Don woke me up at 6:30 am in the morning. He wanted me to get out of the women’s restroom. Quickly picked up all my stuff and got out. Was a little lazy and got a small nap on the bench outside. By the time it was 7 am the people who run the visitor’s center showed up. Started to pack up my bags. As we made breakfast they opened up the visitors centre. Nice of them to have coffee ready and free wifi. Got a cup of coffee and called home. After finishing up with responding to messages went in to talk to them at the visitors centre. IMG_20180615_071948.jpgVisitor’s centre at Lola

This 10 acre plot is managed by 6 people, 7 days a week all year around. Back home to run something this size we would have about 20 people plus maintenance staff. The visitors centre exists so that cars / cyclists can take a break when they reach the summit. Since it rains and snows heavily here the visitor serves as a place where people can hide out a storm.  As i picked up my next cup of coffee and walked out to have a smoke i met a British guy who had just pulled in. We started talking and he had lots to say. He used to work in security and was part of the team that was responsible to the royal families security. He had been to America about 40 times and still hadn’t gotten used to the food. Apparently the food gives him acidity. He loves the roads since they are big and car friendly. He had also noticed that the small towns were dying since everyone was moving to larger cities. Apparently the UK has the same problem. He talked about immigration and how it was hard for the British to find work back home. After 300 years in India the British still seem surprised that Indians can speak English.

IMG_20180615_084404Finally entered Montana

The sun was up and time to hit the road. It was supposed to be downhill from here. Riding to the town of Lola should be simple. 3  steps and I was in Montana. 2 states done 8 to go. The winds had picked up and strong headwinds while down. Had to pedal while going downhill and then hit the flats. It was an effort to ride towards the town. Stopped for a quick smoke break and continued riding. The 25 miles to the town was slow but finally rolled into the town. Went to the gas station to get something to eat. We had to decided if we would go to Missoula or continue on the route. In the meantime i had a message from Roger who was tracking us. He wanted to meet us and chat with us for a bit. Pinged him our location and ordered some pizza. The gas station was super fancy. It had a pizza store and a subway. Don got a sub and I got a pizza. Figured between the 2 of us and Roger we could finish a full pizza. While waiting for Roger i quickly wrote to Curtis who was a host on Warmshowers in Darby if he could let us sleep at his place. Roger showed up with his grandson and his grandson’s friend a few minutes later. He had met and interviewed almost all the racers that passed by the town. Roger was about 65 and had toured plenty in the past. He and his wife rode a tandem on tours. They were planning to do a 800 km ride in Canada the next month and were taking their grandson. He was also on the committee that helped develop the bicycle infrastructure around here. IMG_20180615_190612Bike path from Lola to Hamilton

They had successfully managed to get the government to pass a law saying that if a highway was redone they would need to create a path dedicated for cyclists. We chatted for a bit and in the meantime Curtis and written back saying he had room and would be glad to have us stay with him. With accommodation sorted we had to quickly get to Darby.

Happened to mention that we should take a day off and this was Don’s response.

IMG_20180615_150305Roger and I

Roger wanted to do the video as we rode the bikes which was nice. The ride from Lola to Hamilton was on a bike lane. Super quiet and after the last couple of days without any traffic. I think the US has spoilt me. Traffic here is nothing compared to the traffic back home but still a dedicated lane seemed lovely. Since Don was ahead, Roger got Don to interview first. A few mins later he came back to see me. He shot 2 interviews, one about the ride and one a message to send back home. With that done we kept riding for a little while till we got to a gas station near Hamilton. Stopped for a quick cup of coffee. Roger would head back home while i continued. As i picked up coffee i met another tourer. The kid was from Boise, Idaho. He had moved to to Missoula just for the summer to work. He was riding a couple of routes around. The kid had 2 skulls attached to the front of his bike. He was grumpy since one of the skulls had lost a tooth. Checked with him and he had found the skulls somewhere. We were talking and somehow the topic of insurance came up. I told them about how I couldn’t get insurance for the race and i just got general insurance. Roger on the other hand just managed to get insurance after he turned 60. The kid dint have any as he could not afford it. Being in college is hard here since most kids don’t have enough to get insurance and food at the same time. Hopefully that will change.  It started to look like it would rain. Quickly bid farewell to Roger and thanked him for everything.He has offered to help at any point anywhere and that offer extended to any rider.

