Any Road Tour: Day 45 – Hanging by an ear

Today’s ride was less of a downhill stroll. And the winds were a non factor. I rolled the first five miles while eating a hot breakfast burrito. Yes, the Mexicans so many fear in these parts have invaded the sanctity of breakfast.

It was muy bueno.

More tree covered hills and more mountains that would make a bighorn sheep happy. And a river by my side. Ho hum, beautiful country to bike through.

Thirty miles into my ride I passed into Idaho. There was a proper Welcome to Idaho sign after this but I was cruising downhill at 34 mph when I saw it. Not about to stop for that.

The road became much busier as I approached Sandpoint. And the shoulder disappeared for ten miles. Yay, Idaho.

I didn’t much care because Lake Pend Oreille was on my left for over 20 miles.

Although I didn’t photograph it, I could see two ski resorts up in the mountains above Sandpoint.

When I rolled into Sandpoint I celebrated my escape from Montana with a root beer float. That was just after I checked out the town beach.

After the ice cream I went to a bike shop to use a floor pump, I was running at 55 psi. I’ll need 80 for the hills ahead.

Before leaving town I stopped st a restaurant for dinner. Chicken fettuccine with cherry pie for desert. (Apparently huckleberries are not an Idaho thing.)

On the bike path out of town a woman rode by on an electric assist bike. She works from home but uses the ebike to commute to meetings in town. She was my friend Charmaine’s doppelgänger.

We were riding along when she veered off the trail. She told me it was closed ahead and directed me to a side road to continue my journey. She also told me of a state park just 6 miles beyond a crummy RV Park I was going to use on the highway,

I called the state park reservation line but they refused to reserve s spot on short notice. They told me to call the park directly. When I did, I got a recording telling me to call the reservation line.

So I’m staying at the RV park. Good thing I have my ear plugs.

I made a reservation to fly home from Portland on the 21st. This is probably too aggressive and means I’ll skip Seattle altogether, riding instead to the Pacific coast at Astoria.

I am hoping to get to Portland to help celebrate a friend’s birthday. And see two other people. And go to Multnomah Falls, and ship my bike home, and buy two duffle bags for consolidating my bike stuff at the airport.

In any case, I can change it if I need to.

Miles today: 73

Tour miles: 3,275

Any Road Tour: Day 44 – I was overdue

Really mediocre spaghetti and meatballs cannot be redeemed by huckleberry pie a la mode.

That’s all I have to say about last night’s feeble attempt at carbo loading.

After a motel breakfast of Frosted Flakes and Eggos (my touring diet is totally embarrassing) I hit the road to Paradise. As any Finn Brother fan knows, Paradise is wherever you are. But not in Montana. Endless Montana. I’m beginning to think the other 49 states were nuked by our pal Rocket Man. Montana is this long so that you’ll really appreciate not spending more than 24 hours in Idaho.

The road was a downhill joy, winding along the Clark Fork River through the Lolo National Forest. Around every bend there was a wow moment like this.

Or this. (Looks a tad unstable to me.)

After 21 miles of traveling northeast I turned west on Highway 200 which I’ve been riding on since North Dakota. I’d been advised that this is a nasty stretch of road but with a steady downhill and a 10 mph tailwind in dry 70 degree weather you can run Winnebagos up my ass all day and I won’t complain,

But there was light traffic. Everyone was celebrating ‘Merica by fishing and rafting and drinking cheap beer in blue cans.

In one area the mountains to my north looked like they had just been pushed to the sky. Signs advised to look out for bighorn sheep up on the mountain. I kept looking but didn’t see any.

The town of Thompson Falls cape 10 miles later than my maps said. I stopped at the first place with sitsown food, a fried chicken shop inside a grocery store. I was hungry and, you know, ports in storms.

A mile later came the actual town with actual restaurants. My tummy didn’t care.

The post lunch cycle proceedings were harmed by warm air. Temperatures rose into the 80s for the first time in a week. People have been walking around in what passes for winter coats in DC.

There were a few logging trucks. I think they were going here:

When I rolled into Trout Creek (the town, not the waterway) I started scouting for a place to rest my head. One motel on a lake was outrageously expensive. There seemed to be some sort of public access to the forest down a long dirt road. Or a modest second motel. I chose what was behind door number three. It’s a fine little place, the kind you see all over Vermont.

