Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Greetings from Missoula, MT! (Letter 2)

Read Letter 1 First

Date: Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 12:21 PM


Well, I write you now from the Adventure Cycling Association headquarters in Missoula, Montana. They love to have bicycle tourers stop in here and use the free internet, eat free ice cream, drink free soda, and get a portrait taken. I'm sort of cheating, I guess, because I haven't truly started my tour yet, and I arrived here by van, but those are just minor details. My favorite part is being surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of photos of bicycle tourers who've come before me and stood in the foyer of this very building. Inspiring, indeed.

I said goodbye to Jean, Eric and baby Wren last Monday, hopped on the ferry to Anacortes and pedaled my way down Whidbey Island, retracing the path I had taken up. I arranged a ride-share on Craigslist and after camping for a night towards the southern end of the island, I met up with a guy named Louis in Mukilteo (very near Everett, WA) who gave Ginger and I a ride to Missoula. I was a little wary at first, just because I'm a female traveling alone and I'd never done a ride-share before. When I got off the ferry I found him parked in his mid-90s Chevy cargo van with a queen-sized bed in the back, neatly made up with two pillows and everything. Needless to say I became a little more wary at that point. He loaded Ginger and my bags into the van for me and I said, "Hold on while I text my friends your license plate number. You know, just in case." He got a laugh out of that. After I hopped in and we started driving I made a few more remarks about all the weapons I was carrying--my mace, my knives, and this insanely fierce trowel that Jean and Eric gave me. ("Think of us when nature calls!" They wrote on the homemade, cardboard-and-duct-tape-sheath. I had talked on the phone with Feliz from my little campsite the night before and she pointed out what a great weapon the trowel would be. It's really more like a small sword with a serrated edge. Thank you Feliz!)

In the end I didn't have to use any weapons on Louis. He was a stand-up guy, on his way to New York to bring his girlfriend back home after her year-long internship in fashion design. He put Me First and the Gimme Gimmes on the radio as we drove through the Cascades and I knew it was going to be a fine ride. We rocked out the whole way, sang Sublime's 40 oz. to Freedom at top volume, word for word, talked about life and music and food and yoga. He shared his hummus and veggies with me and kept me well-fed when I took over the wheel. The 10-hour drive was over before I knew it and I was a little bit sad to see him go. He dropped me at a gas station in east Missoula and that was that. The sun was getting low and I had no idea where I would stay. He pulled away and flashed me a shakka (I got him into the shakka, which I just love after my stint in Hawaii!) and I pedaled a tad bit nervously into town (are you breathing, Darcy? Breathe...). Right away I stumbled upon the only hostel in town and booked a bed with no trouble at all. At $27 a night it's a little pricey for this budget traveler so I checked out in the morning and decided I'd find somewhere else to stay, somehow, as I'll be here for a few more days.

As I picnicked by the river for lunch the next day a man on a bike stopped to say hello. He founded the community bike shop in town and asked if I needed anything bike-ish, or otherwise. "Just a place to stay!" I said. Before I knew it he was handing me the key to the bike shop, which is where I laid my head last night. Amazing! A large open room with hardwood floors, a sweet stereo, and bathroom...what more could a girl want? (Camping has turned out to be much less than ideal here in town.) I did manage to become a member of, a bike-touring hospitality forum and hope to land a bed and a shower within the next day or so. Meanwhile, Evan, the ER doctor from Austin, TX who will be joining me for the Big Ride, should be arriving by Saturday. He's currently headed up from Yellowstone by bike. (I realized that I haven't ever really clarified what the Big Ride even is, so I'll lay out the basic itinerary here: We'll carry on up north and do a trip through Glacier National Park, then back down to Missoula, which should take about a week in all. Then we'll meet up with another cycling Californian and ride south-westerly across Idaho and into Oregon. When we reach the Cascade mountains we'll turn south and ride the mountains all the way to Bakersfield. From there, we'll head west to the coast and then back up to San Francisco, probably arriving by mid-October or so. Whew!)

So until we set sail I'm exploring Missoula and doing some final tweaks to my bike. I may even get crazy and rent an inner tube to float down the river, which seems to be a popular pass-time among the locals, especially with a 6-pack of PBR.

Well, I'm off to find some lunch and wander about town. I have no idea when the next dispatch will be as internet is probably going to be sparse from here on out, but, that's just as well. I've got my trusty pen and paper and nothing is better than that.

I hope you all are well!

love love love

Montana Postcard
Montana Post Card 2

Letter 3

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