Mending my relationship with Montana

When you sign up to cycle across the country, you resign yourself to a good bit of suffering, and I knew going in that ~600 of the ~850 miles we ride through Montana are abject agony. And this prior knowledge didn’t really prove to be worth anything. The five of us Route Leaders groan on our van-driving days, but through Montana, I actually relished my rest days a bit. The 107-mile-death-ride from Glendive to Wolf Point is a day which builds character and undoubtedly makes you stronger, but riding that day once is enough for this lifetime. People rolled into rest stops cursing like sailors, and I empathized because one year prior, I, too, was airing my greivances. But it’s over! We have made it to the mountains, and we have earned it. It’s been 15 days since our last rest day, and it was desperately needed.

Very typcial scenery in central Montana.
Very typical scenery in central Montana.
Turns out there are bodies of water in North Dakota, you just gotta look for em!
Turns out there are bodies of water in North Dakota, you just gotta look for em!

Last year I made no bones about how I felt about Montana. Even when we got to the good part, it kicked me in the teeth. But my Glacier experience was infinitely better this time around. Alex has a buddy from college works at a lodge in Glacier for the summer, and he gave us a personal tour of the north end of the park called Many Glacier. We don’t ride through Many, and we were really lucky to get to see it.

The Many Glacier Hotel, which is a little too The Shining-esque for my comfort. FUN FACT: the opening scene to The Shining was shot in Glacier!
The Many Glacier Hotel, which is a little too The Shining-esque for my comfort. Which is doubly creepy because the opening scene to The Shining was shot in Glacier.
Glacier reminds you that you are constantly at nature's mercy, and that it is all so, so much bigger than you.
Glacier reminds you that you are constantly at nature’s mercy, and that it is all so, so much bigger than you.

I’d put Going-To-The-Sun Road against any other scenic road around the globe, and it was an absolute joy to go over again. The first sight of Glacier is hypnotically gorgeous, and so are all the rest. Unless you live in like, Calgary, or something, Glacier National Park isn’t on the way to anywhere. You’ll only end up there if you deliberately go, especially if you’re from the East Coast. The last of the glaciers in the park are projected to be completely melted by 2030, which (breaking news here) will have major global implications. Someday I’ll be able to say I saw the glaciers before they were gone.

“Smile if you just climbed a mountain on your bike!”
To get a feel for just how big it all is, look to the cars in the left third.
To get a feel for just how big it all is, look to the cars in the left third.

A day after we left Glacier, it literally went ablaze. I promise we had NOTHING to do with this. I think. Well, I’m mostly sure. Anway, we’re all sitting on our bums in Whitefish today, an eclectic little town tucked away in the mountains. We celebrated Phrom, or Fake-Prom, a Bike the US for MS tradition. Basically the goal is to look as awful as possible and gad about town, and we did a pretty good job at it.

We are the worst thing that can happen to a small town.
After From 2015, we may not be allowed back in Whitefish.
City Beach on Whitefish Lake
City Beach on Whitefish Lake

When you’re in a different town each and every night, your memory regresses to that of a goldfish. We’re short-sighted, and concerned only about what the next mile will be like. I don’t need to explain how this can be detrimental, but it allows the salient parts of the trip to really glow. Glacier National Park shines brighter than all the anguish of eastern Montana, and now we’re just happy to play in the Pacific Northwest. It is jarring to think in two weeks from the moment I’m writing this, I’ll be sitting in the Seattle airport. Which is convenient, because I’m certainly not ready for this summer to end.

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