25th Anniversary Tour - Day 46

08/01/2006 04:07:37 by Administrator

From: Waterton, Alberta
To: Blairmore, Alberta
Mileage: 65

Well we're "officially off route". After breakfast at the hotel dining room which included views of Waterton Lake and the surrounding mountains we began our journey north towards Pincher Creek, Alberta. Using a map from the Waterton visitor center we decided that we would shoot for three major towns on our detour route. Pincher Creek, Sparwood and Fernie, Pincher Creek seemed to be the best destination for today as we did not know what to expect for climbs, wind and services. With the help of pretty good crosswinds from the south and more spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains as we rode north, we arrived in Pincher Creek at about noontime. Route 6 north was not busy at all, and a pleasure to ride.

On the way into town we met a very nice man named Pat Geale. He had pulled ahead of us to take our picture as we went by. His niece is considering a trip across Canada and he was wondering about our trip and bike. He spent many years himself wandering the waterways of Canada he appreciated our mode of travel.

Our first stop in Pincher Creek was to the visitor center to check on rates and recommendations for the local hotels. We had a wonderful visit with the woman there who shared a ton of information about the surrounding area, weather and what it was like to live in the area. Pincher Creek and its neighboring towns are also home to a major Shell oil and gas facility and several major wind plants. It is a very nice, prosperous little town.

After circling the town a bit and checking out a few of the local hotels we decided that it was really just too early to stop for the day, so after lunch we began heading west and climbing Crowsnest Pass. Now there just isn't any getting around it, if your going west and each of the 100 or so wind turbines is pointing west you better just settle in and not fight it. So our pedals spin a little more and our speed drops to about 7 or 8 mph but we still seem to move along. Route 3 has a lot of truck and camper traffic on it, but has wide shoulders. The views from SeeMore, however, were outstanding and there were several interesting historical sites at which we stopped to visit.

The Leitch Collieries was a site built for the Canadian Mounted police when cattle rustling became rampant in the area. Later it was used as a coal mining operation when the railroad moved westward. Not much remains of the site but hollow walls and foundations. Further up the road is the Frank Slide, which was very impressive. Frank was a small coal mining town until one night in 1903 when about 1/2 of Turtle Mountain collapsed on top of it. Today the road runs smack though the center of the landslide, with the exception of the road and railroad tracks, evidence of the slide looks as though it happened yesterday. The Rear Admiral tried to take some photos to capture it but just could not. After a great conversation with a family from Edmonton, there son has a custom built recumbent bike; we headed on up the hill.

By about 5 pm we reached Blairmore, AB and our riding limits for today. We quickly found a hotel and created quite the disruption getting the bike into the room. Bringing Seemore into a hotel is kind of like bring a horse in, especially if it isn't a straight shot to the room. It usually yields lots of questions and meeting new people so not so bad.

While at the grocery store in town we met another touring group doing the Adventure Cycling Great Parks tour. We had just enough time to exchange the basics and were invited to visit their campsite in town. Not sure who looked more exhausted but they had sixteen people to fix dinner for so we will wish them the best of travels and a good nights rest tonight.

25th Anniversary Tour - Day 45

07/31/2006 04:05:39 by Administrator

From: Cardston, Alberta
To: Waterton, Alberta
Mileage: 37

Trapped, but don't feel too sorry for us. Glacier National Park is officially off limits due to wildfires. As I write this, there are approximately 30,000 acres involved. Saint Mary is completely evacuated, the Road to the Sun is closed, Rte 83 is closed, the two port of entries from Waterton are closed. The park rangers here believe that it will be at least a couple of days before they open up the borders, no time estimates on opening Saint Mary.

So when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I am typing today's entry from the 3rd floor balcony of the Prince of Wales Hotel, in Waterton National Park. The view in front of me is of Waterton Lake, and the Canadian Rockies. Waterton Lake is what remains of a large Glacier, and is horseshoed in between these beautiful mountains.

The Prince of Wales Hotel is one of Grand Resort Hotels built by the Northern Railroad to attract wealthy travelers back in the 1920's; there are other hotels in Glacier, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon (to name a few), which were built at the height of railroad travel. Thank goodness for digital cameras, because the amount of pictures the Rear Admiral has taken today (if we had to pay for film and processing) would have me working as a bell boy for a couple of years in order to pay for them.

No amount of photos, and no amount of words can accurately capture the beauty outside our window. So I will not waste any more space, except to urge the reader to explore Waterton yourself.

So we need to detour by traveling north, through Crowsnest pass on route 3 and down route 93 to Eureka Montana to get back on the Adventure Cyclist's Northern tier.

