• Thompson Falls to Missoula
  • 102.9 miles
  • 1999’ gain
  • 601.4 total miles
  • Cloudy and warm then sunny and hot with thunderclouds at end

We finished our first full week of riding with our 4th century of the week. We were so worried about the weather last night that we took down our tent and instead slept in a hallway at the high school. The forecast for the day was scattered thundershowers with possible hail. We packed all our storm gear and hoped for the best.

We got an early start after breakfast at the Elks Club. They brought in a blender so we had soy milk protein drinks with breakfast. Turns out that having that hit of protein in the morning is making me feel stronger during the ride. We’re learning, bit by bit, what makes a body go forever.

Bighorn Sheep signThe first half of the ride was mostly along the Clark Fork. It is the largest river in western Montana and drains into the Columbia Basin. It’s bigger than any river in the Northwest except the Columbia and maybe the Snake. It’s size impressed us greatly. The valley it rolls through is wide with spectacular rocky cliffs. Sheila kept watching for the “advertised” big horn sheep but we never spotted any.

Old Parma StoreAbout 40 miles into the ride we got to the Old Parma Store which was run by an old gentleman living next door. The store doesn’t sell much, but I think he mostly keeps it open so people will stop and talk with him. We chatted for 20 minutes before I could get him to give me a price for the chips I had picked up. He was interesting, though. He’d walked from North Carolina to Seattle as a youth. And he thought WE were crazy for riding to Boston.

The day grew warmer and warmer and we were down to shorts and sleeveless tops by the time we got to lunch. We figured out that the course today was going to go right past the Garden of 1000 Buddhas in Arlee. We told a few other riders about it, then headed out.

Garden of 1000 BuddahsWe were now past 63 miles and experiencing the butt-weariness that has plagued our trip. It is gradually getting better, thankfully. Having the goal of the garden kept us occupied and before you knew it we were there. The garden is looking more and more beautiful. It was more like a construction site when we were here last year. Now all the spokes of the Dharma wheel are done, the perimeter wall is done and almost entirely adorned with stupas (pagoda-like shrines that are 3′ tall), many of the Buddhas are sitting on the spoke walls, and some areas are landscaped. We sat in the shade of the central plaza and meditated. You can read more about the garden plans on their website. When we finished we looked up and there was our friend Alex. We gave him a mini-tour, then the three of us headed out.

We had about 30 miles to go starting with about 5 miles of climbing. It was the hot of the afternoon and our legs were getting very tired. Alex was long gone, but others from our group joined us for the climb while we rested in the only shade along Highway 93. At the top we sucked down a huckleberry lemonade, then started a 7 mile descent.

That was a great ride. We got our speed up to 30 before we saw the truck on cheese indicating a 6% downgrade! There was no traffic at all so we got in the lane and went as fast as we could hitting 52.4. Nothing like a good downhill to send you home!

Friend and weaver Bonnie TarsesAll the while there were ominous clouds behind and in front of us. We heard some rumbles of thunder in the distance. But we were in a pocket of sunshine and light. It stayed that way all the way to our hotel in Missoula. Yes hotel! We get tomorrow off so we’ll be here 2 nights. We showered then walked to have dinner with our good friend Bonnie, a local weaver. On the way back from the restaurant big drops of rain started falling. Within 10 minutes it was hailing like crazy and the sky was completely clouded over. That storm has blown by in the time it took to write this post. The weather is quite changeable here in the Rockies! And now for a good night’s rest followed by a day with no riding. YAY!

Lions and moose and bikes in a tree, oh my!
Seattle to Missoula