Saturday, November 18, 2017
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Beers and Gears

New Trail and Brewery-Sponsored Races Raise Mountain Biking Profile in Missoula

A new trail in Missoula, Montana, at the old Marshall Mountain ski area has riders talking. Here's a sample of how they describe it: “Technical, but twisty and flowy.” “Really steep, loose, technical with hairpin turns into the steepest stuff I’ve ever ridden.” The trail is the venue for a series of weekly mountain bike races that started last Wednesday. The plan for the Kettle House Weekday Race League is to start out with five Wednesday night races, culminating in a weekend race at the end of July. The weekend race will be the final in the US National Pro XC Mountain Bike tour. However, race organizers are hoping the series will be more than a lead-up to the national championship—they want to get mountain bikers from every walk of life out on the trails to ride, race and drink a beer. The league is designed to be all-local and all-inclusive. “The main message I want to get out is that the races are for everyone,” says Shaun Radley, race director. “A lot of my time has been spent on getting the entertainment down for the race. I want to inspire people to come back and race again and again."

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Wrapping Up the First Great Divide Brewery Trail by Bicycle Adventure

Before you jump to the comment section to complain about my poor proofreading skills, "bears and gears" is not a typo. We actually saw a bear on our last day of the Beers & Gears tour--a beautiful cinnamon-colored black beer launched out of a chokecherry thicket along Little Prickly Pear Creek which follows the recreation road just north of Helena and crossed behind us and then climbed up a steep slope in plain sight. It was a fitting finale to an amazing ten-day adventure. I'm back in Helena now, trying to wrap it up and put it all in perspective for you.

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Beers & Gears: Along the Mighty Missouri

When we woke up in Belt this morning, it was pouring, but about 10 am when we headed over to the Harvest Moon taproom to chat with brewmaster and co-owner Stan Guedesse, it stopped raining. Whoa! There's a change of pace we needed. Stan told us life was good at Harvest Moon. We only had small samples of his success ourselves because we still had 65 miles ahead of us later that day on our bicycle, but Stan had nothing but good news.

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On the Road to Belt

We retired guys have this aggravating habit (one of many, actually) of too-commonly saying "everyday is a holiday." Understandably, people with real jobs tend to dislike it. And I guess we might even start believing it because we tend to lose track of real holidays, like today, for example, Memorial Day, the day we rode into Belt to visit the last brewery of our trip, Harvest Moon Brewing. But of course, everybody, except you-know-who knows it's closed on Memorial Day. "When is Memorial Day, anyway?"

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In Search of Dryness

We left Whitefish this morning, but not on our bikes. Yep, it was raining again. West of the divide, "showers" apparently means rain every minute of the day. Again, we'd decided to not ride through the rain. Instead, we decided to search for a dry road, and then ride. Will called the campground in East Glacier where we planned to stay after following our original plan, which involved riding our bicycles over there from Whitefish, and she said they had snow on the ground. That helped us decide.

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Day Six, Be Kind, Call it a Rest Day

To be kind, we've decided to call today a rest day, even though, sort of, unbelievably, we don't seem to need rest, even after riding 276 miles in four days. The truth is, of course, it's another day of steady rain. Physically, we could do it. We could put on those moldy, stinky, "all-weather" cycling duds and ride all day in the rain, but mentally, well, I guess we really aren't that dedicated.

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This Much Misery Must Always Be Followed by a Great Beer

It wasn't raining when we rolled out of bed, but by the time we finished eating breakfast, it started falling kept on raining all day, all 78 miles from Missoula to Polson. And we rode it anyway, five hours in the rain. Obviously, we didn't stay long enough in Wisdom to let any sink in.

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Beers & Gears: BeerTown West Doesn’t Disappoint

When we woke up at 6 am this morning, it wasn't raining, even though the weather forecast called for it, so we made another game-day change of plans. We'd planned a leisurely morning in Hamilton, followed by a leisurely 19-mile flat ride to the Blacksmith Brewing in Stevensville, arriving when they opened the doors at 2 pm, but with the forecast looking so grim, we decided to head for Missoula and then add the Blacksmith to our driving tour, making four brewery stops instead of three. Tough duty, but we felt up for it.

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Beers & Gears, Day Three: Could Hardly Be Better

No brewery in Wisdom, where we stayed last night, but there should be. Even the server at the Big Hole Crossing restaurant where we had a terrific breakfast this morning agreed and said she thought Big Hole Brewing should open a brewery there instead of having its beer produced by Madison River Brewing over in Belgrade. "But one problem," she said, "it get so cold here in the winter that all the beer might freeze." And sure enough, it was a bit nippy this morning, 29 degrees F, but by the time we started out it was pushing 40 degrees and it turned into an ideal day for cycling.

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Beers & Gears, Day Two: On to Plan B

Voila! It's Tuesday, May 25, and it's not raining! But we had so much rain and snow yesterday, that we abandoned our planned route by Georgetown Lake and over Skalkaho Pass, an unpaved road, to Hamilton. We figured Skalkaho would be a muddy mess at best, and we'll spend most of the day pushing our bikes. So, off to Plan B, down through the beautiful Big Hole Valley past Divide, Dewey and Wise River to spend the night in Wisdom. Please, no comments about us hopefully getting a little smarter by riding through Wise River and Wisdom. Flashback to the Quarry. Something I forgot to put in yesterday's post.

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