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370 Miles, 7 Days, 2 Continental Divide Crossings, 1 Message...Prevent & Report Elder Abuse
By Andy Decker
The tour started at the Rainbow Retirement Community in Great Falls. From there it proceeded south to Helena, across to Missoula and back to Great Falls via Highway 200. With a side trip to Hamilton, the total distance covered by the tour was close to 400 miles and took seven days. Four VISTA members—Amy, Meghan, Casey and Andy—did the majority of the riding. Other VISTA members and state workers drove the support vehicle and the RV to aid the riders on their journey.
The following is a day by day account of the tour:
Sunday, September 15
KRTV met us at the Rainbow Retirement Community to see us off at 9 AM. Following a short television interview, the four riders pushed down the first of what would be many pedal strokes, and the tour was underway. The trip consisted of riding to Helena via the frontage road along I-15, approximately 90 miles. The day was sunny and hot, with the bicyclists often riding into the wind, making for challenging riding conditions. This is a very beautiful stretch of country and the scenery was enjoyed by all. The first day is the time to settle in to the rhythm of the tour and was the most challenging. It was one of the longer trips as well. We arrived in Helena around 5:30 PM, more than ready for some food and rest.
Monday, September 16
The day started with a press conference on the steps of the Capitol building. Casey Dunn (LifeCycles) made presentations along with State Auditor John Morrison and Lt. Governor Karl Ohs. The conference was very successful and brought some high profile attention to the tour, the issues concerning elder abuse and prevention efforts in the state. The day of riding still lay ahead with MacDonald Pass at over 6200 feet separating us from the next camping destination. As we turned and headed west toward Missoula, the prevailing westerly wind presented a challenge as we pedaled on our way. Our destination was originally in Garrison, but we were feeling well and went on to a campground further down the road. We had a great dutch-oven spaghetti dinner followed by conversation around the campfire. A relaxing evening ended a full day.
Tuesday, September 17
This was to be a shorter day of riding since we were close to Missoula. The ride through the countryside was beautiful as always and we had more good weather (short of the westerly winds). We arrived in Missoula in plenty of time for a 4 PM press conference with the Mayor. We all went out that night for a hot meal and some much needed relaxation.
Wednesday, September 18
This was our “rest” day. Karen from the WMCPEA jumped on a bike and joined the tour for a 25-mile ride to Hamilton to give a presentation to the local Elks Club. They were very interested in what we were doing. The rest of the day was spent generally doing nothing and giving our sore muscles a rest.
Thursday, September 19
Ah, the glories of a tail wind! With the wind at our backs, we departed Missoula for the 80-mile ride to Lincoln. This was an absolutely beautiful day for a bike ride. We made it to Lincoln with fresh spirits and in the rhythm of the tour. Waiting for us was homemade lasagna made by our supervisor. We all sat around talking and appreciating these moments when we could come together to get to know each other better.
Friday, September 20
With a tail wind still pushing us back to Great Falls, we made it further than our original destination of Simms. We rode to Vaughn, saving ten miles of riding for the next day, and drove into Great Falls to spend the night. This was a day of challenges as well. First there was Rogers Pass, followed by the numerous large and long hills that make up the foothills of the Rocky Mountain Front, combined with the fatigue of all the previous riding. There was an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment as we were back to where we started, but we would not officially complete the tour until the following day.
Saturday, September 21
We made it! KRTV in Great Falls joined us again to do a segment on our return. We were all proud of our team. The riders, people who donated food and supplies, people who made per/mile pledges, all the TV and newspaper staff, the State of Montana and many more, all made this tour not only possible, but a huge success. We rewarded our efforts by spending a nice evening out with everyone who could make it.
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