back in the saddle.... - Seattle towards Minnesota - CycleBlaze

August 6, 2007

back in the saddle....

I don't get it. I think I'm actually gaining weight on this trip. I've heard muscle weighs more than fat, and I suspect that's probably it. 

And yet, when I look in the mirror the only muscles that are larger are my abdominal muscles, and I haven't been doing any situps or crunches. Plus, if they're stronger, why are they so... oh, I don't know... so soft and round looking?

Regardless, I've decided to start eating better. Yesterday at the grocery store I also bought breakfast. In keeping with my new diet I ate a bowl of fruit this morning.... grapes, watermelon, honeydew, and some other not quite identifiable item. Good idea, huh?

That and the powdered donuts I ate should be a lot healthier.

I left Whitefish at 9:00, and I felt good. A day of rest really makes a difference.

I'm really excited about Glacier National Park. I mentioned previously how much I've been looking forward to it... for years. It's still pretty smoky, though it's a little better than yesterday. I'm hoping tomorrow's ascent will be clear. I don't know if it's my excitement or the fact that I'm rested, but I'm riding harder than I usually do in the mornings.

The route today took me over 2.5 miles of gravel road. Unlike the last time I rode over gravel, this was noted on my map and therefore expected. It's not quite as bad when you're expecting it and know it's a shortcut to avoid traffic.

My first thirty miles today were much easier than the 17-mile ride from Riverside to Tonaskan.

There are some bicycling restrictions in Glacier. No bikes are allowed on the road from 11AM to 4 PM.   Period.   If you're still on your way up at 11:00, the Park Ranger will pick you up and take you and your bike back down. If you're on your way down the west side (the east side is okay) you'd better pull over and wait until after 4:00 if you want to enjoy your downhill run.

Heart 0 Comment 0

That's why I had to stop in Apgar until 4:00.

While I was waiting, I met Steve. It only took a couple of minutes to determine he's different from all of the other bikers I've met.  He had a nice touring bike and some good panniers, but…. 

…he was wearing a fedora.

I don’t mean to sound disdainful of fedoras. After all, if this is an Adventure, what better way to express it than by wearing the same hat as one of the greatest cinematic adventurers of all time. (Although a helmet would also express a sense of adventure, and be more neuroprotective) No, it’s not that… it’s the overall sense I got from him. 

Ten minutes into our conversation Steve's allergies started bothering him. Normally, I wouldn't even mention something so trivial, but this was a real conversation stopper. Almost instantaneously his eyes began watering. He began blinking uncontrollably, and shortly thereafter was barely able to open his eyes.

Steve told me that yesterday he did a "trial run" up the mountain. A trial run?  Who does a trial run?  Steve didn't make it very far and was safely deposited at the base of the mountain a few minutes after 11:00 by a nice Park Ranger.

Looking back, one of two things happened, and I wished I'd realized it at the time:
1. It wasn't a "trial run" and he actually tried to make it to the top, but was unsuccessful. Then he was embarrassed about it and didn't want to admit it. Had he told me he had a failed attempt, I would've encouraged him, and maybe we could've exchanged tips and suggestions.
2. He's an "armchair tourer," a person who does a lot of talking about touring but never actually takes one….  an armchair tourer who is inching in the direction of a tour, but is afraid. In that case I would've said....

Just let go of that rope, Steve.

Heart 0 Comment 0

At 4:00 I continued to Lake McDonald Lodge where I drank a pop and killed some time. Avalanche Campground, a staging area for a lot of bicyclists going to the summit, is a few miles up the road. There isn't much there other than a place to pitch a tent so I needed to take food with me.

While I was at the Lodge I met Tom and Jeneane, retired teachers from Grand Island, Nebraska. I like their idea of retirement:   they have a tandem recumbent and travel to various scenic bicycling paths. They've even been to Lanesboro and the Root River Trail in Minnesota, my favorite place to ride.

I also met Bob, Linda, and Joe from Tennessee, and the six of us had a nice conversation.

Heart 2 Comment 0

At the General Store I bought supper and breakfast, then pedaled the 5.5 miles to Avalanche Campground, which is at the base of the steepest climb on the trip.