I walked down the street to the grocery story for dinner and liquid refreshment.

My hotel’s TV advertising pretty much tells you the political landscape around here. I’ve never once seen a motel advertise MSNBC.

I suppose it’s the flyover version of the Confederate flag.

Miles: 77.5

Tour Miles: 3,202

Tomorrow we’ll find out if Idaho is more than a BoDeans song.

500 States in 10 Days

Mrs. Rootchopper says that a good definition of amnesia is going through a second pregnancy. I have a definition of dementia. On September 8, I will ride the 50 States Ride in DC for the tenth time.

That’s right, 500 States!

Last year I rode with a fabulous group of friends who made me feel old and feeble. Of course, riding with pulmonary embolisms might have had something to do with that.

This year I hope to be healthier. And I want some good company again. Today I already registered myself and my friend Emilia, who will be joining me for the third time since 2014. (Emilia es muy loca.) So join us.

If you are a WABA member you’ve already received an email with registration details. If you’re not a WABA member, you can ride as a guest of a registered member. Or become a member and register.

In any case, I need someone to keep Emilia and me from riding off course – AGAIN!

And you won’t even have to tow me over Cathedral Heights because Emilia said she’d do that,

Also, I agree not to skip the 18 states that I’ve actually ridden in since last year’s ride. (I mean, I’ve really had my fill of Montana!)

So sign up. Then send me a message to let me know you’re joining the 500-States Posse!

Any Road Tour: Day 43 – Downhill squeeze on I-90

Last night’s dinner at the Old Post in Missoula featured two pale ales that did a fine job of hydrating me and my dinner of a southwest burger with tater tots. Thanks again to Emma Wimmer for the dinner suggestion. Based on social media comments, Emma is missed by a whole mess of #bikedc people.

Speaking of #bikedc people, Alex Baca returned to DC today after several years living in San Francisco and Cleveland. (I think we should call her LaBron.) I can’t be at her welcome home party today but, we’ll, Welcome Home, Alex!!!!

Oh yeah, the bike tour.

I lingered over breakfast at the hotel to avoid riding in sub-50 degree weather. Did somebody say “Early April?”

I followed an informal route provided by Adventure Cycling. The ride out of Missoula included a lot of suburban ick but eventually I was on a frontage road to the very western section of the Mass Pike.

The frontage road doom turned to gravel and dirt for about ten miles. I didn’t care. I was rested and pretty much nothing would make me cranky.

Frenchtown went by in a blink and after 33 miles I rolled into Alberton. It had a general store so I parked The Mule under an extended eave and went looking for grub. It was a real challenge to find something not in a can or less than 80 proof.

As I shopped a cold rain began. I stood next to my steed eating Doritos, cookies, and a candy bar while swilling Diet Pepsi. Nutrition is my middle name.

The rain stopped so I headed out of town following my map onto the interstate. All was going well until I entered a construction zone. Traffic was one lane in each direction. I had a wide shoulder to myself until I came to two bridges which were about 150 yards long in total. No shoulder. Eek.

Fortunately the road was trending downhill and the speed limit was lowered from 80 to 55 mph. I waited uphill from the bridges and took off when I saw a big gap in traffic. I made it across with room to spare.

A mile later it happened again. This bridge was half as long but it was on an uphill section of road. I pedaled like crazy but only made it half way across before a white old man sedan rolled by me at about 30 mph. Thankfully it wasn’t a Winnebago.

I took another frontage road soon after the two squeeze plays. The views were great. The road was paved. I was following the Clark Fork River. I passed a rafting outfitter who yelled a greeting and offered me water. Nice lady.

In Superior I stopped at a funky cafe and gift shop. I ordered the peanut butter and banana panini and coffee. The sandwich came with chips, carrots, and a small piece of chocolate chip chocolate cake. And a cup full of honey for dipping.

With very happy tummy, I resumed my ride for the last 13 miles to St. Regis. This entire leg was on I-90. Once again I came to a bridge where I lost my shoulder. Once again I failed to cross the span before traffic caught up to me. I was fortunate that the first vehicle to reach me was a tractor trailer with a very patient driver. I heard him downshift as he approached. As I cleared the bridge I gave him a wave and a thumbs up.

Like yesterday today’s ride was nearly all downhill. I did only a handful of climbs of more than 50 feet. There were headwinds but they were manageable. And it rained a bit.

