Well my bike broke down again so I had to ride in the van for a day and drive it the next. It turns out that when a chain stretches past a certain point, it’ll rapidly wear down the cassette, the gears in the back. If I had been checking for chain wear before, I could have saved the cassette. Well, I always seem to learn the hard way. I’m currently in the college town of the University of Montana, Missoula. It’s a really nice campus and bicycle friendly too. There are about five different bike shops within walking distance. All but the last shop I checked didn’t have the right cassette for my bike, and the cassette was pretty pricey. At least I can ride my bike into Portland now. There’s a river that runs through town and you can kayak or ride an inner tube down it. I really wanted to go, but unfortunately I had to get my bike fixed.

Driving into Missoula was very scenic; Montana is completely covered and surrounded by mountains, and the road passes by rivers and waterfalls. There is a place by the road where a small waterfall flows into a little lake, the size of a swimming pool. The locals call it Nimrod and it has the clearest water I have ever seen in my life, like bottled spring water. The water has a slight smell of sulfur, so it probably comes from a hot spring. It was almost the perfect temperature: cold enough to be refreshing, but not too cold for you to start shivering. A large rock rests by the water and you can get about a ten foot drop from jumping off of it into the water.

Around the rock is a little underwater tunnel that you can swim through which leads into a tiny cave. We were all too chicken to go through at first because it was dark and you couldn’t see the end, but Matt Strick finally went through and realized that the tunnel was about three feet long. We all started to swim through the tunnel and when we popped out of the water, we realized that there wasn’t enough room for all of us in there, so we started yelling for people to stop. Sound doesn’t travel from the cave to the outside, so people kept coming in, and at one point we had eight people inside, and it became pretty hard to breathe. Matt Harlan forgot to take off his glasses and when he swam out from the cave, they came off his face and fell to the bottom. We spent probably an hour searching for his super-thin-framed glasses with a headlight that barely worked and swimming goggles that leak and give you double vision. I’m glad he eventually found his glasses.

7/18 Tour De Pain

Within the first twenty miles of today’s ride out of Ennis, Montana towards Butte, there was a hill we climbed that had a really steep grade on the other side where all of us reached our fastest top speeds yet. I topped out at 52.4 miles per hour, which was quite an exhilarating ride. The next sixty miles were absolutely exhausting, though. We climbed hills that seemed to never end or go down on the other side, and the temperature climbed up into the 80′s as well. Twenty miles away from Butte, there is one of the most brutal mountain passes I have had to ride through so far. Though it was only eight miles of continuous uphill with a manageable grade, we had a headwind all the way up and all of us were completely dehydrated. I’m pretty sure we were all delirious halfway up the mountain and I was getting tunnel vision.

Lately my chain has been skipping a lot while riding, and it got worse and worse while I was riding through the mountain pass, which was driving me crazy. I brought my bike into the local bike store and it turns out over 3000 miles of riding is enough to stretch a chain. We found out that the store was owned and run by the brother of Levi Leipheimer, a Tour de France rider who was just injured in a crash during the race yesterday and he was in fourth place. Everyone at the store was really cool and friendly, and Levi’s father even came in to take a picture of us with Rob Leipheimer. It was definitely one of the coolest bike shops we’ve been to on the trip so far. The walls were covered with all of Levi’s jerseys from previous Tours. I’m not sure how to end this entry, so this is the end.

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