27. Before Olney to Columbia Falls: Inner Peace - A Good Bikeshop and A Great Breakfast - From the Olympic Peninsula to St. Mary - The First Bite of the Northern Tier - CycleBlaze

June 9, 2018

27. Before Olney to Columbia Falls: Inner Peace - A Good Bikeshop and A Great Breakfast

Untucking from our perfect space was a brisk affair. A stiff breeze arose before the sun, as we did, but we managed to subdue our unruly tent and ground cloth and get them repacked. Without that picnic table to balance things on, we got a good workout wrestling the gear. Scott retrieved the food bag that he’d hung on a tree the night before to prevent any bear snacking on the calories we would needed to ride to Whitefish. We built a windbreak with our panniers to heat water for our morning coffee mocha.

The early departure was to avoid traffic on US 93 which had been the source of much disgruntlement the previous day. This worked initially as we surged forward in the initial eight miles before we turned off on picturesque back roads of the valley. We debated continuing on 93 because at that time of day it was tolerable and there was decent shoulder. Glad we didn’t.

We began seeing the first signs of affluent Whitefish with fancy dude ranches and big Architectural Digest type houses, horses, and fine cattle. Just before returning to US 93, we encountered one of our fears. On a two lane road twisting and turning through the hills, a slow-moving car turned off and a Dukes of Hazzard-replica car with a young man behind the wheel came roaring from behind, revving the loud engine while simultaneously taking a pull at a tall one. We were thankful it was only 0930 so the tall one may have been the first of the day.

US 93 at 3.5 miles west of Whitefish was the worst stretch of road so far. At the point we turned off the buccolic backroad, 93 had narrowed as it twisted through hills with zero shoulder and a crumbling edge on the right lane. We kept watching for the speed limit to drop and the road to widen as we got nearer to the city limits. About a mile out, a turn lane emerged for a side road and then the road we expected from the prosperous community. It was only 2.5 bad miles and we were glad to only have Saturday morning and not Friday afternoon traffic to deal with. This was worse than US 101 / WA 112 on the Olympic Peninsula. Montana DOT can surely do better and correct this.

Whitefish Glacier Cyclery and Nordic bikeshop dropped everything on a busy Saturday morning to help out someone on tour. They adjusted the spring tension in the derailleur and tightened the headset to have it in tiptop shape for Glacier Park's Going-to-to-Sun highway. The owner or manager told us the west-side highway to Logan Pass was open for bicycles but the Big Drift just over the top on the east side had not yet been cleared. Maybe in a week or so.

With that news to digest we pedaled over to the Buffalo Cafe for a full breakfast. Which gave us more to digest.🍵🥞🥓🌯 and left us with better moods and we left them clean 🍽️. As we were mounting the bikes for the backroads to Columbia Falls, we saw a friend we had made in Sandpoint strolling along the sidewalk toward us. After hugs and exclamations, we invited her and her husband to visit us after their stay in Apgar. You meet the nicest people on the road!

We spent a luxurious 90 minutes on smooth roads between Whitefish and Columbia Falls. These are clearly marked for cyclists, and we saw several zooming along on feather weight frames, calling out greetings to us. We arrived at our motel and showered, then celebrated tipping over the 1000 mile mark with 🍦 and then 🍺.

We suspended our ride on the Northern Tier in Columbia Falls. We will ride home tomorrow and bide our time until Logan Pass is open.

A lush meadow on a backroad that goes through ranch land west of Whitefish.
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Today's ride: 42 miles (68 km)
Total: 966 miles (1,555 km)

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