Our first thousand miles

Okay, so more about Wallace, Idaho: I really wish we’d known how cool of a little town it was, we might have planned a rest day there. But I’m going to stick with three things:

1. Like most western towns, in their early days there was a lot of prostitution. But Wallace had an active and well-known bordello until 1988! No, it wasn’t legal, but the police just pretended not to know anything about it. Eventually the FBI got word of this, and everyone just left in a hurry one night in 1988. The place was abandoned for a few years, and then someone re-opened it as a museum, and left everything pretty much exactly where they found it. There was a guided tour for $5 and I skipped it, and now I’m regretting it. I did buy a ‘zine of sorts that’s a reprint of a 1981 newspaper article about the Oasis Bordello. It was one of the more respected businesses in town at the time, too: the madam donated a lot of money to various civic causes, including buying uniforms for the local high school band. They interviewed some of the working girls, who told the journalist that they liked their jobs just fine, thanks. The article also has some great quotes from gentlemen who visited the bordello, like the guy who basically said, “Be clean and dress nicely and don’t be a jerk, and the girls will treat you right.”

2. One of their former mayors decided that Wallace (or more specifically, one particular manhole cover) was the center of the universe. There are signs pointing to said manhole cover, but if you stand under the signs, they look like they’re pointing at you. Shawn and I couldn’t resist getting pictures, and we saw other people doing the same.

3. I-90 goes from Boston to Seattle, and Wallace was the last place where it went through a town and stopped at a stoplight. The Department of Transportation wanted to change that, and designed the highway to go straight through downtown, which would require knocking down most of it. Wallace wasn’t having any of it, and so they put the entirety of downtown on the National Registry of Historic Places. Every single building of downtown was then protected, and so I-90 is a raised highway just barely outside of downtown. It was a stroke of genius on their part, I think.

So, on to other things!

After leaving Wallace, we biked the last six miles of the Coeur d’Alene trail and then hopped onto I-90 to climb to Lookout Pass. It wasn’t much higher than we were already, but it was six miles of steady uphill. And I’ve heard that Idaho and Montana drivers supposedly aren’t fond of bicycles, but I have never had more people try to cheer me on. Huge semis going the other way would toot their horns and wave or give the thumbs-up, I had people pass us and shout “Yeaah!” or wave at us. It was sorta amazing.

Lookout Pass is at the border with Montana and has some skiing stuff. Most of the stuff there was closed, but we used their restrooms, and the overhead music played the song “Miracles” by Jefferson Starship, which I proceeded to have stuck in my head for two solid days. I don’t even know the whole song. And I used to think I liked it, and now I never want to hear it again. (Before that, I had the Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man” in my head on repeat for several days. I don’t know where that one came from though.)

We decided to stay on I-90 for a while as it was the best option, and for the first six miles or so it was hell: it was a sharp descent, and the shoulder was wide, but it was also filled with lots of small loose gravel and sand, which is a lovely recipe for losing control of your bicycle. It was kinda the definition of stress, and for a bit there I was hating Montana. But then the shoulder cleared up, and I had twenty-something miles of magical biking: a wide, clean shoulder on a steady downhill with a tailwind. Oh, and a view of beautiful landscape of hills and trees and interesting rocks on either side. Eventually we got to the “town” of St. Regis, where we ate at yet another Subway, and then rode nine miles off the highway into yet even more gorgeous stuff, before staying overnight at the home of Jack and Gaynelle, whom we contacted through warmshowers. They’re retired and do touring on a tandem, and for most of the year live in a real log house built in the 1970′s.

The next day was on and off I-90 until we reached the town of Alberton, where we camped in someone’s backyard. In retrospect, it would have been nicer to stay in the tiny city park. We did eat dinner at a bar in town, which wasn’t bad. They had a beer on tap from one of the local breweries, too.

After leaving Alberton yesterday we were pretty excited, as we had a short day and then we would be in Missoula, which we’ve been looking forward to. (You know you’re a cycle tourist when 30-something miles on a loaded bicycle is a short day.) We had perfect weather for the ride, and we were able to stay off I-90 for most of it.

We also officially hit 1000 miles!! Shawn’s been keeping track of how many miles we do each day, making sure not to count miles we ride in town. We pulled off the road and tried to take pictures, but we were surrounded by light industrial on the outskirts of Missoula, not exactly romantic.

We also stopped at a local brewery’s tasting room, where we officially toasted our first one thousand miles. Yay!

It seems appropriate to hit that particular milestone here, as Missoula is the location of the headquarters for theAdventure Cycling Association! If you’re unfamiliar with them, you really should look around their website. “Our mission is to inspire people of all ages to travel by bicycle. We help cyclists explore the landscapes and history of America for fitness, fun, and self-discovery.” Really great organization. And! And! Our friend Heather (who is also from Portland) is interning with them for the summer! We’re staying with her during our stay in Missoula.

I like Missoula so far, from what I saw of it yesterday. The University of Montana is one of the biggest things in town, which I think is part of why there’s bicycles everywhere, but I guess a lot of people here have outdoorsy hobbies. They even have cycletracks in downtown! Shawn and I are going to explore more of the town today. Speaking of which: I should get going!

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One Response to Our first thousand miles

  1. Todd says:

    Congrats on 1000 miles!!!

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