Montana Continued, and The Saddest Day on Bike Tour
Montana Continued, and The Saddest Day on Bike Tour
We didn't forget about the rest of Montana! (We're just a little out of order).
From Miles City (Roger Muggli, remember?) we made our way to Billings, where we had a place to stay with a couple we had found on warmshowers.org which is a forum similar to couchsurfing.org, but specifically for cyclists.
Woody and MJ were not only hospitable, but tons of fun too. They are on the local volunteer police squad, which means they bike around and report suspicious and hooligan-like behavior. It's a bit ironic, as they seem to be pranksters themselves, however we promised not to re-tell any of theirs stories, so I guess you'll just have to go on bike tour through Billings and stay with them if you really want to know.
A friend of mine from the PCT, named Pi, drove up from Colorado for the weekend, and Woody and MJ let him stay there too. Pi, Lint and I reached the Northern Terminus of the PCT together nearly two years ago, and I hadn't seen Pi since. As such, we had a grand reunion, going car camping near Red Lodge MT and telling PCT stories until Adam was sure he never wanted to hear about the PCT again.
We departed Billings, excited about the nearness of the Rockies, and our eminent crossing of The Continental Divide. Reaching the top of Bozeman Pass, we wondered why there wasn't signage announcing the crossing of The Divide. Then we looked more closely at our maps, and realized that we didn't cross The Divide until the town of Butte. Oh well, a warm up.
The day we actually crossed it, it took us 3 hours to ascend and descend, but the grade wasn't super steep. We were on I-90, and interstates tend to have better grading than side roads. It was hot, and we took a break just before the actual top, on a rocky outcropping where the view was amazing. Adam and I shared a can of pineapple which, we've discovered, is one of the most refreshing things you can carry for a hot day-well worth its weight. We gazed back the way we had come at mountains, rolling hills, and plains. Across the ravine directly in front of us was a huge rock formation, and on it, two rock climbers. When the one climbing reached her belayer and a firm seat, we cheered across the open space, and they cheered back. It was nice to have someone else to share the moment with, despite the fact they probably had no clue we were on bicycles.
A few days later we reached Hwy 1 and the town of Anaconda, where we spent our first night at a higher elevation. We woke up the next morning, and it was 46 degrees out. Adam was not stoked, as he had lost his gloves a while back, and only had fingerless ones. On the other hand, I was exhilerated. After weeks of not being able to zip up my sleeping bag because it was so hot, I finally needed to wear my legwarmers and my super sweet Montbel puffy while making breakfast. I hate the idea of carrying gear that I'm not using (not counting repair and first aid), and the nagging feeling I was never going to need those things left me. Hwy 1 was beautiful, with another pass up to a lake, and then a long, beautiful descent, well worth the climb. [Adam second's this, highly recommending Hwy 1 for a day trip, or short overnight tour!]
Our next big stop was Missoula. I had been looking forward to getting there for a number of reasons.
First, I have family there; My Dad grew up on a ranch outside of Missoula, and my Grandpa and Aunt still live in Missoula. My Grandpa is 92 years old, and I feel very lucky to still have him in my life.
The Fair was in town, and the night that we got there was the last night of the rodeo. Adam and I had never been, and my Grandpa goes every year. So of course, we went too! Now, I'm not sure that I will go to a rodeo again, however it was actually a lot of fun. One can really see that it originated as a venue for cowboys to show off their skills; skills they needed to survive and make a living. Also while in town, we got to meet up with another PCT friend of mine, Rafiki. Again, I hadn't seen him for two years, so there was a lot to talk about. Additionally, he was about to embark upon a bike tour as well, starting in Astoria and going back to Missoula, and then further, home to Vermont even, if the fancy struck him.
All in all, I was glad to see so many loved ones. Leaving Missoula (with a jar of my Aunts homemade raspberry jam), we felt as if we were embarking upon the final leg of our journey, even though we still had about 400-500 miles left.
In the last post, Adam explained what happened leading up to our hitch to Lewiston, so I won't go into it too much. I will touch on my experience, as it might be useful to others encountering similar setbacks on tour.
First, there is no right way to do a trip like this. Some people do supported tours, never carry gear and hop in the car when they get tired. Some people, who I think of as "purists" bike every single mile, and always carry their gear. I have been very attached to the idea of biking from coast to coast, without missing any miles, although we have gone unloaded a few times when that was an option. I didn't think I was much of a purist, until I realized that the majority of other bike tourists we met on this trip at some point mentioned getting a ride from one point to another, staying in a motel, etcetera.
So, when we hitched to Lewiston, I had every intention of hitching back and making up those miles. Then there was the unexpected car-sickness, and the difficulty of hitching back out of town on the now busy and somewhat dangerous Hwy 12. What I wasn't prepared for was the mental challenge posed by the idea of moving backward, after moving forward every day for 3,300 miles.
I lost most of my motivation to go back to where we had left off, and Adam hadn't been as idealistic as I was in the first place, so there was no one urging me on. We left town, and I was overwhelmed with feelings of loss and failure, and extremely surprised that I was having those feelings. Ultimately, it became a lesson about expectations. Sometimes my expectations for myself are so high, that anything short of perfection is failure; Not true.
As I write this, we are only a few days from reaching the Oregon coast, and haven't missed any more miles than those 90. Additionally, as a result of being in the right place at the right time (the hitch put us a day ahead of where we would have been), we had a number of awesome experiences we wouldn't otherwise have had.
In Walla Walla, WA we asked a woman at the farmers market (it was one of only 4 Thursdays it was happening this summer) for directions, and instead she gave us a place to stay. Being a Greek and Lebanese woman, originally born in Syria, she fed us tons of delicious homemade middle eastern food, more than we could eat. She also made the strongest coffee we've had since leaving Portland!
The next day, we unexpectedly met up with my mom. She had left a day later than she intended for a month long road trip to Colorado and Wyoming, for some mountain climbing. Again, timing is everything. We hadn't expected to see eachother for the entire summer, between my bike tour and her road trip. A few days later we made it to Adam's parent's cabin in WA. Not only were we able to see Rafiki again, as he had gotten there the night before, but Adam's parents (and his dog) were there too. They left that evening, so we wouldn't have seen them either if not for the hitch.
So, I didn't really get this lesson until just now: While things don't always go the way we want them to (duh), if we open our eyes to what IS happening instead of hanging onto what we want, it's often some pretty rad stuff!