Bike tour 1974 to See the West:
Glacier to West Yellowstone

July 1st, 10:20 AM
odometer start: 2614.6
now: ~2620

Made it to the U.S. around 2:30 and to a campground 6 miles later. 113.8 miles with that crazy crosswind, and I'm still bushed. Had a shower last night so I'll go a ways to a laundromat and wash all my clothes and maybe just goof around all day. I hear that bicycles are no longer permitted on the 'Road to the Sun' which goes through Logan Pass. I suspect a car ran into a bicyclist or two, which would seem to say that cars should be banned and not cyclists. The climb up isn't as high as I thought - the Pass is 6665 ft but I'm 4600+ now. Not sure what I'll do - the route around is 30 miles longer so I'll either have to take it or hitch a ride in a camper or pickup truck. Bleh.

I'm currently at a town called Babb, about 10 - 12 miles from St. Mary, which is said to have a laundromat, might as well get going. Really shouldn't feel this weak.

1:00 PM St. Mary MT

Washed my clothes and wrote Grandma a six page letter and drank a water bottle Gatorade and feel somewhat better. Don't see any big signs at the start of the "Going to the Sun" road, so maybe I'll just take it and see what happens. A cold front came through last night with a little rain but has disrupted the Chinook, so should be a good day for cycling. Not much else to say, I'll try to mail this and get moving.

July 2nd, 9:20 AM
odometer start: 2652.6

I stopped at the entrance gate to Glacier (cars pay) but the money collector was on the radio and waved me on, so I thought I might be able to get through the park okay. However, 10 miles down the road was a sign saying No Bikes, which I decided to ignore. About 5 minutes later a park car passed me and stopped at a viewpoint just ahead to wave me over. He was a naturalist and warned me that park rangers took a dim view of cyclists who pass the sign, so I went back to the sign to try to hitch hike across. Being a week day, there wasn't too much traffic so some 15 minutes and 10 vehicles later, the 4th one capable of carrying a bike and the 1st with room picked me up. It was a pickup truck with 4 Blackfoot Indians in front and 2 backpackers in back who had been picked up earlier. So we went bouncing up a ways to where we dropped off the backpackers and up further where we stopped for a little bit then continued down. I tried to get some good pictures but I'm afraid most will be pretty poor. If I had been able to ride over, it would have been the best part of the trip. Think I'll write a long letter to Park Service complaining about it. What they really should be doing is limiting motor vehicles (entirely) and bus everyone over. That way everyone woud be able to see the park well and free up all the traffic making it safe for cyclists and hikers. Oh - the naturalist who chased me out said there hadn't been accidents involving cyclists, just that the park people decided to close the route to cyclists for their own safety. Garbage.

I'm going over to Columbia Falls and maybe further in search of bank and a cobbler shop to nail a broken cleat back on my shoes. Probably be somewhere on Rt. 209 tonight.

July 3rd, 9:40 AM
odometer start : 2726.5

After talking with a cyclist near Creston I decided to go along Flathead Lake down to Polson, where I now am. From here I'm going south to I90 via U.S. 93. (I saw a bumper sticker saying 'Pray for me - I drive U.S. 93') and visit Missoula in search for some Gatorade and maybe stop at a bike shop that cyclist suggested I visit. I'll get somewhere out of Missoula by night and get to Helena tomorrow where I can look for Gatorade if I can't find any in Missoula.

Turns out it's legal for bicycles to ride the Interstates in Montana and is actually quite safe, as the paved berms are generally pretty clean.

Met a lot of cyclists yesterday. While I was eating lunch, a group of 20 passed by and I almost left to try to catch them. From there I stoppped at a bike store to buy a new pair of cleats as my old pair were in bad shape. They're held in by 3 rows of nails and are ~4 inches long. Walking with them puts a lot of stress on the front row and I took only a couple of days on my first pair to break all 4 nails, leaving the front section a bit open and ready to catch on anything. I managed to break off that piece on one of them a few days ago, making it hard riding since then - hence the new pair. This is probably very confusing - you'll see when I get home.

After I bought the cleats, I met one cyclist going to Glacier N.P. and as I was chatting with him, a third rode up. The three of us had a good talk and I told one of them about the Kelowna Fire Suppression station. I then went to get the cleats nailed on and left Kalispell via a Diary Queen. While eating a chocolate malt, I noticed a loaded bicycle and cyclist parked across the street at a laundromat so I went to visit her. I quickly discovered she was one of the 2 adult leaders in that group that passed me and that everyone else were junior high kids. They were going from Mercer Island (the high class spot of Seattle) and heading for Glacier. She said that the Park Service was going to allow cyclists over Glacier mornings before 10 and afternoons after 6 starting on the 14th and hopes she can bend things a bit so they can do it today.

