August 5, Day 32: 55 miles from Missoula to Seeley Lake
A morning of logistics and errands made for a late departure--we finally departed at 2pm and made it to camp by nightfall. Things change swiftly on the road, and today was a day of many swift shiftings; we left the city and quickly found ourselves swimming through unearthly Montana Sky-scapes: confronted with such vast wonderment, my soul cycled along drop-jawed, no room anymore for city worries.
August 6, Day 33: 58 miles from Seeley Lake to Swan Lake
Swimming is the Best Thing.
August 7, Day 34: 42 miles from Swan Lake to Columbia Falls
Today was hard. Homesick and weary, I did my best to navigate our team to Columbia Falls: one wrong turn lead us five miles down a (very scenic) gravel road to Nowhere. Well...not exactly nowhere, it led us precisely to the middle of a hay field; hay fields are nice but they make for problematic cycling. We turned back to cycle UP the gravel road. The silver lining: I found an excellent wild turkey feather to stick in my helmet--a reminder that even the road-to-nowhere can bear fruit.
August 8, Day 35: 33 miles from Columbia falls to Avalanche Creek Campground, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.
More Delicious Thunderstorms.
August 9, Day 36: 33 miles from Columbia Falls to Saint Mary Campground, Glacier.
So many cool new friends! We pulled into the hiker-biker site at Saint Mary to find meet John, an awesome and hilarious cyclist from Manhattan; we spent the afternoon laughing. Looking over our very thorough camp kitchen (I have my priorities) he teased us about our heavy load, asking us, "haven't you ever heard of a jet-boil?" This man has cycled up from Cabo San Lucas fueled by twice-daily meals of oatmeal and peanut butter. Our cooking system may be heavy but hey check out our typical supper: black bean soup with braised cabbage and quinoa--a veritable feast by bike-packer standards.
Swimming in the Saint Mary River (this river is made of glacier sweat: COLD) that afternoon, we met three more friends: Brad and his two boys--Zach, 12, and Braedan, 6--of Alberta, Canada. They invited us to their campsite for supper. What a sweet family. And later: a cloudy attempt at meteor-watching with the park rangers, John and Brad and the boys. We found a family of friends here at Glacier; even in this vast unfamiliar place, I felt so at home.
August 10, Day 37: 30 miles from Saint Mary, through Middle Earth, to East Glacier Park Village
Setting out on this day we'd no idea that we were in for 30 miles of challenging hills. Nor did we know that we were about to be transported to Middle Earth; this day wins the prize for most-stunning-ride-to-date.
August 11-13, Days 38-40: Hiking and exploring in East Glacier with Artist-Botanist Jo and Ranger Sam!
Did you know that bears eat mostly bugs and berries? I did not know this. Nor had I ever tasted a Huckleberry. We ate lots and lots of them on our climb up toward Painted Teepee Mountain. Jo and Sam are the best: they taught us all about Glacier and told us tales of wolves and bears and beavers and also fed us the most amazing food. Sam and Jo: I love you so! See you again soon, dear friends!
August 14-15, Days 41 & 42: 1,100 miles on the Amtrak from East Glacier to Minneapolis
Yay for changing plans!
On the 12th, my lovely riding partner Rachel took the train from East Glacier to Chicago to teach art to K-8th graders (she's a mighty brave and generous soul.) The bicyclist slated to relieve Rachel and join me on my ride across the plains had to tend to other non-bicycle business, so I had reconsider my prairie-travel-options. North Dakota is a tricksy place to be at the moment: a huge oil boom has turned its western edge to a west wilder almost than California in the 1850s. Not a great place for a lone lady rider. Another option: go north to cross the plains in Canada. And option three: hop on a train to Minneapolis--a city I've always been curious about--and use the slack time afforded me by the train to track down some family history. Needless to say, I went with option three.
August 16-20, Days 43-47: Minneapolis, Glorious Minneapolis. A week of Exploring, Heritage Hunting, Re-routing and Folk-singing!
First of all, I don't care what people have to say about biking in Portland: biking in Minneapolis is better. Bike lanes and bike-only paths--gorgeous and wooded--abound. And lakes. So many lakes. And hey guys did you know that the Mississippi River flows through Minneapolis? I did not know this. It is SPECTACULAR.
My grandmother grew up in a house built by my great grandfather in Minneapolis in 1910; I did't get to meet my grandma before she died, so I have long been curious about her story. A distant cousin supplied me with an address, and I was able to track down the old house in the Kenwood neighborhood. It's beautiful. And Big. The current owners--Cornelia and Dominic--welcomed me inside and showed me the deed to the land, bearing not only the names of my great-grandparents, but my grandmother as well, with whom I share a middle name. Cornelia also showed me all over the house--through the rooms and nooks in which my grandmother lived in as a girl. I reached out to touch old radiators--the laundry chute and the cupboards--elated by the knowledge that they were doubtless touched by my grandmother decades earlier. Tres. Cool.
I'm currently staying with a wonderful couple in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis. Terri is awesome and works for Habitat for Humanity and drives a scooter; she took me for a ride and you guys, meet the epitome of FUN: a twilight scooter ride through the Twin Cities.
Being a public radio geek, The Twin Cities of course make me think of Garrison Keillor, and guess what: Kevin worked for years as the banjo player in the band touring with A Prairie Home Companion. Plus: Garrison was his eldest son's first babysitter. Who. Knew. Every Tuesday night, Terri and Kevin host a folk music jam in their living room (Terri sings and plays mandolin.) Tonight, I get to join them. How lucky am I.
Tomorrow I set out upon my adjusted adventure: to cycle down the Mississippi (because you guys: it is SPECTACULAR) and eventually find my way to a farm near Milwaukee, where I will stay and volunteer and write for a bit before continuing on across Michigan and up to Canada. Yahoo!