Hamilton to Wye

(Natalie and Pete writing this together)

We started our vacation by driving to Idaho Falls and staying with Michelle and Heidi. Eric was in Kansas helping Dan with a broken down truck which was towing their moving trailer. Natalie and Michelle talked until late and I soaked in their hot tub — my happy place. It was fun to reconnect with part of the Idaho clan.

Sunday we drove to Helena and picked up Sydney (actually, she took over the driving duties #adultinglikeaboss) and we went to Great Falls to see Liz, all of her girls, and her adorable grand-girl. It was a blast to spend time laughing, walking, playing games, and eating popcorn. Sydney, the best Uber driver ever, hauled us back to her place in Helena where we slept the night in her guest room. Highly recommended accommodations for anyone who finds themselves in middle Montana. It is always good to spend time with family.

Natalie and Sydney checking out the beautiful views

We woke up early today and drove to Hamilton, Montana, leaving our truck at the police station parking lot (arranged this with the police sergeant in advance). Strange not to have to put the bike together out of boxes and ride away from an airport! (thinking of our earlier Europe and Iceland trips….) It still took us over an hour to load up the bike (and we had to replace the rear tube because it was slowly losing pressure).

Our setup now includes bear spray on the front fork.

A local rider stopped to talk to us in the parking lot. He lead us through town to the start of our trail. Several times on our trips we have had locals play the part of our guardian angels. Once in Iceland a local rider riding late at night helped us avoid a rough section of trail. In Paris a local guided us through rush-hour as we tried to exit the city. We are always so grateful for these friendly helpers. 

Today’s ride was just under 60 miles and slightly downhill. Most of what we rode today was called the Bitterroot Trail. We selected the path because it was Memorial Day and we didn’t want to be on the road with all the extra traffic. There’s something far more peaceful about being on the bike path. The traffic wasn’t terrible, but we’re glad we weren’t on the road.

May 31 route heading north

Clearly our legs need to get into shape. We’ve been riding regularly of course, but not with all of our gear, and not every day all day. We probably have about 100 pounds of gear on our bike, and our bike weighs 100 pounds, and we weigh 300 pounds total, so the entire weight of our rig is about 500 pounds. But it’s great to be back on the bike, doing a longer trip in a beautiful part of the world. We had spectacularly perfect weather today, and the Montana early summer evergreen forests and snow-capped mountains are amazing.

We decided to stay in a Motel 6, partly because we were warned of bears but mostly because we love having a shower and AC. We’ll see what happens tomorrow night….

I was kind of disappointed in the quality of our room until Natalie reminded me that this is the first hotel/motel where the staff invited us to actually put our bike in our room. Pretty cool and convenient.

Bike in the room

We made camp food in the parking lot, due to being equal parts lazy and cheap. It was delicious: minute rice, freeze dried vegetable mix, and a veggie bullion cube. It is amazing how good food tastes after a long ride.

Tomorrow we’ll ride toward St Regis. We are tired but happy.

Getting ready

After a year off, we are getting ready for our next adventure.

We had planned to ride from Munich to Budapest during the summer of 2020, but COVID kind of messed things up… We considered doing a ride in the Northwest, but in an effort to reduce the likelihood we could be the source of spreading it, we stayed at home and rode the trails near us. This year we are vaccinated and situation is looking much better. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to re-plan our European trip, so we are going to go explore the beauty of the American Northwest.

This year we will be sporting a new addition… Natalie’s brother Vance and his wife Page will join us for part of the ride. This will require us to plan a bit differently, as we’ll need to meet them at a specific time and place part way through our ride, but it is going to be great to have extra company for a few days.

We did a short two-day ride with Page and Vance last weekend. One of the cool logistical challenges we faced was fitting both of these crazy bikes in on vehicle. Luckily Harbor Freight (hitch rack) and the classifieds (wheel trays) came through and we were able to rig something up.

The ride was great, although one bike had a flat at the end of the ride and instead of fighting the rear wheel on the side of the road Vance and I paired up for a ride back to the truck and we used it to retrieve the other bike so we could repair it in the comfort of our garage. (Removing the rear wheel on a fully loaded tandem recumbent with a Rohloff hub is actually a bit of work relative to fixing a flat on a road or mountain bike.)

Now we are neck deep in route planning. It is looking like Natalie and I will leave from Helena and ride toward Spokane. We will try to get about 260 miles in the first 3 days, camping as we go. We’ll stay two days in a small town near our route to rest and go to church. For the next 4 days we’ll wander to the west, ending somewhere southwest of Spokane prior to heading back toward Harrison where we’ll meet Page and Vance on day 7. We’ll do a three-day circle to the east, retracing some of the trails Natalie and I will have already ridden at the beginning of our ride. We hope to ride on each of the following:

https://www.traillink.com/trail/milwaukee-road-rail-trail-(pearson-to-calder)/

https://www.traillink.com/trail/route-of-the-hiawatha/

https://www.traillink.com/trail/route-of-the-olympian/

https://www.traillink.com/trail/norpac-trail/

https://www.traillink.com/trail/trail-of-the-coeur-dalenes/

We’ll spend the weekend in Harrison and finish with a big single-day out-and-back from Harrison. On Tuesday the four of us will pile into Page and Vance’s truck and drive to Helena to pick up the truck we left there and then head home.

In my next post I’ll talk about how we are gearing up a bit differently for this ride.