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Day 8: Missoula, MT to Lincoln, MT

And we’re on the road again! Trying to get back to early starts, I left Missoula at 6:40 this morning. Google directed me to cut across the University of Montana campus, so I did. Now I realize college campuses aren’t the most active places at that hour of the morning, and that it’s summer vacation to boot, but I didn’t see a single person my entire time crossing the campus. It was kind of eerie.

Once across the campus, I got on Route 200, which will take me across most of the state of Montana. It actually runs all the way from Idaho to Minnesota, making it a rare state highway that runs through four states without changing its number. For the first several miles, it paralleled I-90, but I did get some nice views of the mountains.

I still can’t get over the contrast between the darkly forested mountain on the right and the grassy one on the left. (And apologies for the back lighting, but it was after all morning and I was going east.)

After a few miles, the road passed through the Missoula suburb of Bonner, which is home to the main location of Kettle House Brewing. (See yesterday’s post.) Not only do they have their main brewing facility there, but they also have an amphitheater that serves as a major concert venue for the area!

Coming out of Bonner, I turned a corner… and ran into a headwind. The view however was really cool.

The headwind lasted a few miles, but the road was following the river and had light ups and downs so it wasn’t too bad. Eventually after 24 miles I made it to the town of Potomac. One thing I’m realizing is that I’m still in an area where services are few and far between. There are in fact only 3 places to get services between Bonner and Lincoln: Potomac, a service plaza at an intersection 16 miles farther along, and the town of Ovando 13 miles past the service plaza.

So I had breakfast in Potomac. Even though I got there at 8:30, service was so slow that it was 9:15 by the time I finished. On the other hand, this meant I was able to watch the first 15 minutes of the World Cup Final. Congratulations to the US women’s soccer team!

After Potomac the ride got considerably more difficult. The road moved away from the river, so there were a lot more hills. A 6-mile climb was followed by a 4-mile descent, so at least I got to relax a bit. But then the headwind returned, along with a light drizzle and skies threatening worse. At the service plaza I decided that since Ovando was only another 13 miles, I should push ahead. This may or may not have been a good decision. First thing I noticed was that as soon as I got past the service station, the shoulder, which had been wide with a rumble strip, narrowed considerably. And while there were very few trucks on a Sunday, there were a ton of RVs and trailers returning from the holiday weekend speeding by me at 70 mph. By the time I got to Ovando I was totally spent. It was enough to really make me question my decision to do the ride; if I hit too many headwinds like this, I’ll be hard-pressed to finish in a reasonable amount of time. To add to my frustration in Ovando, the restaurant I picked for lunch, which Google said opened at 11, turned out not to open until noon on Sundays, and it was 11:30 at the time. However, I had just climbed the hill past Ovando Center, and I didn’t want to backtrack to a restaurant in the town center just to have to climb the hill again. So I sat around for half an hour and looked at the fairly nondescript view.

By 1pm I was done with lunch and felt rested enough to resume my ride. Fortunately, while I was inside the weather had completely turned. Not only did I now have a tailwind for most of the rest of the ride, but the rain had stopped and the sun was even trying to poke out. Also, after a few miles the road rejoined the Blackfoot River so it became much flatter with only a few light ups and downs. While the shoulder was too narrow for the most part for me to safely stop and admire the view, there were some pull-outs where I could take breaks, so I was able to get a couple of shots.

After Ovando, I was trying to make good time because the forecast was calling for thunderstorms in Lincoln sometime between 1 and 5pm. Fortunately my luck held out and I got to my motel in Lincoln at 3pm on the dot. By the time the storms hit at 4:30 I was safely relaxing inside my room.

The only disappointment in Lincoln is that there are no breweries in town. Given the number of breweries in this state, it surprised me, but hopefully someone will open one someday.

Tomorrow will probably be my biggest mental challenge yet. Not only will I cross the Great Divide but there’s a 57-mile stretch with no services whatsoever, including water. I’m really wondering what I’ve gotten myself into. But at least I know Great Falls has a brewery or two waiting for me at the end of the day.

Total distance: 79.8 miles
Average speed: 14.6 mph

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