Missoula, MT > West Yellowstone, MT: 329Miles
The first day out of Missoula started with me doing a little office work before actually leaving. I figured it would be prudent to reserve a campsite in West Yellowstone early due to the inevitable crush of tourists that would be arriving that weekend. I also needed to confirm my acceptance to Miami Ad School. After a phone call, I was given the good news! I'M IN!
With those two things out of the way, I loaded up my bike while Jerome and Marcia watched in fascination and said my goodbyes to Jerome. Marcia wanted to ride with me out of town for a bit so we rolled out together. We stopped first at the Adventure Cycling Association, which is the non-profit who makes the maps/route I'm following for this trip. A neat space filled with all kinds of old bicycle memorabilia, new gear and fun people. Plus they have free Ice-cream for passers-though! This is also where I weighed by bike for the first time. Yikes! The needle on the scale was quivering just at 110lbs. No wonder the climbs have been tough. My normal road bike (to keep things in perspective) weighs 17lbs. Flat.
Marcia guided me to a bike shop after that so I could check the status of my chain. I was thinking it might need replacing soon, but it turns out I was still ok for a little while. After that, we started making some progress out of town until we got to the small little junction town of Lolo. I wanted to stop at the Traveler's Rest State Park, which is the only place in the US that has physical evidence of Lewis and Clark's expeditions.
The next day wasn't too terribly long, but it was tough. The map had a few routing options and as I passed the turn for the unpaved forest service road option, I had a change of heart and turned around to take it. Yes it was rocky and sandy and rough, but it was easily the best routing choice I had made thus far. The views were spectacular and it wound up being not quite at high at the paved highway nor as steep. The "road" went right up and over the Continental Divide through Gibbon's Pass and opened up to the most gorgeous plains I've ever seen.
It was a gradual dirt decent down to Wisdom for a while until it joined back with the main road. Once I got to town (population: 119), I scouted out a place for dinner. I wasn't expecting much due to the size of the place, but jackpot! There was a restaurant that had a ginormous and excellent cheeseburger and onion rings. I ate way too much but I was very happy afterwords. I had passed the park where camping was allowed on my way to dinner and when I returned, there were few another bikes there for the night. Two of which were the best (read most expensive) touring bikes I've ever seen. I have a nice bike but these made mine look paltry. I was impressed. Ask me for details if you want. I don't want to geek out my blog here.
It turned out to be a good idea that I had so many calories that evening because during the night, everything frosted. I didn't look like rain when I put my tent up and so I left the rain fly off, which usually keeps in any extra warmth. Well, I was comfortably warm in my frozen tent as long as I didn't move. The second I did though, frigid air would rush into my sleeping bag and make for an unpleasant few moments.
In the morning, everything I had rinsed out the night before was still frozen solid and of course would be wet once it thawed out, so it was a perfect opportunity for me to go meet the other new neighbors who I hadn't seen any sign of the night before. It was a group of 5 doing the TransAm the other direction and were just about ready to leave when I woke up. After talking to them for a bit and enjoying their morning campfire, they took off to get breakfast and get moving. I started trying to arrange my things in the early morning sun to dry out and rode back into town to get some milk and cereal. Haha, I was still completely unpacked with things scattered everywhere when they rode back by on their way out of town. One of them yelled at me, "Hey, get moving!" I just had to laugh since Thad calls me a dawdlebird every chance he gets.
It was another beautiful to ride a bike as I headed out of Dillon. The most interesting things I came across today were ghost towns of Nevada City and Virginia City, two old mining towns that now act more as a museum than anything. Nevada City especially was very, very cool. The funny thing is that they're less than a mile apart. So silly. A really tough climb out of Virginia City left me walking a few segments on the way to the top. Ennis was oh so close but of course there was a headwind too once I got to the crest of the climb.
On to my next stopping point! Rolling out of Ennis involved a lot of open valley pasture land and trying to avoid isolated storm clouds. There's only so much you can do to escape a rouge could when there's only one road and no shelter for miles and miles at a time. It was like that all the way to Quake Lake where the scenery drastically changed and became a lot more rugged and mountainous. For some reason, I was feeling really sluggish that afternoon and it was a big struggle to make it up and around Hebgen Lake towards West Yellowstone. When I did finally get to town, the first thing I did was stop at the shanty DQ and get an order of fried chicken and fries. I just needed to eat. While I did, I looked up where my reserved campsite was and then made my way over there once I finished eating. Dave checked me in and told me about two apparently really hot Swiss girls that were staying on the premises too. I never ran into them, which was fine, and after showering, I went in to town for dinner #2 and to see what's what. It didn't take long for me to decide that West Yellowstone is an over-priced pseudo country-western tourist trap. I didn't really like it. I did like where I had dinner, however, and wound up going there again the next night.
Another action-packed week in the books!