July 29

29 07 2009

Day 53:
The night in the cabin was nice! It was so nice that we didn’t end up leaving the West Glacier KOA until almost 11:00am. We enjoyed a downhill ride out of the campground and just as we got to the bottom a group of three on touring bikes passed by us. Almost immediately after seeing these guys go by us a group of about 15 bikers flew by us on racing bikes… I wonder if we could go that fast without our gear? There was no catching them. However we were able to catch up to the smaller group. Of three. After catching up to them we discovered they have quite a bit of experience in the biking field. Check out the adventures at http://www.bikebums.com (I love the domain haha). My (Zach) and Jake’s bike needed some repairs so when we arrived in Whitefish (only 30 miles from West Glacier) the bike store was the fist order of business. Apparently my bike has different sized spokes in it.. that’s not good. Well they are still in there because we would’ve had to have my entire rear wheel rebuilt which we don’t have time for and with about ten days to the finish line (even though it’s not a race.. until the last day!) During lunch we made our hotel reservations. I had our first hotel lined up where I had to struggle to negotiate the foldaway bed. As Jake I walked to the hotel Maggie, Dad, and Mom road ahead of us and checked out the hotel. Needless to say the place smelled like CRAP. We passed on that dump. The Pine Lodge right across the street was more than accommodating and is one of the nicer places we stayed at an affordable rate. Dinner took us to a happening spot where we enjoyed large servings of lasagna.

30 miles, and a poolside afternoon + DQ for desert, makes for a pretty easy day.

I’m going to miss the rockies as we head further West… but I am sure excited that were getting closer to finishing the trip.


July 28

29 07 2009

Day 52:

Logan Pass, 6646 ft above sea level… done!

With our biggest climb ahead of us, we woke up early with hopes of sunny skies. The forecast for the afternoon wasn’t great, but with blue sky all around we decided the ride was a go. After packing up and enjoying a pancake breakfast at the KOA, we headed two miles down the road to the entrance of Glacier National Park in Saint Mary, Montana. We paid the daily fee and began to ride the “Going to the Sun Road” leading us to the top of Logan Pass, along the continental divide. Anxious (some more nervous than others) and excited, we had been thinking about this ride through the Rockies for almost the entire trip. With seventeen miles to the pass, we headed out beneath clear skies. The first five miles went by quickly, and were not much of a climb. In fact, we actually rode downhill a few times. Usually we would welcome the down-hills, however, with two thousand feet to the pass, we knew going down was only going to make things harder. Finally, after turning the corner and seeing our first hairpin turn we began to climb. Stopping often to take in the gorgeous scenery, and rest of course, we took our time going up. The climb was surprisingly gradual, compared to the mountains we tackled in Vermont and New York. With just a few miles to the pass, the dark clouds moved in quickly, and the rain began. We took shelter along the side of the road (people driving by took pictures of us!) until the storm passed, then put on extra layers and continued on. But not to long after putting the layers on, the sun broke through, and we had to stop and remove them. We continued alongside the beautiful waterfalls, beneath the rock overhangs, and around corner after corner. Finally, with the visitor’s center in sight, we turned the last sharp corner and climbed to the top. Just before getting their we received a little encouragement from a family we met last night at the KOA, who were riding down in a tour bus. We had reached the top of Logan Pass, and the continental divide. Eager to sit down and eat our lunch, we parked ourselves outside the visitor’s center and plowed through almost all the food we brought..Jake’s panniers are surely getting lighter. After admiring the view from the top, we layered up for the 32 mile decent, and took off down other side off the 6.5 percent grade “Going to the Sun Road.” Immediately, we spotted the wildlife we had been waiting for, in the form of white mountain goats. We flew down the mountain, around the very sharp turns overlooking the valley and snow covered mountains. The view was spectacular and we were very happy to have traveled westward and saved the best for last! More importantly, Dad was happy to be able to ride on the inside of the road, as his fear of heights is not a good match for small guardrail and steep drop-off into the gorge. Also, there was a good deal of road construction on the way down, something we would not have wanted while climbing. We enjoyed cruising along effortlessly (though using our brakes a lot) and enjoying the vast expanse of mountains, above, below, and beside us. Determined to have a snowball fight in July, we stopped at the first sign of reachable snow to hurl it at one another. We continued our decent, until reaching the Lake McDonald Lodge for and early dinner. The food (and dessert of course) was great! We attempted to make reservations at multiple motels, but they were all full so we set our sights on the West Glacier KOA, 14 miles away. We continued descending the “Going to the Sun Road” around the gorgeous turquoise lakes and streams, until reaching west glacier and climbing the one mile hill to the campground. It’s not a complete day if we don’t end with a hill! Dad surprised us with a cabin for the night (though I am convinced he is just afraid of the bears) and we are happy to have a roof over our heads. A short soak in the hot tub for our legs, and warm showers felt great after a long day. Proud of our day’s accomplishments, we are getting settled in for the night. We look forward to making quick work of the rest of Montana!

