Today we rode from Eureka to Libby Montana. We rode along Lake Koocanusa for the majority of the ride. Koocanusa is a mash up of the Kootenai tribe, Canada, and the USA, all of whom have some ownership stake in the lake. The lake is actually a reservoir formed by a huge dam in the Kooteney river.
It’s actually amazing that we are now west of the Rocky Mountains. Tomorrow we head south west to Sandpoint Idaho, and then on to Washington state. The big climbers in Washington will be in the Cascades; I think Eastern Washington will be fairly flat. We have 550 miles left to go; as the ride winds down, I have competing feelings of relief that the ride is ending as well as regret that an amazing experience that I am unlikely to repeat is coming to an end as well. This is been a challenge physically but has broadened my perspective about the range of people in the US as well as the amazing variation in geography.
On Monday we had a rest day in Whitefish, a small town with a number of good restaurants, bars, and art galleries. Kathy met me here, and we spent much of the time with a friend from the bay area who has a house in Whitefish. We also had dinner with friends from Phoenix who have a house in Eureka which I bike to on Tuesday. It was great fun to be in a new place and have familiar folks to hang out with.
On Tuesday the ride from Whitefish to Eureka was both beautiful and hair raising. The road was narrow, the shoulder minimal, and logging trucks frequent and fast. I am staying this evening with friends who live in Eureka. Eureka itself is much less trendy than Whitefish and much more poverty stricken. It’s much more typical of the small towns in eastern Montana that we stayed at in the previous week.
Tomorrow we go to Libby, our last town in Montana before spending one night in Idaho and then on to Washington.
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.