IMG_20180615_160847Checkout the skulls on the front of the bike

Started to ride towards the town of Hamilton. As i passed the town it started to rain a little. Put on the rain gear and started to ride. A couple of mins later it stopped raining. Quickly rode towards Darby and only stopped for a quick water the bush break. Finally reached the town. Don had gone ahead and reached Curtis’s house. I stopped by the grocery store to get a cup of coffee and little to eat. Ran into LE who was stocking up to ride towards Wisdom. Looked like it would rain soon and he decided to ride to Sula and stay with Micheal. The next 122 miles had very little supplies. Curtis texted inviting LE home too but he insisted to riding a little further. I guess he hoped to get out of the rain as quickly as possible. Started to ride towards Curtis’s house. just as i entered the house it started to pour. Thankfully i was nice and warm now. Bike parked in the garage i went in. Don was already there and so were a bunch of cyclists. I met Rick, Roger and Edwin again. These were the guys i had stayed with at Steve’s place at Astoria. They had gone on the Louis and Clark trail and had taken that route to get here. It so happened that today was their day off but they rode from Hamilton to here just because they could. Nice to see them again. The first thing Roger said to me was ” I am glad you havent been killed yet”. This was the old man who had insisted i get a mirror for my bike. He seemed happy to see me. Now he has changed from ” you will die” to ” you may die”. Thats progress i think. Curtis who was brilliant. He had a dog at home who shared the same name as the rascal at home. The first time he called his dog pip and i almost thought that Pip at home relocated here. Turns out his dog behaves exactly like the idiot back home. Curtis showed us where we could stay and the shower. As Don went in to shower i started to chat with Curtis. He discovered cycle touring by accident. He was in the army like his dad and grand dad before. After the army he became a trucker in order to see the country. He loved the road. He had met someone who told him about Warmshowers and cycle touring and gotten him started. Today he loves it. Has 4 bikes and is thinking of the next ride. He now is retired from driving and is a teacher who helps people learn how to drive.

IMG_20180615_214633Pic of all of us at Curtis’s house.

After a quick shower and putting my clothes into the washer, Rick, Curtis and I sat down to chat. Talked about our experiences on the way and about things back home. Rick who had retired from IT now lived in Arizona. Each year during the summer he would go out for a tour. His daughter and grand daughter lived with him. He was telling me about how the benefits system here worked. His daughter who worked was eligible to medicare since she wasn’t making enough money. Rick had calculated that if she hit the 30K mark a year all the medical benefits she and her daughter were getting would be taken away. Apparently to get the same benefits she would need to make 78K a year. Just being a dollar over disqualifies you from Medicare. There is no slow removal or a slab. That seemed interesting. By the time we finished talking it was almost 11: 30 and it was pouring.

The forecast said it would rain tomorrow too. Lets see when we wake up, hopefully the forecast is incorrect. If the forecast is correct then maybe tomorrow could be our rest day.  Rolled out our sleeping pads in the basement and went to bed. A good day. Met a few new people and met some old friends. Its nice to see everyone riding and enjoying themselves. Quickly made a call home and gave them an update and wrote down my notes for the day. I have been writing notes almost everyday. Thanks to Don I have been doing it regularly. It is hard to remember and then not be lazy and just get it done. Lets see how long i can continue to do this. What i also realized that since i have been exhausted after riding I haven’t really spoken to folks back home. Maybe i should just email my notes and some pictures to the wife  everyday.

IMG_20180615_150811Don and I killing it somewhere near Lola.

Lesson for the day: Get medical insurance that covers cycling

Up Next: Day 15, Darby to Wisdom