Montana Hospitality- Great Falls to Simms - Undaunted Porridge - CycleBlaze

July 9, 2018

Montana Hospitality- Great Falls to Simms

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The night at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills, a/k/a The Great Falls KOA ($63!), was comfortable and expensive so we got up early (again) to get out of town and tomorrow destination before it got too hot. 

After a luxurious coffee and oatmeal breakfast and a stop at Walmart for trail mix upand sunscreen, we hit the road at 7am. The route took us to the riverfront trail that goes through Giant Springs State Park, Veterans Memorial Park, and Gibson Park. The views of the Missouri River were spectacular, and we all got off our bikes to take in the powerful Black Eagle Falls.

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Steve LilleyI'm pretty sure I've been here before when visiting my aunts and uncles in Great Falls. This is right near downtown, right? Isn't there an old smelter right there? Philly used to work there when he was a young man.
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2 years ago
Ron SuchanekTo Steve LilleyYeah it's right by downtown. I think you and I went to Great Falls to see see some of your aunt's and uncles on the way, didn't we?
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2 years ago
Steve LilleyTo Ron SuchanekYep, I am sure we did. My family always went to Great Falls every summer growing up to see the aunts and uncles.
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2 years ago
Li LaWell this won’t be something to kayak.
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1 year ago
Ron SuchanekTo Li LaAre ya scared?
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1 year ago
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Paula LentowichWhat a cute couple!
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1 year ago
Ron SuchanekTo Paula LentowichThanks! Most people say I look like George Cloney or 1960s era Clint Eastwood
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1 year ago
Ron SuchanekTo Paula LentowichI figured you saw it too.
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1 year ago

From there we took the Central Avenue bridge and a convoluted and narrow-shouldered route out of town. The ACA (Adventure Cycling Association) map's instructions for getting out of town going westbound were confusing, at best. We ended up using Google Maps to get back on track.

 

The road leading out of Great Falls- it looks loke it has a good shoulder but it's mostly gravel and debris.
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I was looking at a sag vehicle but I really need something with a bit more horsepower
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We were looking forward to Second Breakfast in Vaughn, but there was none to be found. "That's OK", we thought. "The ACA map shows that Simms has all services (dining, grocery, and camping). We'll just go to the restaurant in Simms." .. Or not. We arrived in Simms and discovered the only restaurant had been converted to a church. So we went to the Simms C-store, which was next to the town's camping area. 2nd breakfast was a muffin and sweet tea, and we snatched up half of their canned food for dinner - 1 can of chili, 2 cans ravioli, and a can of sweet peas. 

When we paid for our foodstuffs, we asked the store manager about camping. She said that the available sites were better suited for RVs - no shade and the bathroom (sans shower) was only available until 6pm. That's because the only bathroom is inside the store.

She said that we might have better luck camping in the city park, where at least there's a pit toilet. She asked another customer, Molly, if we might be able to use the showers at the school. And Molly said we should check with Belinda, the Simms School Clerk.

We rode down the hill to the school and met Becky, who showed us the way to Belinda's office. Inside, we found a friendly gathering that included Belinda, Colleen, and "Dan the Man", Becky, and a lady whose name I don't remember. They all asked us about our journey and Colleen told us that she's taking her 96-year-old mother on a vacation to Newport, OR later this week.

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Belinda said that they could help us out and that they had helped traveling cyclists in the past. Becky showed us the school kitchen and said we could use whatever we needed to cook dinner. She also said we could help ourselves to ice and Klondike bars, and  gave us the WiFi password. Already blown away by this kindness and generosity, we followed Dan out to the field house, where he showed us the locker room showers that we could use. He said we could pitch our tents either under the field house awning or in the city park.

We pedaled over to the park for lunch and saw Belinda afterwards. She said that since it was so hot out (low 90s) that we were welcome to hang out in her air conditioned house. Such an offer from a stranger would never occur in a big city!! Wow. Because the field house was also air conditioned, we ended up sitting in the weight room after we showered.

Dan stopped by before he left to make sure that the sprinkler schedule was OK with our tenting plans. He told us that his maintenance gig at the school was his day job and that he had sheep and cattle to tend to at home. That night he was planning to do some bailing at midnight to take advantage of optimal moisture conditions.

Later, we went to the school kitchen to make dinner, and Gay checked the weather forecast. We had a long climb over Rogers Pass the next day and it looked like we would have both strong headwinds and high temperatures. We decided that it would be best to leave as early as possible so we could be at the summit before the wind speeds hit 20mph. 

With a 5am departure time, it would be helpful to have most of our bags packed and ready to go. So we walked over to Belinda's house and asked her if it would be OK to sleep on the gym floor in the school. We enjoyed visiting with her for a while and she told us a bit about the demands of ranching life and about their family vacations to Fort Peck where they bowfish for paddlefish. 

Belinda said we could sleep in the gym and that she would call the night custodian to let her know. Not having to set up and take down the tents was was a huge help for our early start. We set the alarm for 4am and were on the road just before 5am. Too bad we had to leave before Belinda's offer for 5:30 coffee!

Our experience with Simms hospitality was like none other. As Gay said, this is the part of bicycle touring that restores your faith in humanity.

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Dan, Belinda, Colleen and Becky- Simms School district Trail Angels. Go Tigers!
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We hung around in the weight room enjoying the shade and air conditioning. Ron is pumping some iron, minus the iron.
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Cooking Chef Boyardee Ravs, Wolf chili and Peas.
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Home sweet home
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Li LaKeeping good wishes out there so you will meet more kind folks like these. Wow.
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1 year ago
Ron SuchanekTo Li LaThanks!
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1 year ago

Today's ride: 41 miles (66 km)
Total: 1,267 miles (2,039 km)

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Comment on this entry Comment 6
Greg SpinolaMrs. Groovy and I love Montana. Simms and its townfolk are a perfect example of why. Thanks for sharing, Ron. This is the best post I've read all week. I'm jealous of what you and Jen are doing. And your gym accommodations gave me a chuckle. I'm sure you guys had a blast. Safe cycling. Cheers.
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2 years ago
Ron SuchanekTo Greg SpinolaThanks Mr. G. We are enjoying the freedom to ride as far as we want or not. In fact I'd say Freedom is Groovy, but you already said that. Montanans are great, although they drive like insane people.
I recall you guys visited Mrs. Montana a year or so ago, correct?
Thanks for reading.
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2 years ago
Dee ForteWow - what hospitality - very cool to meet people like that!
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2 years ago
Judy & Sharon Thieme-RahnWhat a lovely encounter with amazing locals. They clearly raise'em right in Simms.
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1 year ago
Ron SuchanekTo Judy & Sharon Thieme-RahnYes they do. Interestingly one of our Portland friends knows Belinda the school secretary.
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1 year ago
Ron SuchanekTo Judy & Sharon Thieme-RahnYes they do. Interestingly one of our Portland friends knows Belinda the school secretary.
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1 year ago