It was a nice feeling to be back in the US. A few thousand miles from where I live, but still felt a bit like home. I cycled on down the highway towards Eureka, MT and realized my GPS wasn’t updating. I took a minute and realized I biked a few miles off route. Why would the ACA use a direct highway when meandering country roads are available? Well, time to go back and go the right way. I’m too anal to not do the correct route. It went right along the border with Canada. Politicians talk about a wall with Mexico in the middle of vast stretches of wilderness. In Montana they barely bothered when a fence near the roads. And frankly, the fence was probably to keep the sheep in their pasture, not any form of border control. On the back roads I threw my chain again into the spokes. It’s been never ending shifting problems with this thing. A chain in the spokes leads to a rather abrupt stop. I only got some minor scrapes, but it took a lot of work to get the chain unstuck. By time I reached the motel in town I was mentally done, particularly after Galton Pass (see Canada post). I ran in to Candyce and her son, some people touring the Northern Tier, and Dave. I enjoyed a shower and clean clothes.
Day 6: I stuck around the motel long enough to eat a early lunch next door and had a couple beers. I felt pretty good energy wise as I left town. I must have been really low on vitamin beer. I kept a look out for the dog that bit another racer and paid attention for cars taking a run at me like what happened to the current record holder a few days before. I guess this is a tough crowd for cyclists. Not a warm welcome back to the States. I made it through without incident, but it was a tough climb up Whitefish Divide. It involved lots of pushing (the pushing thing is getting old). Along the way I crossed the Pacific Northwest Trail. It is a pretty area, so I’m sure the backpacking here is great.
Reaching the top was divine. It had some pretty views and thankfully, no more pushing. I got back in the saddle, clipped in and began my way down. I rode the brakes a lot, but hit 30 mph and did lots of pothole and rock dodging. I just put in the headphones and did what I’ll call singing while I bounced on down. Life couldn’t have been better. Except I was dead wrong. After several miles of grinding gravel the road opened up to this view of Western Glacier NP
This view went on for miles as the road wound along the Flathead River. I stopped for dinner and got my ramen all ready (added water, seasoning, spicy peanuts). Then I went to light my stove and the unthinkable happened. My lighter broke. The sparker stopped working. I looked around the parking lot I was in, hoping that one of those damn littering smokers had discarded a lighter. No luck. I choked down cold, crunchy ramen. I then started up the long climb to Red Meadow. I was feeling pretty good and was able to ride most of it. I only pushed the last few miles as my energy decreased and the grade did the opposite. I saw Candyce and her son asleep (well after midnight) along with one other cyclist. I passed by them just a little and made camp near the snow.
The next morning I found the other cyclist was Dave. He had been having major bike issues since his rear tire blew out. It sprinkled a bit for the first half of my descent making it slower, colder and harder to see. It was a tough pedal to Whitefish for whatever reason, but once there I went straight to the bike shop. The shifting was terrible along with numerous other issues. They did an amazing job. It was the best the bike has run since I got it.
I ate while they worked on it and chatted with a lovely couple out doing a “Friends and Family” tour. I mostly spoke with Kathy and it was lots of fun to exchange stories. As soon as they finished with the bike I headed out of town. It was an easy ride to Columbia Falls. The little park had a Port-A-Potty which was perfect since I had to go. Right when I arrived a nasty storm was just about to start. I was nice and dry, but the wind had me a bit concerned it would blow over. Thankfully, it did not. The rest of the day was fairly flat with a mix of oil & chip roads and gravel.
I ended up camping on a gated USFS road in Flathead NF. I wanted to eat and stay inside in Swan River or Ferndale, but struck out in both little towns. I figured I might as well get some of the uphill pushing out of the way. Whitefish marked halfway through Montana! Certainly an adventure so far.
Ride Happy out there!