We've been riding through Montana for the past 2 weeks and I realize I've somewhat neglected our blog, so as I'm sitting here in a picnic shelter waiting out a storm, I'll try to catch up. Here's a blurb on some of the observations and experiences we've had so far in this state.
View from one of our campsites.

Western Montanans love hunting and taxidermy. From the time we crossed the border into Montana until we reached Glacier, I could have easily been convinced that as we rode down the highway we were riding through a war zone. Although we never actually saw anyone hunting, there was a continuous sound of gun shots coming from the forests. I have to admit I was a little concerned that we, being the big, slow moving masses that we are, might have easily been mistaken for a couple of moose or elk and ended up as someones prized kill, but thankfully we made it through alive. With my mind on dodging bullets, I couldn't help but notice the abundance of taxidermy shops and schools we passed and was reminded of my friend, Nancy, who's biology teacher made his class stuff his kill. What a great way to turn kids away from biology! I don't like preserved animals – it grosses me out! Fortunately, as we've moved east, the number of gun shots and taxidermy shops have dwindled.

This is the state of roadkill and beer. The ditches along the highways are littered with both decaying animals (mostly deer) and so many beer cans that if you can go 10 feet without spotting one you feel the need to stop and take a picture. It's disgusting and sad.

Glacier National Park. This is one of my favorite parks – the scenery is spectacular, the potential of running into wildlife is high and the hiking is phenomenal. We spent several days in the park to give our rear ends a rest and enjoyed a day of rafting on the Flathead River as well as hikes out to Hidden Lake and the Granite Park Chalet. Although we didn't sight any bears, which we were bummed about, we saw plenty of big horn sheep, mountain goats and marmots to keep us entertained. We met many fun and interesting people which made for social evenings around the campfire, something we haven't had a ton of on this trip because we're usually camped outside of designated campgrounds.
Hidden Lake

Granite Park Chalet hike

St. Mary Lake

Good-bye mountains....hello plains! Once we made it over the continental divide and descended out of the park, I was amazed at how quickly we got out of the mountains. We didn't have several days of rolling hills as we made our way out; it was more like a few miles of substantial rollers and then BAM, from the top of the last hill we could see forever. No more hills, no more trees, just fields of wheat and the ability to see where we'd be riding 3 days in advance. I'm sad to be out of the mountains for many reasons – I love their scenery, their ruggedness, their cold, clean rivers and lakes. I love not knowing what's hiding around the next bend, the challenge of the long, grueling climbs and the exhilaration of the steep descents. But I'm also excited about being on the plains. They are beautiful in an entirely different way – the fields of golden wheat are brilliant against the bright blue sky, the weather is exciting and extreme and we've enjoyed watching the storms roll in and have to try to find cover at the last minute. Life generally appears rough, depressing and dull I the small towns we ride through, yet the people seem to be some of the nicest we've met. We have a long haul across the plains and I hope I continue to be enthralled rather than get bored.
Last glances at the mountains.

Grasshoppers. They're everywhere and why they think it's a good idea to hang out on the roads rather than in the lovely tall grass next to the roads is beyond me. I do my best to dodge them, but it's inevitable that I occasionally (accidentally) hit one. This is horrible to admit, but they make a strangely satisfying crunch when we run over them, so I kind of like it.

Comfortable accommodations. We had a nice string of people who have taken us in for a night as we've crossed Montana. A huge thank you to Phil and Christina who each generously gave us a shelter without ever meeting us. Then Mike's mom, Ruth, and his aunt and uncle, Mary and Lans, met us in the middle of nowhere while they were on a road trip, treated us to dinner, a hotel and breakfast – what a wonderful chance meeting! It was great seeing you all and spending a day together. THANK YOU! Finally we rode into Great Falls and spent 2 days with Mike's cousin, John and his girlfriend, Deidre. Again, it was fantastic visiting with you both and we thank you for your hospitality! I think we've spent almost an equal number of nights in beds as we have in our tent over the past 2 weeks – and I'm not unhappy about that at all!
Lans, Mary, Ruth, Cari, Mike

Motorcycles. I have never been a huge fan, but there are an awful lot of them...and they're growing on me. They have proven to be the most friendly and bicycle-tolerant motorists on the roads. Unlike the impatient logging trucks, tractor trailers and campers pulling boats pulling cars who seem to enjoy scaring the crap out of us by flying by at high speeds without moving over an inch, the motorcycles slow down and almost always give a wave. They have also picked us up when we were hitching a ride and although there were no helmets and the driver revved his engine while speeding through a tunnel (both of which drive me crazy), I was thankful for the ride. I guess motorcycles aren't so bad after all.
hitching a ride.

