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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Glacier and beyond

By now you have all seen that we made it over the Rockies. Our ride along the southern part of the park couldn't have happened in much worse weather (well, it wasn't snowing until we got to the top of the pass). We rode on windey roads between hills covered in fir trees. As the road opened up we had glimpses of higher, rockier peaks covered in snow, but we really couldn't see much of the mountains because they were shrouded in clouds and rain. The day before we got to the park we met some mountain bikers who told us that the going to the sun road wouldn't be open until early july and they gave us a hot tip about an inn along the way where we could stop for a peice of pie. So, through the soaking rain and cold we coaxed ourselves along with visions of pie and perhaps a fire to sit by.

After about 27 miles we arrived at the Izak Walton Inn, which originally housed workers for the great northern railroad but then it was made into an inn where train travelers (and others) can stop. We had grilled cheese and mud pie and huckleberry cobbler and there was a fire place so we were able to warm up somewhat before heading back out into the rain. From the Inn, it was 17 miles to the top of Marias Pass. The climb wasn't difficult -- it was very gradual until the last five miles when it was steeper, but not nearly as bad as the other passes we have done. When we reached the top I realized that the water falling from the sky was definitely snow and not rain. The clouds still covered the higher peaks of the nearby mountains and offered only teasing glimpses of what must have been there.

We paused for a few minutes to take some pictures and then hurried to start down the pass to our hostel whose warmth was beckoning. By now my fingers had turned to icicles and while I observed the sudden change in landscape from the east to west side (we were out of the forest and into fields almost immediately) and noticed the streams flowing eastward, I was mostly miserably cold and ready to get to our destination.

We spent the night in a hostel in East Glacier and left late the next morning (after quickly fixing my second flat tire). It was a slightly clearer day and as we rode east, descending toward the plains, we could finally see what the Rockies really look like. The landscape was of rolling hills, grasslands, cows and horses. The sky was big and behind us the jagged mountains rose up suddenly. The farther away we got, the farther the Rockies stretched across the horizon. It was a beautiful sight to turn around and see them change and grow and stretch across my field of view.

We continued on the sloping plains, realizing that because of the gentle rise and fall of the hills and the flat, straight road we could move along very quickly. I still have no hope of keeping up with Ray, but can go quite a bit faster in this terrain. We arrived in Cut Bank without getting rained on very much and found our campsite at yet another RV park. It was very windy and on the edge of a small canyon overlooking and even smaller river. The town itself didn't have too much to offer, and as we left yesterday we passed a sign that said "Welcome to Cut Bank Montana, the coldest town in the nation." It wasn't warm, but it was definitely windy.

Monday was finally sunny! We picked up a couple of letters waiting at the post office (thanks Jess and Car!) got a few other provisions and continued on route 2, straight through the plains. Now the sky was REALLY big. In the morning it was almost entirely clear, except for small gatherings of clouds near the horizon. We had some of our last glimpses of the Rockies -- much smaller and reaching farther along the horizon. Its so different to be able to see so far and so much as we ride along. Well, there's not that much to see. Empty prarie and lots of wheat fields, a few mountains in the distance, the landscape does change subtly as you move along the road. For some of yesterday's ride it was just so empty. The road wasn't very busy and it was pretty quiet out there. Just some birds and tons of dead prarie dogs lying at intervals along the shoulder.

Our route, Route 2 (aka the Hi Line) roughly parallels the train tracks so we often see frieght trains (or hear them at night near our camp site) speeding their way east or west. Sometimes we see the Amtrack, too. The train's rumble and whistle is almost as frequent as the birdsong along the highway, I wonder if people around here even hear it. I must say, I think Ray has fallen in love with the trains. Yesterday we were sitting at the Cruise Inn in Shelby (a place where drivers can pull up and a girl coms out and takes their order) and Ray nearly swooned when he saw the Amtrack go by with some passengers standing on an old fashioned car at the back. It's all I can do to keep him from taking the train to North Dakota instead of pedaling.

We decided we had to make it to Hingham last night so that we could make it to Havre relatively early this morning to get to the bike shop in time to have some work done. To Hingham was about a 90 mile ride. I made it 88 miles and then discovered that my rear tire was again flat. Ray was ahead in the distance, but I had no way of catching his attention. I walked my bike about a mile and a half -- the tiny town of Hingham gradual rose up on the horizon, and finally do did my knight on shining bicycle. We couldn't really fix the flat there on the road (we would have had to find the hole in the tube and patch it) so we walked along for another half mile until we were able to flag down a pickup truck to give us a lift for the last mile to Hingham.

We camped in their nice little town park. We got there kind of late so we didn't really see anyone in the town. Hingham only has a few hundred people, the town sits just to the north of route 2. It only has dirt roads and the train passes right through it, next the the grain elevators. We went past a number of towns like this yesterday each several miles from the other with nothing but wheat fields in between.

We got up early this morning and made it to the bike shop in Havre. The people here are nice, as is the library, but other than that I don't have too much good to say about the town. And, its supposed to rain for the next three days. We've been lucky and avoided getting rained on a lot, but it does get a little tiresome. Oh well, we've gone almost 1000 miles and things are still going well. Thanks for reading and I hope you are doing well too! Love lots!


Brita said...

Almost 1,000 miles already? Unbelievable!

Ray is going to end up a Train Man like my dad. I can see it now: 60th birthday party train trip. (Heck, why wait: 25th! or perhaps the honeymoon?)

Love to you both!

Angela S. said...

Wow! It's amazing to think that you have biked over the Rocky Mountains and gone almost 1,000 miles! Impressive!