Mountain High 

Every morning before the sun breaks over Mount Sentinel and starts warming the valley, folks begin weaving their bicycles through Missoula’s rapidly expanding alternative transportation web. There’s really no better way to get to work than by jumping on your bike, cranking through the gears, and freezing your knucks in the cold morning air.

By the time you reach the office, your thighs will be charged and your lungs invigorated from a 60/40 blend of mountain air and diesel exhaust. My morning commute—plus coffee—is a euphoric way to start a day. On some tiny scale, I’ve contributed a small bit to making the planet better by contributing a balanced and exercised human to the workaday mix. On this micro level, I feel successful. But I really haven’t even begun to affect the big picture of global emissions and fossil fuel dependence.

Just visit any mid-size city in India or Africa and ride around in the dense, blue air generated by tuk-tuks, motos or even buses. Then return to Missoula. If you can say at that point that you’re impacting global climate change by riding your bicycle a couple miles to work or school, I’ll eat my camera.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” but we’re inconsequential, polluting and consuming mouths that cannot even hope to alter this bigger picture. The keepers of the paradigm aggressively protect themselves by referring to acts that fail to actively promote “the economy”—or even that just challenge the status quo—as “illegal” or “impossible.” Just ask the buffalo. Or Ralph Nader.

Unless you get radical. You can target a polluting factory, remove a corrupt policy maker from office, or dedicate your life to standing between federal/state guns and our nation’s last free-roaming bison. But most of us are far too comfortable to commit to such a difficult existence, and throughout history these paths have been reserved for a small few willing to commit to an often antagonistic lifestyle.

So for the rest of us, there’s BikeWalkBus Week! Easily holding a place in Missoula’s hearts as a one of the year’s best, the annual celebration The Festival of Cycles kicks off a week of understanding our role in the cycles of air, energy and life. Running from noon to 4 p.m., the festival proper allows Missoulians to donate any unused bike parts to a massive pile for others to use. Mechanics from Missoula’s best bicycle shops will be donating their time to help you assemble the ride of your dreams, and they’re even giving away 100 free bikes! Count on great food, danceable music and flying bicycles—in other words, the Garden City’s biggest spring party.

But it doesn’t end there. The list of highlights taking place this week is extraordinary—well worth picking up your own flyer (all around town) or online at But here’s a few of the primest components of the week’s events. Bus traffic all week is free for all! So…RIDE IT! And the Mountain Line is giving away $25 gift certificates every day, so be sure to sign up on the bus.

Numerous bakeries are giving out the goods this week to support the non-motorized traveler. Bernice’s Bakery is knocking $.50 off their famous buttery goods all week. On Monday from 7–9:00 a.m., Butterfly Herbs will fill your mug with their trademark brew and Great Harvest will give you an excellent fruity-cheesy scone. On Tuesday, April 29, the La Te Da coffee shop will fill your mug, and Le Petit Outré will toss in a crispy campagne roll all morning. On Wednesday from 7–9 a.m. Bagels on Broadway will throw in one of Missoula’s best bagels—and a cup o’ joe, too. There are no deals to be had on Thursday, but Friday brings free coffee from 7–9 at both Break Espresso locations.

The Art Museum of Missoula is letting any walker, cyclist or bus rider view their chambers for free, so make sure to maximize the quiet daytime viewing.

If you know someone who cycle-commutes impressive distances, or is a bus-riding connoisseur, register them for primo prizes from Missoula Manor (728-3210) and KBGA college radio (243-6226). Or if they’re older than say, the Higgins Avenue bridge, nominate them for prizes through the Senior Citizen’s Center (523-4963)—just for riding the bus!

On Saturday the 26th the YMCA is hosting their annual Riverbank Run, a 5K, 10K and 1-mile fun run—call Beth Woody (721-9622) and score one of those cool shirts. Or jump on your bike with the Missoulians on Bicycles (MOB) for a 55-mile paver from Beavertail Hill to Drummond. Call Jim Kieronski (721-2112) for ride info.

On Sunday the 27th join MOB-ster Paul Gibson (728-0722) for an 87-mile glory ride, looping from Hamilton to Painted Rocks Reservoir and back. Or gang up with fellow MOB-ster Phil Stauffer (728-8262) for a 55-mile ride to the Ninemile Remount Depot. If you’re looking for a more moderate Saturday ride, join Jim Hausauer (721-4928) for a Wild West Trail Tour of “existing and pending trial connections” through Missoula’s western neighborhoods.

On Monday the 28th you can score a new $5 helmet at St. Patrick Hospital—call Bobbi Perkins (329-5660) to protect the noggin.

If you’re still looking for a new human-powered steed, head out to Gardner’s Auction (4810 Hwy 93 S.) at 5:30 on Wednesday the 30th and place a bid on one of the 60 used cycles up for bid. Prices start in the basement and bidding can be fierce, so get there early to find your dreamcycle.

But if the mountains are calling, join the New Rocky Mountaineers (NRM) for a two-day mountaineering trip over the Bitterroot’s Heavenly Twins on April 26–27. This full-on adventure requires snow, ice and rock climbing skills and includes summitting two formidable 9200’ peaks, so call experienced Bitterroot bad boy Luke Casady (777-0190) to chat beta before departure. Or take a day climbing the fun ‘n’ funky limestone fins of Mulkey or Rattler Gulch with NRM-er Fred Rhoderick (549-5762). There will be lead climbing and top-roping opportunities, so all abilities can enjoy—but be sure to bring your shoes and harness.

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