Kristi and I were really excited to get to Dillon, Montana. Our good friend, Ben was flying his plane to meet us there for a night. After arriving in Dillon, Kristi and I checked in to the Best Western where Ben had reserved a 2-bedroom suite for the three of us to stay. Kristi and I got checked in, cleaned up, and headed next door to grab a bite to eat while we waited for Ben. We didn’t have to wait long. After he got there, we headed out to check out the town of Dillon. First stop was some pre-flighting at the Beaverhead Brewing Company, definitely a favorite local hangout. Then we strolled down a few doors for dinner at the Longhorn Ropers Saloon and Grill. The food and presentation were amazing, the best meal we’ve had on the trip so far! By the time the evening was over, the three of us amigos had full bellies and a delightful buzz going!
A note for you hard liquor drinkers: When going to a bar to drink hard liquor, if you order a shot, ask them to put it in a whiskey glass. I’ve found that most of the time I do that, I end up getting a lot more alcohol than will fit in a shot glass.
The next morning, after getting up and eating breakfast, we headed to the local airport where Ben had parked his plane. Ben had offered to take us up so we could scout out the next section of trail from Dillon to Missoula and we gladly accepted.
After going through an extensive preflight inspection, we were soon on our way following the TransAmerica Trail using my GPS phone app. I was surprised how easy it was to get my bearings using the app which showed exactly where we were in relation to the road.
Once we hit cruising altitude of 10,500 feet, Ben asked if I’d like to fly the plane. “Why yes, Ben, I would love to fly it!” So for the next hour or so, I kept us just to the left of the trail/road so we could see what we would be going through.
I honestly thought we were only going to fly about 30 minutes out and then head back to Dillon, but Ben decided we should fly all the way to Missoula. So we did. After landing at the Missoula Airport, we borrowed a courtesy car they keep for pilots to use when they land and headed to the Montana Club for lunch. Afterwards, we drove back to the airport for our return flight to Dillon. Both Kristi and I marveled at the idea that we had just flown from Dillon to Missoula with Ben for lunch. I mean really, who does that?
Ben is one of the most amazing friends we have. When I was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and couldn’t stop losing weight, he made it his mission to find out what he could to help and discovered food that was high in calories, healthy, and low in weight. Then he bought a case of it for me to eat during the hike! And now, here he was flying all the way to Montana in his private plane to meet us and spent a wonderful day with us!
After we arrived back in Dillon, we had to say so long to our dear friend, and then we were off to a restaurant to have dinner with the local VFW Post 9040. We spent the next few hours chatting with PJ, our host, and other members of the post and community. We were even interviewed by the local newspaper. Kristi and I are simply amazed at the kindness and generosity of the many small towns we go through during our trip!
The next day, we were back on the road again heading toward Wisdom, MT, a total of 67 miles. We had to climb up and over two passes to get to Wisdom, but once over the second pass, the terrain leveled off. It made for an enjoyable ride with breathtaking scenery (something we never seem to get enough of) as we travelled along the valley floors surrounded by snow-capped mountains. After arriving at Wisdom, we stayed at the local park sponsored by the American Legion that had bathroom facilities and non-potable water. Kristi and I pitched the tent but did not put on the rain fly because it was such a beautiful evening. We soon paid for that decision as it started to rain while we were watching an episode of House of Cards. We had that rain fly on the tent within a minute or two with military precision! After having been on the road for so long, you got into a definite routine. This is one routine we have down!
The next morning, I was up early as the sun was rising. The clouds were lit up a beautiful pinkish-orange over the mountains to our west, so I got out the camera and started shooting. As a photographer, you live for scenes like that.
Then Kristi and I had our usual breakfast of instant oatmeal, packed up, and were once again on the road headed toward Darby, MT, another 57 miles down the road. We had one easy pass to climb where we would once again…and for the last time…pass over the Continental Divide. From that point all the way to Missoula, it was downhill. Once over the pass, we let loose! The next 7 miles were a 6 degree downhill, so we were coasting at between 30 and 40 mph. Both of us love the long downhill rides!
We pulled off the side of the road and had a second breakfast at a small restaurant made of logs. Both of us had omelets which were delicious! The rest of the ride, as I mentioned, was downhill into Darby, so we made great time and were there in the early afternoon. We got a place, at the aptly named, Traveller’s Rest Cabins, got cleaned up, did laundry, and settled in for the evening. I also did the usual bike maintenance that evening checking to ensure everything was tight, cleaning and then re-oiling the chains, checking the tires for proper inflation, etc. Kristi had been having some difficulty with her shifting which hadn’t been right since we stopped to have our bikes serviced in Lander, WY, so I also worked on that for her. There’s nothing worse than climbing up a steep pass and discovering you can’t get your bike into granny gear when you really need it!
The following day was a 64-mile ride into Missoula. Although I mentioned it was all downhill from Darby to Missoula, it’s actually very close to being flat. We only drop a total of 300 feet over 64 miles. That’s less than 50 feet every 10 miles. It’s not noticeable. But we still made outstanding time! We knew once we got to Missoula, we would be taking a 10-day break to fly back to the east coast so I could attend my 40th high school reunion, so we seriously put the pedal to the metal! The first stretch was 25 miles. The weather was beautiful with clouds in the sky as the sun rose lighting up the clouds and the snow-capped mountains, and there wasn’t even a whiff of a breeze. We averaged nearly 17 mph for the first 25 miles of the ride which was the fastest 25 miles we’ve done so far. We both can tell that we’re getting much stronger…just in time to take an extended break and lose what strength we’ve gained!
Once we hit Hamilton, about 15 miles into the ride, we got on a bike trail that goes from Hamilton all the way to Missoula, a total of nearly 50 miles.
It’s a beautiful bike trail. They’d just completed the last section of the trail from Lolo to Missoula the weekend before. Once in Missoula, we headed straight for the American Cycling Association’s headquarters in northern Missoula. There we signed their logbook, ate some free ice cream and had a free soda or two. We also got our bikes weighed. My bike and trailer combo weighed in at 110 pounds and Kristi’s bike with saddlebags was 75 pounds. We felt pretty badass having lugged all that gear over 3,300 miles across the United States! Only 900 more miles to go once we return from our outing to the east coast.
Kristi and I also ran into Vin, Mike, Merjika and Peter as we made our to Adventure Cycling Association. It is amazing how close you get to the other riders as you travel this trail. Of course, there were hugs all around and we spent an hour or so catching up on how everyone was going.
Fortunately, Kristi and I also have quite a few friends from Missoula, so we arranged to stay with Rob and Kristi Gappert’s. They were kind enough to let us park our bikes in their garage and commandeer their wonderfully finished basement. We took the next two days to visit with them and our other friends we have there in Missoula. All-in-all, it was a wonderful stay. (Week 11 mileage: 225.29; total trip miles to date: 3,338.43).