Whitefish interlude: Strange Goings-On at a supermarket, and a reluctant dance with a telecom company - Over the hills and far away - CycleBlaze

July 2, 2016

Whitefish interlude: Strange Goings-On at a supermarket, and a reluctant dance with a telecom company

A strange day, it was, though it started well enough.   At 8:15, I greeted three French cyclists as they left Apgar village, and wished them well on their trans-America ride.  I followed the back roads to Columbia Falls, and met two cyclists headed for Maine--a dad, 70-ish, on a 'bent, and his 30-something daughter.  I gave them a thumbs-up, thinking back fondly on my own rides, hikes, and paddling with our daughter, Meg.

I reached Columbia Falls at 9:30, and found Smith's easily enough.  It's an excellent supermarket, and I loaded up with fresh fruit, cous-cous, sausage, cheese and tomatoes, tortillas and the essential Heet.  Cutting  away the packaging and allocating it to the various recycling or trash containers, I packed my supplies into my panniers and--my precious Swiss Army knife all-of-a-sudden disappeared!  I put on my latex mechanic's gloves and rummaged through the trash and recycling bins twice--nothing there :(  I looked under and around my bike a couple of times--nothing there either :(  Could some one have pinched it?--I had left it atop my handlebar bag in the grocery cart, blade open, and from time to time, turned my back while I walked the five paces to the rubbish and recycling bins.  The opportunity was there, I guess, for someone just leaving the store and walking past my bike.  What. A. Bummer.   And in Montana, of all places -- you'd pinch a man's knife??  Jeez, if you'd wanted it that badly, whoever you are, all you had to do was ask.

Ah well, it can be replaced.  Maybe it's in that unmapped spot where Lost Swiss Army knives congregate and find solace with siblings and cousins.

I rode into Whitefish along US 2 and 40, a short spell which was no fun at all, and found a Radio Shack outlet on the edge of town.  I had called these folks from Ottawa a few weeks earlier, to check about getting a cheapo  phone which I could use in my three weeks in the U.S.  They had assured me that I could do so.  They were very helpful, and for $40 I bought a compact prepaid Tracfone clamshell and a USB charging cable; and for another $15, a replacement jack knife. 

That all seemed tidy and painless, so I continued into town, and found the Amtrak office in the fine old neo-Bavarian train station: 

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The Amtrak agent was courteous and helpful, and quickly rearranged my  ticket so that I would leave Everett, WA on the eastbound "Empire Builder" a couple of days later than originally planned.

On a roll, I headed back into downtown to visit Glacier Cyclery.  I found the item I needed--a couple of sample-sized packets of chamois butter, just the thing for a touring cyclist who doesn't want a 12-oz squeezy bottle of the stuff for $35.  Glacier's recommendation of LouLa's Café, just down the street and down the stairs, was also spot-on--it's an A-grade lunch stop.

After lunch, I met up with half-a-dozen West-to-East cyclists in Glacier's shady holding pen for bikes and riders.  One fellow, my age-mate, was knowledgeable and curious about my Rohloff.  Had I considered a carbon belt?  I said no, mainly because when I ordered my Raven three years earlier, both Thorn and Rohloff were unenthusiastic about the belt drive.  In addition, I wasn't sure about the design of a break in the rear triangle to allow changing the belt.  Or it may simply have been inertia at work--chains are simple, functional and cheap, and the magic of the Hebie Chainglider banishes the hassle of chain maintenance.

In early afternoon, I headed for Whitefish State Park on the northwestern edge of town.  I found it easily enough, and was pleased to see that Montana's parks department had just installed a hiker-biker site.  The park's facilities and the overnight fee were more than satisfactory, reinforcing my experience in U.S. state parks in the West, Mid-West, and North-East.  Whitefish Lake itself was a bit of a disappointment, its room temperature and muddy bottom  a dramatic contrast to the glacial streams and lakes I had just left.  The hot showers and clean loos were more than adequate compensation.

A couple of cyclists shared the site with me. Glen, from New Jersey, rolled in on his loaded Surly LHT.  He had just pulled out of his ride on the GDMBR.  It was his first tour, and he found it was just too demanding.  He was covering too short a distance each day to make his trip in the time he had available.  He'd just re-booked his trip home on Amtrak.  He was an easy-going and amiable fellow, but feeling a little down and disappointed with himself.  I said this could happen to anyone, that we'd all found ourselves having to bail out; and that there'd be other opportunities to come.

A young woman park ranger was in town for a couple of days to replenish supplies.  She lived a day's ride from Whitefish, and made this trip every month or so.  Each morning and evening, she did a 30-minute yoga routine, and I was seriously impressed:  I could manage some stretching at the end of the day (but rarely did so), but nothing at all as rigorous as her morning routine, done before breakfast.

And then there was the Tracfone.  I charged it up in the loo, and tried to phone home to Marcia in Ottawa.  No, I couldn't do that, said the disembodied recording, and please call this number or check our website for further information.  Ah jeez, sez I, here we go again.  A real person at Tracfone's 800 number said that yes, I would be able to ring Canada after waiting 48 hours from the time of purchase. I was sceptical:  this sounded like a regularly repeated but always unconvincing description of Limbo from my mostly-forgotten RC childhood, without the mystical allure of the Latin, but what could I do?  I did succeed in sending a text message to my brother- and sister-in-law in Colorado, and they in turn were able to send a message to Marcia confirming that I was safe and sound in Whitefish.  (There is more on The Phone Thing in the "Notes on Gear" at the end of this journal.)

The park campground is just a hundred metres from the embankment which carries Amtrak line, so my sleep included the rumble and clank of a couple of slow trains at midnight.  

Today's ride: 45 km (28 miles)
Total: 1,020 km (633 miles)

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