The best part of the day was getting to 70 miles and feeling like I could do a lot more. I didn’t. During the stop in Alberton I reserved a room at a motel in St. Regis.

Total miles: 76

Tour miles: 3,124.5

Tomorrow should be my last day in Montana.

Any Road Tour: Day 42 – Missoula rest dayo

Last night I laid out my wet things in my huge room at the Holiday Inn. And passed out.

I awoke and laid about, checking on flights home from Seattle and Portland. I packed up and went next door for coffee and a breakfast burrito.

Then I hit the bank because sometimes only cash will work in the hinterlands ahead.

I rolled over to the mothership, the headquarters of the Adventure Cycling Association. A friendly young man whose name I forgot took my picture with The Mule for the legendary Adventure Cycling wall of bike tourists.

Next I met Emma Wimmer, a former resident of DC and mutual friend of about a dozen #bikedc folks. She started by giving me routing advice for the next several days. Exactly what I needed. Then she gave me the cook’s tour of the place. I’ve been a member for at least 20 years so it was fun to see how it all works. I even met Ginny Sullivan who works on nationwide bike routes. We also have lots of mutual connections and interests.

After over an hour I posed with Emma for a picture outside. Thank you, Emma. What a treat it was meeting you.

Emma gave me recommendations on a camping store where I bought seam sealer for my tent. And on a restaurant (The Catalyst) where I bought lunch. Grilled cheese on vegan bread? Well, despite the dairy anomaly it tasted great.

Next on the advice of a Twitter follower I went to the Big Dipper for some ice cream. It was chilly out so I put on my jacket while I ate.

A block away I found Missoula Bicycle Works. They replaced my pedals (they’ve been squeaking since Minnesota) and tightened my rear hub.

Next I rode gently to the west of town and booked a hotel room. There I sealed the seams of the rain fly of my tent. Then I went inside on an absolutely beautiful afternoon and fell sound asleep for three hours.

I guess I was tired. They call me Mr. Excitement.

After waking I watched an inning of the Sawx vs the Nats on TV. What ever is wrong with my Nats? I am sure that my Baseball Operations manager is working hard to fix it, aren’t you Katie Lee?

In the evening I walked a half mile to the Old Post, Emma’s dinner suggestion. She went three for three.

Miles: 4

Total miles: 3,048.5

June by the Numbers

In June I rode 29 of 30 days for a total of 2,260.5 miles all in The Mule, my Specialized Sequoia touring bike. My longest ride was 136 miles from Fargo to Gackle, North Dakota. And The Mule broke both the 47,000 and 48,000 mike marks.

In the first half of 2018 I rode 6,254 miles.

Any Road Tour: Day 41 – Wasted in Missoula

Before I begin today’s report I wanted to show you my trail angel from yesterday. Here’s Maria who invited me to join the “plant nerds” at the Montana Native Plants Society meeting in the woods west of Lincoln.

If I have the story right, she gee up in the tiny town of Ovando, MT about which more in a moment.

I hung out with the plant nerds all night. It was a full out orgy in the woods,

I’m kidding. It was an earnest group of field botanists who truly care about the flora of Montana. Got me the most interesting part was hearing how Maria and her friend Jack Potter (no not the former PMG) talk about their joint replacements and related medical problems. Hiking is very hard on the body. I feel better now because when I go hiking I feel sore all over.

Anyway, thanks to the MNPS and Maria for taking me under their wing got the night.

I slept poorly, the after effects of drinking beer the day before and riding hard two days in a row. And the fact that it rained all night, outside and inside my tent. (I will shop for seam sealer tomorrow.

Also i slept in my rain gear for warmth since the temperature dipped into the 40s. (There is snow visible on top of the taller mountains around here.)

After breakfast with the nerds I took off on the long ride ton Missoula. I had planned to ride to Ovando yesterday but the climb over Rogers Gap, fierce headwinds, and Maria’s sales skills put me nearly 30 miles shy of that town. A 55+ mile ride from Ovando to Missoula would have been a nice break from the long days I’d been putting in. With the distance from the MNPS meeting to Ovando, today’s ride clocked in at 88 miles.

The headwinds were moderate to start and the ride was nearly all downhill. Sleepy and sore, my body wanted nothing to go with the effort.

