(11/08) I moved to Snowbowl a week ago today. It was a pretty easy move, and was made easier with the help of my good friend Anne. Considering the amount or lack of stuff that I have to move I was set up in my new, although temporary, digs at the ski hill in a matter of hours. Snowbowl is about 10 miles out of the town of Missoula. It’s a pretty rough and narrow road that twists and climbs almost the entire way out of town. “It was much worse,” I’ve been told by many, “before they/we widened it.”
The past week was the first real week of work that I have had in over 5 months and I was ready to get into it and get my hands dirty. There are plenty of things that need attention around the mountain in order to get things up and running. Equipment has to be checked and repaired, chairlifts have to be inspected, snow has to be made, and then pushed around, etc. I spent much of the time this first week working with Dan, one of the snow cat operators and lead employees, working on and getting to know some of the machines that help run things at Snowbowl. We worked on several projects together and I garnered as much information about the machinery from Dan as I could. Snow continued to fall as the week went on. Projects got done in a timely fashion and by the end of the work week everyone was pitching in and assembling tracks for the snow cats. It’s a pretty big job. Each cat has two sets of tracks and there are about a thousand bolts and nuts that need to be checked on each track to ensure that they are at the right torque. Beside the 2,000 some odd nuts and bolts on the tracks there are other parts that need to be inspected as well. Growlser’s, large, flat steel bars with ice spikes on the outside ends, are bolted to the tracks for better traction on ice and steep slopes. They have to be examined and/or replaced if they are beyond repair. Track belts and tire guides must also be looked over and repaired or replaced as needed. The size and weight of the tracks alone make the job tough and somewhat tedious, but once each track is stretched out, you find a rhythm and things get done relatively quickly.
(11/07) Missoula, Montana. It’s been a fun and productive past couple of weeks here in Big Sky Country. I have been visiting with my good friends Cooper and Anne Burchenell and their three children; Cy, Copeland and Celeste. We spent some time out at Two Creek Ranch—their cattle ranch in Ovando—hiking, cooking, catching up and talking about the many different things that have happened to all of us since everyone left Cincinnati, Ohio years ago. I also hung around their place in Missoula for awhile, deciding the direction of the tour and weighing out some new options. I got to know my way around Missoula a little bit better as well, and met some of the folks who make up part of the towns very eclectic bike culture. There is a big bike presence here and it appears that about every subset of bicycle rider is represented. From hard-core BMX and street-riders to free-riders and trail-riders to roadies and cyclo-crossers to commuters and cruisers, every division of bike rider is fully represented and the townspeople demand that riders and pedestrians have control of the streets. Every car stops for pedestrians and cyclists at crosswalks! I also hung out with Meghan O’Donnell and Tim Killian from Columbia Falls at The Bike Doctor, one of the 5 or 6 bicycle shops in town. They came into town to get a ride in as well as spend the Halloween weekend hanging out with some friends in Missoula.
It’s been a very familiar, comfortable and welcoming feeling since arriving in Missoula, and now that I have secured a job and a place to live through the winter, I will be staying and getting to know the town a little bit better. That’s right! Things have worked out to where I can stay around Missoula for the winter and explore more of the area as well as make some money to help fund the next part of the tour. On a tip from Bob Tutskey, a friend and co-worker of Cooper’s, I got a job at Snowbowl, the local ski area here, just outside of Missoula, as a snow-cat operator. I have already put in over a week working at Snowbowl, getting familiar with the equipment as well as meeting and hanging out with some of the folks that work there and checking out the mountain too. The snow has finally caught up with me and things are really getting white quick. After over two months of trying to stay ahead of it, and passing up other opportunities to explore areas, I figured why not stop and enjoy winter instead of trying to out run it? I love to ride snowboards almost as much as I love to ride bikes, and Snowbowl looks pretty sweet (dude). So updates will be from a slightly different perspective over the next couple of months, that’s all. Well, I suppose that’s it for now. I will write more as things happen! Later (dude).