The miles to Bozeman proved to hold their fair share of mountain terrain, lush with full forest sounds and the smell of fresh pine. The Gallatin Road weaves in and out between Wyoming and Montana before launching up into the open sky of Montana. This particular stretch of asphalt we dubbed “cross canyon” due to the number of road-side crosses which memorialized lost loved ones. It was also paralleled by one of the worlds premier fly fisherman rivers. Camping the S-curved canyon held its fare share of excitement. The time finally came to exercise our “bear aware” skills by bundling our food panniers together in the evening, clipping them to ropes, and hurling them into the trees. The christmas bells lazily drooping below to sound the alarm of any would be intruders. The preparation was work but any load of work sounds better than waking up to a wet hungry nose attached to a one ton belly. Our wet and hungry nose, however, did not come during the resting hours of the night. Our bear adventure occurred in the morning…while packing, tent half down, food bags out, and not the slightest clue it was a stone throw away from entering our camp.
With Melissa and I preoccupied packing and Avenue off digging up another random rodent hole, none of us were aware in the slightest that a fury beast was wondering our direction. It does not take too long, however, to catch ear of a large creature rustling through bushes. Once I caught a visual I knew exactly what it was. I turn to Melissa in a slow, calm, assertive voice, “Grab the machete, mace, and slowly start walking.” She pondered for a second thinking I was kidding but it did not take long for it to dawn on her that I was serious. I had already started my backwards departure away from camp myself. So there we stood, our defenses in hand, watching this bear fumble through our camp. A sniff here and a sniff there, paw swat at Avenue’s food bag, some more lazy sniffing and well, that was it. Nothing but a happy bear on a morning roam up the river bank. No news is good news I guess, especially in those situations. After our morning bear it was back to pavement and down towards the Montana valley.
The wilderness slowly dissipated as we got closer to open farm land. The next miles were refreshing with the sharp cut of morning air stinging our faces. We had a nice downhill and when we arrived at the bottom our wide shouldered roads were back all the way into Bozeman.
Arriving into Bozeman was no “Western” town like we had originally thought. Our only perception of Montana was of old men spitt’n chew into cups talkin’ bout trucks and horses sitting on a decapitated front porch in rock’n chairs. Come to find out the whole city was a pleasant surprise. The town is so full of life and strong sense of community, with maybe only a few men spitt’n chew. I don’t think there was a night in town that didn’t hold some cool community event. Seemed like their ritual was to ensure that main street was cut off to traffic every night, which was fine in my book. New festivals and gatherings are kind of our thing. Plus all the new families there, made me want, yes, want to have kids. That or start a franchise daycare
From the moment we arrived random strangers started greeting us. First came an older gentleman who talked to us about bears and things of the wild that would most certainly harm you. He suggested that if encountered by a wild beastly grizzly you should turn sideways as to not make yourself look large. He also recommended testing out the bear mace in an open field…which sounded like a terrible idea because how were we to know if it worked or not…this stuff puts people in hospitals. I am okay with just reading the warning labels knowing that there has to be some sort of law about faulty bear mace. Further, we ran into someone who was also an avid bike guru. He had done some tours and was looking to buy a sea worthy boat, taking off to the open ocean. The last person(s) we “ran” into we actually looked up on Couchsurfing and we were pleasantly surprised to hear they had some open grass we could throw our tent.
Some people you meet in life and more specifically for us, those we meet on tour, have a way of inspiring you perhaps more so than they think or you initially think they will. For Andrew and Lynda it was their peaceful life style in which they bared the open mind that good is in everyone and that life is something to tinker with, to learn from for the sake of learning. They had a presence to not look to harshly at political divides, lifestyle choices, or judgment upon anyone which would gravitate towards biases. Andrew and Lynda, thank you! Our time with you was more than pleasant. We spent the next few days reminiscing how much we missed your company. You two are wonderful people!
The open roads from Bozeman to Missoula were the kind of country that make car rides terrible but a complete 180 for cycling. Wide shoulders, endless wheat fields, and big sky made for some of the most epic touring shots. The wildlife in the region is amazing and very animated. Small swallows diving after large hawks defending their turf, antelope-looking-deer-things roam the green and tan harvest lined farms, and tons of crickets and dragon flies litter the skyline and asphalt…some just waiting to die from the next zooming 18-wheeler truckin by. Steering into Missoula was a long road very similar to Parleys Canyon for all you native Utahans out there. A long curvy road shadowed by high dessert shrubs with a hint of green brush painted into the slopes. The ending of the road is not as great as coming into the Utahan valley from i-80. There are no Oquirrh in the distance, no Great Salt Lake shinning, and not even a rocky looking mountain to the south. When I told the bicycle ambassador that the road we arrived from reminded me of Salt Lake he simply stated that people in Missoula take offense to that. I guess he has not had a proper Salt Lake view kicking him in the rear because…fact would have it Salt Lake is more pretty. Missoula, Missoula, Missoula…we had heard such wonderful things about you but you never really “took off” for us.
However, not all of Missoula was “grey” I mean one can get over the view of some random city, and so, as we always do we found a niche place to call home. This would be our first time using Warm Showers, which is a Couchsurfing website specifically geared towards packed bikers. The usual 4-5 emails to different users suffice and with our first reply we were off to the outskirts of town to a 1/2 street…yeah, you know a street that runs in between 1 and 2…1 and 1/2 street. Very peculiar I know From the get-go I was totally fond of this home sitting in between the properly numbered streets. Their garden was massive. It filled the entire backyard with little walking room anywhere. It was a surprise that there was room for our tent a mix the sunflowers and blooming whatnots. What amazed me the most was the outdoor cat enclosure nailed to the metal siding. Chicken wire, YES! This was something Melissa would soon need for her own kitties. Thank you again Emma and Keith for the lovely place to set up our home!
We made it into the city everyday via an old bike path that ran directly into town. The headquarters for the Adventure Cycling Association is located here in a restored church with a built on addition. What a place! I will say this up front that my style of bike touring is saying “na, we’ll figure it out” and running out the door with my pants half on…just go go go montra. But to see something very well organized and professional taking people out to the open road on bikes is straight up awesome. Not to mention that everyone there seemed hip and on the same page with biking as everyone should be…cool with it. We got the grand tour of the facility and became members simply by biking there….although I needed to be a member before biking there to get a kick ass bandana which had “bicycle” written on it in more languages than I can count…oh well, next time that bandana is mine! We did get out picture taken for the the wall of packed cyclists for 2012 on a little nifty pink polaroid…neat. The two or so days there dwindled away and we were off once more towards the grand area of northwest Montana, home of Glacier National Park.
Oh, and before I forget we also went to an outdoor music concert, filled with food and two absolutely crazy dancers. I mean I dont even think I would call it dancing. They looked like two people moving in space, creating things, sewing giant quilts in thin air, or just looking like a drunk dragon flailing its tongue out with cocked wicked eyes. They were definitely a sight to see so take 45 seconds to see what we are talking about HERE
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