As embarrassed as I am to do so, I feel compelled to end today’s post with a quote from the song I had stuck in my head all day…

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb!


July 27

28 07 2009

Day 51:

We awoke to a beautiful sunny morning in Waterton National Park. Waterton is often referred to as the most beautiful of the national parks and we can certainly see why. We started out today with a ride through the village among the deer / elk and along the lake surrounded by majestic mountains. Truly an inspiring sight. Leaving the village we stopped for breakfast at the Prince of Wales Hotel, which sits high on a hill overlooking Waterton Village. We enjoyed an incredible view from our breakfast table.

After a substantial breakfast and requisite pictures we started to climb. We climbed for most of the day and followed the Chief Mountain International Highway across the border back into the US. A couple driving in the opposite direction stopped to advise us of mother and baby bear a few hundred yards ahead. However, when we arrived they had disappeared. During a trip today though we saw even more cattle as they roamed freely through the mountain forest and on the highway, which was traversing an Indian Reservation. We got a few laughs watching the cows react to various comments.

Continuing our climb, we arrived at a scenic overlook with a commanding view of Chief Mountain. Maggie correctly translated “scenic overlook” to mean “ downhill from this point on” and with few exceptions we cruised swiftly down the highway to a late lunch (4:00 PM) in Babb, Montana. We then traveled the few remaining miles to Saint Mary, our destination for the night, which is located at the entrance of the “Going to the Sun Road”. We are camping on the St. Mary River at a beautiful KOA with a wonderful hot-tub and pool which we welcomed after our day of climbing through the Rockies under brilliant sunshine. Our “biker tans” sparked numerous conversations from strangers who ask what we have been doing to have such “unusual and dramatic” tans.

Late night Pizza and numerous other snacks and we need to get well rested for our climb to Logan Pass in the morning.


July 26

26 07 2009

Day 50:

With cloudy days forecasted for the weekend, we decided to add a day to ensure better weather once we reach Glacier National Park (we have been told it is well worth the wait) and to avoid weekend traffic. So we planned two shorter days before the BIG climb; to veer off the route towards Waterton, Alberta today, and then head south to Glacier tomorrow.

We all took advantage of the short day ahead to sleep in and enjoy a late breakfast (though it took a much longer than anticipated). We didn’t leave Cardston until close to 11 o’clock, but were eager to knock out today’s forty miles. With the Rocky Mountains visible behind the clouds, we continued to climb the gradual hills, interspersed with some nice down-hills too. We cruised through the first 15 or so miles, winding around the farms and green mountain sides…a great ride! Zach and I stopped outside a general store, and waited for the others. Having broken my second spoke on the way down the previous hill we went to work on the quick repair before grabbing snacks inside. From there we headed out for the last 18 miles to Waterton Lakes National Park. Our ride was briefly interrupted by thunder and lighting, so we pulled over and took shelter under our bike/tarp fort. We waited it out then continued on, just as the rain began to really pour and the thunder picked up…and the cows went crazy. The storm didn’t last long, but the dark clouds lingered over the mountains as we approached the park. Upon arrival, we climbed up to the beautiful Cameron Lake and then coasted downhill into the village. Even with the cloudy skies, the mountains were very impressive, and we can’t wait till the storms pass and the skies clear…hopefully tomorrow! We arrived in the village around 3 o’clock to deer casually walking the streets and wandering about in front of the hotel. We checked in to our room, cleaned up, and headed into town for an early dinner. The food and the view at the Bayside Inn was fantastic! We wandered around town for a bit then headed back to the room for a relaxing night. Tomorrow’s short ride to the base of Logan Pass will allow us to begin exploring the Rockies and preparing for the big climb.


July 25

26 07 2009

Day 48:

Knowing we had our first real “uphill” day since New Hampshire and Vermont and there was actually nothing between Cut Bank and Cardston, we got an early start because of the day ahead of us. After a good breakfast we started our trek towards Alberta, Canada. We made quick work of the first 15 miles because of the little wind we had to fight, but once again Zach had to slow us down. Pulling over to the side of the road we learned Zach had not one, but two broken spokes, I think he’s broken more than me by now. The four of us quickly fixed the spokes (Maggie was up ahead because her ipod was way to loud and she couldn’t hear us calling her) and got back to what we have been doing for 48 days, biking. Stopping at the 30 mile marker we had a quick snack and then continued the rest of the 8 miles we needed to cross the border.