Weather. We've been pretty lucky in terms of weather so far. There has been a lot of wind and heat, which are 2 elements that are tolerable, though we wish for once it would be a tail wind! The first major storm we encountered happened to be on the night we had our first house to stay at. It was a wicked storm and we were extremely grateful to have a roof over our heads. We weren't so lucky with storm #2. Just as we began a big descent down from Kings Hill Summit in the Little Belt Mountains, the rain began to fall. It felt nice at first when the drops were light and small, but as our speeds approached 40mph, the drops got bigger and bigger and then the hail hit. The sting from the rain and hail hitting our arms, legs and faces was unbearable and caused us to go numb, but there was nowhere to hide. I half screamed and half laughed the entire way down the mountain. It was ridiculously painful, but fortunately short-lived. Perhaps the worst part of it all, though, was having to put on cold, soaking wet socks and shoes early the next morning. Number 3 hit with a vengeance right as we came into a town. We found a picnic shelter to take cover in, showered and washed our cycling shorts at the local public pool and after 3 consecutive storms passed through we decided to call it home for the night. Mike has built a lovely fort, or “super fortress” as he just declared, so we're camping tonight on main street in Harlowton, MT – pretty comical.
Descending into the storm.

Our super fortress for tonight.



We arrived at Glacier National Park late in the evening on the eve of a full moon. A somewhat crazy idea had been planted in our heads a few days earlier when we were talking with Phil, a friend of a friend who generously let us stay at his house for a night. Our timing couldn't have been more perfect. After dinner we found a place next to the river to lay down for a few hours. The idea of riding the Going-To-The-Sun Road by the light of the full moon sounded like a fantastic idea when we went to bed, but when our alarms were blaring at 1:30 AM after only 3 hours of sleep it sounded more idiotic than great. We managed to convince ourselves that this ride would be worth a night of no sleep, pulled ourselves out of our warm sleeping bags and were on the road by 2:00. No lights, no traffic, the entire park to ourselves – it was an incredible ride!
Still half asleep, but ready to ride.

The moon was just getting high enough in the sky as we departed to shine its light onto the roadway. Although it didn't completely illuminate our path, it did a good enough job of enabling us to see the outline of the road (most of the time), therefore never having to turn on our headlights. At times it was so intensely bright that our shadows were as sharp and clear as they'd be on a sunny afternoon. Other times it was like riding through a dark tunnel and even though we couldn't see anything our headlights remained off just for the thrill. It was a strange feeling riding in the dark. Depth perception was non-existent, the small rises and dips in the road were big surprises, there was an eerie silence at all times and the mind ran wild thinking about the possible critters lurking a few feet away in the forest. More than once I found myself with a chill in my spine thinking I caught a glimpse of a mysterious object at the edge of the trees, but every time I did a double take I realized the two shining eyes I saw were only bright white wild flowers and the huge outline of a creature was only shadows of the trees, all catching the light of the moon just perfectly to convince me there was something out there. Only once was there actually something there - a huge bird swooped out of a tree right above me and the fright it gave me nearly toppled me off of my bike!

Despite my edginess and heightened awareness of any minor movements or sounds, the visual aspect of this ride is what made it so spectacular. The outlines of the mountains surrounding us were crystal clear, pitch black masses with white snow glowing on their peaks. The Flathead river sparkled with white light while we rode next to it, and once we climbed nearly two-thirds of the way up the divide and looked back down the valley, the w appeared to be a stream of glowing orange lava winding through the mountains. We had to stop in awe for a few minutes to take it all in and we commented to each other just how happy we were that we chose to roll out of bed and have this experience.

After 3 hours of riding in the dark, we reached the summit of the continental divide just as the sun was beginning to lighten the sky. We immediately changed into dry clothes and down jackets, made warm drinks and breakfast and waited for the sun to peak above the eastern side of the Rockies. We shared a spectacular sunrise with each other, a couple of photographers and a herd of at least 30 Big Horn Sheep who apparently congregate at the Logan Pass Visitor's Center at dawn. Mike had a close encounter with one – he was standing at the top of the staircase on his way to the restroom, turned around only to find one walking up the stairs right behind him. He stopped in his tracks and I watched his eyes bulge to the point where I thought they were going to pop of his head. The Ram continued upward towards him, stared him in the eyes, came within 2 feet and then moseyed by over to his friends.
Warm drinks waiting for the sun.

Here come the Rams.

It took over two hours for the sun to finally cast its light and warmth on us, but we were happy to wander around on the top of the Rocky Mountains watching them turn from massive dark gray outlines towering around us to light gray peaks to glowing orange and brilliant red rocks as the early morning light slowly engulfed them from their peaks to their bases. We rode the Going-To-The-Sun Road, one of the most amazing roads in the country, and literally rode to the sun...and it has officially become my favorite ride of all time!



