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 day off

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

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