Biologist on a Bike

Day 18: Lolo Creek Campground, MT to Hamilton, MT

Distance: 84.1 mi
Average Speed: 12.0 mph; Max Speed: 27.6 mph
Elevation gain: 1,420 ft
Average Temp: 77.8 F; Temp Range: 39.2-95.0F

What a lovely, if long, day. I had a ways to ride today, and I wanted to make a stop in Missoula, so I set my alarm for way-too-early-o’clock, otherwise known as 5AM. It was cold, but I was determined, so I layered up and went about breaking camp. After retrieving my panniers from the bear-safe storage locker by my campsite, that is.

Where I woke up, Day 18. It wasn’t really as dark as it looks.

The ride from Lolo Creek Campground to Lolo itself was uneventful and beautiful. The mist still hung low over the mountains, the birds were singing, and traffic was nearly nonexistent. Plus it was a gradual downhill. What’s not to love?

Far over the misty mountains cold….

I even got a good look at Lolo peak, nearly 4,000 feet higher than the climb to the pass. Yup, I’m grateful to not have had to get myself up there.

Lolo Peak

I got cell reception back as I neared Lolo, so when I got into town I found a spot to sit in the shade and I called home to check in. I chatted with Mom and my grandmother for a while before heading on a short (26 mile round trip) detour up to Missoula. From Lolo the main path heads in the other direction, but the headquarters of the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA), the group that makes the maps I’m using, is in Missoula.

I got a bit turned around in town, as the bike path randomly crossed a street and I lost it for a while. I found it again, then had to detour because there was construction going on. Then, a new first for me not just for this trip but for my whole life, I got pulled over by a motorcycle cop. I’m not in Idaho anymore and I executed an “Idaho stop” (treating a stop sign like a yield sign) at an intersection with no cars coming and got called out on it. Thankfully, I ended up just getting a talking to.

I reached the ACA with no further incident. The people there are great! I got my picture on the wall with the other riders for this year (and most of those from last year), a bandana that says bicycle in a bunch of different languages, and a tour of the building including that stories behind the bikes on display. I sat in the cyclists lounge for a while and had a drink and a snack, and then headed out to run some errands. A town this size is a great place to stock up on things.

Bicycle Bicycle Bicycle…..

I’m a superstar, the Coke at the Adventure Cycling Association told me so!

Making it out of Missoula was easier than getting in, probably because I had already ridden most of the path, and I was soon on my way south. Most of my ride was on a cycle path, which was nice. The path ran alongside the highway and it has some nasty bumps in it, both of which are less nice. It was mostly a slow grind south towards my warmshowers host for the night.

Being so close to the Adventure Cycling Association offices, it should have been no suprirse that I ran into several other tourers. First I saw a foreign couple who were headed west on the TransAm. The first people I passed going the opposite direction. I wouldn’t have expected to see anybody going that way just yet, but it turns out that they started their trip about a month before I began mine. I suppose the weather in Virginia in late April was much more conducive to riding than the weather in the mountainous northwest was. Then I had a chat with KC who was riding with a friend whose name I regrettably forgot, though the friend was riding on the highway not the cycle path, so I never got to speak with him. They had started in Boulder, CO and were headed to the coast of Washington. Finally there was a solo woman with her gear on a trailer; I’ve seen many different kinds of panniers so far, but hers is the first trailer. She also began in Colorado and was headed to Missoula.

As the ride wore on, the heat, the lack of clouds and the near complete absence of shade all combined to wear me out. My phone was, as usual, set to beep every 90 minutes to remind me to take a break and eat something, but I tended to ride a little further in the hopes of finding shade. Sometimes I got lucky and it was close. Other times, not so much, like the time where the first patch of shade I had seen in miles was occupied by a TransAm racer who taking a leak. It certainly would be easier to find a place to pee if I didn’t have to drop my shorts completely to do so, as that guy was demonstrating. Anyway, sitting in the shade was not worth the embarrassment of invading his privacy. I rode on looking for another place to stop.

I arrived around 5:30, with my legs having decided they wanted to be done at least an hour before that. I slogged on though, with the promise of a bed, a shower, and some laundry to keep me going. A night of camping in a town park, another of ‘dispersed’ camping, and a third at a primitive campground. I felt like I could sweat grime and sunscreen, so that shower was absolute heaven.

Jo and Craig live in an awesome house a bit south and a few miles east of Hamilton. They have done some bike touring themselves and were eager to hear about the highlights and lowlights of my trip so far. We went out to a local brewery and had pizza and an excellent salad, and I am now quite happily sated.

Tomorrow is yet another mountain pass. Here’s hoping the legs cooperate.

Roadkill count: none (I spent most of the day on a cycleway)

Map Day 18

11 thoughts on “Day 18: Lolo Creek Campground, MT to Hamilton, MT

  1. Rob Carlson

    Hopefully you gave them a business card and they will read this blog post when they reach the end of their trip.

    Literally the last thing I expected to happen to you on your trip would be to get pulled over by the police. Those guys have no respect for the momentum.

    1. Spin Doctor Post author

      I don’t think I’ve told you yet, but I really appreciate the weather updates.
      Although that one time you said wet ended up being rain, hail, and snow 😉

      1. Bill WX2DX

        Snow?! Not surprised given the surface temperature and elevation. It’s a welcome challenge as I am anticipating your route ahead. Fortunately, tornado season will be winding down as you cross The Great Plains. However, South Dakota is a hot spot in late June.

  2. Connie Joki

    I had a good laugh at you being pulled over by the po po. Glad you didn’t get a ticket. Isn’t Montana where you can speed like crazy and only get a $10 fine for waste of a natural resource?

    You have to be feeling good of all the mountain passes you have conquered and you keep on going. You got this!

    Really enjoying everyone of your posts and photo’s; keep it up!

    1. Spin Doctor Post author

      Definitely worth a laugh. I do know better, but sometimes exhaustion and the desire to preserve momentum win. Especially when there are no cars approaching the intersection.

  3. Leslie Diamond

    I had to laugh at getting pulled over by a motorcycle cop. Glad you found some cell service somewhere. Keep pushing through! You can do it!

    1. Spin Doctor Post author

      I laughed a bit too, even while I was still worried I’d get a ticket. It was just funny.

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