After a half hour I rode through Lincoln. I had been told that accommodations in Lincoln were probably sold out but I could see plenty of empty campsites as I rode through town. Sadly, I had to skip the town’s rodeo and it’s famous Ring of Fire.

The ride to Ovando was done on fumes. I just couldn’t get into a rhythm.

My friend Charmaine sent me an article about how this tiny town of less than 100 attracts Nicole tourists from both the Lewis and Clark Trail and the Great Divide Mountain Route.

I joined Tom, a GDMBR rider, for second breakfast at the town eatery. He described bear paw prints as big as his plate and riding into a herd of elk. I take my chances with Winnebagos.

We briefly talked to two other GDMBR riders from New Zealand.

On the way out of town I checked out some of the town’s kooky sleeping quarters for weary cyclists: a teepee, a chuck wagon, and an old town jail. I’d have stayed but my rest day in Missoula was my top priority.

Into the increasingly strong headwinds I rode. I was out of gas after 15 miles. I stopped to eat junk food. After another five miles I was bonked again.

It was misery amid splendor. The beauty of the mountains and woods and streams was astounding. I could have stopped every mile to take pictures. In the interest of getting myself off the bike sooner I kept riding.

After 75 miles I stopped at a sub shop in Milltown. I was starving. I ate giant sandwich and it instantly revived me.

Good thing too, the headwinds intensified with each passing mile into Missoula. One blast in particular almost brought me to a dead stop.

I forged ahead and asked the Google to direct me to a Warmshowers house. The Google tool me on a confusing ride through the University of Montana campus.

I finally found the lovely house in a beautiful neighborhood. As I rolled my bike inside, I became dizzy. I had waaay overdone it. It seemed like a fascinating place to stay but I just couldn’t deal with interacting with people. I made my apologies to the hosts and rode off to find a hotel.

And so I landed in a huge room in a Holiday Inn. Tomorrow I rest.

Miles: 88

Tour Miles: 3,044.5

Any Road Tour: Day 40 – The Mule goes over the top

Last night I over did dinner again. Cheeseburger (Montana beef is mighty tasty) with fries, three local Belgian white beers, and tater tots stuffed with jalapeño and cheese. Suffice it to say, I did not sleep all that well.

I awoke at 5:30 to a massive muscle cramp in my left calf. It hurt so much. I told myself to breathe through the pain and it subsided. (Frankly, I think the breathing just took my mind off the pain.)

Breakfast was a massive serving of biscuits and gravy with an equally massive side of hash browns at Mel’s Diner across from the Inn. I was disappointed that the Fonz wasn’t there but the food was great.

Off I rode budding Augusta farewell. I headed south roughly parallel to the Rockies. A favorable wind allowed me to ride comfortably for 20 miles before I turned west and began THE CLIMB OF DEATH.

I road a two lane highway with minimal shoulder (thanks to rumble strips). Speed limit 70. Up, down, and around the road meandered. The ups were bigger than the downs as I slowly made my way to 4,500 feet. Then the gun began.

The climb to Rogers Gap at 5,600 feet was 8 miles into a headwind.

Of course, to make it more interesting the road became steeper near the top.

I pulled over to rest about 3 miles from the crest and my bike started to roll backwards. I had been climbing so long that I didn’t realize how steep it was.

I paced myself as I ascended. Getting to the top wasn’t particularly difficult, it just took a long time.

Then I saw the sign for the top. Continental Divide, Ma! (Sorry. Geezer cinematic reference.)

Some cars were parked on the shoulder. A woman got out of the rearmost one and offered to take my picture.

Her name was Maria. We got to talking and I mentioned that I wasn’t sure where I was staying tonight. Maria was doing field work with the Montana Native Plant Society. She invited me to stay with her group (of over 100 people) just east of Lincoln.

I begged off then took off down the mountain. Or not. The dreaded soul sucking westerly Montana headwinds were much stronger on this side of the Mountain.

Running low on food and water I realized that it was poor form to turn down such s gracious invite.

After I crossed a beautiful river, I followed Maria’s directions and ended up at their campground . It has a lodge building and shower facilities. I will be camping along a river.

I arrived around 1:30 so it’s a short day for me. Tomorrow will be a tough 80+ mile grind into the wind to Missoula and a rest day.

Miles: 52

Total miles: 2,956.5

Any Road Tour: Day 39 – Detour

Today was supposed to be an easy 54 miles of relatively level terrain. Just the thing for my tired legs and bloated belly (I totally overdid dinner last night).

