Day 15: Babb, MT to Cardston, AB

The riding was lovely today, but we had a rather tough day. As we got ready to go in the morning in Babb, we realized that Rachel had lost her arm-warmers, as we had strapped the arm-warmers and knee-warmers to the trailer when we switched to “sun sleeves” (the thin, white arm and leg coverings that help with the amount of sun exposure we are getting this summer) in Glacier. 

Babb, MT, with Glacier in the background

Babb is a cute little town, with just a restaurant, general store, motel, and antiques store, along with a few houses — and it has a great view of Glacier peeking up over the horizon.

Our route would take us back toward Glacier and through the northeast side of the park, then across the US-Canadian border into Alberta’s Waterton Lakes Park, and back to the plains we encountered in Babb. This involved a fair amount of climbing large, rolling hills into the parks, and shorter, rolling hills out into the plains. 

just outside Babb, with Chief Mountain (Glacier) in the background

We were about 10 miles into our ride when Rachel got her third flat of the trip. Other than the flat caused by a large piece of glass, the other two tube punctures have been on the rim-side of the tube, which is puzzling, as we checked the rim and found nothing that would cause a puncture. So we patched the tube alongside some horses, and continued on. About 10 miles later, the tire was flat again. We patched the back-up tube alongside some cows, and before we knew it, the tube was flat again. This was frustrating, especially as we had left early to avoid the hot sun that we were now exposed to as we searched for punctures and pumped up tubes. It turned out that a) there was a small burr in the rim-tape, and b) we were being impatient with our patches, and not waiting long enough for them to set before pumping up the tubes. We didn’t figure this out until a long day of losing tire pressure, of course! 

Glacier, heading toward Waterton Lakes Park

After we (mostly) fixed the tire issues, we biked into Glacier, getting a view of the other side of the park. We crossed the Canadian border, attempted to find the punctures by placing the tubes into the bathroom sinks at the border crossing (and watched the Canadian border officers search a car), and rode through Waterton Lakes Park.

Waterton Lakes Park


Waterton Lakes and Glacier from the plains of Alberta

It’s gorgeous, though we took more pictures on the previous day’s ride on Going-to-the-Sun Road. Exiting the park was bittersweet, as we were flying down awesome descents, but we were aware that we were leaving mountains for most of the rest of our ride. We rode out onto the plains, stopped in Mountain View, AB to send off some postcards from Canada, and then stopped in Cardston, AB. 

 

day off in Cardston, AB!

This cute little town has about 3,000 people and about 10 churches. It is a dry town, as are most of the small towns on this side of the US-Canadian border. Nevertheless, it has a bakery that specializes in whole wheat breads and gluten-free products, and the grocery store has vegan faux-cheese products. The town also has a museum with the largest collection of horse-drawn vehicles, a museum of miniatures, and a memorial to Fay Ray, who played the woman captured by King Kong. We arrived at our decent hotel, which has a hot tub and fast wifi.

After our last few long days, with sore quads and technical difficulties, we decided to take a day off here. Rachel is officially done with her two weeks of real vacation, and got to start working on various projects on the hotel wifi. Nick did laundry and figured out the tube/tire/rim issues. It’s been nice to sit in the hot tub (along with many screaming children who are in town for Canada Day weekend), eat salads, and watch movies in a hotel room. Tomorrow morning, we continue on in the plains, where it will be flat, hot, and windy.

 

Stats:

today’s ride: 61.1 mi

time in the saddle: 6 hrs, 6 min

total distance: 928 mi

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Day 14: West Glacier, MT to Babb, MT (mostly photos of Glacier!)

We left our dingy West Glacier motel room around 6:45 this morning and biked enthusiastically toward the entrance to Glacier National Park. We’d been looking forward to this ride for months, and we were particularly pleased with the sunny skies today. Logan Pass isn’t always open by this time of year due to snow, so we were happy to hear that it opened up a week before our arrival. Cyclists are only allowed on the route to the pass, Going-to-the-Sun Road, between 7AM and 11AM, which would be pretty fast riding with no time for taking pictures. We therefore felt a little rushed, but assumed that they wouldn’t make us turn around if we were close to the top after 11AM. We passed by beautiful Lake McDonald, winding around the park, waiting for the serious climbing to begin. Much of the road was being re-done, so we rode on a packed dirt path, stopping to take many pictures. We eventually reached Logan Creek, the beginning of our climb, which was paved, thankfully. We climbed and climbed and climbed the long 6% grade road to the top, passed by many drivers who encouraged us (and a couple that yelled at us), and took a lot of photos. We also saw a bunch of big horn sheep (scroll down for photos)! Then we made lunch at Logan Pass and rode down toward the Blackfeet Reservation, where the landscape changed rapidly to the Northern Plains. We had a long, difficult day, and we are pleased that our crappy-looking motel (see yesterday’s post on why we aren’t camping right now) in Babb is actually well-taken-care-of and clean. Here are way too many photos from the day:

Lake McDonald


 

McDonald River


 

 

Stats:

today’s ride: 59.1

time in saddle: 6 hrs and 22 min

total distance: 867 mi              

Glacier tours


 

McDonald River


 

 

 

 

big horn sheep!


