One day in spring 2001, when the days were bright and fragrant and the rides were long and liberating, my buddy John mailed me with the suggestion that we get together for another bike tour. We’d ridden together once before, an unsupported credit-card trip down the California coast from San Francisco to LA. This time, John suggested, we should do a supported camping tour. He was trying to save up for a new house, so he wanted to save money, but he also didn’t have the time to plan a trip on his own.
We had to decide where, when, and who.
Because we were trying to keep it relatively inexpensive, Europe wasn’t really an option. We didn’t want to re-hash the California coast, though we briefly considered a ride from points north down to San Francisco. Ultimately we rejected that due to the lack of a suitable starting location–we didn’t have time to ride down from Portland or Seattle, and getting to Eureka is a hassle.
John lives in New Jersey and has ridden many of the East Coast options, so we focused our attention on the Western states. A tour starting at the Grand Canyon and riding through southern Utah sounded interesting, and there were a number of other Utah options. Yellowstone has some extra cachet, and there should be some great photography opportunities in the areas burned by the great fires of 1998. We also looked at Adventure Cycling’s large “Cycle Montana” tour. But after reading all the descriptions of the tours available, we settled on Glacier National Park as the most picturesque and compelling place to do some riding. John had heard great things from friends who had ridden the Going-To-The-Sun Road, and Glacier also seemed the place with the greatest density of wildlife viewing.
Both of us are busy guys, so it was difficult to find a week that worked. We went back and forth on weeks in June and July, and eventually had to push it into late August. Well, it turns out that there aren’t a lot of supported tours offered in late August in Glacier, and we weren’t able to find any camping tours at all. In fact, there was only one lodging tour that fit our schedule and our riding goals, which are on the high end of the typical supported tours (300+ total miles, 50+ mile days, significant climbing). So we wound up settling on Timberline Adventure’s Glacier Park Alpiner.
Or, at least, I settled on it. Because it was a lodging tour, it was quite a bit more expensive than John was prepared for, and after hemming and hawing for a month or two, he eventually decided he couldn’t make it. I’d already gotten pretty psyched up about the idea of a tour, so I stayed in, paid the extra $300 for not having a roommate, and prepared for the trip, August 26th to September 2nd, 2001, beginning and ending in Kalispell, Montana.
I had to decide whether to rent a bike from Timberline or bring my own. I wanted to carry a tripod for wildlife and panoramic shots, so I decided to go with my own bike, because I could figure out how I was going to carry it while I was still at home. I have a large Jandd rear rack, and the tripod fit nicely laying across it in front of a Blackburn rack trunk. Heavy baggage was not needed due to the ever-present sag wagon.
What follows here is a day-by-day report of my trip experiences, illustrated with photos taken with my Fuji FinePix 4900Z.