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Saturday, July 02, 2011

Missoula Recap

Missoula is easy. Too easy. After nearly a week of traversing the Idaho Panhandle and western Montana, Missoula was the first city of note since Spokane. Unlike Spokane, which reminded me a bit of a down-on-its-luck Midwestern city transported to the Inland Northwest, Missoula was a true Western lefty stronghold in the vein of fellow University towns Santa Cruz, Olympia, Boulder, Arcata, and Eugene.Yeah, it had its fair share of suburbanized crap on every entryway into town, but once inside the center of town it was shangri-la to this urban and urbane cyclist. Coffee! Brewpubs! Bike shops! Cheap eats! Book stores!

Three and a half days went by without much effort. We could have stayed even longer if we wanted to. In fact Brad, our second host in town, seemed to want us to spend an extra day. And it would have been cool to run into Matt, who would have been in town a day or two later. But we feared losing momentum (April more than me, as I dragged my feet and hinted that we should spend another night). Momentum is a dangerous thing to lose on a long bike tour. I know this firsthand: when I toured the Pacific Coast in 2006, I took a five day break in the Bay Area. I felt pretty unmotivated when I got back on the road, which was a factor in me stopping the tour in Cambria, halfway between S.F. and L.A. Well, that and a broken rear wheel. But I digress...

The highlight of the Missoula days was visiting the offices of Adventure Cycling Association...twice! Heather, our friend from Portland who hosted us for the first three nights, is interning in their publications department. So we got the “inside” tour of the offices. One of the things Heather is doing at ACA is researching the history and blogging about it so new members know where the organization came from. (I’m not going to talk about Adventure Cycling history here, you should go check out what’s she’s saying over here.)

It was an inspiring visit. April and I got our photo taken, and it went on the wall with all the bicycle tourists who stopped by the office so far this year. Greg Siple, Adventure Cycling’s Art Director and one of its founders, has been taking black and white portraits of bicycle tourists and their bikes since 1982. The walls were filled with these photos, plus a blurb about the bicyclist at the time of their visit. April and I hoped to get a portrait done while we were at the office, but no luck on that. Apparently the portraits are done randomly, so not everyone who stops in gets the full artsy treatment (but everyone does get a small snapshot.)

It’s amazing how Adventure Cycling has grown over the years. At first, it was created solely as a bicycle celebration of America’s Bicentennial. In fact, it’s original name was Bikecentennial. Bikecentennial was intended to be a stand alone event: a bike party for 1976 where thousands of people would ride coast to coast. Then it transformed itself into an organization that created 40,000 miles of cross-country touring routes, with a membership also in the thousands.

Because Missoula is on the popular Trans-Am bike route plus several others, we ran into other people on bike tours, both around the Adventure Cycling offices and outside of it. And no matter how far I get away from Portland, I still can’t escape it. I ran into Alex at the Good Food Store, the local natural grocery. He actually took one of my Bike Touring Workshops last year! He’s on a cross country tour as well, but he needs to get to Minneapolis by the middle of next month to attend a wedding. So he’s now in “hustle mode” as Minneapolis is still almost 1,000 miles away. I hope he gets there in time!

Missoula was one of the places on this trip that we really looked forward to visiting. It didn’t disappoint. We’ll be sure to visit it again!

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