Monday, July 14, 2008

Mad About Missoula

Missoula ranks up there with Charlottesville, VA, and Columbia, MO, as one of the best towns I've traveled through. I had a nice and easy ride into town from Hamilton yesterday. Fifteen miles of bike path provided a reprieve from a busy, four-lane highway. Once in Missoula, bike lanes abounded and bikers were everywhere.

Missoula sits surrounded by mountains and has the Clark Fork River running through it. The historic downtown is lively and walkable. As the city houses the University of Montana, there's an abundance of young folks. Access to the outdoors couldn't be easier. Kayakers can drop in the river near the center of town and hiking and biking trails traverse the city.

A few downtown corners played host to groups of "gypsy" kids. When I lived in Tucson, during the winter months the downtown was home to a significant number of these wanderers, who were usually traveling with pets. Some were street performers, others were talentless. They disappeared from Tucson in the summer when it got too hot. I think I now know where some of them ended up.

It just so happens that the free weekly, the Missoula Independent, released its Best of Missoula issue a few days ago, so I've been working my way through the list today. So far I've been to the best coffeehouse, eaten the best meal under $7, had the best milkshake, taken one of the best day hikes, and sampled beers at the best brewery. Tonight, a trip to the best pizza place and a movie at the best theater, a restored movie house, are on the itinerary.

My hike took me up a surrounding hill, providing great views of the city. A herd of sheep was grazing on the trail, a quarter mile from the neighborhood below.

This morning also included a visit to the headquarters of the Adventure Cycling Association. The ACA is a non-profit organization that promotes bicycle tourism. The organization developed and mapped the Transamerica Trail and numerous other bike routes throughout the States.

One of the ACA's cartographers greeted me, took my picture to add to the wall of cyclists who have passed through this season, and offered me free drinks and ice cream. It was fun to see photos of the riders who preceded me, some of whom were familiar faces. The office was decorated with bikes that the founders rode on various trips, including this one that was used on a trip from Anchorage to the Tierra del Fuego.

I've also caught up on some reading today. One interesting article, relevant to this blog, that I read was on the relative risk of biking. The article is here. The conclusion -- safer than most people probably think, but not as safe as it could be.


Anonymous said...


Sounds like some of the "best" are neat places to eat, drink and be merry! Have fun!

Aunt Maureen

Anonymous said...

Is Missoula high on your agenda for livable cities? Sounds like it, but I'm sure you would miss Chi town. Sheep grazing on the hill reminds me of Michael's. Onward to the last two states!


Anonymous said...

Montana is impressive. It's not just the big blue sky; there is a sense of the untamed in the landscape.