Friday, June 20, 2008

Impressions of Missoula after 48 Hours - Wild West mural, pictured below

Too bad I missed Punk Rock Yoga tonight. Of the many forms of yoga I have experienced, that is a new one! Happily, my Friday was filled with other adventures:

* I explored the network of paved bike paths along the Clark Fork River after walking several miles to pick up my road bike which was assembled at Big Sky Cyclery. My week-long trip starts tomorrow!

*I perfected my yoga asanas at a lunchtime class at Down Dog, a small 2-room studio that opened recently downtown.

* Helped stimulate Missoula economy with last-minute purchases at outdoors stores - Trailhead, Missoula Bicycle Works and The Runner's Edge (Spread the l$ve).

* Dropped by the Adventure Cycling Association office again today and met Winona, (pictured below) ACA's media coordinator, and Sarah, a trip logistics specialist. Took photos of their wonderful, bike-filled office.

General Observations after 2 days in Missoula:
* Grass here is glorious emerald green as if front lawns had been color-corrected. No parched California landscapes.
* Compared to Santa Cruz, folks of all ages here appear to:
Smoke a lot more cigarettes (there was a student-led anti-tobacco protest yesterday).
Dress even more casually than in Santa Cruz (who knew it was possible?)

Ride their bicycles in a well-developed bike route system. I wish I saw more riders wearing helmets.
Make eye contact and say hello to strangers - wonderful!

It's 10 p.m. and the sun has FINALLY set. I gave up waiting around the river for the sunset shots tonight - but the mosquitoes were glad for my company. Plus, I did not mind hanging out in one of my favorite spots: Brennan's Wave - a place on the Clark Fork River, right near downtown, where people gather to watch the FINE FORM of surfing. Fitness rules here.
P.S. Kevin, below, has been surfing for ten years. His cap went down the river tonight... maybe it will turn up on the banks.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Missoula Downtown Event Thursday Night

I attended a free summer concert featuring a group called Salsa Loca. It was part of Downtown Tonight series in Caras Park, next to the Clark Fork River which runs through downtown Missoula. Nearby, there was a sizable crowd watching about five surfers and kayakers on the river. Each took turns riding a man-made surf spot on the river called Brennan's Wave.

If you visit Missoula, try and schedule a massage with Ania Preuss! I was enticed by the sidewalk sign outside of the Burtello Salon: "Deep Tissue Massage - You Know You Need One! Walk-ins welcome." I wandered inside and turned out Ania had an open appointment. In addition to relaxing my muscles, she provided me with a list of Missoula places I might enjoy (upon my request). Thanks to her, I visited:

* Hob Nob, a health-food lover's paradise on Higgins Street, Missoula's main drag. Had a wonderful sandwich on homemade bread with fresh green salad.

* Good Food Store (Friday). Massive health food store that's been in town for 30 years or so. Built a gigantic salad at the salad bar and dined outside there.

* Down Dog Yoga (Friday)

* Farmer's Markets (Saturday)

Map of Western States and Montana

Courtesy of the US Census Bureau, here is a city map of Montana. Missoula is in the southwest portion of the state.

My Top 10 Favorite Ways to Explore a New City - Watch out, Missoula, here I come!

I left the Mountain Valley Inn at 10 a.m. today with my room key card in one pocket and a small notepad and pen in the other. No laptop, cell phone, or even camera (photos later for better light). I set out on a self-guided Missoula Orientation Day. When I am visiting a city for the first time, here are 10 of my favorite ways to get situated:
At the hotel:
1. Go to the breakfast room and meet other guests. This morning , I met Cindy of Ohio, who was in town to visit her daughter. She had been to Missoula before and told me Miss Zula's is one of her favorite shops here. Her daughter, Erica, works at the Cedar Creek Spa, which might be a nice stop after my bike tour ends next week.
2. Tune into a local radio station. I learned my hotel is at capacity due to the popularity of the professional minor league baseball team. Tonight, the Missoula Osprey play the Billings Hernias. Go, Osprey!
3. Read the daily paper. Headlines on The Missoulian were about the upcoming state Republican convention and the prevalence of transients in downtown Missoula.
4. Read the free weekly. The Missoula Independent printed irate letters from readers about one writer's coverage of the city's proposals to manage space for dogs and their owners (hot topic in Santa Cruz, too). "The young imbecile portrays Missoula as a town that allows scofflaw to flout leash laws.. What a moron."
5. Hang out in a local coffee shop. There was a Starbucks on the corner, of course, but I chose the shop that had the most bicycles parked out front... I made a note to come back later for fresh muffins - and to bring my laptop since everyone else had theirs.
6. Visit City Hall.
7. Explore the path and parks. The Clark Fork River runs through town and a paved, multi-use path looks ideal for an afternoon bike ride.
8. Poke around pawn shops and art stores. I gravitated to the Missoula Artists Shop and spoke to Kiki Renander, a stained glass artist, who told me the store is run as a coop.
9. Check out public transportation options.
10. Get up super early and stay out late. I like to observe the earlybirds and to see the nightlife. As a solo female traveler, I also note the first day (and ask my hotel clerk) where I don't want to be after nightfall.

