Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day 32, 6/9/10 - Lakeside to Kalispell, MT

Just the Basics: Only 16 miles today - we needed to stop in a town with a good bike shop because Becky's gears have been having some problems. The day started out poorly - it was raining, and we immediately faced a short but very steep hill on US 93 with lots of traffic and no shoulder to speak of. In this sort of situation we walk the bikes or, if riding, hop off whenever traffic conditions warrant - which, in the first 2 miles was CONSTANTLY; our route called for us to stay on 93 all the way to Kalispell and we hadn't run into anyone with a different suggestion - pretty discouraging.

BUT - at around mile 2 Riley spotted a little footpath that ran perhaps 500 yards on the other side of the guard rail along the road and we biked on that, then dipped into a short little road, and for the rest of the trip, with help from some local folks, managed to ride on frontage roads, bike paths and back roads all the way to Kalispell! Now we're happily ensconced in the Kalispell Grand Hotel - a wonderfully restored historic building with great staff and fresh cookies, popcorn and coffee in the lobby!! Our bikes are being cared for at Wheaton's Bike Shop, established in 1918, and we're happy as clams. See below for more stories.

Post-Dinner Addendum: We had a very nice, moderately-priced Chinese dinner at the Alley Connection Restaurant adjoining the hotel - lots of crisp veggies in our entrees. The owners are Vietnamese; the light fixtures, especially, made us homesick for Little Saigon in Orange County, CA.

After dinner we went to a bar - something we virtually NEVER do - and slowly sipped single-malt whiskeys (Jameson & Glenlivet) while watching Chicago win the Stanley Cup in overtime.

Today's Photo: The Kalispell Grand Hotel, where we stayed - our room is on the 2nd floor just below and to the left of the balcony that you see in the picture. A great place!

Tomorrow: Update: We are going only about 15 miles, to the small town of Columbia Falls. Our legs can use a break from climbing (our next big climb will be over the Continental Divide) and we want to go to the movies there tomorrow night - a special showing of a documentary and a movie about The Big Burn, the terrible 1910 fire which devastated much of the northwest.

For Those Who Want More:

The Bikes: Becky's bike is getting a new chain. The guys in the bike shop say we may go through them about every 1000 miles (we're now over 900!!), given the hard work they are doing - carrying lots of weight, riding in the rain, traveling on mud and gravel roads, et cetera. However, he checked out Riley's chain and says it's OK. We'll also be buying a chain cleaning set; we've been lubricating them but had decided not to bring the chain-cleaning stuff - bad idea, says the bike mechanic.

Finding Our Way: We've had surprisingly good luck finding less-traveled routes, by looking at maps, using Google and Map My Route, and seeking advice from local folks. We'd asked around about this area but had come up dry. After our unhappy start on US 93 we started out just trying what looked like it might be a frontage road, having it work, getting info about the next one, etc. As we approached the town of Somers, at about mile 6, there was suddenly a bike/pedestrian path. We stooped for breakfast at a bakery/restaurant with a great view of Flathead Lake and then continued on the path.

It ended shortly and we started down a road towards the lake, hoping to find another road headed our direction. We were about to give up but Becky saw Sliter's Ace Hardware across the road and suggested we ask there. Jackpot! Three different staff members discussed our situation with us and among themselves.

  • Told us about a Rails-To-Trails bike path another 1/4 mile down the road, which no-one else had mentioned to us;

  • Drew two small, detailed maps to show us what to do from then on;

  • Copied a page from an atlas for us; and

  • Told us we should go to Wheaton's Bike Shop in Kalispell and gave us its address and phone number!
Once we got to Kalispell we were having a little trouble finding the bike shop - a guy in an electric company truck stopped and gave us directions - he said "We're bikers too, and I knew from the way you were studying the map that you must be looking for a particular place!"

Once we got to Wheaton's bike store, the bike mechanic told us about this hotel - and the nearby Chinese restaurant where we plan to eat dinner tonight!

Down and Dirty: Another rainy day, so we and the bikes got a bit splattered - we are SO glad we had fenders put on our bikes before we started! - but today was the worst yet in that category. Just normal riding in the rain had us and our stuff a bit bedraggled, but as we approached Kalispell we had to go through an area where they are building a highway bypass, and where dump trucks full of dirt are going back and forth a lot. The road itself was quite muddy and we regularly got off the road onto muddy, grassy shoulder to stay out of the trucks' way.

Becky's front fender has very little clearance - the bike wasn't particularly designed to have fenders - so even a large pebble stuck in a tread can brush the fender as the wheel spins. In this situation, a large clump of mud had the same affect. She hopped off, grabbed a handful of dry grass and rubbed the mud-lump off the tire.

As we left the construction area behind we each found we couldn't clip onto the pedal on the side of our bikes where we typically unclip and put a foot down when we need to stop. Mud again - the cleats on our shoes and bikes were crusted with mud and couldn't fasten together. We stopped and cleaned our shoe bottoms by wading in puddles. We used sharp little pieces of Styrofoam we found by the road to chip mud out of the cleats on the pedals and then rinsed them with water from our water bottles.

This is Montana: When we asked the bike shop mechanic about a place to stay, he recommended the Kalispell Grand Hotel. Becky asked how they'd feel about a pair of grubby bikers - he replied "This is Montana!" When we got to the hotel, she asked if they had a room for a couple of muddy bikers - a senior staff person immediately instructed the clerk to see if they had any of those still available, or words to that effect! They then gave us the economy rate for a room in the next category up. Now we're cleaned up and sitting in wing chairs in the lobby, listening to very nice piano music in the background, sipping complimentary coffee from a china mug and reading and blogging - this is Montana!

Norm's News, Kalispell: Last but not least. When we biked in MT about 14 years ago we were hugely impressed by Norm's News. It's been in business since the 30s and has the biggest selection of magazines either of us has ever seen - really huge and diverse. It's also a candy store and a soda fountain. we bought an Economist and had root beer floats instead of lunch. = ) = )

1 comment:

  1. Aisling and I brought along my chain cleaning brush, some dish detergent, and some WD40 on our West Coast tour. We probably cleaned the chains 3 times in our 5 week, 1338 mile excursion. I agree that it's very important, can keep the machinery quiet, and can vastly prolong the life of the chain. The chain I had for that trip lasted the whole trip, plus at least another thousand miles. It helped though that the good lord blessed us with day upon day of sunshine for the most part (although it finally did get a bit rainy in cental Oregon...nothing like you have been dealing with though, I reckon.) Perk up, though. Drier and warmer weather is finally going to try to get its foothold in the Western states this weekend.