Bike Tour 2022 – Missoula to Lochsa Lodge

A night of purloined Netflix put us in the mood to break camp and get back on the road.

Motel breakfast was so so. We left on the roads for Lolo somewhat underfed. Coming into Missoula we used bike trails but leaving we used city streets, devoid of traffic early on this Fourth of July holiday.

As luck would have it the road took us to a WalMart where we bought a few essentials. The streets gave way to the bike trail which is in decent condition from Missoula to Lolo.

We rode the trail into Lolo where we had second breakfast at McDonalds. Don’t @ me. We needed calories because the next 26 miles would be gradually uphill.

We turned onto US 12, a road that followed Lolo Creek towards Lolo Pass. The creek was beautiful and it’s surroundings became more so with each mile. We clipped along at (for me) 12 mph. After 38 miles we took a break at Lolo Hot Springs. The soda machine charges $3 for a Coke.

Another eight miles took us to Lolo Pass (elevation 5,235 feet) and the Idaho border and the Pacific time zone. Trifecta! We had climbed just over 2,000 feet. Neither my legs nor my lungs were stressed at all. The day off did them and my mood a world of good.

What followed was a five mile twisty descent into a gusty wind. Big fun. The wind was unpredictable. At one point I was going 29 mph when a headwind gust knocked my speed down to 22. I got the message. Feather the brakes on the turns!

The mountains around us on this side of the pass were densely forested right to the side of the road. I kept expecting a bear to emerge. I’m glad that didn’t happen.

We were riding next to Crooked Fork Creek on our left. The trees were a mixture of cedar, spruce, firs, and other evergreens. They were immense.

After a fun downhill ride we arrived at Lochsa Lodge, a rustic resort that sets aside a lawn area for bicyclists to camp.

Tomorrow we will ride further downhill as far as our bodies and minds allow.

Beatles fans can guess the name of this business
Riding toward Lolo Pass
Bye Montana
It’s like a cell phone that you put money into

Miles today: 59 Tour miles: 2,394.5

Bike Tour 2022 – Stuck inside Missoula with Them Lolo Blues Again

We’re taking a well deserved day off in Missoula. We ate pizza and beer for dinner. Hopefully none of us contracted Covid in the process.

Our hotel is the same one I stayed in in 2019. It’s nasty on the outside but more than adequate on the inside.

I test drove Corey’s sleeping pad on the floor last night. (It was my turn to go bedless.) It felt like a mattress despite being only about three inches thick. For four hours. My body subconsciously rebelled thereafter. This experience aside, Corey’s sleeping pad is much better than mine.

We ate a sumptuous motel breakfast. (That’s bike tour sarcasm, folks.) Afterwards, Mark and I drew up itineraries for the rest of the trip. They very nearly matched. Importantly we agreed we’d reach the finish line in Astoria, Oregon on Wednesday July 20. We expect to be met by the roar of a crowd. Actually Mark’s wife is meeting us there. I suspect she’ll emit a fierce yawn.

On the 21st, Corey and I are riding 100 miles to Portland unless we can convince Mark’s wife to rent a minivan with a roof rack (we have to give Corey someplace to sit). Another possibility is to take a bus. However, we regard such mundane motor transport as unmanly and undignified.

I managed to walk one mile yesterday and a mile and a half today without stenosis pain. I suspect weight loss is a factor. Then again modest abuse of painkillers may play a role as well.

We walked to lunch only to find the brew pub was a brewery with a woefully inadequate food truck. I mean an omelette from a truck seems gastronomically unwise, don’t you think? So we hit a supermarket deli on the way back instead.

I booked a flight home and am making arrangements to ship my bike. Corey will be taking Amtrak to Chicago. (2 days of stultifying boredom await.) He’ll have to box his bike at the station. It seems odd that Amtrak doesn’t have roll on service in one of the bikey-est cities in the country. (Corey spent all morning trying to make his reservation ultimately handing the task over to his wife Lynn who speaks fluent Choo Choo Train. Needless to say, Amtrak’s reservation software needs serious work.)

At midafternoon we are hunkered down watching Chris’s Netflix account in our room. Chris apparently stayed here recently and left his account active for all who follow. We are resisting the urge to watch objectionable programs so that Chris’s family doesn’t think he’s some sort of pervert. Then again we might get bored with Top Gear and resort to mischief.

