Day 89, to Missoula: A pilgrimage to the Mecca of bicycle touring - Chris Cross America - CycleBlaze

July 20, 2022

Day 89, to Missoula: A pilgrimage to the Mecca of bicycle touring

This photo now hangs on the wall near the entrance of Adventure Cycling Association headquarters in Missoula. The photo shows Dani and me standing in front of June Siple's bike (more on this historic bike below). The photo is mounted on a small piece of paper with our names, our hometown, today's date, and the ride we are doing, the TransAm.
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Wednesday stats

STAGE 3 COMPLETE — MISSOULA REACHED! We're planning a few rest days here plus a road trip by van to Glacier National Park. Back on the bike trail next Wednesday.

Start: Traveller's Rest RV Park, Darby, Mont.

End: Travelodge Inn & Suites, Missoula, Mont.

The Daily Progress: 65.1 miles

Cumulative climb: 892 feet

Cumulative descent: 1564

Elevation at endpoint: 3263 feet

Ice cream flavors: Klondike bar (free at Adventure Cycling Association HQ)

Beer flavors: TBD but hopefully something frees brewed nearby

Lodging expenses: $288 (total for tonight and tomorrow night)

Food expenses: $25 for first breakfast in Hamilton, $25 for second breakfast (same place), $65-ish for dinner at Stave & Hoop

Dani's daily digest

Today was an easy day -- 65 flat miles from Darby to Missoula, and we had a bike trail for the last 40 miles or so. We stopped in Hamilton for coffee and breakfast and took another longish break under some pine trees another 25 miles down the road. At our second break, we had a nice chat with an older man who was walking his son's dogs because his son is a wildfire firefighter who is currently fighting wildfires.

Our experience with motorists in Missoula has been disarmingly positive. People seem to go out of their way to yield to us. 

Our first stop in Missoula was the headquarters of the Adventure Cycling Association, a non-profit that promotes travel by bicycle and the publisher of the maps that delineate the Trans America route (and several others). We were met at the door, shown to a gated courtyard to stash our bikes, and given a personal tour by Kelly, the membership director. On one wall, they post photos of everyone who has stopped by headquarters during the year. It was fun to find the faces of people we had met while riding - Tobin, Presh, Bill, Jelle. I also liked looking at the map of all their routes. Right now I'm not thinking of doing another long ride but I would definitely consider doing some of the shorter ones (or segments of the longer ones). We also got to connect with Keith Adams (a name you may recognize from the comments of this blog) who was hanging in the cyclist lounge. And we got free ice cream. 

We checked into our hotel, took showers, and then headed to the Stave and Hoop for dinner, drinks, and bar trivia. We came in 6th place out of 23, which we feel is respectable. 

Chris's ramblings: Adventure cyclists' pilgrimage

The ride today was smooth, mostly along a paved bike path, mostly downhill and, most interestingly, culminating in a visit to the Mecca of bicycle touring, the Adventure Cycling Association headquarters!

As we pulled up to the building, we saw multiple bike racks out front that were, to my surprise, completely empty. As we were locking up our bikes, an employee came out and opened the gate to the courtyard to allow us to park in a more secure place — and that's where dozens of bikes were parked. Of course.

The entrance did remind me of a church entrance (except with bike handlebars for door handles), which made sense because the building was a Christian Science church before ACA took it over. 

As soon as we got inside, a voice called out, "That must be Chris George!" (or something to that effect). It took me a moment, but I guessed it was someone who'd been following this blog, and lol and behold, there was Keith Adams, indeed a regular reader of this blog and fellow adventure cyclist who is riding the TransAm eastward. (Follow Keith Adams's TransAm ride here.) Thanks, Keith, for being in the one spot in Missoula where you were most likely to find us!

Keith, Dani and I smile for a selfie inside the cyclists' lounge in ACA HQ. Keith, who was on a rest day, looked pretty fresh. Dani and I are still in a cycling clothes, and I hadn't even taken helmet off.
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Bill ShaneyfeltGotta love it when 2 journals I am following cross paths and actually meet!
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Dani and I then had our photo taken at the entrance (see the photo at the top of this blog entry) and were given a tour of the office.

June Siple's bike, on display right at the entrance, was the only bike to have completed the entire ride of the first group to do the "Hemistour," a bicycle tour from Anchorage, Alaska, to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, from 1972 to 1975, which spawned Bikecentennial, the name used for the bike route and the organization that were later renamed the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail and the Adventure Cycling Association, respectively.
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I was excited to see a bit of the history of  the make bicycle touring routes and also to realize that the people working here are surrounded by it every day — both by the many bikes hanging on the walls but also by the drop-in visits by people who use their products (their maps) and benefit from their public service (their advocacy). (Of course, I quickly remembered that I am also surrounded by history at work, in the form of newspaper headlines, which I love, and before covid, there used to be tours through the newsroom.) It was enervating to see history and present-day beneficiaries of this work in one place.

Here's a view of the front room. On the left is a small shop full of bike touring gear and maps. The rest of the room is pretty common open office space with cubicle-like workstations — but the walls are loaded with bikes. For example, in the background on the left is a Gitane tandem bike, the first bike ever to ride the TransAm, when route planners followed it in 1975.
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In the Routes & Mapping department, I got to ask about the status of the Eastern Express, and I was told that they were planning to start work shortly to add it as a digital-only map, hopefully to be ready by the end of the year, but the employee I spoke with couldn't make any promises (though she sounded confident it would be available in time for anyone hoping to use it for touring season next year).

We also chatted with Keith for a bit and got his tips related to the section of the TransAm that we will ride next, and as Dani mentioned, we enjoyed poring over the wall of photos of adventure cyclists who had stopped by the office in the past year.

This is the wall of adventure cyclists who stopped by the ACA HQ in the past year. Can you find us? There are about 18 columns and 20 rows of photos.
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And I almost forgot: The office includes a cycling library and a lounge where cyclists can drop in and use their resources to plan their travels. And the lounge has free seltzer and ice cream! 

Keep up the good work, ACA, and thank you!

Today's ride: 65 miles (105 km)
Total: 3,383 miles (5,444 km)

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