Adventure Cycling Montana – TransAmerica Trail

March 11, 2015

With absolutely zero film subject experience in my résumé, Adventure Cycling Montana director Rachel Stevens took a bold chance when she asked me to ride in this short film. I guess I did alright at the cycling part, because she has kindly asked me to share my experience. Here goes! 

With a beautiful late summer weekend ahead of us, we set out from Missoula to pick up Adventure Cycling's TransAmerica Trail in Dillon, Montana. We couldn't have asked for better weather and the long hours of daylight presented us ample time for riding and shooting. Eager to start, we woke early Saturday to capture some obligatory camping/coffee drinking action and check out the local farmers' market. I was pleasantly surprised to find locally crafted "booze jelly" (look for these in the video), and after a responsible amount of samples, my riding partner Mel Wardlow and I each bought a jar and stashed them in our panniers for later.

Mel and Travis prepare to embark.
Outside Twin Bridges, Montana.

The first day was a fun, roller-coaster section on the way to Twin Bridges, Montana. As we passed Beaverhead Rock, a landmark recognized by Sacajawea of Lewis and Clark's expedition, the film crew felt the need to do their best impression of a Lewis and Clark pose (below). I personally think they nailed it. I must admit, truck bed filming sans seat belts does look dangerous. Rest assured, we only traveled about 5 mph, and we had spotters with radios looking for traffic in both directions!

The intrepid film crew strikes a pose.

On Day Two, we set out to tackle an unnamed pass and then cruise into the Madison Valley. The climb is steep, but the beautiful scenery sure helped keep us motivated. I quickly realized that being a film star cyclist is nothing like being a touring cyclist. For example, the touring cyclist would only need to climb this pass once, because no one is watching. But the film star cyclist must climb this pass repeatedly, with no knowledge of how many times it will take to "get the shot." At one point, while descending around a corner to climb yet again, I almost ran full speed into the aerial drone camera. The camera cuts away before my high speed swerve, but you can almost see my eyes growing wide. Anyway, I'm sure the second and final time we climbed the pass looked better on camera, and the view was definitely worth it.

The breathtaking view of Madison Valley.
Our highly skilled drone operator, Josef Metesh.

The descent into the Madison Valley is near the top of my favorite experiences on a bicycle. Over 10 miles of descending toward the looming Spanish Peaks gave me a smile I couldn't wipe off for three days. The best part was, because I descended as a film star cyclist, I got to climb back up and do it all over again! 


We wrapped up the long day with some well-earned burgers in Ennis. My mind kept wandering back to the descent off the pass, and Mel and I pondered how many more of those we might encounter if we just kept riding...

Mel dreams of adventures to come.

All in all, this film trip was a blast. I couldn't be more grateful to everyone involved. Huge thanks is in order for Rachel, who tirelessly motivated us to ride up and down hills, and kindly coached me through my introduction to speaking on camera. Also, I'm grateful for Executive Producers Mick Faherty and Nick Davis of Epic Montana for partnering with Adventure Cycling for this film series. I have so much appreciation Director of Photography Bobby Jahrig and his crew: Tyler Swank, Dillon Jenkins, and Josef Metesh. These men are the most enthusiastic, energetic, hardworking individuals I've ever met. It was truly a pleasure to dodge your flying cameras! Also, Mel Wardlow was a phenomenal riding companion, her kindness and positive attitude are unparalleled. 

I hope you enjoy the film, and if you haven't already, go ride the TransAmerica Trail! 

Our outstanding crew.

Photos by Rachel Stevens.

This post was written by Travis Switzer, Adventure Cycling cartographer and shining co-star of the Adventure Cycling Montana series. If you haven't seen the first episode, make sure to check out Adventure Cycling Montana – Northern Tier!


Steve Lynch October 13, 2016, 12:41 PM

Nice video Travis! Take care

Lisa March 4, 2015, 3:11 PM

Wow, that does look like fun! I hope you get to do this trip again someday - springtime would be incredibly beautiful too!

Ken March 4, 2015, 12:11 PM

Great work Travis! It makes a person really want to get out and ride!

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