Harrowing but good day today! I got a later start at around 8, and was pretty tired: I’d been up late last night installing all my new bike gadgets. I rolled out of the hotel and got directly onto Broadway Ave. I road in the bike lane for a few miles until the road turned into old US 1. It had a great shoulder and little traffic. It ran upstream along the Clark Fork River (named after Lewis and Clark, I presume)
This riding was pretty uneventful. I stopped and got some chai tea, and rode on the shoulder for about 20 miles. Weighing on my mind was the fact that I knew there was no outlet from the route I was riding except to get on interstate 90. Here’s the interstate next to me with cars whizzing by
As I got closer to the onramp I needed to take I got more anxious. The traffic was fast but not that heavy.
I pulled into a gas station and got a drink and an apple. A man approached me and asked what I was riding. I told him about the interstate and he walked up to a third guy and asked if there were alternatives to getting on the interstate. The third guy said no, and was incredulous that I was even considering it. I think I was stalling for time, so I turned on my lights on their flashiest setting and left. Eventually there was nothing to be done but just take the plunge and merge onto the interstate. I rounded the corner onto the onramp and got onto the far right of the shoulder. The good news is that the shoulder was 10 feet wide and not that trafficy. The bad news was that the speed limit was 80 (and a ‘slow’ 70 for trucks). There were a lot of trucks too. I got into the drops and just tried to push as hard as a I could to get this section over ASAP. The cars, and trucks in particular, were generally polite and moved out of the slow lane to give me some room. Sometimes that wasn’t possible, or the driver was not so inclined, and I would get buffeted by blasts of wind from the speeding vehicles. I did about five miles before arriving at the first offramp. I wasn’t sure how I was going do the offramp, which had no shoulder and was at an incline so instead I got off on the remnants of what looked like the previous offramp, which was now closed. I had to climb down a hill and hop barbed wire to get back onto the pavement, so it wasn’t my smartest move. I almost popped my new front tire on the barbed wire, but somehow made it over. I took a break then merged back onto the highway. I rode for a few miles before arriving at a rest area, which I again entered then exited to avoid needing to cross the on/offramps. I got to an abandoned trailer that blocked the shoulder and needed to enter the travel lanes briefly. More winding miles followed, with me being pretty scared, but ultimately I pulled off the highway at the Bearmouth exit. I took a long break here to settle my nerves. I don’t have any pictures from the freeway riding because it seemed unsafe to stop and snap photos.
I joined a frontage road to i90 and expected boring frontage road riding near the highway. Boy was I wrong. This bit of road was one of the prettiest in Montana yet.
Note the smoke starting to get more visible as the sun rises. I believe that this was from the fire that I’m avoiding. Or it could be from the myriad other fires in Montana and Idaho. Who knows.
The frontage road continued for another 20 or so glorious miles before terminating in the town of Drummond. I was starving and saw a little cafe. Strangely there was a large group of bikers wearing full patches of a motorcycle club in Washington. One of them was standing around and asked me about my trip as I locked my bike up. I told him about the route and he told me about his youth when he hitchhiked across the US twice. He said he used to be a hippie 😂 I told him I was jealous of his engine sometimes. The bikers had arrived just ahead of me and the restaurant was slammed trying to fill their orders. It to 20 minutes to place the order but then it came out pretty fast. The restaurant was weird, they had 130+ burgers available, and their menu was indecipherable. I ended up just copying someone else’s order and ordering a ‘cardiac arrest’ with fries and a cheesecake. The burger ended up being a double cheeseburger with 5 types of cheese. It was amazing. I also drank like 3 cups of iced tea. The biker I’d talked to offered me some leftover tacos, which I declined (too full) then they left. I to soon got back on the road. I was headed for the town of Philipsburg, about 30 miles south. I’d failed to read by elevation profile and didn’t realize I was doing 1000+ ft of climbing to get there. It was he low grade, rolling kind of climbing that really takes it’s toll. I think the smoke and heat (90+ degrees during this segment) were affecting me. The scenery was nice though. It started with long straight roads through fields
Here I met a cyclist going the opposite way. He had stayed at the campground I eventually would sleep at, and was also dodging the fires in the area. I have him some tips for Missoula then we said goodbye.
Gradually the flats gave way to spectacular forests. This is where the climbing mostly happened.
One last long straight road brought me into Philipsburg (around the next bend)
I pulled into a gas station and got candy bar and Powerade. I think I was again getting heat exhaustion because my mind was going very slow. The kind clerk (who’s a downhill mountain biker!) let me refill bottles and douse myself in the hose behind the store. I felt much more clearheaded after that. I asked him about campgrounda and he said 6 miles south. I was about to roll out when I decided to just eat in town. I went next door to the gas station to a family restaurant, saloon, and casino (that’s what the sign said). I don’t think any kids have been there in a long time. I got some fine chicken wings and fries, and asked another patron about campsites. He recommended the same campground the clerk had, so I set out for it. 10 more miles or so of mostly flat, but slow, riding followed. I saw these gorgeous old decaying wood cabins. I wonder what their history is.
I pulled into camp and, of course, Kristin and Andy were there. I thought they would have been far away today. They had met John, another bike tourist and we’re sharing a campground. He graciously let me join him too. John is a character who’s been touring for 5 years straight and adventuring for a lot longer. I enjoyed hearing his stories. There was no water or showers in camp so I filtered my water and set up camp. This is truly bear country, the signs are everywhere warning about it. I set my food bag far away from my tent, and made sure I had no food.
Anyways I’m heading to bed, exhausted. Night
- Breakfast burrito
- Chai tea
- Gatorade x2
- Massive burger
- Iced teas
- Chicken wings
- Gummy candy
- Freeze dried ice cream sandwich from rei