DAY 54 JULY 20 49.9 MILES
Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain, America! America! God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea. Katherine Lee Bates 1895
This song and these words were continually going through my head this morning as I pedaled up toward Logan Pass, the Continental Divide. We truly have a majestic country and, the more we visit the highlight areas of each state, the more we appreciate it.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road in the Glacier National Park is reputed to possess some of the most spectacular scenery in the entire country. This was to be one of the highlight days of our tour. And it was! For the first half! When we reached the top, however, the 10% chance of rain became 100% for the remainder of the day.
On the ride up to the pass, I stopped many times to marvel at the phenomenal views. Words cannot express the beauty. Gigantic mountains of rock standing thousands of feet above the surrounding landscape with patches of remaining snow as a reminder of a harsh winter only a short time removed.
The road initially meandered past a long, narrow lake. Although several miles of the road were under construction with muddy gravel, it did not negate the ambiance of the surrounding tall aspens, evergreens and wildflowers of the forest.
Once at the top, it was quite cold and wet so we hurried inside the Visitors Center hoping for a nice, warm lunch. Unfortunately, there was no restaurant but only an information desk and a gift shop. Actually, the center is open only 2 months of the year and does not even have electricity. In most of the winter, the snow completely covers the building and it takes until late June for it to be cleared sufficiently for the building to be opened to the public. This year, a major snow storm swept the area on June 22 but, fortunately, the center still was able to open on schedule.
With no letup of the rain in sight, I decided to head over the pass hoping for better weather a few miles down. Initially, I was in the clouds which limited visibility to a great extent. All of the cars used their headlights and my red flashing taillight signaled backward to them from my seat pack. Without exaggeration, my estimate for the first 2 miles is that the going was treacherous at best.
Visibility increased once below the cloud layer but the rain continued for the next 15 miles. I stayed in the middle of the downhill lane and used intermittent braking to keep speeds below 25 mph. The cars were not driving appreciably faster so very few passed me. Occasionally, I would stop to check that my brakes were not overheating but the rain kept them cool so it was never a problem. From the top, I coasted over 11 miles without pedaling. When it finally was necessary, it felt very strange to actually pedal again.
At least the wind was not a major factor. There were warnings issued for winds of 35 to 45 mph with gusts to 65 throughout the afternoon. Once the rain arrived, however, the actual winds were much less than forecast.
Once at our destination, I found a room at a local lodge to warm up and also dry my clothing. It is the only hotel in Apgar so I was very fortunate to take one of the last 2 available rooms.
The highlight of my day was a stop at a small shelter toward the bottom of the mountain to step out of the rain and try to warm up. There were 2 other couples under the roof waiting for the rain to slow to walk to their cars. After discussing the Bike the US for MS program, both couples made a contribution, stating that one of their family members has MS. These moments make all of the climbing, the rain, the wind and the cold, worthwhile.
Tomorrow is a very easy ride to be followed by a rest day. We certainly need both!
Tip: Eat a plate of spaghetti the evening before a big ride. You will be in the company of 83% of all world-class cyclists.