Lolo to Missoula
Day 21: 38 miles. Total: 1,015
Last night Paul R. called me and we decided Glacier was not in the cards for this year. Maybe next year and preferable with more people. Although I'm hooked on self supported touring and want to do a lot more, I can see that a supported trip like we did in Idaho in 2005, with 7 people, would be a lot of fun.
After talking to Paul I called Linda and she thought it best that I get home as soon as possible. Some things have come up that require my attention. So here I sit on a Greyhound bus heading west. The distance I traveled in 21 days will be erased in 20 hours.
Initially I thought I'd spend a night in Missoula and catch the bus tomorrow. The 11 miles from Lolo to Missoula was on a busy highway with a wide shoulder. Then I followed the bike lanes through the suburbs, downtown to the ACA headquarters. I knew they'd be closed on Sunday but just wanted to see where it is, thinking I'd be back in the morning.
From there I rode out to the Greyhound station hoping to find out about getting a bus. At this point it was still up in the air if I would. As I pulled up to the station I saw some bikes and before I could blink Kelsey and Rachel came running over, threw their arms around me and almost brought me and the bike to the ground. Dan was there too. Truely amazing that I would run into them again. I've read many people say that it's the people you meet while bike touring that is the part you'll always remember. It does seem that you can form close bonds in a short time while riding together and sharing an adventure. They had been two days ahead of me when Rachel's bike developed mechanical problems. They delay put them behind schedule so they decided to leap forward via bus and then ride the final leg to Yellowstone to meet their ride on July 1. Dan is on a different schedule and is spending another day in Missoula before busing to Steamboat Springs, CO.
They knew all about busing with your bike and told me where the bike shop was that had the box I would need. I checked the schedule and the westbound bus leaves at 8:00 am and 9:10 pm. I decided to go for it and catch the 9:10 bus. I got the box and stashed it at the bus station which would't reopen untill 8:30. I had the rest of the day to explore Missoula.
Missoula reminds me somewhat of Eugene. It's a college town, The Grizzlies, and has a river, The Clark Fork, running down the middle. There are numerous bike paths on both sides of the river and I tried to ride them all. It was hot, but not near Rogue Valley hot. I went to their "Good Food Store" which is a huge natural food supermarket and got some stuff for the bus ride. I asked a women on a bike for directions and she said she used to live in Ashland. It was obvious that Missoula is the liberal enclave of Montana.
After I rode all the bike paths I went over to the motel room Dan had and took a shower. Then the four of us went out for pizza. Then it was back to the bus station to start boxing my bike. This did not go well. The box I got wasn't near big enough. If it wasn't for help from my three friends, and a very acomodating Greyhound man, I never would have made it. He gave us extra cardbord boxed to cut up and tape over the protruding parts. As it is the "box" just barely fit in the cargo bay. I was a bit peeved when I saw a unboxed bike on board but was happy enough that I wasn't going to miss the bus.
By then Rachel and Kelsey were busy boxing their bikes for the 10:30 eastbound bus. I could see I would't be much help to them so I said goodbye, again. I will follow their adventures closely as I'm sure they have great things awaiting them.
And so my Northwest Passage tour comes to a close. Was it everything a bike tour should be? I think so. There were cold rainy nights, and warm sunny days. There were brutal climbs, and endless downhills. There was spectacular scenery, and boring scruby places. There were lonely back roads where you could let your mind wander, and busy shoulderless highways where you had to stay focused every second. There were days when I never saw another person, and days when I had great riding buddies. There were days when I felt tired and each mile was a struggle, and days when the miles flew by effortlessly. There were familiar places, and places that were totally unexpected. And always there were rivers and mountains and more rivers and mountains. My favorite experiences: camping in the park in Mitchell, visiting Linda's old friend at her ranch, views of the Strawberry mountains from Prairie City, and the Wallowas from Halfway, visiting the horse ranch in Halfway, the climb up White Bird Canyon, following the trail of the Nez Perse, and most of all the people I met and got to hang out with. I can't wait to do it again.