Darby, Montana to Missoula, Montana

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Day 66.  Heading out today for a sixty four mile trek down the Bitterroot valley to Missoula.   The last forty miles or so are on a bike path between the towns of Hamilton and Missoula.

Now that Barry has his neon-Eighties-colored socks, I put on my Colorado socks from Gina, we are now finally able to meet John's fashion flair. His orange and neon green socks have been a bobbing mainstay of the TransAmerica view from the beginning.

In 1976, after three years of planning, telephone calls, and letters, the Bikecentennial route across the United States was created.  A little more than four thousand people signed up to ride from Astoria, Oregon to Yorktown, Virginia to celebrate our country's 200th anniversary.

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This included our own then thirty year old Bill Forman, who rode half the trail as a guide and the remaining portion on his own.  Some participants only did sections, and some were as young as fourteen.  Almost no one wore bike helmets.

Since then, the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) has maintained the route and the maps, tweaking it for changing road conditions so that the roads taken have either less car traffic or wide shoulders or (preferably) both.  Services like bike shops, cyclist hostels, convenience stores, and cafes featuring do-not-miss dishes come and go and listed as well.

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The ACA has expanded the routes, not just across the country (there are Northern and Southern routes) but also routes along each coast, major rivers, and along historical trails like the Natchez Trace and the Lewis and Clark Trail.  There are currently over forty bike routes.

The mission of the non-profit ACA is that it "inspires and empowers people to travel by bike."  It also operates tours, such as the one I am on, at all different levels of support, from self-contained to Inn to Inn.

The ACA is headquartered here in Missoula so it's no coincidence that our map for this section of the country ends at their headquarters. They offer free ice cream and soda to cyclists put their photos on the wall listing their start and finish points.

It's a little like visiting the mother ship after having followed these maps across three fourths of the country.