Day 8 – West Glacier to Shelby

This is part of a series of posts written during my cycle from Vancouver, BC to Minneapolis, MN in June 2013. For the most part I followed the Adventure Cycling Association’s ‘Northern Tier’ Route, but deviated where I saw fit. It was a great experience, read on to find out more…

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Yesterday’s unintentionally long day left me with a bit of a dilemma. I had planned a 100-mile day from Kalispell to Browning, going over the Rockies, then a short day from Browning to Shelby – which would put me in a good position to ride decent days to other towns across North Dakota and Minnesota. However, having done a long day into West Glacier, Shelby was now within reach – 130 miles (and a Continental Divide crossing) away.

In the end I decided to play it long — rather than set out with a target, I planned to ride to Browning then take stock. I had breakfast at the campground’s restaurant and was going by 8.30. This morning’s ride was beautiful; Route 2 skirted Glacier national park and I had awesome views of the mountains to distract me from the 3000ft climb up to Marias Pass. Having made it to the top I didn’t have a thrilling descent, but a slow, steady loss of altitude as the mountains began to recede into rolling plains. It was odd to see the flat lands after hundreds of miles of mountains – honestly, I’ve been enjoying the scenery so much I was reluctant to leave them behind.

I hit Browning at around 2.30 and ate a quick lunch of sandwiches bought the day before. The decision to push on was easy — Browning was a nothing town, just a few scattered buildings and a gas station. However, as I pedaled out of Browning into the plains, the wind picked up. It was changeable, a cross wind one second, a headwind the next, and it got stronger throughout the afternoon. I passed two other cyclists on the way to Shelby — a couple cycling across country who seemed to be suffering more in the wind that I was. We talked for a while on the side of the road, shouting over the roar of the wind; they had left the coast on June 2nd and were covering about 50 miles a day. I soon left them behind, eventually rolling into Shelby at 7.45.

First priority was to get a drink — the wind had completely dried me out — second was to find a campground. This was where my day took a turn for the worse. I found the campground no problem, but no sooner had I got my tent out than I was swarmed by mosquitos. I’ve never seen anything like it — the mosquitos were really bad when I was cycling in northern Norway, but nothing like this. After trying several different pitches I had no choice but to grab everything and ride away. I didn’t even pack my tent; I just shoved it under my arms and rode off. It was ridiculous, in the ten minutes I was there I must have been bitten over 50 times, each bite leaving a huge welt. I found the nearest motel and checked in — it was $40 for the night, but I’d have paid double that just to get away from them!

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