Day 27: Threading the Needle — Lolo, MT to Flint Creek Campground, Porters Corner, MT – June 4.

Daily miles – 100. Total miles – 1537.
This morning we got up early to load the bike. While I don’t feel we stayed a minute too long in Lolo – in fact, part of me as anyone would, wanted our vacation to last forever – it felt good to be doing the familiar tasks of packing the bike and getting ready for a long day of riding. We met up with James McCubbin at 7:30 am on Hwy. 93 in Lolo to ride together today – the only day we’ve had company on the road so far. We met Zaph (Elizabeth) and the kids in Missoula for breakfast at the Raven.

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Chandra ate “the Miller” complete with sweet potatoes, veggies, and eggs. I had a breakfast burrito about 10% the size of the one Chandra threw down in Florence, OR a couple weeks ago. We had a nice if brief visit with everyone and, having checked both the sky and the internet, we saw there was a good chance it would be a very wet day with potentially serious thunderstorms, so we left Missoula around 9:15. The ride along frontage roads was mellow and nice, we had good conversation with James as he rode with us for about 35 miles. He got to feel the love of a blowout as our formerly-known-as-“panacea” 28 phatty no nonsense tire blew its sidewall. Grrrrr. This one really looked like a defect in the tire, but whatever…. Luckily, the ops center had hooked us up with two new Gatorskin and we were carrying one of them as a spare anyway. So…we carried on with two new Conti Ultra Gatorskin tires and are hoping for the best.

James turned back after a photo together and a final goodbye at Clinton, where we were to ride on the Interstate 90 for a few miles. As James rode back to his place south of Lolo, we continues east. Starting to get a little hungry ad tired after about 45 miles, we thought we would stop for lunch on the frontage road after 16 miles on 90. When we exited, we saw signs indicating that this 16 mile stretch was being used for a bike race today. We saw a referee or coach who said we were fine to ride – the racers would just pass us. The signs reading “Caution: Bikes on Road” were a nice feature of the day. We cancelled our lunch plans and got inspired to ride fast for a while. Spectators, team cars, and the racers were all really friendly to us. When the main peleton caught us, there were many grins, chuckles, and kind words exchanged. Chandra yelled “I’ve always wanted to ride in the peleton!” The racers were nice and surprisingly chatty, asking where we were going an replying with big “right ons” when we told them. We were only near the peleton for a brief moment, but the wind blocking of all those bikes was pretty surreal!

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So, despite flatting once (defective valve on a tube – I won’t even go there) we kept on trucking under a beautiful sunny sky with an Easterly headwind all the way to the town of Drummond. I kept thinking, this Easterly wind must mean low pressure coming from th West, i.e. the totally black clouds over our shoulders that were rapidly approaching. A few miles shy of Drummond, it was sprinkling and we started seeing significant lightning on nearby ridges. We put the hammer down and decided to either find a park with some shelter or a cafe to eat lunch and see if we could wait out the storm.

We scoped the man drag of town (ok – the only drag of town) and found a cafe with an old west style covered wooden sidewalk out front – perfect to keep Talula dry. An old guy asked us about our trip, and mentioned that yeah…when the wind blows from the east, rain tends to follow. We sat in the restaurant, figuring we would still be pretty much on schedule even if we waited a couple hours. Five minutes after sitting down, a huge gust of wind blew dust down the street followed by horizontal rain, light-dimming lightning, thunder, and lots of wind. We were so happy to be indoors that we didn’t even care that the food wasn’t very good (although the raspberry pie wasn’t bad). Sure enough, the immediate part of storm blew itself out pretty soon, and after Chandra updated a posting about our “vacation” in Lolo, we saw the sun peaking through and figured we would make it at least part way without getting too wet. As it happened, we never did get anymore rain. But, we had headwind and very dark clouds all around us the rest of the day. It was outrageously beautiful riding down MT Hwy 1 toward Phillipsburg in the Flint Creek Valley. Aunt SuzAnne hooked us up with the beta on this road and it turned out to be gorgeous just as she said. The light contrast between sunshine and dark clouds over trees, fields, and water made for some amazing photographs and fun riding.

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We threaded the needle between storms the rest of the day, and the clouds cleared as I cooked Quinoa and green beans for dinner in this Forest Service campground by the Flint Creek. I hope James didn’t get hit too hard by the storm. I would never have predicted we would make it to bed without ever getting wet today. Weather is supposed to be clearer tomorrow too. Lucky.

This past week has been fabulous – reconnecting with the Millers in Lolo and Zaph and James and their family as well. Getting back on the bike, and being our team of two again felt great though. It’s only a couple days to Bozeman, a day off there, then the real mountains. We couldn’t be happier than on this ride. The journey recommences, and everything just feels right. Materially, we have everything we need, and setting it all up, cooking, eating, working on the bike – it is all familiar and routine now, but in a good way. It’s now 10:22 pm, the clouds have just lost their alpenglow and become dark, the stream is rolling outside the tent, Chandra’s breathing has deepened and slowed to here sleep pace, and I am ready to sleep the 100 mile sleep. Awesome day . . .

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