I found my way out of Great Falls and across the Missouri River on a bike/ped bridge.

along a nondescript highway to Vaughn where is was greeted with this sign.

This road is the last 20 miles to Augusta, my planned destination.

I decided to continue on to Simms at the beginning of that last 20 mile stretch and then consider my options.

It was a pleasant enough ride into a not-too-annoying headwind.

In Simms I consulted the local gas station for information. He said a couple on bikes made it through a few days ago but could not say I’d be allowed passage over a partially washed out bridge.

We called s couple of places in Augusta but nobody was certain I could get over the bridge.

We all agreed the safe thing to do would be to ride north to Fairfield then west then south to Augusta. This would be an additional 17 miles.

Off I went into a cross wind. When I made the turn west I got clobbered with one of Montana’s soul sucking headwinds.

Whatever. It is what it is. Just keep on pedaling.

Then, unlike the original route, it got very hilly.

This went on for 15 miles then I came down off the hill. Eek!

Then up again. Then down again.

At least the view was interesting. (There was actually a road sign that said Rocky Mountains got the geographically impaired traveler.)

Fortunately the wind died down and I could ride into Augusta with relative ease.

In Augusta I checked into the Bunkhouse Inn. I was expecting a dive but this place is beautiful. Here’s the lobby.

I don’t want to leave but the restaurant across the street is calling me.

The proprietor of the Inn told me that Lincoln MT is having some festival tomorrow. Lincoln is the first town over Rogers Pass. The next one is Ovando, about 80 miles from here. Let by story short: tomorrow’s going to be brutal.

Miles: 71

Total miles: 2,904.5

Any Road Tour: Day 38 – The Tour hits the breaks

I slept nine hours last night, probably recovery from whatever made my head spin.

Breakfast was late so I didn’t hit the road until 9. Into a headwind. But I didn’t care. I was rested and fed and I’ve ridden 2,700+ miles and I’m getting used to wind abuse.

The landscape was greener and less spectacular than yesterday. Field. Grain. Cattle. Butte. Repeat.

I confess to talking to the livestock as I ride by. I swear they understand English. Good morning! How’s it going? Wanna run?!

They said the cattle of central Montana are a lot less interactive than the ones in North Dakota.

I’ve seen some deer now and then. They bound like cartoon animals. You can almost hear the BOING BOING BOING.

After 20 miles I could see cliffs off in the distance. The Missouri Breaks. Here the Missouri, which I crossed back in Bismarck, cuts s deep gash in the land.

At 25 miles the road corkscrews steeply downward to the river at Fort Benton. Yowza!

The town has some historic buildings and an old river boat but I came for the French Dip and the tater tots, or gems, at the Club House sports bar.

What goes down must go up, but the way to Great Falls turns to the south. I had a tailwind for the first time in days. I still had to bring in granny for the climb but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought.

About 15 miles later I did another steep descent. My top speed was 39.9, feathering my brakes. The wind had become a cross wind and nothing says “wet your pants” quite like a side blast as your approaching 40 miles per hour in a runaway mule.

It’s a very zen thing. If you think about what might happen you’ll lock your arms and bad things will happen. If you just stay loose, pay attention to this specific instant, and breathe, you’ll turn fear into excitement.

But you may still wet your pants.

The 50+ miles from Fort Benton to Great Falls was pleasant but unremarkable. The last few miles were on a divided highway with strange rumble strips. They were on the edge of the paved shoulder instead of next to the white line. I ran over a few of them and they barely rumbled. Or maybe my ass was numb from so many miles.

I turned off the highway and stopped at the first gas station I saw. I asked to use the bathroom and the clerk laughs and handed me the key. I must have looked like a maniac doing the pee pee dance.

I followed my map to the river edge trail. The Missouri looked angry and muddy. The trail was well designed and seemed interconnect with neighborhoods and other trails. Wayfinding signs made it easy for me to navigate.

Water blasted through the dam near town. It was an impressive site.

After 82 miles I pulled into the Holiday Inn. It looks like an old Embassy Suites hotel with an atrium that appears to be stolen from a Cabelas.

It was a long hard day. I got my money’s worth. Tomorrow I ride to the mountains.

Miles: 82

Tour miles: 2,832.5