Our chains are lubed, our tires are pumped. Tomorrow we ride over Lolo Pass and down the Lochsa River valley into Idaho. We hope to make the trip without rain or hail, because, on a 40 mph, downhill hail can ruin your whole day.

Bike Tour 2022 – Darby to Missoula

I neglected to mention yesterday’s brief moment of terror. Near the end of the seven-mile descent, the road surface changed. The Missouri Department of Highway Mayhem added a rumble strip that I managed to hit at 28 mph. I hit one strip then another before escaping to the paved shoulder. No problemo. Just some wet pants.

We ate breakfast in the cabin after a good night’s sleep. Then we lit out for Missoula some 62 miles downhill to the north. Or so we thought.

After the first ten miles I struggled. We were riding on US 93, the only main north/south highway in the Bitterroot Valley. Traffic was unpleasant. After 20 miles or so we were shunted onto a bike path that has seen better days. (US bike infrastructure motto: we build them but we don’t maintain them.)

Both Corey and I were nearly hit by stop sign runners eager to get onto the adjacent highway. When my near collision happened, I abandoned the trail for the chip seal shoulder of the four lane 70 mph highway.

The road had rumble strips so I could hear any encroaching vehicle. I also have a mirror. I felt much safer.

We stopped a couple of times for gas station convenience food, but my body wanted a break. In Lolo we stopped at Dairy Queen. They have a $7 meal deal that was just the right amount of food (with a small ice cream sundae).

After that the trail into Missoula improved immensely. Once we were in town we rode trails five miles to the headquarters of the Adventure Cycling Association, of which we are all members. The ACA made the maps we are following. I took the lead and somehow brought us to the ACA doorstep without a missed turn.

After some photos we headed a half mile west to a hotel where I stayed in 2018. Our room is a second story walk up but it was recently renovated. It’s my turn to sleep on the floor.

Tomorrow we are taking a day off. We’ve been hitting the hills and the miles hard lately. We need fresh legs for the ride over Lolo Pass on Monday.

Miles today: 70. Tour miles: 2,335.5 (previous day’s miles were messed up)

For most of today I felt like llama poop
Mural along the Bitterroot Trail.
A storm was bearing down on us

Bike Tour 2022 – Jackson to Darby

We ate breakfast in the bunkhouse. Mine consisted of PB&J on two semi bagels (flat bread with a hole in the middle), a banana, and some Dot’s pretzels. Nutrition is my middle name.

We headed north through the Big Hole Valley for 12 miles where we found Wisdom. We were looking for enlightenment but settled for some snacks. It should be noted that Wisdom is the mosquito capital of Montana.

We headed west for ten miles and stopped at the site of the Big Hole Battlefield. This is where the U. S. Army attacked a Nez Pierce encampment. The Army set their teepees afire at dawn, burning to death men, women, and children. A fierce battle ensued with the Nez Perce woefully outgunned and undermanned. The Nez Perce escaped only to be chased down farther north where they surrendered. Chief Joseph, their leader, famously said: “We will fight no more forever.”

The Army was following a policy called manifest destiny. The policy was based on the concept that it was God’s will that white people should conquer the lands of the west. I wonder if God was pleased when Nez Perce children were burning to death.

The next 16 1/2 miles were a gradual then increasingly challenging climb culminating in our reaching Chief Joseph Pass (elevation, 7,241). There was no sign. Corey made it to the top more slowly than usual but he made it. A good sign for the days ahead. He reports this evening that his back is feeling better.

We dropped down one mile along the Idaho/Montana border until we reached Lost Trail Pass. It’s a treat to go through a pass while going downhill.

Next the fun began. We descended seven miles through a series of banked curves. The scenery was amazing but I can’t say I took full enjoyment of it as I was trying not to die.

After the descent we rolled north through the Bitterroot Valley, gradually riding downhill. Last year the forest in this area burned. It was quite a site to see the aftermath up close on both sides of the road.

