have slept like a log and not heard a thing. As it was, nature called and upon hearing this ruckus and sensing that the mood was ugly, I erred on the part of caution, deciding not to stick my head out of the tent only to be thought of as one of the disgruntled campers and have them incur their wrath upon my head. So I sacrificed one of my already shot-to-hell water bottles to the urine gods and went back to sleep. The “braves” shut up and went to sleep when it began to rain.

7AM found us awakened to AC/DC at very high volumes from one end of the campground and C&W from the other. What is it that causes these folks to think they are being cool by doing this? Is it ignorance? Poverty? Stupidity? Immaturity? Probably all four.

In any case, it was somewhat cool so we hurriedly packed our gear, had breakfast and went to a cafe for coffee.

The weather looked like it wanted to clear up but when I looked up towards the pass we had to climb I noticed it was girded with dark clouds with more headed in the direction we were headed. HMMM! As passes go, it was a relatively easy climb and we were favored by a nice tail wind all the way to the top. As we climbed, the clouds followed us but we were traveling a bit faster and gaining on the blue sky ahead. What I should have figured out was that I was leaving dark clouds behind much faster than the difference between my forward speed and my tail wind. This could mean only one thing: an opposite direction high level head wind was forcing the clouds to stagnate near the summit. And head winds were what we had all the way down the pass and into Drummond. When I got over the pass, it was as if a little part of my world got happy and put on its blue bonnet fringed with white clouds illuminated by a brilliantly yellow sun. Lovely!

I am fully convinced that going East to West is the right thing to do for two principle reasons (regardless of winds or what anyone may tell you about which way they blow: 1.) the gradients are less steep (I’d hate to have to climb the hills I descended) 2.) I would not want to go East knowing I had to confront the Ozarks and the Appalachians in the heat and humidity of July and August.

I stopped at a service station in Phillipsburg and found Dennis waiting. So the two of us waited for Scott. Once we were all together we formed a pace line to Drummond. The winds had not let up and had it been calm we’d have made it in a little over an hour since it was only 26 miles and all downhill. As it was, it took us 1.5 hours with the lead switching every mile. Good experience and not as taxing.

Once in Drummond we found the Wagon Wheel restaurant and I pigged out on their salad bar. They had a great dessert called the “5 Cup Dessert” made with one cup each sour cream, pineapple chunks, marshmallows, mandarin oranges, and coconut. YUM YUM. Also had a bowl of vegetable soup.

Went to the park and scoped out our ride after Missoula. Turns out there are only 14 riding days left. Sure snuck up on us. This thing is almost over. Hard to imagine. After all we’ve been through here we are in Montana, two states to go and two weeks to do it in.

The park is situated by a river and very serene. Took some pix and generally just lay around resting.

AUGUST 11: “THIS COLD AIR IS JUST LIKE A GIRL; EVERY TIME IT TOUCHES MY SKIN I HAVE TO PEE” (..ANON)

The title gives away the tone for the rest of the day. Sometime after 2AM the weather gods decided to turn down the thermostat and I found myself burrowing into my sleeping bag to stay warm since I was on a picnic table and not in my tent. Before falling asleep mosquitoes were annoying my face so I pulled my sleeping bag’s papoose hood over my head leaving a small hole to peer through. From this prone position I again witnessed “diamonds in the sky” with a smattering of Milky Way cream. Somehow my 20 degree bag wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. At 6 I was up, rushed to stow my gear and hightailed it to the restaurant. As we crossed the railroad tracks the Park guy busted us and we paid a fee. We hadn’t left any money earlier as we still thought bikers stayed for free but that is no longer true. Dennis told him Scott was still there and since we’d paid for three, there was no need to shake him down. A few minutes later Scott met us at the restaurant and said we saw the guy patrolling the premises but never approaching Scott so he bailed out of there quickly thinking he’d gotten over only to find out he owed US money and not the Park guy. We found this mildly amusing. I imagine the scene would have looked fairly hilarious what with Scott not knowing what was going on.

We hit the interstate and the ride was very nice as we followed a river most of the way. I stopped at a rest stop for free cookies and a free smile from these ladies who were trying to raise money for the Drummond Library. It was here that my anonymous guest blurted out the famous quote which is today’s title. It was hilarious! I have to categorize it as one of the “moments” of the trip. Scott’s been fun to ride with and has a keen sense of humor. I picture him as a frustrated artist who despairs at peoples’ fascination with money and he longs for a society free to express itself creatively and for a society that wishes to learn for the sake of learning as opposed to the pursuit of the almighty dollar. A bit idealistic, yes, but the world needs more like him.