When I arrived and began unloading my bike, the Camp Host came over from his trailer. He was rather old. His eyes were watery and his voice slightly hoarse. I got the impression that the idea of riding a loaded touring bike never really penetrated into his thought processes. When I asked him if there was a place to take a shower, he told me that there was.

“Sure. You can get a shower in West Glacier. It’s just up the road,” he wheezed.

Yes, it is “just up the road.” I had passed it on the way in, and it’s more than 16 miles “just up the road.” I was standing next to my partially-unloaded bike when he answered.

I nodded and smiled. “Ahh, I see.” …and I continued unloading my bike.

Later I just went down to the Avalanche River, pictured below, and washed off. The recently-melted glacier water was slightly warmer than the shower I had taken at Jack and Linda's place in Curlew.

Avalanche river
Heart 1 Comment 0

The scenery at the campsite was beautiful.

Heart 1 Comment 0
Heart 2 Comment 0
Heart 2 Comment 0

There were two other campers there, Irena from San Francisco, and Marvin. I only talked to Irena briefly. She was waiting on some other people, none of whom ever showed up.

Marvin is the other camper in the hiker/biker camping area. In some ways, he's the most interesting person I've met on this trip, and I think he might be crazy.

He’s 52 years old, slender, medium height, and has a long, graying beard. Even in the dying light, he was wearing the kind of sunglasses you get from the optometrist after your eyes have been dilated – the kind that go over other glasses. The glasses gave him the odd appearance of being able to see things that I couldn’t, like he could see in the dark or something.

When I asked him what he does he said "odd jobs." Generally, when someone tells me they do odd jobs I immediately assume they don’t have a job, and pick up work here and there... work such as holding a cardboard sign at an intersection. I never did figure out where he gets money to live on.

He said he builds bridges for the forest service, but they don’t pay him for the work.

"Do they pay you under the table?"

"No. I just went to the Forest Service and asked them if I could build a footbridge, and they said yes." He described the previous bridge that had been there, and how the builder didn't know what he was doing. That’s why it fell down after a couple of years. He’s built them before and the oldest has lasted (so far) fifteen years. Marvin was taught to build bridges by an old guy who took his time doing building them. He prefers to work alone because sometimes people “bother him.”

He knows the hiking paths and has wintered in the area. Once, four college kids asked to go camping with him but he refused. Why? ''Because I don't know which one of you is the idiot." Then he said to me, "I've seen bears and haven't had any trouble with them." Marvin said he can actually talk to bears but doesn't tell too many people because, "people might think I'm crazy." 

Don’t worry Marvin, I don’t really talk to cows, either.

Heart 1 Comment 0

He talked about a previous job for the Forest Service in which he quit because of "a situation" but was rather secretive about what it was, and has walked off a couple of jobs in the middle of the day.

He’s never been to college, and said he don’t need no college to get an education. He mentioned how he'd like to shake some sense into the CEOs of the large companies and tell them how to make a business last, not worrying about the bottom dollar. Let the employees have workout gyms, free food, come in when they want, leave when they want, free daycare....

He didn’t know who Lance was but knew who Arnold was.

Briefly, he talked about mule skinners and their dying profession. Silly me, I thought mule skinners actually skinned mules, but I learned that they clear roads. Somehow. I think with mules.

By now you’re thinking Marvin is a homeless guy who doesn’t have the sophistication to find and keep a job, one of those guys with a borderline personality who remains on the fringe of society. I was wondering how he could afford the five bucks for this campsite. Perhaps he is, but how did he manage to afford his Bibler Bombshelter tent? I looked up the cost and the cheapest one I could find was $800.00. And regardless of his level of sophistication, I could tell from our conversation that he really does know about building bridges, and about tents. That’s something you can’t fake. He also has a digital camera, and knows how to use it.

He’s an intriguing fellow, and talking with him made the evening pass quickly.

Marvin told me he has a brother-in-law who's an engineer in the Army. He's going to send him some pictures of the bridge he’s building. "You're going to be famous," I exclaimed.

"Naw. I'm just Marvin," he said shyly.

My last question of the evening, “Is it light at 5:00?”

Miles 49.17
Maximum speed 31.9 mph
Average speed 11.7 mph
Time 4:11:33
Cumulative mileage 705.92

Today's ride: 49 miles (79 km)
Total: 704 miles (1,133 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 6
Comment on this entry Comment 0