Somewhere in Middle America: A Coast-to-Coast Bicycle Trek

Missoula, MT to West Yellowstone, MT

Caroline here.

Tuesday, June 23 Missoula - Corvallis (50 miles)

Our evening in Missoula turned out to be a Mexican food-fest at a local Casino followed by an obligatory run to Safeway to buy more protein and power bars. Since we eat 5-7 bars a day, we figure that combined with our honey intake we are eating about 200g+ of sugar per day. sick. but necessary.

This morning, I rode in to town to pick up a bday present that Mom and Aunt Nelda sent me - full of gossip mags and the modern classic, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. (Don't judge.) We cleaned up the tent and re-loaded our pannier bags to head out of Missoula. It was a TOUGH ride straight in to the wind and uphill. Made it to Lolo about 8 miles away for lunch at Subway. Who's surprised? Though we had a nice bath path for about 20 miles, Wills and I had dead legs and though we had planned to ride 50 miles to Hamilton, we only made it 45, to Corvallis.

We rolled into town and found a church. After talking to the preacher for a few minutes, I asked if we could stay at the church. He was pretty freaked out and said that there was a Vacation Bible School that started at 9:30 in the morning. Since we are usually up about 5:30, I commented that we would be long gone by then. But to no avail. I had called the Sheriff earlier in the day and asked if there was anywhere we could camp in the county. We tried him back after being turned from the Church and got permission to sleep at a local fish access.

We grabbed dinner at Subway (no, we do not get sick of it) and picked up a few beers. Set up camp in a LOVELY spot along the Bitterroot river and got to enjoy a GORGEOUS sunset with our sundowners.

Wednesday, June 24 - Corvallis to Sula (40 miles)

We rode in to Hamilton for breakfast and stopped at a local's only joint. Got the customary bacon, eggs, and pancake special with an entire pot of coffee. SO fabulous. We didn't finish up until around 10 and it was already very hot outside.

We decided to take the "Old Darby Road" alternate which was a 6 mile stretch of dirt road. We road through open ranges where the sheep could just walk in front of your path. Luckily they were nice sheep. The cows remained behind fences and we continued to perfect our "moo" sounds. Wills is really quiet good and can get an entire group of country cattle to start moving.  The road, despite its beauty, was very bumpy, so we welcomed getting back on the highway. Cruised into camp around 4:30 and had the usual microwave dinner of Kraft mac & cheese, beans, and corn, as I still refuse to use the stove. The town of Sula was nothing more than a service station with a restaurant and camp ground in the back. Oh, and about 1000000 mosquitoes. I thought they were bad in the south, but apparently the state bird of Montana is the mosquito!!

Thursday, June 25 - Sula to Jackson (59 miles)

Today we crossed the Continental Divide at Chief Joseph's Pass. Chief Joseph was chief of the Non-Treaty Nez Perce Indians who were pursued by the US Army during the Indian Wars of the late 1870s. We will cross the Divide several more times and at higher elevations, but this was our highest summit to date at around 7300 feet. The climb from Sula was roughly 4000 feet and was not easy. We made it up and over, then enjoyed a lovely descent past fields of wildflowers to the Big Hols Battlefield. Here, the US Army attacked the Nez Perce Indians in a pre-dawn attack. Despite the surprise, the Indians were able to escape and claim a victory.

The tailwind followed us into Wisdom, Montana where we had PB and Honey for lunch, but left us high and dry once we turned to head to Jackson. The 17 miles stretch to Jackson was miserable. Despite the snow capped mountains of the Divide we were riding straight into a 20 mile-an-hour head wind. It really sucked. At one point, the wind was SOOO strong, that it blew me across the road. We had to walk our bikes for a while because we could not get back on them. Then, miraculously, the wind stopped and a nice tailwind ushered us into Jackson.

As we were quite shaken by the tornado-like winds, we stopped at the first bar in town. LUckily the town was only 2.5 blocks long so finding the bar was not too difficult. We hung out on the porch at Rose's Cantina and enjoyed Happy Hour and free chips and salsa. As you have probably learned, we pretty much mow through food and gave Rose a run for it with our chip consumption. THen we enjoyed Hawaiian pizza and cherry cobbler a la mode before retiring to the Hot Springs Lodge across the street and face planting in our tent.

Friday, June 26: Jackson to Twin Bridges (77 miles)

Wills Here.
We woke up and it was 38 degrees. We got dressed and even had to put on our yellow jumpsuits to stay warm. We waited around the Lodge for it to open so we could get coffee. We had a couple of cups and some muffins for a quikc breakfast then got on the road. We climbed 2 pretty tough passes in the morning. Then we got a nice tailwind and cruised into DIllon, and of course stopped at a SafeWay to reload on food. At SafeWay, they had a special on pop tarts and I thought I might lose my mind. They were sellling Pop Tarts for 99 cents a box. We got 5 boxes.

The ride from Dillon to Twin Bridges was 28 miles, so we had to hurry. The first 22 miles were amazing as we caught a tailwind and were going 25mph up some hills. It was unbelievable. Then the winds changed and the last 6 miles were tough. We got rained on a little, but made it into the booming city of 400 for microwave dinners at the convenience store.

After dinner, we headed to the cyclists' only campsite. A local had built a cabin in the park with showers for touring bicyclists. We met a man and his son there, whom we had run into briefly on the road. They had been living in the woods in California for the last 5 months and were headed back to Florida to enjoy another winter down there. The old man was pretty fun talking to, but his son said absolutely nothing.

Saturday, June 27: Twin Bridges to Ennis

One of my favorite days of the trip. We got up and headed to the Wagon Wheel, in "downtown" Twin Bridges for breakfast. We got on the road and stopped in Nevada City, a ghost town with old buildings maintained by the state of Montana. As it turns out, it was living history day and people were dressed up working the stores. It was absolutely hilarious to say the least. We got some pictures by the blacksmith shop (Back to the Future 3) and the saloon. One mile later, we stopped in VIrginia City. Another gold rush city, but this city was considerable bigger.

Caroline again.

We sampled some microbrews at the local Saloon. Great idea and horrible idea. The beer was delicious. I had a Huckleberry Wheat Lager and Wills had an Amber. Both went down a bit too easily and made the 200 foot climb we had at 2pm a bit more challenging. We labored up it and had an incredible downhill ride into Ennis. THe views going down the hill of snowcapped mountains were the most beautiful we've seen on the trip. Also, we both reached our max speeds - I was over 38 and wills was well over 40.

Arriving in Ennis, I was glad to see some fellow yuppies. We parked ourselves at the Longbranch Saloon as per our usual and had a few beers. THis quickly turned into dinner as well. Amy, the bar tender, was very nice and picked up a round as did Greg, a native of Illinois who fell in love with Montana and recently moved west. As I myslef am about to be an Illinoian (is that even how you spell it/say it??)

We left there a bit wobbly and headed to a fishing access where we planned to camp. When we got there, we learned that you had to pay to camp here. As we'd camped pretty cheaply the previous few nights, we were feeling miserly and not up for paying to sleep. We rode up to a motel a bit further down the road and asked if they knew where we might be able to camp -- hoping that they would offer their lawn up as it was lovely. They didn't. So, we rode to another fishing access abotu two miles out of the way. And, we had to pay there. We were tired and tipsy so we said screw it and camped there. It was pretty bare bones, but we slept very well despite the fact that Wills saw a "no shoulders" (ie Snake).

Sunday, June 28: Ennie to West Yellowstone

We woke up this morning with smiles on our faces. Our Dad and Step Mom, Patrice, were meeting us along the road. So, we decided that since we wouldn't be riding with our pannier bags, we might as well take our time and have a good breakfast. We rode into town and stopped at the Ennis Cafe. There, we met Geoffrey, another touring bicyslist who recently returned from a 1200 mile, 12 day trip across Siberia. He had also toured through Cuba and Ireland... Someday, I hope I can do some cool trips like that as well!!

We got on the road a bit later than expected and soon after, Dad and Patrice had spotted us and had yummy cheese and crackers and cold drinks for us. We gave them our pannier bags and got back on the road. The tailwind was a b***h. Seriously, 35 mph winds in our face. we rode about 11 miles in 2 hours and Wills had had it. He pulled over to the side of the road in front of a fly shop and took a nap. Thats where Patirce and Dad found him about 40 minutes later. I decided to weather on and got about 5 miles. It was miserable. When they pulled over to ask if I wanted a lift, I ran through my options. 7 more hours on a bike, or a nice dinner, cold beer, and hot tub. Guess what one. THis time, the latter. I happily hopped it the car and began to enjoy the scenery.

We checked in to an acutal hotel (thanks Dad!!!) and rested before heading to Bullwinkle's for a fish dinner and some scotch!!

We'll update you on our time in Yellowstone later as we are headed to the Tetons now and need to get on the road. THanks to everyone who is following us. We appreciate your thoughts, prayers, and encouragine emails. This week we are headed across WYoming to Mount Rushmore. So, we hope to update you before South Dakota. Until then...