Before, during, after, later, and depending on how long a day may be later again, the cyclist eats on ride days. String together a succession of ride days or even alternating ride and travel days, and food slowly becomes less and less a plethora of smells, tastes and consistencies concocted and ordered to enjoy but more of a necessary energy source. Food is reduced to calories and calories at this point are not unlike petrol. Humans, like combustion engines take chemical energy and turn it into mechanical energy.
An army marches on its stomach. Anything marching, marches on its stomach. And this summer the Continental marched a dotted line cycling across the entire United States. We rode, one-hundred miles at a time every other day and so the hunt for food while traveling was present daily, hourly, and some time every thirty minutes; we learned to lower our standards and accept our gastronomical fate of highway food. We learned to get loose, take chances and trust. We adopted the ‘when in Rome’ adage and applied it to local cuts of meat, gravies, sweets, sauces and even different flavor variations of slurpees.
Pork Sandwiches on the side of the road in Louisiana – absolutely. Mexican food in Mississippi – well, why not. Scrapple in a diner in State College, Pennsylvania – I will if you will.
In Washington D.C. we ate incredible Ethiopian food just over the Potomac in Alexandria, and before our Harpers Ferry Gentlemen’s Ride at Tryst Coffee House, we had waffles and pastries prepared specifically for us by Sol Schott our host and their pastry chef. In a woodsy ski-cabin in Empire, Michigan our co-host Tom Whitman and his friend Dianne, served us locally made beer brats, cheeses and pounds of fresh asparagus. We ate Indian in Lincoln, Nebraska and Thai in Little Rock, Arkansas. And we ate in hundreds of local landmark diners with some degree of success.
And then we found Ben, Tom and Seldon. Hosts of the Pintler Loop, a hundred and fourteen mile figure-eight located an hour south of Missoula, Montana. The ride was stunning; the dirt, the climbs, the gain and the drop. But the food, after two months of hitting and missing and mostly missing, was epic at best.
The night before our ride in Tom’s backyard we were treated to homemade rum and ginger cocktails and a keg of local brew. They fired up the grill and laid out a fresh selection of free-range organic meats that would later be paired with freshly baked rolls that Seldon prepared at Le Petit Outre bakery down the street. Fresh guacamole, pasta salad, and genuine conversation was what we all needed after living off of US highway institution’s.
The next morning, the day of our ride, Seldon opened Le Petit Outré, the incredible French bakery and coffee shop, he’s the head baker there, and let us have free reign over the baked goods and Doma coffee. Everything was arranged, ham and cheese croissants, chocolate croissants, double and quad americano’s, sixteen ounce lattes, and beignet’s.
Later that day on our ride at about mile fifty, we dry docked our bikes along side Georgetown Lake, where ten Freeman/Le Petit Outre musette’s suddenly appeared, filled with aged salami and sharp cheddar cheese sandwiches, a multi-nut/fruit roll slathered in peanut butter and honey, and a brownie baked in the shape of a small ice cream cone. With a rain storm looming across the lake, we sat in the grey light feeding on the joys of what was inside our musette’s.
The day’s last climb was beautiful, long, and rhythmic with stunning views of the rolling hills and blue silhouetted mountains in the background. We collected at the top and cranked down a long descent, tucking in behind each other and flying as a tight group until it flattened out in the small town of Philipsburg. We ended at Bob’s BBQ with a fully catered meal via Selden and Bob. We had endless ribs, beans and piles of homemade coleslaw, it was the perfect cap to our gastronomical Montana experience.
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