From Minneapolis, we again hopped on Amtrak's Empire Builder and rode it ~22 hours to East Glacier, Montana. This might be our longest train ride throughout the tour. We were anxious to get some cycling in, but biking through the Great Plains would've been way too boring & windy. Time was of the essence in getting out West too with the season quickly turning at the end of September. Last year at this time, there was a snow storm! We lucked out with warm sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns, I mean grizzlies.
I was starting to doubt we'd ever reach the Rockies. We were so excited/anxious to get off the train when we caught our first glimpse of the Rockies, that the Amish grandmother across the aisle asked if it was our first time seeing them. She was very sweet and I spoke a bit of Bavarian to her, which is slightly similar to Pennsylvania Dutch. The Amish bible or Ordnung is actually written in German.
Anyways, we finally arrived in East Glacier and headed to Brownie's. I wish it was Elena Brownie's digs, but it is an old log lodge that originally housed the builders of the fancier St. Mary Lodge.
Our first touring day where we actually cycled to get from A to B was from East Glacier to St. Mary.
Cycling to St. Mary, our route bordered Glacier National Park. Surprisingly, we were the only cyclists on the road and car traffic was sparse. This is perfect cycling weather and an absolutely amazing time to visit this park. The blazing neon of the Aspen trees against the deep, emerald evergreen is an awesome contrast to the dusty red, browns, and grays of the mountains. The occasional splash of turquoise from the lakes, such as Two Medicine Lake below, adds even more pizzazz.
We arrived in St. Mary to find absolutely everything closed. There's nothing better than reaching your destination after a satisfying bike day and then realizing you have to cycle another 10 miles roundtrip to dinner. The ambiance at Two Sisters Cafe near Babb and the sunset on the way home compensated for the detour.
At dinner, we sampled quite a few of the local brews. Montana was the first state to repeal Prohibition enforcement and, in that same spirit, is home to a good, healthy amount of breweries. We really enjoyed the Wheatfish from the Great Northern Brewing Co. in Whitefish and a few of Big Sky Brewing Co.'s offerings.
The next day, we awoke in our crappy, over-priced Red Eagle motel room and again were hungry. Bananas were basically the only edible option from the shelves of processed junk food at the so-called grocery store. We were saved by a friendly Seattle couple who also suffered through a night at the same motel. They shared some great cycling/travel tips for the Northwest and Brigitta gave us homemade nut & seed bread with fresh applesauce! It was the perfect fuel for our voyage across Glacier Park on the Going-to-the-Sun road.
The scenery was breathtaking. Christian & I say to each other, at least once a day, how happy and lucky we feel to be doing this trip of our dreams. The satisfaction and sublime happiness we felt upon reaching the top of the pass - Logan Pass on the Continental Divide at 6,646 ft and 2,025 m - was so emotional it suprisingly brought tears to my eyes. Or maybe it was just sweat.
And now the real fun began - 30 km of pure DOWNHILL!!!! Max speed of 56 km/h.
I wanted the downhill to last forever. The view from the valley wasn't half bad either.
Going-to-the-Sun road passes Lake McDonald where we caught illegal swimmers. Most likely European since they changed on the pebble beach.
Hopefully they didn't pee in the water since Christian drank it.
After a loooong day on the saddle, we found our way to the evening's Unterkunft in Columbia Falls. While researching potential routes for our trip, I came across warmshowers.org. Warmshowers is like couchsurfing, only it's exclusively for touring cyclists.