As we have found with our journey so far. You pay for what you get and Today's ride was no exception it was extremely windy plus we had a lot of climbing (comes with the territory). The winds off the Rockies are called the Chinook winds and because of them we even had to pedal on the down hills. Today was a day for staying in the low gears. The views made it well worth it though. Simply OUTSTANDING and toss in a wolverine sighting and tons of eagles for extra fun.

Dustin and Kate we really wish you could be with us here. Close your eyes and picture Lake Louise in Baniff. This is just as pretty. Daddy keeps eyeing the map to the north and muttering "it's just up to road. . . ."

25th Anniversary Tour - Day 44

07/30/2006 04:03:46 by Administrator

From: Cut Bank, Montana
To: Cardston, Alberta
Mileage: 72

We got an early start this morning. Last night the wind was blowing 35 mph from the west, and the forecast for today was a repeat performance starting around 3:00 am.

We rode on route 213, north out of Cut Bank and had the road all to ourselves. We were the first customers at the border crossing at 9:30. All through the ride today on route 213 we had glimpses (teasers) of the Rockies, but most of all we saw buttes and the foothills of the Rockies. This was yet another great day of riding, on this amazing adventure.

At the border we received some bad news. The haze we witness yesterday and the little white dots all over Rte 213 are the result of a forest fire at Saint Mary. The white dots are actually ash, and the custom agent said it looked like it was snowing yesterday afternoon.

Here is what we know, Saint Mary has been evacuated, They are not letting anyone go south on the two US/Canada border crossing and Rte 89 is closed. The east side of the Road to the Sun is also closed. We don't know anymore but figure we will find out more information at Waterton National Park, so we pushed on.

After the border crossing we started west on rte 501, another quiet road and the Rockies were in front of us. Most of the time we road in silence, just reflecting on what was in front of us.

We are here in Cardston Alberta and there are trees, flowers, manicured lawns, and well keep homes. This is a very healthy town (population 3,750) and for good reason. In the late 1880's a section of the Mormons living in Utah decided to move up here. At the top of the hill, in the middle of town, is a huge stone church. Mary and I walked and biked to town, and as forecast, the winds began in earnest around 3:00.

25th Anniversary Tour - Day 43

07/29/2006 04:01:38 by Administrator

From: Chester, Montana
To: Cut Bank, Montana
Mileage: 67

Happy Birthday Aunt Patty!!

We rode out of wheat country into ranching and hill country today. The traffic on today's journey was pretty sparse. We did have one large truck blast his horn while he was even with SeeMore, woke up the Rear Admiral and I had some ringing in my ears for the next few minutes. I gave him/her a friendly wave, and soon he/she had disappeared over the next rise. We saw a golden eagle catch a rabbit for breakfast, and two more close to us. We also saw acres and acres of wheat fields until we reached Shelby.

We stopped at the visitor's center in Shelby, and they gave us care packages for our trip. Each package included toothpaste, gum, mints, band-aids, and granola bars (2 of each!). The info lady recommended the Griddle restaurant, downtown, and the Rear Admiral had her usual lumberjack special (it was 11:00) and I had a Swiss Cheeseburger followed by a slice of Peanut Butter Chocolate pie. When you ride, you get to eat!

After Shelby we began rolling through the foothills of the Rockies. In Cut Bank, we think you can barely see the Rockies in the distance (maybe because of the haze?). We are out of the sun again before it reaches 93.

25th Anniversary Tour - Day 42

07/28/2006 03:58:03 by Administrator

From: Havre, Montana
To: Chester, Montana
Mileage: 64

As you ride along eastern Montana Route 2, there are two things that are a constant (no, one of them is not wheat fields!). There are small white crosses that mark where people have lost their lives in an automobile accident (sometimes there are multiple crosses, we've seen 8 at one site) and you also see anti methamphetamine advertisements (which come in all sizes and shapes).

In a grocery store, a young lady assured us that the whole state of Montana was a bunch of meth-heads. The billboards, carvings, sculptures, and others are a competition the state has going. Individuals with the winning anti methamphetamine messages will receive a cash prize, we think Montana has set aside $300,000 for awards. From an outsider's perspective, it still seems like the whole state of Montana has a methamphetamine problem. Crossing Montana on the "High-Line" route 2 can be a very beautiful and scenic trip. It is so vast and the farm fields have their own beauty in the contrasting colors. But route 2 is also home to many dying towns, we've passed through so many towns that simply have boarded up the windows and gone to seed. That combined with the crosses and Meth displays can wear you down, at times. I wonder if anyone from the Montana department of tourism has taken a ride out this way?

We got an early start today because the temperatures were going to reach 99 and the westerly winds were going to reach 20 mph as the day progressed. It was a great ride because we beat the heat and the wind! We were up out of the river valley and back into farmland again. We could see the Sweet Grass Hills that are a series of mountains that reach almost 7000 ft. They were located northwest of us, about 50 miles (guessing) in the distance. Wheat fields again dominated the scenery today. We passed a small heard of Antelope on the run and two golden eagles. As we rode, we began to feel smaller and smaller. We can't imagine the time and effort it must take to grow all of this grain. We passed one farm with 45-grain silos.