Other To Do's on my list for Missoula:
Visit the University Campus
Drop into a few bike shops
Return to Adventure Cycling Association (my tour organizer!)
Go to a yoga class
EAT - that's in a class by itself.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

First night in Big Sky Country - Midnight Musings about Missoula, Montana

Tonight, I stepped off the plane into the chilly night air and noticed a small sign posted outside the terminal: "Welcome to Missoula - We like it here." I have been here only two hours (11 p.m.-1 a.m.) and I like it so far, too. For starters, there were three surefire ways of knowing I was no longer in Santa Cruz:

1. An 8-foot grizzly bear in the airport terminal. Ferocious-looking even stuffed and in a glass case. The grizzly is the mascot of University of Montana.
2. The full moon perched above snow-capped mountains. Thankfully, I missed the mid-June snowfall by a week. Now temperatures in Missoula are about 45F at night, 81F during the day.
3. Many signs remind people where they can (and can't) smoke. Here in the Big Sky Country, cigarettes are more common than in Santa Cruz.

I have the next two days to explore Missoula before I start my Adventure Cycling Association road bike tour Saturday.

Off to Montana today! Adventure Cycling Association tour starts in Missoula

Farewell for now, Santa Cruz! I head to Missoula today - via a stop in Seattle and will arrive at 11 p.m. at the airport. My bike tour with Adventure Cycling Association starts on Saturday. Here is the trip summary from my tour, Cycle Montana:

Trip Summary
For 2008, spend a week bicycling through the scenic valleys of western and southwestern Montana. We’ll ride some of the same roads that Tour de France competitor and Butte native Levi Leipheimer trained on during his early days as a bike racer.

Trip Dates: Saturday, June 21 - Friday, June 27
Start - End Locations: Missoula - Missoula
Days: 7 Rest Days: 0 Level of Support: Event
Miles: 326 Average Miles Per Day: 54
Surface: Road
Riders: 60
Type: Supported
Meals: Catered meals Accommodations: Camping
Physical Difficulty: Intermediate
Technical Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Elevation: up to 7400'


Monday, June 16, 2008

The joy of mountain biking trails at Wilder State Park in Santa Cruz

Last Saturday, on a group ride with the Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz, I finally conquered a technical part of a trail that I had attempted for years. Thanks to Mark Woodhead for capturing it on film (on a small camera with hi def video) and thanks also for recommending good gearing for that tough uphill cornering. The video clip contains two portions of my typically enthusiastic - and vocal - riding style. It's the second ascent that was my triumph! Too bad it is hard to tell what a steep turn this is and how big, thick roots jut out making in extremely difficult not to dismount.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fire in Santa Cruz

Yesterday, I feared my Honda Civic had mysteriously developed a bad case of dandruff - the entire red car was coated in white flakes. When I touched the flakes, they left a sooty, grey smudge on my fingers. Then I realized my car was covered in ashes that the wind had carried from the latest fire in Santa Cruz. Thankfully, no one died, but homes were destroyed. Two good friends from my writers' group, Reyna and Judy, feared they might lose their homes in Bonny Doon, but they were spared.

Chelsea George, also a dear friend from my writers' group, took this photo, above, on Wednesday, just as the fire started in the hills of Bonny Doon, a mountain community near UC Santa Cruz.

As of June 15, 2008, at 7 a.m., the Sentinel newspaper reports that the Martin Fire (named for a road in Bonny Doon)
Cause: Under Investigation

Acres Burned: 520 acres

Containment 90 percent containment - 520 acres

Structures Destroyed: 3 residences and 8 outbuildings have been destroyed.

Injuries: 1

Total Fire Personnel: 901 (541 CAL FIRE)

Fire crews: 29 (17 CAL FIRE)

Engines: 67 (41 CAL FIRE)

Airtankers: 2

Helicopters: 3 (1 CAL FIRE)

Dozers: 5 (All CAL FIRE)

Water tenders: 19

Costs to date: $3.2 million