Talk about a welcome to Canada! The two border agents pointed us to a shaded grassy spot for our picnic lunch (we had a 73 mile stretch of no services today ) and called the US agents to let them know that it was OK for us to lunch in “no-mans land”. Apparently there is a 10 foot wide strip of land on either side of the border that does not belong to either the US or Canada but is the responsibility of the “International Border Commission”. The agents also kindly filled our water bottles and took our picture in front of the “Welcome to Alberta” sign.

The great road and riding conditions … NO WIND … smooth pavement … only 20 cars over 73 miles … brilliant sunshine … 70 – 80 temps … started in Cut Bank and continued on our climb into Canada and the Rockies. Our real Canadian welcome came near the end of our ride as we neared our destination of Cardston, Alberta. We stopped to chat with 90 year old Dr. BJ Larson riding his bike on his “regular” 12 miles loop. It was a pleasure to chat with him on the road and a wonderful surprise when a called our hotel room a few hours later and then came to visit bringing with him some wonderful cookies baked by his wife Lois. We all enjoyed the chance to chat with the Doctor and needless to say the cookies were gone in no time. Dr. Larson is a great Ambassador for Cardston and provided a great welcome to Canada. It was our privilege to get to know him.

We had a great view of Chief Mountain as we entered Cardston this afternoon and are looking forward Waterton Village tomorrow.

Jake & Brian

July 24

24 07 2009

Day 47:

Today was an unplanned half day. We started the trek heading west with the notion that we would be in Cardston, Alberta tonight. What we thought would be a nice 100 mile run turned into a slow crawl as we began our ride. We had expected easterly winds to push us up the mountains but we ran into exactly the opposite. After making it 16 miles we felt the rain coming (very dark clouds in the west) and with the wind so fierce we were forced to stop on the side of the road. Moving all our bikes together in a circle we created a barricade like structure where we took shelter for a while. Dad, Maggie and Jake even took out their sleeping bags and made themselves comfortable. When the rain started pouring we took out our tent ground sheets and tarps and quickly went to work constructing a ceiling. We spent the rest of the storm in the comfort of our make shift fort… sitting 10 feet away from the highway. When the storm finally passed we made our way into Cut Bank where we saw the rocky mountains equipped with snow and all for the first time this trip, and the first time ever for most of us. The wind today is too much to handle and on top of that we are all pretty tired. Once in Cutbank, the team took our lunch and during this time we decided to stay the night. There is a 73 mile stretch of NOTHING on the climb to Cardston so making any further progress today was out of the question. Tomorrow we begin our adventure into the rocky mountains! For me this is the most exciting part of the trip as the landscape thus far has been rather dull (speak for yourself zach!) Mom and Dad are stocking up at the grocery store for our long day tomorrow as we won’t have any services until we reach Cardston, and the rest of us are watching TV, reviewing the maps, and uploading our pictures.


July 23

24 07 2009

Day 46:

Sleeping under the stars, without the rain fly was a great idea! With the cool breeze, we enjoyed a great night’s sleep, especially those of us who managed to sleep through the train whistles. We woke up to the sun rising beside our tents, and quickly packed up our gear alongside Sue, who was doing the same. She headed back to Mike’s Bar for breakfast, and we followed soon after. After polishing off some microwaveable breakfast sandwiches while sharing info with Sue, we headed off in opposite directions. It was nice to get an early start to the day but after just twelve miles the heat and the sun had caught up once again. We found a small bar in Inverness to refuel on drinks and snacks, and get out of the hot morning sun. The wind began to shift to the North (crosswinds for us) late in the morning and we made better time along highway two until reaching Chester for lunch after twenty-six miles. We enjoyed our Subway lunch and stocked up on drinks for the next forty miles, through small towns with no services. Though another hot afternoon, we were thankful for the diminishing wind, and managed to cruise along in the afternoon. After another twelve miles, Zach and I found shade beside some large farm silos where we waited for the others to arrive. When you’re really hot and need some shade you realize that there are absolutely no trees here in Montana. I guess that why they call their “gophers” ground squirrels. After another ten miles a small maintenance shop was a very nice surprise, for cold drinks and cool AC. Anxious to get to our destination we made good time on the last twenty miles. There were plenty of trains to keep it interesting and even some nice downhill stretches. Coasting was a nice change from working against the wind on the down hills. Finally we made a long descent into Shelby, MT where we headed through town to the Comfort Inn…which is of course is at the top of a hill! Showers, laundry, and dinner down the hill, finished off a seventy-mile day. With northeasterly winds forecasted for tomorrow, we will try to take advantage of the tailwind and log some bigger miles. We are hoping for great weather as we approach Glacier National Park in the next few days!