Moving On

The original purpose behind The Fourteen Percent Ride has long since been fulfilled. So, I've decided that Mighty Proud will be the last posting. It just seems right.

But, don't worry. Or maybe you should. In any event, I plan to continue. I'll keep riding. And writing. Click here to come along in my new blog ~ The Long White Line. <-- check it out!


As I've ridden for the last two years, I've picked up on the fact that Shirley, my darling wife, has been more worried about my safety than impressed with my "accomplishments." How do I know this? Well, when I'd come back and tell her, for example, that I'd hit 53.6 mph going down FO, she'd reply, "I don't want to hear it." Being the sensitive sort I figured out, after many such comments, that just maybe we were not on the same page here. But last week, she told me that she would "greatly reduce her focus on the 'fear for my safety' issue." We talked about the tour, looked at some maps, researched nutrition suggestions on the internet, and so on, just enjoying the idea of the ride. How nice is that? Thank you, Shirley!

Thursday, July 5, 2007


Saturday, June 23
Thompson Falls to Missoula

I rode through Paradise today. And the other place. Sort of like every day of the ride (except for the Spokane to Kellogg leg), where there were relatively easy stretches and then some hard parts. Today had one of the easier easy parts. And one of the harder hard ones.

Here it is, the last day...

After six days of riding, 515 miles on the road, we come to the longest ride of the Northwest Sampler tour. An entire week without ever seeing the sun set. Every day with nothing to do but get ready to ride, ride and recover from the ride. Do it one more time and the tour is over. As “momentous” as this day is, I do not recall thinking anything different on this morning as I rolled up the tent for the last time, hauled the bags up into the back of the Penske truck and rode off to the Elks club for breakfast. It is a another day to ride.

And what a ride it was. Once again we are treated to spectacular scenery as we ride along Montana 200. About 10 miles out of Thompson Falls, rocky hills come down and hug the road. The sign up ahead says “Watch for bighorn sheep. Next 12 miles.” And I did. But there were none to be seen on this morning. Still, a nice ride and I notice that the pace is pretty fast. The road is flat to gently rolling and there is a nice tailwind. The miles roll by as I ride on, looking up and to my left from time to time in hopes of spotting one of the aforementioned bighorns.

Along the way, we ride through Eddy and Wild Horse. The valley widens and the hills are now a mile or two away, ranches taking up residence in the grassy plains. At the 31 mile mark, we come to the water stop. It is Paradise. Paradise, Montana. So, this is what it is like. Not bad.

The wind continues to push and we arrive at the picnic stop in Dixon. My computer tells me I have averaged 19.2 mph over this first 57.5 miles of the ride. We are at a small park and it does not take long for one of the locals to come up and check things out - a slow moving black lab who, before this day is over, will be in his own handout paradise. The Dixon Senior Center is behind the park. It is a social club and there is a rummage sale going on. Apparently this is Sale Day in Montana as there have been signs everywhere. I go in and ask about using the facilities. The ladies watching the wares say that they do not think the Dixon seniors will mind; in fact, they tell me I can let Michelle know that she can direct the riders in as they arrive. A welcome invitation it is.

We have 7 miles of riding to get to the next turn on the route sheet where highway 200 comes together with highway 93, the route between Missoula and Glacier National Park. We are not in Paradise anymore, Toto. This is without doubt the most bicycle hostile route of the trip. It is a very busy two-lane highway, with heavy, fast moving traffic, much of it motor homes or trucks pulling trailers. The shoulder is wide, but there is a nearly continuous rumble strip just outside the white line. This means you have to ride the line and expose yourself to the traffic or ride in the debris field that is on the other side of the strip. We are on this road only briefly when Bill gets a flat. It promises to be a long stretch.

It is getting warmer, there is not so much a push from the wind anymore and the scenery is a bit less interesting. Cars whizzing by and the continuous grind trying to negotiate the rumble strip add to the grief. Then it gets hard. The road begins to rise. It isn’t much, but I really start to drag. There is a “good downhill” listed on the route sheet, but it is still 8 miles away. One of the least pleasant hours of the whole tour was spent on this section of Highways 200 and 93.

The highway eventually flattens out a bit. Then, it expands to four lanes and I can see the transition to a downhill grade up ahead. We met a self-supporting biker when Bill was fixing his flat. He told us that the descent into Missoula was a 40 mph downhill. I start down and the riding is easier. But it is hardly 40 mph. About half that actually. Still, it is a big improvement.

Then I see it. The road ahead just disappears over the edge at the start of the real descent. As I go over, I’m looking down a steep drop with the road sweeping around to the right. I do not think that this descent was all that much steeper than others on the trip, but it looked really nasty. Maybe it was the accumulated difficulty of the last few hours, the thought of dealing with traffic, not knowing what the hill looked like around that curve. But, it was there, between me and Missoula, so over I went. How was it? Nerve wracking. Not Paradise, to be sure. More like, … well, you know. Rolling around the first big curve, the descent continues unabated towards another big bend, this to the left. After that, I’m looking down a long stretch with the road continuing to cascade down the hill. I am still dropping at over 40 mph, but at least I could see the bottom and feel a little better. When I reach the flatter section, I realized that I was able to make the entire descent without having a single car or truck come up behind me. A little bit of Paradise, maybe.

There were a couple of navigational incidents in the last 12 miles, but eventually I was following the yellow arrows on a grand tour of the University of Montana campus. Pulling up into the parking lot at the dorm, I think, “I did it!” As I’ve said, you are allowed these moments on rides so I allowed myself to celebrate. Quietly.

“I did it!” *

Today’s ride ~ 104.5 miles
Trip total ~ 619.2 miles
Ride time ~ 5 hours 55 minutes

* Lest you get too impressed, there were 33 other riders who made it to Missoula. Thirty one of them kept going and 26 of them plan to ride until they dip their front wheels in the harbor at Boston. Now THAT's impressive.

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