Archive for July, 2016

The Mind Wanders

July 4th though the 6th
Dodson, Glasgow, and Wolf Point, Montana

North-Central Montana moving east no longer has the mountains to maintain one’s interest.  We left the mountains back awhile ago, but after 1,000 miles of them that was okay.  New problems crop up when faced with the new agricultural terrain though and the mind gets to wandering. 


Upon coming into Blaine County, Montana we had been and will be riding for a few hundred miles paralleling a rail line they call the High-Line because of the crossing it makes this far north. 

I noted an awful lot of seagulls in the area and watched their behavior quite carefully, concluding that these birds were most definitely eating road-kill and might actually be hunting gophers and prarie dogs.

Carniverous seagulls.  Blaine County, Montana.  The High-Line railroad.

Blaine the Train?



I half expected Roland Gilead to come into view on the horizon.

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July 1 (cont.) through July 3
Cut Bank; Chester; Havre; Dodson, Montana

My little rant about the border crossing is not intended to take away the most important thing that took place on July 1st.  We are talking a little bit of Trail Magic in meeting the next three riders as we share a campsite in Cut Bank, Montana.

Please meet Meg, Anne, and KJo. 


They are teachers from the Boston area out on a ladies only tour on the Northern Tier from the west coast of Washington to home.  They have a deadline to get back so they are all business (except for First Breakfast, Second Breakfast, First Lunch, etc.).  As you will read these three extremely good natured friends and awesome cyclists will figure large in our trip, so our encountering them at Cut Bank was our good fortune.  They even forgave me for passing on the recommendation from the RV Park owner that they eat at Pizza Hut as the best choice of local food.

The five of us connected again a few days later in Montana after Sallie and I picked up some big mileage days to catch these determined athletes.  Our efforts were rewarded by tasty peanut butter and tortillas in the parking lot of this fine establishment along the way (the bar’s pizza oven was down and the steady customers were all smoking so we had our cyclist’s lunch in the parking lot). 



In between First and Second Breakfast and First Lunch there is a mandatory snack break.  Such are the calorie intake needs on the Northern Tier.

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Flying the Maple Leaf

June 29 to July 1

Alberta, Canada via Waterton Lakes National Park and Cardston, AB

Meet Frank and Trudi from Grass Valley, California.  We met them at the border as we were going into Canada.  They are riding from Jasper to a variety destinations in the U.S.


We found Canadian roads to be impeccably paved, with wide shoulders and drivers so courteous they always drove into the oncoming lane to give us plenty of room despite our cycling in the center of their ample road shoulders. 

Canadians are a very polite people.  Unlike the folks in Montana, Canadians do not throw glass bottles onto the shoulder of their roads, although I thought I saw a shard from a broken tea cup at one point.




July 1st is of course Canada Day and I was given a small Canadian flag to celebrate this event by our host at a campground.  Unfortunately, it almost got me in a little trouble with a U.S. Border Patrol Agent.

To summarize the conversation that day as we returned across the border to the U.S., the following was said:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer (CBP):  “What is that flag you are flying on the back of that bike? 

Me:  “It’s a Canadian flag.  It’s Canada Day.”

CBP:  “Not here it isn’t, maybe back there it is (as he points behind me with a heavily tattooed arm that fit well with his extra-long goatee.  The man looked like a Hells Angel). You are in the United States of America now. Take that flag off that bicycle.”

Me: (No response, just glad my sunglasses were still on my face)

CBP:  “Have you ever been arrested for a felony crime or incarcerated in prison for any reason?”

Me:  “No sir.  I’m a retired state trooper from Wyoming.”

CBP: “Where do you live?”

Me: “Florida.”

CBP: “That’s a horrible place.  Why do you live there?”

Me: “Because I’m a retired state trooper from Wyoming.”

And so with this fabulous greeting from this fine representative of the executive branch of my government, we returned to lousy Montana roads with no shoulders, broken bottles everywhere and less than courteous drivers. 

All part of the adventure…


By the way, the flag remained on my bicycle and it remains there today. I will display that flag as long as it will hold up in a presentable condition.

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June 28
Assault on Going-to-the-Sun Road, Part Two; Glacier National Park

In order for cyclists to be over Logan Summit by 11:00am, we got up early, skipped our routine hot breakfast and coffee and hit the road with a ration of protein bars and Starbuck’s Via. 

This was the “money” day – certainly a main attraction for the Northern Tier.  The only regret I have is my limitation with a camera as the incredibly striking scenery cannot be captured the way the human eye beholds such things.  I’ve been to some beautiful places, but Going-to-the-Sun Road?  Oh my!






Side Note:

The final 12 miles of the climb up Going-to-the-Sun Road is a steady 6% grade, the pavement is terrific, but it is a bit narrow and there can be a lot of traffic.  A few unladen road cyclists passed us on their way up and were duly impressed by the very heavy loads we were hauling.  All of them offered words of encouragement and two of them called us “heroes”.  As traffic is quite slow with the switch-back turns and gorgeous vistas, several people in passing cars offered encouraging words as well, and at least two also attached the term “heroes” to our efforts.


Maybe in my life I’ve done some things that might attract interest, but I’m no hero because I ride a bicycle up mountain passes.  I’m flattered by the remark and I understand the gesture but no, I’m not a hero.

It could have been the protein bars, it probably was the Starbucks Via, but I thought long and hard about that term we overuse these days.  Too hard.  I started thinking of the heroes I’ve known.  Real ones.  I broke down and cried during that climb.  Twice.  I kept riding, but was sobbing terribly behind those sunglasses, safe in the knowledge that anyone looking at me as they went by might regard my expression as the result of exertion.

Heroes?  Yes.  That was for them.

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June 27,
Assault on “Going-to-the-Sun Road”, Part One; Glacier National Park

Bicyclists are restricted in two areas of Going-to-the-Sun Road between 11:00am and 4:00pm, so this requires a bit of strategy.  We rode from Whitefish to Glacier National Park and had to stop for a few hours at the Apgar Visitors Center to await the 4:00pm start for us to get to Avalanche Creek Campground (the closest campground to Logan Summit at the top of Going-to-the-Sun Road).

It was interesting visiting with folks and watching the crowd coming through.  We concluded this wasn’t the typical American crowd one might see for instance in say, a Walmart.  It was very encouraging to see folks out and about taking the opportunity to see our national parks.

Glacier took my breath away.  It is Magnificent!



McDonald Creek (really)

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