I was too tired to write last night so, completely out of character, passed out well before 11. At least I managed to sleep solidly for the first time in many days. I had vivid dreams involving mishaps involving a group of black bears. Foreshadowing?
Montana is not what I expected. It doesn't seem to be an angry state the way Wyoming and Nevada seem to be. All the people I've encountered here are friendly, kind and surprisingly polite with open faces. It seems like everytime I have my hands full someone is opening a door for me with a smile. The obesity epidemic plaguing so much of the country is also obviously absent. Humans here seem to look the way one would imagine they should. This place is, however, filled with all kinds of warning signs. "Gravel ahead." and there never seems to be any. "Warning: Bears". Again none.
No rattlesnakes either.
There are no warning signs, however, for the one thing this state does seem to be infested with. Beautiful women. They seem to be everywhere you least expect them such as when you're coming around a blind corner in the middle of NoWhere(tm) and there's one jogging in the road. It is wise to be careful. I'm tempted to try to feed one, but I'm told it'll change their behavior and they'll become more of a hazard. Or is that what they say about bears?
I'm not sure why but the road hasn't gotten inside me the way it has in the past. It's as if I'm travelling over the land instead of through it. I watch the incredible scenery pass by impassionately as I follow one amazing road after another. The Planning Map, on which I marked all the recommendations from the BMW MOA guys and others (Thank you John St John for the Mount Evans road recommendation!), really has added a different character to the trip. At virtually any location in the country, I have recommendations of places to go and roads to ride.
The peaks continue to get higher, the lakes more intense shades of blue and tourquoise, the forests deeper green and the deserts shimmer ever more brightly in the heat. But somehow, despite all this, I feel like I'm just on some extended day ride meandering aimlessly. I feel closed. I sit silently, invisible, the way I prefer it, when I feel like this and the world passes by not knowing I was ever there.
Maybe it's because I have so rarely gotten the feeling of Away(tm) this time. The world is becoming more homogeneous or maybe the path I've taken this time is one of familiarity. Instead of staying in little dive motels in the middle of no where, eating in sketcy out of the way places (that often make me sick but that generate good stories) I've been staying at more mainstream establishments. I tend to eat at the same kind of diners. Starbucks is ever present. In many ways, it's just like home except there's motion inbetween and the external scenery changes. Wifi is more present. There have been only rare cases where I haven't been connected.
The Simon and Garfunkel song, The Boxer, has been in my head. "Seeking out the poorer quarters where the raged people go, looking for the places only they would know". I think about the, apparently homeless, musicians in the alleyway the other night. There are too few moments of Different in this life of Same.
Because I am alone, I now have no schedule. I don't have any pressing need to be back so I'm taking my time going where ever. Sitting in Missoula, Montana, I was shocked to find that Glacier National Monument was just up the road 130 miles or so. (There does seem to be quite some difference between Open Street Maps rendering of the world and Googles. On my OSM based maps, it looks so much further.)
I've always been curious about Glacier so I decided to go. I was not sure what to expect because, as always, I didn't read anything about it before going. The GPS plotted a route up route 93 through a route 38 I think it was then onto 2 where the "Going to the Sun Road" started. I had originally decided not to go because of all the crowds everyone said would be there. "I'll deal." I thought as I headed out.
I thought, "Maybe it's not like Canada, but instead like Germany." as I came across a wildlife bridge.
Route 38 must be avoided. It's this ridiculously slow tourist trap infested long twisty road that is just actively No Fun(tm). The GPS will route you through it. GPS's hate you and they will lie. There are, however, great views of this tremendous lake.
Take route 93 all the way to 2. It's faster and better.
As you get closer to the park the scenery changes. There is this long absolutely dramatic transition from flat plain to towering peaks. It's as if a wall raised right out of the ground to touch the sky.
Because of route 38, it took significantly longer to get to the park than I had expected despite the fact that I left reasonably early. I tried to find a place to eat but failed miserably a few times. There was also no Starbucks to be had.
But there was an espresso shack. This is a great invention.
I did find a place to eat, a grill, once again filled with very polite, friendly people that didn't seem to mind the strange out of towner. I guess they're used to it because of all the tourist traffic.
There was a line to get into the park but it wasn't bad at all. After about 5 minutes I was in.
I had been told by a few of the BMW MOA guys to take the "Going to the Sun Road". So, blindly following directions. I went.
A theme that recurred with regularity while I was riding with Yun was "you just have to see it yourself to understand." This is so much the case with Glacier that I'm tempted to just stop here. Just go.
The road through the park is over 40 miles long. Much of it is down in the lowland forest. The peaks of the mountians hover seemingly directly above you. They are steeper and, relative to the ground, taller than the mountains in Colorado. Near vertical cliffs climb to the sky.
Eventually the road starts winding it's way up one of these cliff faces and the views of snow dotted mountians covered in evergreens etched with white waterfalls cover the horizon.
While not nearly as technical as the Mount Evans road with dropoffs that seemed roughly equivalent I found the Going to the Sun road to be actively scary. I don't know if it was the stone wall that acted as a guard rail or if there was some other quality that make this so much scarier. The cliffs did seem to be significantly vertical or maybe it was just that I feared the stones might catch my foot peg and send me toppling over. It was, in part, an exercise in confronting fear. So I would try to get close to the edge to take photos.
In Montana, beatiful vistas are apparently also overabundant.
My first thought, of course, was to the people who built this thing. I particularly like how it melds into the rock face almost invisibly.
There were also a number of waterfalls next to the road frustratingly located where one could not safely stop.
Interestingly, despite there being quite a bit of traffic, I spent the majority of my time with the road to myself. Everyone was impressively polite and pulled off at the first opportunity to let me and other faster moving traffic by.
I noticed a sign for a sunlit gorge and decided to check it out. I parked the bike and noticed a K12GTL with a Dragon sticker on it. I was tempted to leave my M-BY-MC card but didn't.
Turning the bend up the trail a ways, revealed something straight out of a fantasy novel. The water had cut a deep dark channel into the rock.
I arrived at the far end of the park too soon despite it having taken well over 2 hours.
There's a road that loops around the eastern side of the park, route 89. It's MUCH curvier and impressive than I was imagining. Great vistas of the mountains. Curves.
This is however, one place, where the warning signs should be heeded. Gravel here means serious gravel. Livestock is also prevalent.
This crazy cow just looked up and stared at me as I rode by.
This is also the only place I have ever seen horses grazing in the roadway.
To cut off some distance, I took route 49 to route 2 which wraps around the southern portion of the park. Route 49 is the poorly maintained bouncy, curvey, wildlife laden, livestock laden awesome little road.
At one point, a coyote ran out in front of me at full speed. It was impressive how fast it could move.
This road also yielded some great vistas of the lake and the mountains.
I wound my way back to route 93 and made my way south through one non-descript generic looking travelling town after the other. In each case, I wondered what character, what stories, were hidden behind these facades. These were not tourist towns, but they, at least from the route I was taking, didn't seem all that different from strip mall laden towns you might see back East. Sameness.
I eventually rode into a fairly populated town with a number of strip malls. There's supposed to be a starbucks around here somewhere. I ate dinner at a local bar and steakhouse. Sitting in there, invisibly, listening to the conversations going on all around me, I contemplated the days to come and how long I might be Out Here.
A leisurely 313 miles.