We made a pit stop in Sula where the deli had just closed before our arrival. As we ate and drank convenience food stuff, Mark called ahead to Darby (elevation 3,885 feet) to secure our lodging for the night, a two-bed cabin. Mark is sleeping on the floor. The cabin is small. Corey and I will try not to step on him if we need to use the bathroom in the night.

Corey is cooking tortellini and making a salad in the cabin’s kitchen. We’d help but the kitchen isn’t wide enough for two people.

Miles today: 77. Tour miles: 2,337.5

Wisdom is the Nez Perce word for Mosquito
Named for the best golden retriever that ever was.

Bike Tour 2022 – Twin Bridges to Jackson

The bike camp in Twin Bridges worked out great. We thought we had set up our tents where the sprinkler system was set up so we scrambled to move them. It was all for nought as there were no sprinklers.

After breakfast we headed south to Dillon. Some of the truck traffic was hostile.

The road was a gentle incline all the way. In Dillon we grabbed provisions for the next few days. Then the fun began.

We climbed over Badger Pass at 6,760 feet. (Twin Bridges was below 5,000 feet, our first “low” elevation since Cañon City.)

The climb put the hurt on me. Mark rode like his bike was made of helium. Corey struggled with a balky lower back.

Of course, we immediately descended. It was fun but we knew we were giving up all that hard-earned elevation.

Next up was Big Hole Pass at 7, 360 feet. Mark zoomed ahead but Corey and I struggled. The increasing headwind didn’t much help.

We rode another high-speed descent into the Big Hole Valley, to arrive at Jackson, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it small town.

We are staying at The Bunkhouse. The owner gave us each a can of cold beer upon arrival. Ahhh.

It’s a cool place. We’re in a shared bedroom with five queen sized beds. Two other cycle tourist are here. There’s plenty of ventilation so I’m not concerned about Covid. Knock wood.

Miles today: 77. Tour miles: 2,188.5.

Bike Tour 2022 – Ennis to Twin Bridges

We stayed with Rachel and Mike Posthumus, Warmshowers hosts in Ennis. We were joined by Ed and Henry, two British cycletourists, we met at the hostel in Saratoga, Colorado last week.

The seven of us plus Loki, Rachel’s remarkably friendly and mellow Bernese Mountain dog, had a great time. We initially had to work around a water cutoff situation. Our hosts tried all manner of creative work arounds. Ultimately the city turned the water back on so we could take warm showers and launder our clothes. During the outage we worked on our bikes in their garage that is outfitted like a bike shop.

Rachel is co-owner of Switchback, a bike shop, outdoor gear store, coffee bar, beer bar, and gathering place in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As Mike, who co-founded the business with Rachel, described it, the business model is to get people outside so they have a first hand appreciation for the environment, thereby becoming supportive of environmentalism and environmental policies.

Mike works with a company that designs schools of the future, mostly overseas. He’s the liaison between the clients, and the educational futurists, architects, and builders who are working to meet the clients’ needs. He obviously loves his job.

Rachel and Mike treated us like royalty. Snacks and drinks were followed by a delicious dinner. In the morning, Rachel cooked us a breakfast that far surpassed anything I had during this tour. (Her scrambled eggs were amazing. The secret ingredient is butter.)

We reluctantly hit the road and began our 10 1/2 mile, 1,900 foot assault on the pass to Virginia City. The first few miles were a false flat that made all of us grumpy. Then we hit the steeper stuff.

Damned if my legs didn’t wake up. Two good nights of sleep and fabulous food and drink had me climbing like it was 2018 again. My legs never felt tight; my lungs never maxed out. I just climbed and climbed. Grades of six, seven, and eight percent didn’t matter. After a few miles I decided that I’d ride to the top without stopping, hence no pictures of the valley I was leaving. (It was a cool sight over my shoulder, believe me.)

The summit came one full mile later than my map said. No worries. Pedal. Breathe. Relax.

After Corey and Mark reached the top we began the hairy high-speed descent into blustery winds. I confess I let The Mule loose. I have no idea what my top speed was but it was one helluva wild ride. I could see the tall grass near the road ahead blowing this way and that so I was ready to counter the gusts as they came.

We came to a stop in Virginia City, a famous gold mining town of the 19th century. We had celebratory ice cream cones then descended some more through Nevada City into Alder Gulch and passed historic sites where robbers and vigilantes squared off. This was the old west of countless movies.

