Thursday, August 27, 2015 Road Junkies 0 Comments

CANADA OR BUST, Chapter 17:  
Day 20:  Kalispell, MT to Helena, MT
When we drove out of Kalispell this morning, a pall of smoke still hung over the town.  According to locals, it will linger until the weather brings either snow or a week of rain.  Because AAA designated it as a "scenic route", we soon transferred to Montana Highway 83, only to find another reason to question the auto association's labels, as we drove south on a narrow ribbon of road through dense evergreen forests.
Great view if you like trees all around
We had driven almost 100 miles before reaching a town that was more than just a crossroad (and there was only one of those—Swan Lake).  Seeley Lake (pop. 1,512) is a popular year-round recreation destination offering both water and mountains nearby.  
Friendly forest rangers await
Just before reaching the town, we stopped at the National Forest Service ranger station and chatted with the rangers.  They both reiterated the wildlife warning we had heard at Glacier National Park.  Berries are getting ripe, so bears are very active—probably not a concern at our destination in the state's capital city.

Around 11 a.m., we turned off MT-200 to search for a letterbox in the tiny hamlet of Ovando (pop. 71).  And, boy, were we glad we did!  The box was behind the town hoosegow—a former jail that now serves as a "first come, first sleep" guest house, along with a teepee and a covered wagon on Main Street nearby.  After stamping in to the letterbox, we could not resist a visit to the Stray Bullet Cafe across the street.  
Sure beats pitching a tent!
After ordering a late breakfast (it was 11:30), we asked our server Angie how the miniscule town got into the hospitality business.  It seems that Ovando is located on the popular Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, a bicycle touring route stretching from Banff, Alberta, to Antelope Wells, New Mexico—a distance of 2,745 miles.  Developed by the Adventure Cycling Association in 1997, the GDMBR tries to follow the Continental Divide, with almost 90% of the route on unpaved roads or trails.
Gotta love a beer with a great name
People in Ovando discovered that their connection to the cycling byway when tired bicyclists began stopping at the two cafes and two shops in town.  The proprietor of the Blackfoot Angler next door began stocking some cycling gear, and initiated the town's hostel industry.  According to Angie, cyclists passing through are delighted at the opportunity to overnight without pitching their tents.

We arrived in Helena (pop. 29,593) about 1:30, giving us time to fine one letterbox before catching the 2 p.m. tour of the Montana statehouse.  But that's another story for another post.

Question of the Day.  "Loose Change.  Last Chance.  Lost Caboose.  How can there be so many casinos with so many bad names?"


Daily Stats
  • Miles driven:  202
  • Miles walked:  3
  • Weather:  54° to 90°, hazy/cloudy
  • Letterboxes found:  2
  • Gas:  $3.02 (Helena)
Stamping in at the hoosegow letterbox