July 3rd, 6:15 PM
odometer now 2800.8

I cheated a little and accepted an offer to ride in a station wagon for some 12 - 13 miles. Turns out that it was driven by 3 fairly drunk Indian girls, but we made it okay. I'm now in Missoula, a rather pleasant town sort of like Painesville but neater in some aspects. It's a little more spread out and seems to have more tree-lined streets. A lot of people ride bikes possibly cause it's a bit of a university town (Univ. of Mont.) and is close to both Glacier and Yellowstone Natl. Parks.

Finally found a place that had Richmoor foods, but they didn't have any Gatorade. In fact, they had just recieved a letter saying that Richmoor wasn't shipping any for a while due to some undisclosed reason, so maybe I'll just give up and buy the bottled stuff. It has sugar in it which means you get all sorts of strange beasties growing in water bottles, but I suppose I can clean them out.

From here, it's I90 to close to McDonald Pass tomorrow night and a couple days later I'll be in Yellowstone.

Maybe I'll wander over to the University and see what sort of Computation Center they have.

July 4th, 1:20 PM
odometer start: 2809.3
now: 2827.1

After dinner I called the University and talked to someone at the Computer Center. I asked him what sort of machines they have and he answered PDP-10. I was afraid of that, as U-M is about the right size for a small -10 system. I mentioned I was biking through and sort of job hunting along the way and he said they'd have an opening for a system programmer on 1 Aug. Argh.

In my wanderings around town I've quickly come to the conclusion that this is a really neat place. I've talked to everyone I can find and they're all quite happy to chat. Service-wise things are quite good - Penny's, Newberrys, excellent bike and outdoors stores (even if they don't have Gatorade).

Spent the night in a dorm on campus and since I can't talk to anyone today cause its a holiday, I'll be here tonight, too. Today I've been wandering around. Went back to the Missoula Fire Jumping Center to take in their free tours. Doug - a lot of ski bums work summers there and ski all winter. Good way to stay in shape. Also stopped at the airport and got last year's climatological summary to get an idea of what sort of weather to expect the rest of the year. One woman I talked to at the weekly City band concert says they have 1 or 2 blizzards every winter but normally is fairly mild. Let's see what NOAA says.

"In the winter, the continental divide shields the area from much of the severely cold air... Under certain conditions, however, the cold arctic air... moves with force into the valleys. When this happens Missoula experiences severe blizzard conditions."

Neat! January extremes last year were -19 degrees on the 10th and 44 a week later. July and August are hot (ave. High 85 - 89) but dry with lows about 50 degrees. Enough - you should be bored to death by now. Oh - last year was hot - normal Julys and Augusts are only 84 and 82 degrees.

Oh well. More on job tomorrow.

July 5th, 3:20 PM

Well, job possibilities here quickly faded. Turns out that the opening is for an administrative programmer, not systems. What's more, even had they needed a systems programmer, pay would be about 2/3 CMU pay, so I lose.

Since there's a cold front moving through today that has some moisture associated with it, I've decided to stay under cover yet another day to avoid some rain. There's been a little and the skies are brightening a bit, but I'll wait a while longer. In fact, I think the forecast calls for a greater chance of rain tomorrow, so I'll wait and see what tonight news has to say.

Just came back from the library here where I prowled through a bunch of topos and caught up on all my Science News reading but may run out of stuff to do tonight. I went to a concert by the Montana Chamber Orchestra last night which was pretty good. The concertmaster used to be the concertmaster of the Boston Pops before he came here. Also at the concert a listener was the guide who took us around the Fire Jumping Center!

Not much else to say. Might as well ride over to the post office and mail this.

Oh - I've been forgetting to send you some of the propaganda I've been picking up.

July 6th, 3:00 PM
odometer start: 2847.0
now: 2901.1

Back on the road. I'm now in Drummond, the largest bull exporter in the world, population 494. Riding I90 is really pretty easy. There's a little more traffic than I had on US 93 or most other major routes and a nice berm to ride on. Traffic goes about as fast as other roads so all in all its pretty safe. Guess I'll probably stay on it through Butte and on to US 287.

One of the things I did yesterday was to climb the University Mountain which is conveniently located behind the university. About 3/4 of the way up (it's 1800 ft high) is a huge letter M I thought was put in by the school, but I'm not so sure anymore as Drummond has an equally big D. Also on a mountain north of Missoula are L and H. I suppose they could be for each of the major schools in the area. Who knows?

From here the road very gradually goes up. So far the going has been really easy and will probably stay that way for quite a while - Missoula is 3200 feet and Butte I think is > 5000. Homestake Pass is 6,375 and on the other side is gradual up again to Yellowstone.

