Route: Hamilton to Missoula, MT
Sho’s (age 12) quote of the day: “When you’re in the city a long time, you think, “I need nature!” But when you’re in nature a long time, you think, “I need the city!””
The seclusion and peaceful quiet of the mountain pass felt far behind on today’s ride, as we followed a busy highway between Hamilton and Missoula, MT. We began cycling on a two-lane highway with intermittent traffic and only a narrow shoulder. We’ve ridden many times on such roads and know how to do it safely – stay to the right of the white line and pull into the grass and wait if cars are coming too quickly from the front and back at the same time. We had only been on that road for ten minutes when a man pulled over and flagged us down.
“Are you from around here?” he asked with a smile. When I told him we lived in New York City and were re-tracing the Lewis & Clark Trail by bicycle, he said, “This road isn’t safe. We’ve had three accidents in the past six months on that curve just ahead. But I have a good alternative for you. Just last year, the bike path by I-93 was extended all the way between Corvallis and Lolo. It’s just 2 miles west of here. You should use that instead.”
My map didn’t include the recent extension and showed the bike path starting about 20 miles ahead. I happily accepted his suggestion and the homemade peanut butter cookies he offered each of us.
“I’ve lost count of how many friendly strangers we’ve met on this trip,” Sho observed as the man drove off.
We found the bike path and began riding side-by-side on the broad pavement. The path was scarcely ten feet away from the loud, zooming vehicles on the interstate, but at least it was safe. After a while, we spotted a lone cyclist coming toward us, his bicycle loaded with gear and his face covered with a flowing beard. He pulled to a stop, and we chatted for a while. His name was Matthew, he was from France and spoke English haltingly. He had begun his ride in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and told us about riding passed grizzly bears, wolves, and foxes. He was on his way through various U.S. national parks and planned to continue riding to Chile. He seemed fascinated by my decision to include my children on our ride. “My wife wants to have a baby, but I don’t want to stop going on long bike trips.”
“That’s an easy problem to solve!” I said. “Just bring the kid along.” Then I added, "Assuming your wife thinks it's a good idea and wants to join you. No small issue..."
Here are some pics:
Today's bike path
Sho and Saya
Saya cooling off
Random goat chillin' by the train tracks