Spat over Tea leads to Fireworks – Hamilton to Missoula

Checking in at the Adventure Cycling Association in Missoula. Talks of celebration are in the air….

With all the flags flying and fireworks on sale, Terry and I have been convinced there’s some sort of celebration coming up, so we asked Mike, our American travelling companion, what it was all about. Turns out we used to run the place until some spat over Earl Gray, or Darjeling back in the day. It all came to a head in 1776 when they finally kicked the Brits out. Who’d have thought? Certainly not from the welcome we’ve had on the trail – turns out these days they can’t get enough of us.

Either way July 4th is a pretty big deal out here, so Terry and I have been practising our American accents so we can go undercover in case of any little local difficulties. We’re keeping it simple, sticking to “Awesome,” “Totally Awesome,” and “Very Awesome'” (yes, all of these are common parlance). Everything was going well until we stopped at a diner from breakfast and I ordered a cup of tea with cold milk. Our cover was blown and we were told to get on our bikes.


Great to meet up with Jerry and Jonathan again as we headed into Missoula

Good job really since we are cycling cross country and today our target is Missoula, home of the Adventure Cycling Association, which produces the maps for the TransAm – and many more routes across the States. We planned to spend the 4th in Missoula but had to leave Hamilton early on the 3rd to get to the ACA  as the office is closed over the holidays. So we broke camp early, went into Hamilton for breakfast – and had the added surprise of meeting up with Jerry and Jonathan again.


Tom – proud to be last in the TransAmerican race!

So the famous five were back together for the 54 mile cycle to Missoula – most of it on an excellent bike path to Lolo,  but with the final 13 miles squeezed onto the hard shoulder of a major road – not the best way to approach the home of American cycling! On route we bumped into Tom, travelling East. In his 60s or 70s he proudly informed us he was taking part in the TransAmerica Race and was in last place – he knew this for sure as he’d checked the website.

Since we’d met the leading woman in Hartsel, Colorado several weeks back we had no cause to doubt him – even less when he removed his lower water bottle which was full of Pendleton Whiskey – so we all had a sip to celebrate his er, success at being at the back. For my money he’s having the better trip. He told us how a few days back he’d taken time off to sit in a hot spring pool in the woods – sounds better than the pain we’d seen on the faces of those at the front.


The offices of Adventure Cycling in Missoula where the route maps are produced and modified.

We arrived at the offices on Adventure Cycling just after two and were given a tour by Jennifer, saw some of the classic bikes on show, ate lots of ice cream (free for cyclists) and then had our bikes weighed to find out who was lugging the most. There’s a full gallery of our stop at the ACA at the bottom of this post, but here are the weights (and bike trail-names). Bear in mind the heaviest bike ever recorded hit the scales at 240lbs – but they were towing a canoe!

Terry: Lord Montague of Fitzrovia – 85lbs
Mike: Persephone – 79lbs.
Jerry: Wooferdill – 75lbs
Jonathan: Pokey – 90lbs
Paul: Burly Chassis – 87 pounds


Camping out at Bruce’s place

Next stop was to find somewhere to sleep – and we’d heard from an Eastbounder a day or so back about a chap called Bruce who owned a large house, close to the centre of town,  who was more than happy to let passing cyclists stay over. Bruce’s house, in Daly Street, turned out to be the place to be. With a garden and house full of bikes, he was one of the most laid-back people any of us had ever met. We joined several cyclists already camping in the garden, or sleeping in the house where, incidentally, it seemed the front door was always open – either to cyclists or jazz musicians who often host impromptu concerts in his lounge.

Bruce’s near horizontal style style and friendly welcome had seen more than 350 cyclists stay there over the past years – at least one had given up life on the road and opted to stay in Missoula. And who could blame them?  Cyclists converge on Missoula from a whole range of different routes across the country so the air is thick with conversations about life on the trail, adventures to be had and advice about what’s coming up on the road ahead.


Terry meets the fastest clippers in the west

And Missoula is a great place for a rest day, a chilled out, bohemian university town with a relaxed feel. After the three of us frequenting the fastest barber in town (minimal use of scissors meant he razored through the three of us in less than 20 minutes) we spent the evening at a musical and food festival down in the river before joining Jerry, Jonathan and Jerry’s friend John at a local bar for drinks. We crashed in our tents on Bruce’s lawn as the first fireworks were being set off to celebrate our defeat.

Night out

Night on the town: left to right – Mike, Jonathan, Terry, Paul, Jerry and John

Our rest day was just that. The morning ( yes the entire morning) spent in a coffee shop, an afternoon chilled out at Bruce’s place, dinner at a restaurant and then the three of us cycled up into one of the hills surrounding the city to join thousands of others in watching the 4th July firework display, organised by the main shopping mall. It was all very laid back and low key – just the way Missoula seems to like things. Bruce may find three more cyclists opting to hang around!

Today’s Miles: 54
Miles since First Landing: 3446

Written by Paul

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