Might as well get moving. I'm tired of listening to two cowboys near me acting as they own the cafe.

July 7th, 11:40 AM
odometer start: 2948.1
now: ~2970

I spent the extra day in Missoula not so much because of the 30% chance of rain, but more so because it was raining that morning. Yesterday had a 60% chance but I decided that I really should take off and left a bit later than I expected around 1100. No rain at all until I got to Deer Lodge, and then only sprinkles to Warm Springs which was around 1950. Warm Springs has a single building facing the road which is a combination motel, gas station, restaurant and corner grocery and decided to stay there for the night since I saw some rain clouds I knew I'd have trouble avoiding.

From Missoula to Warm Springs, the road was a very consistent slight uphill but not enough to worry about so I was able to do just over 100 miles. From Warm Springs to Butte sort of the same except for some rolling hills near Butte. I think Butte is about 5200 - 5300 ft, while Missoula was 3200, so I've come quite a ways up, too. From here, it's only a few miles to the Homestake Pass at 6,375 ft. 35 miles downhill is US 287 which I'll follow south all the way to Yellowstone, which I'll reach tomorrow.

Roadsigns say there's a free museum of minerology so I'll see if I can hunt that up. Sounds like it might even be worthwhile. Better go - this Cafe seems to be one of the few open on Sunday and is quite full.

July 8th, 8:20AM
odometer start: 3026.5
now 3029.9

I'm now on Rt 287 going south to Yellowstone, which I may not be able to make today. I wrote last in Butte, then found that mineral museum which was sort of disappointing - lots and lots of rocks but very little in the way of explanation. Whie I was there, it started raining so I wound up spending an extra hour or so waiting for that to clean up, than attacked Homestake Pass which was a pretty easy climb but it started raining again at the top, so I spent another hour or so under a bridge. Finally got going again down the 7 mile hill getting soaked from all my road spray but didn't get anymore rain after that the road dried out pretty quickly so things were okay from there on out.

Made it nearly to Harrison and camped right by the road at the top of a long hill. Very little traffic so not much hassle. I'm in Harrison now waiting for its only cafe to open at 0900. Hmm. just looked at my map and its only 75 miles to Yellowstone, so I ought to be able to get there tonight without any trouble. It'll be interesting to see how far from the truth its image of bears and bumper-bumper traffic is.

One of the sort of neat things a cyclist can do that a car can't is collect insects. A bike moves slow enough so that instead of going splat they just collect on my shirt. Quite a few different species. Most are lacewings with an oddly forked tail. It's really sort of neat. Mosquitos don't bother me while riding, but the instant I stop they start aiming at me. I stopped one place last afternoon where someone was having problems with his car and was instantly inundated with hundreds of hungry mosquitos. Wasn't counting, but I must have easily surpassed the 7 in 1 blow criteria for giant killing.

Might as well get going. Looks like I have one hill to cross before I reach Madison River, which I'll follow to the Park.

July 9th, 4:15PM
odometer start: 3090.8
now 3131.?

Didn't make Yellowstone - turned out it was 20+ miles further than I thought. Was going to try for Quake Lake, but ran into some misplaced Oregon headwinds, and wound up camping right by the Madison River at a rest stop along Rt 297 about 10 - 15 miles from Quake Lake. Spent a couple of hours at Cameron waiting for the worst part of the day to pass.

Cameron is neat - it's a one building town with gas, groceries, post office, cafe and bar. The grocery store has some chairs in it for visitors and idle employees so I took advantage of it and had a good chat with them. One pair of cyclists they'd met were with the Bikecentennial group and said that 297 around there was going to be part of the national bikeway that opens in 1976 commemorating both the bicentennial and cycling's centennial.

I'm now in West Yellowstone near the western entrance to the park. I have some grocery shopping to do and I'm going to visit the museum here before going into the park. Also have to find a map of it, as I'm not really sure what I'm going to do once I'm in. Guess I'll head toward Old Faithful and spend some time there trying to get a good picture of it.

Not too certain on what the hills will be like in the park. The past several miles have been pretty flat - Hebgen Lake is formed by an earthen dam no more than 75 feet high, so this whole area is on a plateau of sorts. Leaving the park will be quite spectacular I'm told. U.S. 212 goes over Colter Pass (8,000 ft) then climbs up to Beartooth Pass (10,940) above the tree line and among some glaciers. Not supposed to be too steep going up, either, so shouldn't be too hard. Lungs will get a good workout. This info from a woman in a general store today. She expressed doubts about going down - lots of switchbacks, but I doubt I'll have any trouble as bicycles are much more agile. Also I can rattle around in my lane and cut the corners. I'll be using my brakes but riding switchbacks are fun.

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