We met three other "west to east" cyclists. Doug was riding solo and just finished riding Glacier National Park. He had the biggest smile as he told us of his adventures in Glacier. Just another super cyclist, out for a little bike ride. After trading information, he headed for Havre, and we went into Rudyard to find early lunch. You can read more about his ride at: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/journal/doug2006

The other was an older couple from Ohio. We met them here in the Chester library. They looked pretty sun burnt, and we really didn't talk very much. They were pushing on, but using the library to get out of the heat for a while.

We had lunch at the Eagle Nest cafe in downtown Rudyard (population 275, maybe). We recommend stopping in and having lunch. We tried to tour the town's Depot Museum, but the museum was locked up pretty tight. No one home.

We are in the MX Motel, away from the heat and safe. The sign for the motel reads: Vacancies - Motel for Sale - CHEAP, I hope this will give you readers some idea of the deluxe accommodations we find ourselves in. Only the best for the Rear Admiral and SeeMore!

25th Anniversary Tour - Day 41

07/27/2006 03:54:54 by Administrator

From: Chinook, Montana
To: Havre, Montana
Mileage: 28

We made it into Havre (pronounced hay ver) at 9:30 am and only 22 miles. Today is a short day because we are trying to set up our entry into Glacier National Park for a weekday. We might also take another day off in Cut Bank because of a very high westerly wind that are in the forecast for Sunday, but we are getting ahead of ourselves and we try not to do that!

Here is a warning to all fellow cyclists. Route 2 from Harlem to Havre has little (18 inches) to zero shoulder. The traffic is moderate, but when you toss in the wide loads (truckers hauling large farming equipment) and the RVs, it is not very pleasant. The posted speed limit is 70 mph for cars and 60 for trucks. You need to reread the word posted, because we have yet to see one driver pulled over for anything and we have seen one local and one state trooper in all the miles we have ridden so far in Montana. 95 percent of the drivers are thoughtful; it's the 5 percent that keep you on your pedals.

From Glasgow until Havre you ride in a valley that was carved out by the Missouri river (many, many moons ago). The valley is now the home to the Milk River, BNSF railway, Route 2, farmland, ranches, trees, and billions of mosquitoes. The valley is as wide as 5 miles in some areas but boxes in the closer you ride towards Havre. The edges are called the Missouri breaks that you can see in the photo below (we hope).

There is a nice little hill on the west side of Havre, so nice we did it twice! We rode around downtown (down in the valley) Havre, shopped uptown (on the Missouri breaks), and were just plain lazy today (read, napped, computer). If we could just have Route 2 for ourselves, the ride today would have been stellar!

Very tasty Broccoli Salad for lunch (Ingredients: Raw broccoli, Raisins, Sun dried cranberries, Spanish onion, Sunflower seeds, Coleslaw dressing) and it will become a staple when we return home!

25th Anniversary Tour - Day 40

07/26/2006 03:53:03 by Administrator

From: Malta, Montana
To: Chinook, Montana
Mileage: 68

Math sometimes doesn't make sense. One day, two different rides.

After breakfast at the West End CafÈ in Malta we were ready for our morning ride, coated with bug repellant. Sacos claim to fame is the mosquito capital of the lower 48, and the mosquitoes pay little attention to trivial things, like town lines.

1 + 1 + 1 = 18. With a tailwind, mosquitoes penetrating our repellant, and the Rear Admiral's desire to use a powder room; we sailed into Dodson in under an hour (averaging 18mph)! From Dodson, we crossed into the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and slowly our multitudes of little traveling companions gave up their pursuit (a good thing because a loaded SeeMore is not the vehicle to ride at Tour de France speeds!).

While riding into Fort Belknap Agency, we noticed that the rear tire was slowly losing air. We stopped to pump it up, and it lasted until after lunch at Deb's Diner in Harlem. Under the shade of the diner, I removed the rear tire and the Rear Admiral found the piece of wire (from a retread tire) sticking out of the tube. With tire replaced, we ventured out onto Route 2 for our second half of the day.

1 + 1 + 2 = 18. All the cars in Montana, headwinds, and two hours of mashing the pedals brought us to rest here in Chinook. We have no idea were everyone is going, and when we find out, you will be the first to know. The road shoulder also disappeared about 4 miles outside of Harlem for added pleasure. Making is especially thrilling when RV, tractor-trailer and bicycle meet.

The scenery changed also, instead of the miles of grassland/cattle ranges, we have a green valley with lots of trees. The Bear Paw Mountains are getting larger!