Monday, July 5, 2010

July 4, 2010. Lake McDonald to St. Mary, MT. 40 miles

It was in the 40s when we ate breakfast in the parking lot at 6 AM. I felt overdressed in my long bike pants, jersey, tech hoodie, lightweight fleece and windbreaker. At less than 4 miles into the ride it was 50 degrees and I was peeling off layers and tying them around my waist (in case I needed them later). CJ was riding with hubby Jeff who had come in to spend the rest day with her. Funny thing--we did not see them all day yesterday.

I set out solo and caught up with CJ and Jeff, but got the impression that they "vanted to be alooone" so I moved on. I rode with Judie a while, then with Sherrie, then solo again... all the way up the mountain I kept running into other riders from our group but we all had different ideas for photo opportunities... we had the 11:00 deadline again, as we were riding on the Going to the Sun road, but we only had to be to Logan Pass by 11:00. It did not matter after that.

The sun tried to come out a few times, and we saw amazing vistas before us! There was blue sky peeking out from between the clouds, and we could see that the top of the mountain was in a cloud. We climbed for 21 miles, but I could not pedal and look over the edge at the same time--it gave me vertigo. I had to stop my bike to look, and did so many times. There was a low stone wall in some places, and no border at all in others. You can see the road disappear into the cloud as we neared the top.

We disappeared into the cloud too, as we neared Logan Pass. It was rather scary riding in a cloud.... especially when cars passed. Fortunately the traffic was light. As we neared the top there were 8 foot snow banks on the sides of the road (see photo just below) and we could see across the valley that we were at the same level as the ice fields we had seen early in the morning. This road just opened for the season on June 24.

I saw a deer on the way up--she looked at me and I looked at her and we both went our way... Several women on the tour saw bears, and CJ and Jeff saw a couple of mountain goats, including a kid--I sure would have liked to have seen the goats, but was glad not to have a bear encounter.

The last mile of the climb was brutal! The wind picked up fiercely and the temperature dropped. It was just as we were told it was yesterday (and had not wanted to believe). At the sag at the top I put on my previously removed clothing and talked to Dianne, who was sitting in the sag car. She said she decided not to ride down the mountain after all, so I said "gimme your pants"! She gladly complied and offered me her booties too. (she had worn wind/rain pants over her bike pants and I had not). People were fighting the wind going from their cars to the visitors center and these 3 skiiers (of many up there) allowed me to take their photo. The joke around here is that there are 2 seasons, winter and the 4th of July, but this IS the 4th of July and people are skiing!

The first 5 miles down the mountain were very hard for me.... it was not all that steep, but there was a cross wind blowing us toward the edge where there was a sheer drop off of thousands of feet and no guard rail! A lot of riders passed me on the way down, since I was exercising my brakes, stopping frequently (to prove that I could) and talking to myself. After the first 5 miles it leveled out and there was a small grassy berm on the side of the road (still no guard rail) and I felt more comfortable riding.

At the bottom of the mountain, there was an abrupt change to prairie (photo above, just below a photo of Lake St. Mary). This was the most dramatic mountain crossing I have ever done--we could see the mountain ahead of us, we climbed it, we descended it, and now it was behind us! All in the space of a couple of hours, complete with blizzard conditions at the pass.

At St. Mary our rooms were not ready, so many of us went to eat pie and other things at a local restaurant. The photo just above is the view from our balcony--isn't it spectacular? Later on Kathryn hosted a get-together since she is leaving tomorrow. She provided hors d'oeuvres and sparkling Shiraz and a good time was had by all. Here she is pouring for Laura, and smiling between me and Dianne. We will miss Kathryn on the remainder of this tour!

We had a fine supper of spaghetti, tomato and mozzarella salad, with chocolate cake and assorted pies for dessert. We ate in our rooms because it was precipitating (rain? snow?). Tomorrow it is supposed to be in in the 50s with a tail wind. Perfect cycling weather!

No comments: