Day 26: Lolo, Montana to Missoula, Montana

Only 13 miles (21 km) today. I’ve ridden a grand total of 968 miles since Lincoln City, Oregon.

I awoke to a very cold morning. It wasn’t freezing, but I wore everything I had. I tried to operate the ham radio for a while, but my hands were getting so cold it was difficult. I sat there at the picnic table with the radio and me all wrapped up in my sleeping bag to keep warm. It was not pleasant.

The night before I had spent some time on the ham radio and communicated with several stations in California, Missouri and one in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, Jack, W1PFZ. I have talked with Jack previously and it was nice to hear him again. He lives just down the road from a lifelong friend of mine. His signal was very weak, but I was surrounded by Montana mountains and we were both running very low power, he, about 20 watts and I about 2.5 watts.

For most of this journey I haven’t been able to use my cell phone anywhere, it was comforting to know that, should I need it, I can reach somebody, somewhere.

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These guys said goodbye to me as I left Lolo, Montana..

While stopped for a quick bite to eat in Lolo, I met a few local bicyclists and asked them where one might stay in Missoula. The described a few places I might try. Oddly, as big a town as Missoula is, I had not yet been able to arrange a WarmShowers.org stay. There are something like 90 hosts in town. The problem I’m running into is most of the members are doing as I am, they’re off having a good time like I am. Either that, or I’m finding their data is not up to date and I never make contact with them.

The ride into Missoula is almost entirely a new bike path that parallels the highway. It is gentle rolling hills and scenic. As I rode along I passed two women pulled over on mountain bikes, they seemed engrossed in conversation.

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Buffalo, just outside of Missoula, Mountana.

Later I stopped to photograph a field full of buffalo and the two women caught up and said hello. Forgive me, I should write names down, I believe it was Ellenia and Terry. (if you’re reading this, do let me know the correct spelling!). I explained my plight with WarmShowers.org and the first name Terry mentioned was one of the many people that I had already contacted. That particular contact already had a house-full. They were very nice and tried to be helpful, but it was obvious I would just have see what I could find in town.

Next, the cyclists I met back in Lolo caught up to me and we rode along and chatted for a bit. They were interested in the Camino in Spain so I gave them the very quick low-down on it, as much as one can pushing up and down rolling hills with a seventy pound bike. They were on fast bikes and I knew I was holding them up, so told them to go on. We were starting to meet lots of bike traffic coming from the other direction.

I rolled into Missoula and was at a loss as to what to do for accommodations. I had several messages and phone calls that were still unanswered, so I figured I’d just find somewhere with WiFi and wait it out. I went to a McDonalds (they have great WiFi here in Montana) and got something to drink.

It was a nice day and I spent the next four hours hanging around there with my drink and laying under a tree on their lawn. I wasn’t alone, there were other people doing the same, so I didn’t feel out of place. After all that time, the skies started to darken, so I figured it was time to do something.

Across the intersection behind the McDonald’s I spotted an amateur radio antenna on a home. Like I am so often wont to do, I rode over there to see if anyone was home. Maybe they would have some ideas. I knocked on the door and rang the doorbell…again, no luck. Nobody home.

Lightning was starting to crack. It was time to find a home for the night so I quickly rode over to a motel up the road and got a room. I don’t like being out in lighting, especially when hiking or biking. Your head is the highest point around and a likely target.

After settling into the room it was time for a meal. I hadn’t really eaten much all day. I was up for Italian food, specifically: spaghetti. Some of the WarmShowers.org hosts I had been trying to contact had noted they were vegetarians and all day I had fancied myself hooking up with one of them and going out, buying local produce and sharing an evening meal of fantastic pasta and great veggies. That’s the nice thing about such an organization, meeting local people and having experiences.

The hotel had a list of local restaurants and one showed “Italian food.” A place called Noodles & Company was listed. I had never heard of them, and they were right around the corner. I walked down and found it at a mall. I went in and the decor was disappointing, it was Papa Ginos, with less class. It was a big, wide open space, and looked like a military mess hall with fancy lights.

I was hungry and determined to get my spaghetti. I ordered from the chart on the wall. Beer? There was no local beer. I had my heart set on a local brew to go with the spaghetti. All they had were soft drinks. I was sinking to a new low, spaghetti and cola.

Deflated I seated myself with my drink and number card so they could bring the meal. The spaghetti arrived in a bowl, a big bowl. The bowl wasn’t too full and swimming in the bottom of it was noodles, a weak looking tomato sauce and a few meatball. It wasn’t the meal I dreamed of. When you’re married to one of the world’s best spaghetti dinner makers, that dish is a big letdown.

I left, disappointed. I had failed at everything that day, nothing went as planned. I stopped at a microbrewery next to the motel, surely they would have a brew. At last, success, they had something called Smoke Chaser Porter, and it was excellent. The brewery was having some sort of talent show, so I watched as I had my brew. After the third act I realized it was comedy night, but the humor was mostly falling flat. It sounded more like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

Anyway, the brew was good and it was off to bed. Hopefully tomorrow will be more successful.

Author: Dennis Blanchard

Dennis Blanchard was born in Bristol, Connecticut. He and his wife Jane moved to New Hampshire in 1980 where he has climbed thirty 4000-foot mountains, biked the trails and enjoyed the wilderness. Never living very far from the Appalachian Trail, Dennis was always aware of the seductive siren’s call to hike it. Dennis is an electronics engineer who has freelanced for amateur radio, technical and motorcycle adventure magazines. He now lives in Sarasota, Florida.

2 thoughts on “Day 26: Lolo, Montana to Missoula, Montana”

  1. well at least the beer was good.
    have you been following the Olympic bicycle races?
    a heartbreaking one yesterday in the woman”s race @ 150 miles
    and it looked like the american woman had it made after the dutch rider crashed
    she had about 50 meters to go and was overtaken a group of 3 and ended up 4th. mara abbot i think
    was her name . i ‘ve got my montana map out so will be following your journey,

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