August 23-24, 2007, Thursday-Friday

Whitefish, Montana


August 23, 2007, Thursday

Both Kerie and I have dreamed of riding the famous Going to the Sun Road. Putting together our own tour of the area is possible but this year we chose to ride with Bicycle Adventures. They sponsor the Glacier-Banff-Jasper tour in the summer. I have vague memories of the park, having driven through many years ago. Bicycling is by far the best way to see most any place, especially a scenic road through a park with spectacular scenery.

As soon as we decided that this was the year we would ride through Glacier National Park, we heard about road construction on Going to the Sun Road and forest fires nearby. Now that we are here the fires seem to have subsided. While there is road construction. the road is open and there are short delays while waiting for the one-way traffic to pass.

Today we flew into Kalispell with a plane full of other cyclists. To our surprise there is another cycling group here at the Grouse Mountain Lodge. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is sponsoring a century ride on Saturday and most of the riders arrived today. Bikes are everywhere so ours fit right in. Once we got settled into our room we put together the bikes and grabbed dinner here at the hotel. The place seemed deserted since the diabetes cyclists ate a catered dinner under a tent next door to the hotel, leaving us by ourselves in the outdoor dining area as we watched golf balls bounce off the patio from the adjacent golf course.

Tomorrow we plan to ride into the town of Whitefish, possibly stopping by Glacier Cyclery and then heading out for a ride in the countryside. We may follow the route of one of the diabetes rides along Whitefish Lake, a 20+ mile out and back.

August 24, 2007, Friday

Being a creature of habit makes it difficult to change time zones. I was awake at around 4 am Mtn time and dosed off and on until we finally got out of bed at around 8 am. The description of Loula's Cafe in a local tourist brochure sounded interesting, so we packed up for the day's ride and pedaled less than a mile into Whitefish and breakfast at Loula's. This being Montana and not Virginia, there was a bike rack right outside the cafe. The cafe is located partly below street level. It's filled with local fabric artwork in a cosy atmosphere. We tried the specialty, lemon stuffed French toast with raspberry sauce, and the Yuppy omelet. The omelet was good, and the French toast was excellent. The herbal tea came with an extra pot of hot water. Highly recommended.

Before we started the ride I wanted to pick up some White Lightning chain lube. Although I can get it at cost back at the shop, it contains alchohol which can't be packed in luggage. Glacier Cyclery, located next to Loula's, is a full service shop in a spacious location with a patio on the side. They publish a page-size map of local routes with descriptions on the back (the route descriptions are also available online). We planned to follow the Whitefish Lake route. As we left the shop we noticed the diabetes riders out for their 5 mile tune-up ride so we joined them. They followed a paved path across the railroad tracks which allowed us to avoid Baker St and the heavily traveled bridge to the north of town.

Grouse Mountain LodgeLoula'sDiabetes riders at Whitefish Lake

As we left the diabetes route to head north to the lakeshore ride I noticed two riders following us. They were in for a much longer ride until we redirected them back to their route.

Wisconsin Ave. north of town turns into E. Lakeshore Dr. It's a busy road with a narrow shoulder until just past the road to Big Mountain Resort. We turned onto Big Mountain Road and climbed for a couple of miles until we ran into road construction where we turned around.

Large home on Whitefish Lake
After the Big Mountain turnoff the shoulder widened and there was much less traffic. Lakeshore Dr. ends just past the north of Whitefish Lake which keeps down any through traffic. The lake is lined with mega homes with several under construction. At the northern tip there are several horse ranches and pricey vacation homes. We stopped and watched several horses chase after some deer who were encroaching on their pasture.

Along the way we passed and were passed by a woman pulling a BOB trailer. She was also riding the out and back route and getting a good workout. There were several diabetes riders out for a pre-century ride on the same route. There was a short climb near the end of the ride but it was mostly flat.

MacKenzie River Pizza Co.
Whitefish is an interesting small town, with several restaurants, a couple of bookstores, coffee shops, a hardware store, large library, art galleries and other interesting places. There were also many small bars which seems to be characteristic of small, cold-in-the-winter northern towns. We enjoyed a delicious pizza at MacKenzie River Pizza Co., topped with artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and slivered almonds. A couple of leftover pieces served as our appetizer before a light dinner back at the hotel.

Tomorrow we start the official tour at 8:30 am. The most difficult part so far is packing our day bag for the next two days. Because the van with trailer cannot go over Logan Pass (it exceeds the 21 foot length restriction), our luggage will be taken to the next night's motel, Many Glacier Lodge. Hence we won't have access to the luggage and need to plan what to wear tomorrow night and the next day as we ride over Logan Pass. We're hoping for good weather, but it could be cold and rainy so all the rain gear is packed just in case, along with regular shoes, shaving kit, etc. So much for traveling light.

Here is a list of hotels on the tour: