Glacier National Park bike tour, August 2001

Day 7: Apgar to Kalispell

The last day of a tour is always a mass of conflicting emotions: elation and pride from the accomplishment, disappointment from the impending end of the experience, and relief from having made it through. Soon annoyance was added to that, as I managed to lock myself out of my room.

We started the day slowly, getting breakfast at Eddie’s and imposing on innocent bystanders to take dozens of group pictures by the lake (poorly lit, unfortunately). My pace was slow; I didn’t want to hammer in to Kalispell and be done with the whole thing in 2 hours. We rode as a group through West Glacier, then Paul and Nancy went off the front. We had a pretty stiff headwind, and I hung back with Mark and Suzanne for a while, trying to resolve the question of the oxygen content of the air in bicycle tubes (does it increase or decrease over time? We didn’t come up with a definitive answer).

We all stopped at the gift shops in Hungry Horse to pick up our last-minute huckleberry items. (Taffy and fudge for me…mmm!) Paul took off before the rest of us, as his plane took off that afternoon. Nancy followed him, and the rest of us rolled out not long after.

I hung back with Mark and Suzanne for a while, then started working a little harder, and caught up with Nancy near the end of Whitefish Stage Road, on the outskirts of Kalispell. We missed a turn and briefly wound up on a very busy street, but quickly got back on the route’s back streets, and back to the Outlaw. Nola was already getting her bike set up on her own car–she and Julie both had to leave that evening for the next Timberline tour. Paul was already in and getting ready to leave also; we made a $1 bet on the Cal-Illinois game that day. (I lost, badly). Mark came in not long after me and Nancy, and Suzanne and Julie not long after that.

Most of us had lunch at a local pizza place, shared our stories and said our goodbyes. Julie saved my butt by taking my bike box to the airport before she hit the road–the thing never would have fit in the hotel shuttle or a cab. I hung out in a sports bar watching Cal get dismantled (the ugly beginning of an ugly 1-10 season), played a little video poker, then caught the hotel shuttle to the airport. While waiting for my flight, I managed to crash the airport’s Internet terminal. (They clearly had never heard of SSH in Kalispell).

Day 7 Totals
Average speed: 20.0 kph
Distance: 60.8 km
Climb 260 meters
Cumulative Totals
Average speed: 22.9 kph
Distance: 531 km
Climb 5144 meters

Conclusion:

It was an incredible trip. Logan Pass is the most memorable single day’s ride I’ve ever done. I’d like to come back to Glacier earlier in the year, when there is more snow and better waterfalls and wildflowers. The wildlife is amazing, and I’d like to come back and do some long hikes, hoping to have some wildlife encounters which aren’t quite so touristy. I would recommend Glacier to anyone looking for a bike touring experience–it’s better touring territory than even the California coast.

Timberline did a good job. But for my money, an expensive lodging tour shouldn’t have two throw-away days. It would have been nicer to get driven up to West Glacier or Apgar and do another day or two in Glacier or Waterton.

In general, supported lodging tours probably aren’t going to be my thing. They are fairly expensive for someone like me who is pretty comfortable planning tours on my own. But if you’re short on time and long on dough, it’s a great way to meet people and to view some of the best scenery you’ll ever see. (Scenery seen from car windows doesn’t count).

Despite needing something like 4000 calories a day while touring, I managed to gain a pound or two on the trip–one of the many benefits of lodge touring. Ride to eat, eat to live, live to ride!


Leave a Reply