“I am in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection, but with Montana it is love.” Steinbeck
Ive long had a love for the idea of Montana. Not really knowing why, except Steinbeck’s passion, and “A river runs through it” to spur it on, throughout this cross country ride I’ve been looking forward to the Big Sky State.
It hasn’t disappointed! There are so many stories I want to recount, lots of photos I want to upload.. but for now… in this Montana Library, let me just speak of Glacier National Park.
I first heard about it from Brad, a sailing friend, who made me promise not to miss it. I checked my route, and decided to head north – to bypass Yellowstone, and check out Glacier instead. This was not a mistake. The last three days have been spent with amazing cyclist friends, climbing up and down huge passes and smiling, crying, laughing in awe at the beauty surrounding us.
Paul (who I first met in Minnesota, and later caught up to in Chester, MT), Matt (WI-Argentina) and I left the prairies behind and headed into the hills. We all expected rolling hills, a few climbs maybe, and then the infamous “Going to the Sun road”. Instead, in 20 miles we climbed almost 4000ft, up and down up and down, through switchbacks and 3 times reaching above 5000ft. This was just the warm-up! The final decent to St Mary’s, at the beginning of the Sun Road, was a straight 1500ft drop, in just 5 miles. I couldn’t tell if the tears were from the wind or from the soul. The beauty, the lakes, the mountains… maybe it was all that time in the Prairies… just moved me to my core.
We took a day off and let the clouds clear. Finally, waking up to a perfect blue sky, we straddled our saddles and got started. At 7 in the morning it was chilly, but after just a mile of slight climbing, we were peeling off the layers and gearing down. Up and up and up we went. Stopping frequently for photos – trying desperately to capture the uncapturable – and laughing our way to the top. It was just jaw-droppingly stunning, thats all I can say about it. The climb wasn’t even that bad – compared to my Slovenian Alps Pass last year, this was nothing! Much higher, but maybe less steep… or maybe my body is just stronger. I felt great! I rode the whole thing in my Middle chain ring (a 44), not once clicking into the tiny 28 Granny gear I had been saving just for this occasion. Nice!
And of course the downhill free ride was as mind boggling as ever… down and down and down, huge cliff faces on every side… snow on the ground (thats how high we pedaled!) and glaciers across ever vista. Spectacular!!!!! We jumped in a glacial river at the bottom and swam in freezing water, our footsteps light with the magic of the day.
The most incredible day of this trip, across the Continental Divide, and the beginning of the end. I felt so alive, so in love, so in tune. THIS is why we ride. Only the bicycle can facilitate this feeling, only the bike has access to this magic. Pedal on, always pedal on. Thank you Montana!