Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 67 – Salmon – May Creek CG: Dinner with gun enthusiasts

Friday July 25, 2014, 55 miles (89 km) – Total so far: 3,241 miles (5,216 km)

Some mornings when you wake, you are just absolutely ready to ride. I am not a morning person, but I generally get up before dawn on bike tours. Most of those mornings, I stumble about in a foggy haze getting ready to go. I’m awake, but that’s about the extent of my energy. I guess my enthusiasm runs on a very diurnal rhythm. But some days, like today, I wake alert, excited and charged with energy. Let’s go! Read more

Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 68 – May Creek CG – Anaconda: Soldiers, miners and smelters

Saturday July 26, 2014, 83 miles (134 km) – Total so far: 3,324 miles (5,349 km)

Just before dawn on 9 August, 1877, 163 men of the 7th U.S. Infantry waited for first light to attack 800 Nez Perce Indians at what is now the Big Hole Battlefield. The Nez Perce had been travelling since mid-June from Idaho with the US Army in pursuit. The Army had orders to place these five bands of Nez Perce onto a small reservation in central Idaho. The Nez Perce had fled, but over the course of the summer, they were forced to fight with the U.S. Army in several battles as the Nez Perce tried to elude capture. The battle here had the highest number of casualties over their 1170-mile journey which lasted from 2 June until 5 October when the Nez Perce finally surrended just 40 miles south of the Canadian border after the Battle of Bear Paw.

I want to visit the battlefield early in the morning to try to better understand what it might have been like on that early August day. My little thermometer reads 37F when I crawl out of the sleeping bag. It is decidedly chilly and my arthritic fingers protest movement. We silently slip out of the campground and down the valley which is still covered in deep shade. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 69 – Anaconda – Missoula: Going long

Sunday July 27, 2014, 108 miles (174 km) – Total so far: 3,432 miles (5,523 km)

Mornings bring promise. As you pack up your gear, you can’t help but wonder what the day will bring. There is always the promise of smooth roads, a lack of traffic, interesting people and amazing scenery. There is always the potential it could be the best day on the road ever.

Then you ride away from the sheltered position of your campsite, the wind slaps you hard in the face, and all that promise turns to the prediction of ‘ifs’. If the wind keeps up like this, this will be the longest day ever. If the whole day is like this, I’m only going to make 30 miles. If something doesn’t change, I will just have to call it a day at the next teeny town. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 70 – Missoula: Just missed Jack

Monday July 28, 2014, 10 miles (16 km) – Total so far: 3,442 miles (5,539 km)

First thing in the morning I take the bike up to a bike shop. I tell them I need the rear wheel radially trued and that I’m looking for a 36-tooth chainring compatible with my drivetrain components. If they have one, could they please install it when they fix the rear wheel.

The young guy talks to me a bit like I’ve not been riding a bike for most of my life. I don’t know if it is because I’m a woman, or because there are a lot of newbies to cycling that use the ACA routes and stop in while in town, but I feel like the guy is talking down to me.

He checks their stock – they don’t have a chainring that will work for me. Their next order will go out tomorrow, so I’m looking at sitting in Missoula for three days for it to come in. No thanks. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 71 – Missoula – Placid Lake State Park: Heat and smoke – a short day

Tuesday July 29, 2014, 52 miles (84 km) – Total so far: 3,494 miles (5,623 km)

I pull the curtains back and peek out the window. Sigh. The wildfire smoke, which reappeared two days ago and hung around all day yesterday, is still quite thick. It annoys everyone. If you are around it long enough, it will make your eyes burn and your throat sore. However, as an asthmatic, wildfire smoke is more than just an annoyance. It becomes a factor in how long and far you can ride each day. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 72 – Placid Lake State Park – Holland Lake CG: A National Recreation Trail

Wednesday July 30, 2014, 32 miles (52 km) – Total so far: 3,526 miles (5,675 km)

A glacial outwash plain creates a wide and grassy introduction to Seeley Lake. The views open up to show the Mission Mountains to the west and the Swan Range to the east. The entire length of the Seeley Swan Valley was glaciated in the Bull Lake phase about 130,000 years ago and then again in the Pinedale glaciation 15,000 years ago. Massive tongues of ice crept down from the north and split around the northern tip of the Mission Range. The massive flows carved out the Flathead Lake valley on the other side of the Missions and created the present topography in this valley, as well. Glaciers also slipped down the slopes of the ranges to leave many U-shaped side-valleys and moraine-enclosed lakes. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 73 – Holland Lake CG – Seeley Lake: Backtracking

Thursday July 31, 2014, 29 miles (47 km) – Total so far: 3,555 miles (5,722 km)

My former boss spent a sabbatical at the University of Montana in Missoula some years ago. His wife is a retired schoolteacher. While they were living in Missoula, they met and became friends with Nancy. When my former boss found out I’d be touring Montana this summer, he went over maps with me to figure out places I should visit. He also put me in touch with Nancy. She lives most of the time in Missoula but has a cabin at Seeley Lake. I’m going to meet her tomorrow afternoon. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 74/75 – Seeley Lake: 8/1 – 8/2: Friend of a friend

Friday August 1, 2014

On Friday, I hang out by Seeley Lake most of the day. I’m meeting Nancy in the afternoon. A Great Divide rider comes over and sits down beside me and we have a great conversation. He’s from California and has gotten behind schedule and is now wondering if he’ll just finish up in Kalispell instead of the Canadian border. He’s had issues with saddle sores and has found the ride more challenging than anticipated. He’s enjoyed it, though. He’s trying to figure out a way to get his long-time girlfriend interested in cycle touring. Midway through our conversation, a man from a family of six brings us over a huge veggie and dip platter. The family has hardly touched it, and rather than throw it away, he brings it over to us. He assumes correctly that cyclists are always hungry. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 76 – Condon – Swan Lake CG: The non-existent cyclist campsite

Sunday August 3, 2014, 34 miles (55 km) – Total so far: 3,590 miles (5,777 km)

The wildfire smoke has returned. It gets thicker as the day progresses. Nancy takes me for a hike up to Smith Creek Pass near Condon in the morning. We return to the car around 1.30pm. She heads home and after a lunch break next to the rushing creek, I head back down the dirt road to the main highway around 3pm. Another hot and smoky day – I didn’t really think it would get into the low 90s for such long periods up here. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 77 – Swan Lake CG – Kalispell: Boom town

Monday August 4, 2014, 48 miles (77 km) – Total so far: 3,637 miles (5,854 km)

Am I still grumpy? No, not too bad. Verne’s irrepressible goofy grin and outstretched arms indicate the rest of the crew is feeling pretty good, too. It is very, very early, but the goal is to get down the road and out of this valley with its shoulderless roads before many people wake or decide to head into Kalispell. Once we get out into the Flathead Valley the road should have a shoulder. Then, once we hit Hwy 93, we can hook up with a bike path into Kalispell. Read more