July 16: West Glacier to Whitefish, Montana - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

July 16: West Glacier to Whitefish, Montana

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WE ENJOYED OURSELVES today. We haven't come all that far because we'd booked Steph's bike for work at Glacier Cycles (here be the saints all praised, for it is an excellent place) in Whitefish. We knew before we set off that she'd need to replace her bottom bracket, which had fractional wear but wasn't worth the cost or trouble of fitting a new one.

The complication was that our bikes are kitted out with Campagnolo (crafted by Italian specialists with decades of tradition etc etc) in a land dedicated to Shimano (knocked out as a sideline in an Oriental fishing-reel factory etc etc). Hence having to book in the work.

We left our campsite at West Glacier to the umpteenth gasp of astonishment from RV people and yet another observation that we "must get great gas mileage." The vortex of the town was busy but after that we were on a delightful road, descending, then through forest on a surface of compacted mud, where deer and the antelope roamed.

To the left were glimpses of the river, deep in the valley. To the right, sunshine strayed silkily through the deep green of the trees. Puffs of wind lifted dust from the road, played with it and let it fall.

We entered Columbia Falls, whose name gives no indication of its hideous appearance, having taken care to turn left as instructed "at the steam engine." Sure enough, a Wild West steam engine, all black with a pot-bellied chimney and

Locomotive no. 1 was built in 1904 and pulled logs through the valley. It was restored in 1964.
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I'm not sure what this bit does on a steam engine but it could be to do with eating boiled eggs.
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painted with a white "1", stood by the roadside on track no longer than itself. It once ran through logging plantations, bringing trunks to town. Now it stands and rots, charming but past its time.

There seems nothing to Columbia Falls but traffic. That and a concentration of boards proclaiming the Ten Commandments. I looked but there seemed no update on coveting your neighbour's wife.

Interesting mural at Columbia Falls.
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We turned off the main road with gratitude and followed our maps along wooded byways, a beautiful escape from the traffic, and came into Whitefish by a route known only to locals and cyclists.

Whitefish was once known as Stumptown.
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Whitefish grew with the railway. Building involved cutting down so many trees that its first name was Stumptown. It's acknowledged in the names of shops and other fripperies. Pretty soon people gathered that Stumptown didn't do the place justice and they changed to Whitefish. I ought to know why, but I don't.

The place is known for its Ding-Dong Ordinance, a ruling that children had to be off the street by the time the town bell rang 9pm. That was extended to 10pm and then abandoned, not because parents or children objected but, of all things, for health and safety. It turns out that the bell was, and still is, alongside the fire station. For decades the firemen of Whitefish were volunteers. They dropped what they were doing at the first wisp of smoke and off they went with their sirens and bells going. That, you'd have thought, made noise plenty enough.

Then the fire department grew and the firemen became full time. They slept and rested in the fire station and this wretched bell kept being sounded at 10pm. I don't know how loud it was inside the building but it was too loud and, firemen being of a sensitive, nervous disposition, it had better stop being clanged. And so a charming tradition ended.


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