What Idaho lacked in, well, a lot of things, Montana managed to make up for.
It started with an escort to the State border by the very friendly Max, the Australian, who is cycling across the US in 33 days with his mom driving a SAG (support and gear) rental car. A downhill from Lolo Pass and the stretch into Missoula introduced me to what was to follow outside bigger cities: farmland and, more prominent, ranches.
In Missoula, a bike-friendly college town, I got a taste of Montana weather with a severe thunderstorm passing through just as I was grocery shopping down the street.
The lights went out briefly at the store a few times before the emergency generators kicked in to keep the freezers running. Checkout took a bit longer since things had to be handled manually. Luckily I had been staying at a motel there for my two rest days. A walk to downtown revealed that this wasn’t common even for Montana: lots of branches on the roadways, downed trees and car windows smashed by broken off branches.
There I also met up again with Jim and Peter, fellow cycle tourers on their own path across the country, who I had been bumping into a few times before, as well as the gang I met just before crossing into Idaho.
Some more highlights:
- Pitched tent on grounds of local junior high school in Darby, MT
- Slept in wooden shelter at campground in Wisdom, MT, maintained by veterans of the American Legion
- Rear tire disintegrating on the last stretch from Ennis to West Yellowstone, leading to 4 flats, 12 hours on the road and me having to walk the last 3 miles into town as the sun was about to set
- Kindness of strangers: Burt from the Yellowstone Inn giving me a ride to the Freeheel and Wheel, the bike shop/cafe where I got my tire replaced, in his truck
In general I felt, subjectively, a more liberal mindset in Montana, combined with, indeed, a big sky and the kind of ever changing weather that renders weather forecasts (almost) obsolete. Luckily I was spared, so far, from the worst.
As I enter Yellowstone National Park, with the confidence of a new rear tire, I look forward to switching into a bit of a lower gear, reducing the daily mileage a bit in order to really cherish traveling through the park at a pace that lets me soak in its beauty.
The “miles per day” value might drop a bit, but I can live with that. There is always Kansas to make up for lost time. Hopefully.
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