The windy conditions made for honest work. We met Mark, an eastbound tourist, outside Sheridan. We took his advice and ate at Bread Zeppelin, a pizza and sandwich shop. I loved the Italian sandwich and tomato soup but Mark and Corey were less impressed.

In any case, it was too much food. I slowed down considerably. No worries. We were headed only ten miles further. The ride was slightly downhill into that annoying wind.

We reached Twin Rivers, like Ennis a fly fishing hot spot. We are camping at the town’s bike camp. Showers, a sink for washing up, and a loo. We’ll be camping next to the Beaverhead River. Nice.

Miles today: 44. Tour miles 2,111.5

Bike Tour 2022 – West Yellowstone to Ennis

We were once dead legged then we became bicycle gods.

Pizza for dinner and a good night’s sleep led us to believe we would be recharged after the last week of climbs and headwinds.

It soon became apparent that our legs were not interested in our beliefs. We knew that today would be a long, downhill ride. We neglected to notice that the first 30 miles was more or less level. We pedaled hard but couldn’t maintain a decent speed. We stopped at a convenience store and complained about our sorry state.

We were riding around Hebgen Lake. Big surprise: it’s beautiful.

Roadside signs told us about a massive earthquake, 7.5 on the Richter scale, that hit this area. This is the biggest recorded quake in the Rockies.

The quake pinched off the valley and created Quake Lake. We stopped at the Quake Lake visitor center. It was on a hill overlooking the lake. It told stories of people killed and harrowing rescues.

We left the center under threatening skies. Somehow we managed to thread the needle in the storm. The road started tilting downward. Suddenly we were zooming along at 25 mph. We are gods. Then we noticed the grass leaning in waves toward Ennis. A big stinking beautiful tailwind! We were now in the broad Madison River valley.

Aside from some unpleasant traffic (I was coal rolled again) and a stretch where the rumble strips took up all but a foot of the paved shoulder, the riding was bliss. Even the few uphills could not slow us.

We made it to Ennis about 1 p. m. 73 miles.

This was our payback for that awful day along the Wind River last week.

I crossed the 2,000 mile mark for my tour this morning. Last night I started looking into the logistics of getting home. It’s too soon to guess when we’ll be done but 3 1/2 weeks isn’t far off.

We are staying with a Warmshowers host. Unfortunately the town shut off the water to her street, repairing some pipes. Our hosts offered to drive us to a friend’s house to clean up. Nice people.

Miles today: 73.5 Tour miles: 2,067.5

Bike Tour 2022 – Grant Village to West Yellowstone

The Lake House restaurant overlooks Yellowstone Lake. It’s a tad pricey but they make a mean spinach ravioli. Corey and Mark report that the bison burgers were pretty tasty too. Breakfast was a buffet. I ate all the Cheerios and some eggs and sausage.

In between meals I froze in my tent. Message to self: choose your sleeping bag for the most extreme conditions. Mine is rated to 55 degrees. I add a bag liner that brings the rating down to perhaps 50 degrees. I bought a fleece throw at the Grant Village store. It helped some but I sleep poorly in a tent anyway. Suffice it to say, today was the second day that my riding suffered because of sleep deprivation.

We broke camp and started to climb over the Continental Divide. It wasn’t particularly hard. Oddly after climbing to the divide we continued going up.

This was followed by a plunge and another climb to the divide. The last 40 miles or so were downhill. Thank you Jesus.

The scenery and the weather couldn’t be beat. Rock formations, deep blue streams with rapids, mountain meadows, geothermal wonders.

We stopped at Old Faithful and saw it do its thing. Today the tourists were back in force. Every geothermal site was mobbed. I’ve seen them all before so there was no need to stop. I was actually enjoying the rivers and streams and woodlands at 13 mph.

I saw two bison today. One was at the Old Faithful complex, just grazing near a bike path. The other was along the road. A car had stopped to check it out causing a back up on the opposite side of the road from me. A park ranger pulled up behind me and used a bullhorn to tell the driver to move along. (There are signs every mile telling drivers not to stop in the roadway to gawk.)

Miles today: 56 Tour miles: 1,994

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.