We declared today an official rest day, not because we were tired or hurting, but because over the last 5 days we've put in some good miles, climbed over 2 mountain passes and it seemed like a good idea. Yesterday we crossed into Montana and boy did we have to work to get out of Idaho...a 25-mile climb that took several hours, but the descent at 40+ mph was exhilarating and well worth the effort. We stayed at an actual campground last night in order to take our first real shower since we set out from Sun Valley. It had been daily river plunges up until that point, so clean water and soap were fantastic luxuries.

Today we rode a few miles north and found a place to camp off the side of the highway (where the camping's free). There's not much to do, I've already read my book and I'm going stir-crazy, but I guess there's going to be days like this along our journey. It's hotter than heck out here, so the thought of going for a hike or moving around much more than relocating every few minutes with my chosen section of shade or walking down to the river to take a quick dip isn't appealing at all. Hopefully our next rest day will at least be near civilization.

Mike's had a good day though. He's had an itch to go fishing ever since we got to Idaho; riding along so many rivers and being surrounded by fishermen has been killing him. Today he found a fish hook and a couple of yards of line at the campground, so he spent the afternoon making a lure out of a paper clip, beer top and thread. His make-shift fishing pole is pretty impressive and he's been enjoying his afternoon down at the river attempting to catch his dinner without getting caught by the game warden.
Mike with his lure and pole.

Mike fishing in the Bitterroot River.  

I guess I'll set up camp soon as the mosquitoes will be out if full force within the hour. I've been spoiled living the in the Bay Area...I forgot how much I hated these insects. It's not only a few that occasionally come at you. They come in swarms that you can't see through and you can't escape no matter how much you jump and flail around. We've resorted to wearing our plastic rain jacket and pants in the evenings despite the fact that it's still 80 degrees outside. They have a hard time biting through thick plastic! I'm already a walking ball of itchiness, every inch of me covered with bites, and I'd rather suffer from the heat than be eaten alive. There's just no escaping them when you eat, sleep and LIVE outside 24/7. Where in the world are there no biting bugs? I'm taking my next vacation there!



Willie Nelson's song 'On The Road Again' has been streaming through my head on repeat for the past week and-a-half, except that now I don't have to sing the "and I can't wait to get on the road again" lines because we're already there.

It has been a long month of healing since we originally got a taste of this sport and I almost forgot how much I loved it.  It only took about a quarter of a mile and the realization that I wasn't on an out-and-back ride like I had been doing daily in Sun Valley for me to remember how great this life was.  A little time (in the grand scheme of things anyway) and a lot of patience has paid off.  We have returned to the life of being dirty and stinky, covered in days upon days of sweat, dirt, sunscreen and campfire smoke.  The lakes and rivers we come across double as our bath tubs and washing machines.  Our gourmet meals are all one-pot concoctions, typically rolled up in a tortilla.  Our beds are thin camping pads and drafty sleeping bags placed anywhere alongside the road we can find a flat, shady spot to put up our tent after a long, hot day of riding.  We are once again battling the elements - currently heat and ruthless mosquitoes.  We are lulled to sleep by the gurgling river flowing less than 10 feet away from us, the wind blowing through the trees and the insects singing their night time songs.    Life couldn't be better!

"On the road again...
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway.
We're the best of friends,
Insisting that the world keeps turning our way.
And our way...is on the road again!"



Our bike trip began exactly a month ago and although we got off to a rough, slow and extremely disappointing start, things are beginning to look up.  We have spent the past couple of weeks in Sun Valley, Idaho and are thankful to our good friends, Gina and Rich, for allowing us to crash at their home while we mended our bodies and souls.  It is beautiful here (a perfect place to rehab) and we have found it easy to occupy ourselves with hikes, camping trips, dinner parties, music and an abundance of other activities to the point where we actually forgot we were "supposed" to be biking until someone asked us about it.  I guess that's a good sign we were having fun!

All the while, Mike has been doing strengthening exercises and stretches for his knee, slowly building up his endurance and the weight load on his bike.  We hit a turning point last weekend when Mike took off on a ride up Trail Creek Road, a substantial climb which he had partially climbed several days before.  I took off a while later up the same road and met him just as he was starting his descent.  I have never seen him beam with such an enormous and happy smile as he was at that moment.  He had made it to the top, completely pain-free and we knew we'd soon be back on the road.  It has been 4 consecutive days of increasingly long and difficult rides with increasingly heavy loads on the bike, all pain-free, and we are beginning to feel the euphoric sweetness of bike touring creeping back into our senses.

We will have to alter the route we originally set out on, completely omitting the Oregon and Washington coasts as well as the detour up through Banff; time (or the seasons, rather) will just not allow it.  Although it's a bummer to have to miss those areas, nothing in this world could make us happier at this moment than knowing we'll be back on our bikes within a week's time!


Cari & a crazy statue we found out in the mountains.
Mike and his hero.
The scenery on one of my rides.
Mike and the dogs out on a hike.
River near Redfish Lake.
Near Silver Lake.