Week #10 – Making Bets and Bye, Montana - Sights & Second Breakfasts on the TransAmerica Trail - CycleBlaze

July 13, 2019 to July 19, 2019

Week #10 – Making Bets and Bye, Montana

Day #64 – July 13, 2019

Miles – 49.0
Dillon, MT -> Jackson, MT

Dillon is a neat town, so we chose to stick around for most of the morning and explore. We went to the Patagonia outlet in town so I could replace a pair of shorts I left in Ennis a few days earlier. We had coffee at a nice coffee shop.

Once we were on the road, the weather began to look like it would not cooperate. Storm cells seem small in this part of Montana, but they almost always bring lots of wind with them. We had two big climbs between Dillon and Jackson. During the first one, I got my first flat of the trip. I’ve had slow leaks before, but this is the first one that required immediate attention. It was the rear wheel, but I got it changed out quickly.

Eventually, Jason and I reached the top of the second climb. It was followed by a nice, long descent. As we started the descent, we waved to some motorcyclists parked along the road. They waved back. I let out a hearty “Wahoo!” as we started to hit our max speeds close to 40mph. Shortly after the road leveled out, the dark skies finally opened up, and we got rained on hard. We battled stinging rain and big gusts for the last 15 miles to Jackson.

We camped behind the hot spring lodge in Jackson. The lodge was really neat. They had a swimming pool fed by hot spring water. We soaked in the warm water for awhile before dinner at the lodge. While we were eating, some guys approached us and asked if we were biking through. They were the motorcyclists at the top of the second pass and really enjoyed our enthusiasm for the descent. They asked where we were headed tomorrow. We told them about a crazy idea we were kicking around – riding 140 miles to Missoula. The ride would have one pass and nearly 100 miles of gentle descent afterward. We felt we could do it, but they were very skeptical. BJ, one of the motorcyclists, made a bet with us. He would buy us dinner if we made it. With new motivation, we turned in early for our big day.

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Hot spring pool at the lodge.
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Day #65 – July 14, 2019

Miles – 140.8
Jackson, MT -> Missoula, MT

We intended to leave around 6AM. We were actually started at 6:45AM. That is still an impressive start time by our standards. We made quick time to Wisdom, where we stopped for coffee. We picked up Tim, another TransAmmer we met a couple nights ago. He camped at Wisdom and was leaving as we passed by. He was not expecting to ride to Missoula in one day but was down for the challenge.

The climb to Chief Joseph Pass was challenging, but the descent was worth it. I hit close to 40mph for nearly 10 miles. The views were great. We rode along without incident for about 90 total miles. The gradual descent made it easy. I got a flat on our 90th mile. I was annoyed our flow got interrupted, but I was appreciative to have a break. 

The last 50 miles were on a bike path. It was great to not worry about traffic anymore. The ride got extremely difficult with 30 miles left. A headwind picked up and we started encountering lots of small hills. Most of all, my brain got really tired. We were approaching 10 hours of riding time, and I was starting to feel fried. With just two miles left to go, Jason got a flat. Since we had technically crossed into Missoula, I gave BJ a call while I waited. I let him know we arrived, and his response was simply “Well, fuck me! Good job!” He made good on his end of the bet. We are staying at Bruce’s house, a WarmShowers host, for the next three nights to recover.

Day #66 & #67 – July 15-16, 2019

Miles – 0
Missoula, MT

Bruce, our WarmShowers host, runs an interesting household. He has an open door policy for cyclists passing through Missoula – literally, the front door is wide open most of the time. The result is an awesome environment that you could never pay for. Bruce is a busy guy that pops in and out throughout of the day, but for the most part, he lets the house run itself with a “Cyclist Guide” sitting in the living room with all the details.

Bruce’s sunroom – where we slept and lounged all day.
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It was a relaxing place to take two rest days. I spent the two days primarily eating and sleeping. We gorged ourselves on a Chinese buffet the day after our 140 mile ride. Normally, I would turn my nose up at such a place, but for the price point, you really can’t beat the availability of calories. 

We visited the Adventure Cycling Association headquarters to tour the facility and claim our free ice cream sandwiches. The highlight was getting the opportunity to weigh our bikes with all the gear on it. I hadn’t weighed anything until now. My rig came in at 94 pounds. Jason beat me with an impressive 108 pounds.

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We explored Missoula a bit, but we had the most fun hanging around the house and socializing with the other cyclists that were coming and going. One night we made dinner with Geoff and Sharron, two Australians doing various trail sections in the west. We made some fish and chips and had a really great night. At one point, I was joking about being technically homeless at the moment. Bruce yelled from the kitchen, “You’re not homeless, this is your home!” It felt true.

Day #68 – July 17, 2019

Miles – 58.7
Missoula, MT -> Lochsa Lodge, ID

After two days off, being back on the bike was uncomfortable. My body adapted quickly to not riding, and I had to shake the cob webs off all day. We had a gentle incline most of the day, which kept our speeds low. It was boring.

Finally, we started on the steep climb to the summit of Lolo Pass. I actually enjoyed the tough climb more than the slow incline. It felt like there was an end goal. At the top, we crossed into Idaho, took our ceremonial state crossing photos, and went flying down the other side of the pass. The descent was incredible.

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We camped at Lochsa Lodge. Bob and Barb, a westward couple from Seattle, were also camping there.

Day #69 – July 18, 2019

Miles – 89.4
Lochsa Lodge, ID -> Kooskia, ID

Some days, despite the scenery and even a downhill section, it’s hard to enjoy the ride. Today felt like work. We had stunning views along the Lochsa River and quite a bit of downhill, but the weather made it difficult. We got rained on heavily in the morning, and a nasty headwind brought us down to a crawl in the afternoon.

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We camped at the city park in Kooskia. Bob and Barb were there as well, and Geoff and Sharon showed up later in the evening. 

Day #70 – July 19, 2019

Miles – 41.4
Kooskia, ID -> White Bird, ID

Most people that ride the TransAmerica Trail agree the Appalachian mountains are harder to cross than the Rockies. The logic is that the steep grades in the Appalachians are more difficult than the long, yet gentle grades of the Rockies. This has held true in my experience. Until today. The climbing from Kooskia to White Bird was a combination of steep grades and very high elevation. It was the worst of both worlds.

On the first big climb of the day, I found myself needing to stop frequently to catch my breath. At one point, I stopped on a particularly steep grade. I had to lean forward to just stand comfortably on the side of the road. When I tried to move again, I couldn’t seem to get the bike balanced and moving forward again. It was just too steep, and my legs were too tired. I ended up having to push up to a gentler grade. It was my first time pushing this trip.  At the top of this climb, a sign seemed to mock me with the road name: “Lamb Grade.”

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Lunch break on the way to White Bird. Sharon, Jason, and Geoff.
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All of this climbing was met with a great descent. Or so I heard later. Unfortunately, I missed the turn to the fun road. The route briefly followed Idaho Highway 95 but turned onto the Old Highway 95, a steep road with fun switchbacks. I missed the turn and rode the fast, shorter Highway 95 into White Bird. It was efficient and easy, but Jason said repeatedly the Old Highway 95 was one of his favorite descents ever. I briefly entertained the idea of unloading my bike and riding back to the top to get the full experience, but the 2,500 feet of climbing was a good deterrent. We camped at the city park in White Bird with Geoff and Sharon.

Week #10 Mileage: 379.3
Total Trip Mileage: 3,648.4

Today's ride: 379 miles (610 km)
Total: 3,648 miles (5,871 km)

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