We Done Went (to the Sun)

Day 5 Blog (Redux)
Keep in mind that this entry is for Sunday, Helena to Whitefish.

So last night I had a nice FaceTime with Bear back at the homestead. We discovered that we could take screen caps of each other, and much hilarity ensued. I am comfortable in the knowledge that my goofy faces are safely in the phone of an 11 year old with minimal technical skills. Her goofy faces, though, are in the hands of a man with a blog!

Best not to mess with a man with a blog…

So, it being Sunday and all, we decided to get up at the crack of dawn for no discernible reason. Ok, not true. Paul went on a two-hour expedition to get an anniversary card and get it in the mail (you know…for that special Sunday mail pickup). I watched an unexpectedly interesting Hungarian Grand Prix. After we were each done with our respective non-travel-related tasks, we regrouped and had breakfast. We were packed up and on the road by 10:30am or so.

Off we went towards Glacier National Park and the rightly famous Going to the Sun Road. Siri knows to guide me off of the interstate whenever possible, and that little digital pocket gal really delivered today. We started out on one of the nicest, smoothest, prettiest mountain roads I’ve ever driven. And the speed limit was 70mph! It was kind of insane, really, but at least I never felt the urge to speed. By the end of the road, I think that this was actually what I looked like under my helmet: 😍

Even after we got out of the twisties, the road did not disappoint. What was a serpentine road through craggy mountains became a straight line through sprawling Montana prairie land. It should be noted that these prairies clearly had an interesting geological history beyond, “and then the time of the sediment layer came. The end.” Large buttes, carved arroyos, broad valleys. And apparently it’s chock full o’ dinosaur detritus, too, to judge from the various roadside attractions. We meandered through a couple of small towns, ranging from an apparent county seat with one traffic light to a small settlement with one tooth. The county seat had the unusual feature of a courthouse which sat in the middle of a traffic circle. Seriously. I guess it saved them money that they would’ve otherwise spent on a second traffic light, though. They’re playing 4-D chess in these parts…

For the haters and the doubters out there, I give you the Teton County Courthouse/Traffic Circle!

We then cruised through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation just outside of Glacier National Park. There’s not anything insightful or constructive that I can really offer about that part of the trip, but I can tell you that it made me very sad.

The road did throw some interesting curves at us today, I should add. The Yellowstone bison had clearly radioed ahead as we were being stalked by the local critters. Lucky for them, though, we never had to school them with our advanced Hide and Seek skillz. The first bison scout was a coyote that darted across the road about 20′ in front of me (note that I was doing about 70mph, so this was about as close as he wanted to get, I’d think). Paul ran over the remains of a skunk, causing me to take the lead for a bit. Finally, a velveted stag elk trotted out in a blatant attempt to kill Paul. Paul had no time for that elk’s bullshit, though, and went about his business with just a hint of a skidmark to betray his inner terror. One additional obstacle was a solid couple of miles of slippery gravel in a construction zone. I was “secretly” smug about my bad-ass adventure bike (and it did indeed cruise through the gravel like butter over a hot knife), but my smug…edness? smugitude? took a bit of a hit when Paul’s land yacht with street tires glided right through as well. Mine still looks cooler, though. Right?

Up into Glacier we went, finally on the Going to the Sun Road. And sister, it was spectacular. Keep in mind that we just did Yellowstone the day before, and the views in Glacier were every bit as amazing. Virtually every turn heading up to the summit made us want to stop to take a picture or just take in the view. Interestingly, Paul called a hasty halt when he realized that the view in front of us was the same as in a painting that had hung in his parents’ house since their marriage. No one knew what the painting was of, but it was a family touchstone. Turns out, it was this particular vista from Glacier N.P. Many pictures were taken. (Spoiler Alert: He was wrong.)

One of 50 stops for Paul to capture the exact picture from his family’s painting. He failed.
Panorama of Glacier National Park. Also not the picture from Paul’s family’s painting.
This bike, it do get around.

This, too, is where I discovered that Paul has a glacier fetish.  We’ve now spent a good part of the last few days stopping at every new glacier vista point to stock up Paul’s ice-porn collection.  It’s a little creepy, but I figure I’m safe as long as I remain room temperature or above.

On the backside of the pass we had a different but equally amazing ride. The road was almost literally carved into a granite cliff. And by that I mean that there was about 2 lanes for cars, a rock guardrail on the outside and the inside shoulder is OMGWTF A MOUNTAIN! And it went on forever. Until it was over, dumping us out into a forest that grew along the Flatiron river leading out of the park.

The road out to the western entrance. More fantastic vistas.
And the view to the front. Please note that this is before the road gets narrow, and the OMGWTF A MOUNTAIN on the right hand side just pushes closer and closer to you as you go down. It also gets bigger and more mountain-y. But I’d put my camera down by then.

We headed into Whitefish, which seems to be the Jackson Hole of the North, if maybe a little less so. Nice town. So we found a good piece of Montana beef to eat, some beer, and located a local Patel Motel for a spartan but serviceable room at a reasonable rate (which was a rarity in the area).

This day was just about perfect, I must say. If all the weather was like this, all the roads were like this, and all the trips were like this, there simply wouldn’t be a market for cars.

Starting Odometer: 34166
Ending Odometer: 34468
Daily Total: 302
Running Total: 1905

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