About 30 miles out of Missoula I got my first flat tire. I was not complaining. I did, after all, go 3400 miles without that kind of problem. It would not have happened had I not taken a bump too hard which pinched the tube against the rim and caused a classic case of snake bitten tube. Dennis helped me out and I got 45 lbs. of pressure in the tire and off we went. With the exception of the last 5 miles before town, we had a great ride. Averaged 16.3 MPH and dodged in and out of the smoother pavement on the road surface vs. the shoulder. Donna Ikenberry’s book mentioned taking the frontage road but having seen how it went up and down, we were all glad to have taken the interstate.

Very happy to be in Missoula and liked the town right away. Maybe it was all the cyclists and wide cycle lanes, maybe it was the location, maybe it was the smell of fresh roasted coffee everywhere, or maybe the friendliness of the people. OK, it was all the above.

Our first stop was the Visitor’s Center for a map. Lots of chickees on bikes!! Must be because the University was close by the Visitor’s Center. Then we went to Adventure Cycling HQ for cookies and information. Went to their wall map and with arms outstretched, plotted how far we’d come. Then to the Open Road bike shop where I had my rear hub re-packed. It was making clicking/chirring noises like the front hub. When torn apart, it had water in it, too. Nice shop and nice people.

The Birchwood Hostel was not even half a block from the bike shop but since it did not open until 5 we went to a nearby park and did a little bike maintenance, lunch eating, and resting.

Then the real fun began. Our sole reason for getting to Missoula early was to rent a car and go to Glacier National Park. So we traipsed downtown to get a cup of Joe and begin calling around for a car. Neat little coffee shop on Front Street full of local color. Some bizarre characters in there and somewhat typical of a college town. You have the strange and not-so-strange hanging around together. Chess was the pastime of choice with some of the guys carrying around strategy sheets, old played games mapped out, etc. The first four rental agencies were sold out. I found that highly unusual. HMMM, I thought to myself. So I asked the waiter if Elvis was coming to town for a concert thereby causing a run on the cars. He was clueless—and humorless. What a waste of humanity. GEEZ, what’s wrong with kids nowadays? And to think the future of our country is in their hands. Not a pretty picture. So Dennis tried five companies and all he could find was a 4×4 for $78 per day. We did not want to go to Glacier that badly. Now Scott comes up with the brilliant idea to call dealerships. I’d have never thought of that. So while he went shopping for a barber I called some. Again, no luck. Everyone was out of cars. How bizarre!!! Must be tourist so far as I can figure.

Since everything has a way of working itself out, I chalked this up as an opportunity to drink more beer and sample local cuisine for the next two days.

Went grocery shopping and met a Japanese fellow who biked from Fairbanks, down the ALCAN, had a run-in with two grizzlies and is on his way to Mexico, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. I find it amazing what people do. This guy must have been through all sorts of crap and is on his way to even more—he speaks no Spanish….and barely speaks English! Ballsy!

Checked into the hostel, got our rooms, and chatted with all sorts of folks. Scott got the hots for Heather but she’s on her way outta Dodge so he’s frowny. Also spoke to a German guy who works for the Postal service there. And to close a loose end from the Bike Surgeon, met some folks who ran across the 17 year old “atheist Jew”. {play the Outer Limits music here!}

The hostel consisted of a kitchen facility, a living room, and several dorm style rooms including one for women only, one for couples, and an open room. It also had a couple of showers and laundry facilities. The only down side is the requirement to leave by 9 AM and not return until 5PM. Costs $8 per night and everyone had to do at least one chore.

For our evening entertainment we went to the Rhinoceros Bar which has 50 different taps of micro-brews. We had a beer and might have had more had it not been for several patrons lighting up nasty cigars which ran us out of there.

AUGUST 12: REST DAY

 
Amazing how a lot of traffic noise is so much better than an alarm clock at waking a person up! In this hostel it is difficult, if not impossible, to find a room where traffic noise is not prevalent—especially if the weather is warm and the windows need to be open. But that’s OK since we have to be up and out anyway.

For a rest day I actually got a lot done. Had breakfast at the Headquarters Café. Excellent coffee and scones. Yummy! Hit the library, logged onto the net and sent email to several folks to let them know where I was and what I was up to. Wandered around town and bought a pair of jeans and some socks. Pigged out at the Pizza Hut, went back to downtown and met up with folks from the hostel. Saw the famed carousel in Caras Park and returned to Headquarters Café for more go-juice.

Continue reading: Idaho and Oregon

Photos are here.

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