 

family of big horn sheep!


  

St Mary Lake


 

St Mary Lake


  

and this is what it looks like on the other side of Glacier…


 

Day 13: Dickey Lake, MT to West Glacier, MT

 

It didn’t rain today! We had lovely blue skies and warm weather all day. We saw a family of elk on the road this morning, which is exciting and disconcerting given that they were on highway 93, which we mentioned yesterday is a death trap. Montana is apparently improving the route, as we had to walk a few miles of freshly tarred road (it’s a tradition now – we did this in southern France in 2010 as well). We passed by many ranches and rolling hills of farmland. Due to the combination of blue skies, easier riding, and some good news professionally and from some family members, we had a great day. 

We knew that we would arrive in the area by Glacier National Park today, and that we would be here for the next few nights. As may be clear from previous posts, one of us is quite afraid of bears. Some fear of bears, particularly grizzlies, is healthy and useful. What we have going on here is far above that rational level of fear. We’re embracing it, reducing anxiety, and staying in motels each night that we are here. This has the lovely side effect of meaning that we could mail our tent, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads forward to Cut Bank, MT, so that we have lighter trailers for the crazy climbing we’ll do in Glacier and Waterton Lakes parks. We mailed our stuff out in Whitefish, MT, and enjoyed a pleasant lunch at a coffee shop in town there, and biked on to Glacier. We’re super excited to bike up up to an elevation of over 7,000 feet tomorrow morning through what is likely to be one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen.  

Almost to Glacier – and no rain!


 

Stats:

Today’s distance: 68 mi

Time in the saddle: 6 hrs and 50 min

Total distance: 808 mi

Day 12: Lake Koocanusa, MT to Dickey Lake, MT

Mountain goats! They blend in with the cliff…


We were feeling slightly better today despite the rain and the consistent hills. The bartender at the campground last night had told us there were mountain goats at Sheep Creek, and we did indeed see mountain goats. We were inspired to sing Mountain Goats songs for most of the rest of the ride. The ride was all up and down the hills for the rest of the day until we arrived in Eureka, where we got huckleberry ice cream at the gas station. The rain had let up, which was fortunate given that we had to bike on Highway 93, an awful road with fast traffic, almost no shoulder, and crumbling, pothole-ridden asphalt.

Biking around Lake Koocanusa


 

Cooking dinner at the gas station/bar/grocery store


Just a bit later, as we stopped for groceries at the town of Fortine, where the grocery store, gas station, and bar are all combined into one building. As we packed up our groceries, it began to rain again. We were only about 5 miles from Dickey Lake campground, but we hoped we could wait out the rain. We asked an employee if it was ok to make dinner at their picnic table under an awning, and proceeded to cook ourselves refried beans with plantain chips and pasta with kale and tomatoes. We got some funny looks, but it worked out well. This meant that we didn’t even need to worry about food remnants attracting bears at the campsite. We were also able to bike to the campground without the rain. Dickey Lake ended up being a really nice campground, with bear boxes, a nice beach to the turquoise glacial lake, and good tent sites. 

Dickey Lake campground


 

Stats:

today’s ride: 64.4 miles

time in the saddle: 6 hours and 58 minutes

total distance: 740 miles

Day 11: Troy, MT to Lake Koocanusa, MT

Wild “domestic” bunnies in Libby


We slept so well at the Swanson Lodge B&B, and had an enormous breakfast that included strawberries from their garden, and local huckleberry jam, meaning that we didn’t head out until 11AM. We biked down to Libbey, feeling rather lethargic. Rachel’s knees sometimes bother her with cycling, and they were pretty bad that day. We gave in and stopped at an espresso shack, where we ran into Scott, Ardi, and Vince.  After chatting with them for a bit, we headed to the grocery store, seeing three domestic bunny breeds hopping around outside. Apparently someone in Libby had a lot of domestic rabbits that were let loose through the town, so now there are feral “domestic” bunnies all over the town. It’s actually pretty sad to see them, just like stray dogs, but they are really cute nonetheless (and aren’t scary like stray dogs!). We picked up our mail drop of my new air horn that attaches to my bike (to scare away dogs), and attempted to find our way out of town. 

We headed down Old Haul Road, got about 3 miles down it, when a guy in a truck said we were headed the wrong way. We tried another road, where a woman told us we were going the correct way. Then, just a bit further down the road, a guy told us that the road we were on was a dead end. It turned out that our original route was correct, while we had wasted about an hour of time. We decided to take our lunch break next to a cute brown bunny, which alleviated some of the stress of being lost.

As we strained up the enormous hill after Old Haul, it began to rain. Heavily. We continued onward, singing to warn away bears, climbing more and more hills, and eventually made it to Lake Koocanusa’s RV park. RV parks are not always as picturesque for tent camping, but they often have better bathrooms, and they have laundry facilities and a bar. So we waited out the rain with a bunch of fried food and beer, and eventually the rain lightened enough to make our way to our tent. 

