Stayed on US Highway 12 all the way to Missoula. Crossed Lolo Pass this morning at 5200 feet. The first 8 miles were uphill, but gradual, followed by 5 miles of 5 or 6% grade. Low gear all the way. About an hour of pedaling at 5 mph. Not too bad. Met two other groups of long distance cyclist at the pass: one headed to Minneapolis via US 12 and another following the Trans America Trail then heading north to New York. The first group were college students, the second were Swiss.
That damned headwind from the East is back. Coming down off the pass was easy, but not fast. I still haven't broken the speed record I set on my old bike of 48.5 mph. What's wrong with the wind? Aren't the prevailing winds westerly?
Montana is not New York, but it's definitely more crowded than Idaho. But then, most of Idaho looks abandoned. Saw a deer with velvet still on its antlers. Haven't seen much other wildlife. I am in chipmunk country. They are the dominant animal life here.
The last 8 miles from Lolo to Missoula was four-lane highway and busy, followed by a mile or so of strip malls. Missoula proper is small town nice. Tree lined streets and few cars. Merry was not home when I showed up so I scouted out a Laundromat and did the wash. They had my favorite machines: Wascomat Juniors. Parked the bike in front of Merry's house waiting for her and her son to show up. It's like riding on a portable hammock. I could have sat there for hours (well, maybe hour). Still, I wouldn't mind a kickstand.
I picked up a newspaper while hanging out at the Laundromat. The Missoulian. What an awful name. The local section had a feature article about reports from local kids on a trip. "A Week in Washington, DC: Target Range Middle School Students Take a Trip to the Capital." No joke here. The school's name is Target Range. Merry drove me out to see it, but I forgot to bring a camera so no pictures. I had an eye out to see if there was a "Gun Rack Elementary School" or a "Pickup Truck High", but no luck. Went to eat at a Thai restaurant where you have to sneak through the kitchen into the bar next door if you want to buy a beer. I thought they only did that in Utah.
Missoula is in an inter-mountain basin so I lost very little ALTitude after Lolo Pass. Apparently the area suffers pretty bad from air inversions during the winter. The surrounding peaks can be cloud-free while the valley is overcast and gloomy. It also traps a lot of pollution much like Los Angeles. It's a compact, flat town so I saw a lot of cycle commuting. They also have a bus system that seems odd given the ample parking. Of course, I only saw the bus stops and not the actual busses. It could be an hour between them for all I know. In that amount of time you could walk across the entire town. Saw a barbed wire fence stretched across a creek with a "Posted" sign. You know, "Posted: No hunting, fishing, looking at or being near my damn property under the penalty of shotgun blast." These are outsiders to Montana I'm told. Western Montana is being overrun by telecommuters and those with jobs that don't require being anywhere.
Accidentally erased the average and maximum speeds trying to set the clock on the cyclocomputer to Mountain Daylight Time. Last word: the phones make long distance connection faster here than anywhere in Idaho.