I am back after 2 1/2 days of internet and cell phone black out in Glacier National Park. The last several days have been incredibly interesting. On July 17 we were to ride from Chester to Cut Bank Montana. However, the winds were 30 to 40 miles an hour from the west, with gusts up to 60 miles an hour and so a group decision was made to forgo the day of riding and get to Cut Bank in the vans. Given how much the vans were buffeted by the winds, I think it was a great decision.
From Cut Bank we rode west to St. Mary which is the eastern border of Glacier National Park. The winds were strong in our face, but it was an amazing day watching the Rockies evolve from little bumps on the horizon to huge peaks by the end of the day. We spent the evening in a campground just inside the park. The next morning, we rode the Going to the Sun Road, which is the main road from the east side of Glacier to the west. It was a truly amazing ride. The climb was tough but not terrible and the area around the pass, which is the continental divide, was spectacular. We saw big horn sheep, coyotes, bear, marmots, deer, and countless people. The ride down was 11 miles of a truly harrowing road but everybody made it safely.
Today, we rode 30 miles into Whitefish. This part of Montana is hilly but nowhere near as rugged as the mountains in glacier. Kathy is visiting today as we have a rest day tomorrow. We are staying with a friend which is also very nice. Amazingly, we have less than two weeks of riding to go. We are at about 3600 miles which sounds impossible thinking back on it. I’m both looking forward to being done and being back in the real world but also feeling a bit of a melancholy that this adventure is coming to a close.
The last few days have definitely not been the high points of the trip. Today we biked 63 miles west through the Montana plains. Road was busy with trucks, narrow, with no usable shoulder for a significant portion. Winds were 15-20 mph in our face for all of the ride. Gusts blew bikes around so that trying to stay in a narrow shoulder was virtually impossible. Everyone made it, but there were some really scary moments. Tomorrow winds are 10 mph stronger than today, so we will see. Tomorrow night we are in Cut Bank, which is the threshold of Glacier National Park, so after we get there things should look considerably brighter.
Total mileage so far is about 3300 miles, give or take. A little less than 1000 miles to go…
Today felt like two different rides. In the morning, winds were from the northeast and we flew for 48 miles–set a personal record of 1:13 for 40 km. However, the winds shifted to 20 mph from the west, and the next 43 miles were inch by inch. We were also on a major truck route with a ribbon shoulder, so riding was quite tense. Also, it needs to be said that Montana drivers suck. They seem to go out of their way to hug the shoulder, honk just to scare bikers, and there is a lot of giving the finger. I don’t know why we are so unwelcome, but that is the case. We have two more days on this road before hitting Glacier National Park; the winds are forecast to be problematic so it should be a challenge.
No pictures from today; more rolling grassland and decimated small towns.
Today we rode 71 miles to Malta, MN, past Saco, ostensibly the mosquito capital of the world. The rode was flat but busy, with often just a ribbon of shoulder as cars and trucks went by at more than 100 mph (this is Montana). We have 3 more days of this before we hit Glacier National Park, where there is actually a reason to be there. The wind was 20 mph directly into my face, making today far more effortful than the 105 miles a couple of days ago. Tomorrow is 90 miles; if the winds are similar it will be quite a struggle. The land is mostly grassland with some farms; for some reason there are dinosaur museums in every small town we go through. Given the effort of the day, I didn’t have the energy to go in any of them today.
Yesterday we biked from Glendive to Wolf Point, Montana on the Fort Peck Indian reservation. It was 105 miles; my longest ride yet. The winds made it fairly easy however. Today was a mere 56 miles, but we had strong headwinds and we were on a main truck route with a tiny shoulder making for fairly hair-raising bike riding.
Last night was the finale for the wolf point wild horse stampede, one of the oldest rodeos in the country. Lots of cowboys jumping on steers and tying them up. There was a fair amount of bucking horses and Cowboys trying to stay on top. I learned that the way horses are made to buck is by tying their hind legs together so they can’t walk or gallup but only jump; pretty barbaric. It was an interesting experience but probably not one that I will repeat.
Today we biked out of Medra and into Montana. The first part of the ride was beautiful; the Badlands slowly faded into rolling farmland. I was on the lookout for Buffalo but only saw cows. We are staying in a town called Glendive. This is an area where many dinosaur fossils are found. There is a dinosaur Museum which, interestingly enough, is entirely based on creationism. Evidently, Noah had dinosaurs on the ark. Who knew?
Tomorrow is 105 miles straight north. It’s supposed to be one of the hardest days of the ride; we’ll see.
Today we rode 86 miles from Hebron to Medora, North Dakota. The last 30 miles were through the North Dakota Badlands which is home to the Teddy Roosevelt National Park. This is where Roosevelt came after his mother and wife died on the same day, Valentine’s Day. He had decided to leave the East Coast permanently and make his home in the West, but felt rejuvenated by his stay here and decided to move back east, I believe in 1883. I think that the national park is the only one in the US named for an individual.
The door is also home to the Medora musical, an incredibly schmaltzy event that the entire group went to. It was held in an outdoor amphitheater surrounded by the Badlands and was great fun.
Monday we biked into Bismark ND, then had a rest day yesterday with a service project; did general cleanup for a fairly disabled MS patient. This part of North Dakota is farmland, but with rolling hills that make it challenging biking but also quite beautiful. Monday the winds were mostly at our back or side, and biking was fast and hair raising. Today, the wind was mostly in our face; it makes an amazing difference such that each mile is an accomplishment.
In Bismark, the hotel was mostly populated by the American Bison Association annual meeting; lots of weather beaten guys and women with cowboy hats and bowlegs. I know this sounds stereotypical, but it was true. Had some sample bison- very nice. Tonight we are staying at a community center in Hebron ND, heading to Medora tomorrow. Medora is near the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and hosts a variety of silly but hopefully fun events.
The last two days we have been biking west through North Dakota. The eastern portion was the most flat area I have ever seen; you could look toward the horizon in all directions, and roads extended straight into oblivion. This afternoon, the terrain shifted to rolling hills; and the wind picked up from the south. Today was a record day for me- 100 miles, the first time I have passed that threshold. Except for the 8 miles headed directly into the wind, it was a wonderful day to ride. The land was all farmland and cow pastures, with many lakes overflowing their banks. The towns are tiny; the only obligatory component is a bar that serves food. All towns seem to have this, which is great for me, as I’m trying to get through this trip without using my food acquired for camp cooking. Freeze dried three bean chili just hasn’t sounded appetizing thus far.
Tomorrow we hit Bismark and have a rest day, which my body can really use.