We’ve seen deer every day!


 

View from our campsite on Lake Koocanusa


 

Stats:

50 miles (no other stats – we were tired and forgot to write it down)

Day 10: Sandpoint, ID to Troy, MT

last views of Idaho


Today was another ridiculously long day, with plenty of stops to make it bearable. We climbed out of the lovely Springy Pines campground to cross a bridge over Lake Pend Oreille – the bridge has a dedicated bike lane that is about two highway lanes wide! Of course, it was raining again, but much more lightly than it has been. We rode without Ardi and Vince as we wanted to stop in town for a new helmet (Rachel’s doesn’t fit over the hats we use for sun protection) and to have a mechanic take a look at the loose headset on Nick’s bike. We felt drained after the day before, so we stopped at an indoor market for espressos and breakfast number two. We were also eager for some Idaho experiences during our short trip through the state, so we picked up some postcards and an Idaho Spud candy bar, which the merchant said are famous here. It’s basically (vegetarian!) marshmallow covered with chocolate and sprinkled with coconut, in the shape of a potato. Next we headed on to one of three bike shops in town, The Outdoor Experience, where the mechanic fixed the problem for free, and they helped Rachel find a helmet that fit much better. We really liked the folks running that place and would highly recommend it to anyone passing through Sandpoint.

Pend Oreille (looks so much like Anacortes!)

 

Sandpoint

This appears to be the “blue” part of Idaho. Sandpoint has several natural food stores, the houses look rather hippie-ish, and even the rural areas we passed along the route here are filled with artists’ studios, a fancy sandwich shop or two, and not too many Republican political signs. We stopped in Hope, Idaho for what would become a super healthy lunch of an ice cream-cookie sundae. It was perfect. We seriously can’t eat enough on this trip.

ice cream sundae break!

There were also some friendly customers who told us about road conditions ahead, and told us that the reason why bears used to attack people was because they were being sedated with PCP. We hear so many different stories about bears out here…

We also stopped *again* for espresso. Rural Washington and Idaho have so many of these little espresso stands – many of them have hot dogs as well. This one was run by a woman from Wisconsin. The espresso was actually really good, and she let us sample some local huckleberries, which neither of us had had before.

espresso shack

We also stopped to pick up dinner supplies from a sandwich shop in Clark Fork, which we would highly recommend, even for vegetarians. While we were there, we ran into Ardi and VInce again, plus Scott, from Minneapolis, who is doing this same route with the lightest set of bags we’ve ever seen. 

entering Montana, with Ardi, Vince, and Scott in the distance

 

Bull River


The mountains became bigger as we continued onward to Montana. As we rode, we could not stopping gaping at the scenery. We followed the Bull River between the Kootenai and Cabinet mountains, and we wanted to stop about every two minutes for photos. The sky opened up on and off, with a torential downpour as we climbed a hill.

a break from the rain with Ardi, Vince, and Scott

 

We pulled off into a convenience store, where we ran into Vince, Ardi, and Scott, who had missed the rain by ducking in before us. We were quite jealous. We sat and chatted for a bit, and while they had about 10 miles left, we were heading on for an 86-mile day so that we could escape the rain at a BnB. A bit luxurious, but it makes the trip much better with multiple days of rain.

 

 

Stats:
Today’s ride: 86.1 miles
Today’s time in the saddle: 7 hours and 49 minutes
Total distance: 624 miles

 

Swanson Lodge B and B, just before Troy, MT


 

Ione, WA to Sandpoint, ID

We finally got through the first set of Adventure Cycling Association maps! We also finally made it across Washington! We started our day in Ione, and followed the Pend Oreille river all the way to Sandpoint, Idaho. 

starting the day in Ione, WA at the Pend Oreille River

The ride was full of gorgeous views, lots of pine trees, and *blue sky*, which it feels like we haven’t seen in ages. We saw two bald eagles, several large, colorful turkeys, and more deer than we could count.

Much of the ride along the river took us past modest houses, but many others were for sale, being managed by Sotheby’s. Some of the ride was along a road with a terrible shoulder – I (Rachel) ran over a huge broken bottle and got a 2-inch piece of glass stuck in my front tire! 

We started early, took two snack breaks and a lunch break, and then caught up with Ardi and Vince in Newport, ID at the grocery store. We decided to ride the remaining 25-ish miles to Sandpoint together. I (Rachel) had been in a fairly crappy mood all day, feeling rather lethargic. Riding with others is a good way to deal with this – it prevents me from fully indulging in whining or going too slowly.

Riding with Vince and Ardi


We are all sharing a campsite together on the south side of the lake by Sandpoint, mostly to save money. Tomorrow’s 60-ish mile ride should be interesting after today’s long day in the saddle…

Stats:

Today’s distance: 86.5 mi
Time in the saddle: 7 hrs and 32 min
Total distance: 535 miles