Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Missoula or Zoo Town (as it is affectionately known)

Location: Missoula, MT, USA
After our bonus rest day at Patrick & Hayley's we made our way to Missoula. It was a fairly flat, uneventful day of riding, though lots of it was bike path which was great. This petered out about 10 miles south of Missoula & this last stretch into town was busy & not much fun.  Missoula is the home of the Adventure  Cycling Association and as we were arriving on Sunday we'd arranged to stay two nights with our host so we could check out the city & visit the ACA offices as we'd heard that as passing cycle tourers we'd be treated to free cold drinks and ice cream if we called in. Plus we'd heard Missoula was a cool town so a little urban fun sounded good.

Our host Bruce lives in a big old house in an area with lots of nice big old houses, some of them emblazoned with Kappa Alpha Epsilon or such like, but Bruce is no frat boy. There a bunch of people who share the house with Bruce & his son & on top of that they open it up to cycle tourers in a very laid back, hospitable way. There were another couple of cycle tourers there when we arrived, Izaha and Amy, who'd come from Portland and we're heading to Texas, but had decided maybe they'd like to stay in town instead.

We spent the first night there drinking beers in the garden, chatting with Izaha and Amy, and meeting a few of the housemates. We walked into town the following morning, treated ourselves to breakfast at this great little cafe and headed for the ACA offices. After introducing ourselves to Beth on the reception we were offered drinks and ice cream and set about planning the next leg of our route using their maps and computer. An older gentleman came and started talking to us, ended up giving us a tour about the whole offices and telling us some of the history of the place. Him and his wife were some of the first people to cycle from Alaska to Argentina and had set up the ACA. Greg has a project to photograph portraits of the long-term cycle tourers that come by to document it as a form of travel for future generations to look back on. Anyone who comes by the offices gets their polaroid taken, but if you're on a 'big trip' then Greg will take your portrait with an old fashioned SLR with real film in it. Apparently we qualified for that so he asked if we'd come back with our fully laden bikes. Sure thing we said and agreed we'd come back the next day fully laden.

We spent the next few hours mooching about town before heading to the secondhand gear shop to get Tom some new shorts. A guy in the store suggested a place for us to eat, The Dino Cafe, where locals go and they serve awesome creole food. Tom had the fried catfish po-boy and I went for the 'Gumbolaya' (jambalaya covered with gumbo) - both were delicious. On the way home we stopped on the bridge and watched the surfers and kayakers trying to ride the perpetual wave in the Clark River and then stopped by Big Dipper ice cream and got ourselves a sundae. Also delicious. It felt really good to spend some time alone together, wandering about, enjoying a city. Made us miss Sheffield.

The next morning Tom did a mega clean on the bikes and I got stuff packed up, wrote and looked at routes. Despite all our map gazing at the ACA the day before we were still undecided. In the afternoon we pedalled down to the Adventure Cycling offices to get our pictures taken, write our stories and get our bikes weighed. We both underestimated the weight, and we weren't even carrying water or our full food quota. Tom was very relieved that his bike was heavier as he has been accusing me of trying to sneak more weight on to my bike. We asked Greg what route he'd take to get to the Olympic Peninsula and he said up to Sandpoint then join the Northern Tier route. Sold. Decision made.

We left the ACA and cycled out of town to Big Sky Brewery. Mindy and Dan had told us about a friend who works there and we'd sampled some of their beers with Patrick and Haley, plus they give you four 4oz glasses of beer for free. It was a few miles out of town, against a headwind, in fairly busy traffic, but it was worth it. We had a lot of fun chatting with Sue (Mindy's friend) and Mel (the other barmaid who knew the owners of the yummy bakery in Salmon) and they even gave us a couple of extra glasses for free. If you go to Missoula you should totally visit Big Sky Brewery. We left, a little tipsy, and headed for another bar in town we were recommended for a burger. The Missoula Club doesn't have a kitchen, instead the barman will cook your burger on a hot plate behind the bar. It was damn good; satiated we headed back to Bruce's. We very rarely splurge like this, most the time we don't drink beer and we eat rice and lentils, but it was the first time we'd been in a city for ages and better still a city we could walk/cycle about so a little splashing out seemed in order.


  1. From the photo's it looks like the weather is starting to improve...Mr P
    PS Looks like a great burger..

    1. Yeh we had nice weather in Missoula and the burger was very tasty. The bar had a burger relish that had horseradish in it; fiery!!!

  2. You guys are looking fit in the photos where you are next to the Adventure Cycling Association sign. (For all meanings of fit, rawr ;) ) Are they the photos Greg took?

    1. Cheers Rhys, not too sure how fit I feel. And no, they are not the photos Greg took. The ones Greg took were round the back of the building in front of a screen. They go into an archive that people can look at if they are interested. Not sure if we'll get to see them