8.12.11 Day 51 Giancarlo and the Glacier
Long ride to Glacier National Park today. I think the mileage is in the 400s or so. My ride there is pretty uneventful, just lots of backroads up to the interstate. There didn’t seemed to be many people on the road in the area so I cruised right along at 80-85 for most of the morning. Got on I-90 for an hour or two before getting back off to take backroads the rest of the way into GNP. Riding through the backroads in the middle of nowhere in Montana is great for scenery and good riding, but sometimes I have no idea when Ill be able to get gas again. You ride in areas that are just completely desolate and as my fuel consumption gauge ticks off the numbers, the slower I start riding and the more my brain starts freaking out. I havnt seen a car in ages so if I run out of gas here, I might be pushing for a long long time.
Signs for the next town are a welcome site, but then we you get to mileage indicated, its just the road that leads into the town with no gas stations any near. Nothing to do but keep moving. Then out of nowhere, I see a sign for a gas station and with only .2 of a gallon left, it’s a very welcome sign. I pull off the main road and head into the small town. At first, I don’t see the gas station so I start to get worried again, but off in a little corner is a single pump next to some lodge. The only fuel they have available is 93 which is odd for this small town. After fueling up, I keep making my way towards Glacier. Another hour or so down the road I come across the last town before the park so I figured I would fill up again and get some lunch. The only restaurant in the area is the Silver Bullet which is a bar and grill type place. This place looks interesting, there is a camo painted van in the parking lot along with tons of other huge trucks. I should fit in just fine. As soon as I walk in, silence. People at the billiards table stop and look up, the bartender stops wiping the glass and everyone else just stops and looks as I squeak my way to the bar. Im not sure I own a big enough cowboy hat to be in here. I feel a little out of place, but whatever, I just need food. I sit down and the bartender just looks at me. “Ya need something?” he asks.
“Yeah, how about a menu?”
He reluctantly hands me a menu and I quickly pick something and order. Burger and fries. Should be nice and quick and also cheap if I need to make a quick getaway. Everybody returns to their activities after a few minutes. I get my food and inhale it and make my way out the door before anyone tries to put a six shooter to my back. Back on the road to Glacier. Theres still a long way to go so I just keep racking up miles. Small town after small town. I see a couple of other riders but I just need to keep moving. I finally pull into Glacier and ask about campgrounds. Apparently there is only one campground with vacancy and its right inside the gate so I make my way there first and pick out a spot. After dropping off my bags, I return to pay for the site. As Im filling out my info, a guy on a KLR pulls up and we start talking. We decided to share the campground since its $20, which is double of most parks. We both unpack and throw up our tents. Giancarlo is from Santa Rosa, CA and is taking a few weeks to ride around Canada and maybe head towards Alaska. We chat for a bit while setting up then decided to go ride the Going to the Sun road that goes through Glacier National Park. We are leaving a bit late in the day so we will more than likely be riding back in the dark. The first couple miles just looks like any other forest, but then you start getting some pretty amazing views of snow capped mountains and ice fed waterfalls. As the road goes up the mountains, the views become even more fantastic and we stop often for pictures. Its another one of those places where its impossible to ride through without stopping multiple times. There is some road construction so we have to ride through miles of gravel and rough terrain. Easy enough for his KLR but the sport bike doesn’t like it too much, especially with the high amount of preload I have dialed into the rear damper. At the peak of the pass, Logan’s Pass, we stop again to rest and take a few pictures. There is a herd of Bighorn Sheep right near the visitors center and on the road so we hang out and watch for a second on the bikes. Its so stereotypical of what you hear about bighorn sheep. They were just grazing and occasionally, out of nowhere, a couple of them would start fighting and ramming their horns into each other. After a few minutes, it was time to hit the road, its already 8pm at this point and we still had a few miles left of the road. We also made plans to have dinner at the restaurant near our Apgar campground and they closed at 9. We go down a few more miles through construction then stop at the first overlook which had glacier markings. We weren’t sure if this was actually our first glacier sighting or not. What’s the difference between this particular patch of ice and the others we saw?
After the look at our first glacier, it was time to turn around. I wanted to continue through the last couple of miles but knew there was no way we would make it to the restaurant before it closed it we did. After crossing back over Logan’s Pass, we both shut off the engines on our bikes and coasted the whole way back down the mountain. With no earplugs in, all I could hear was the whizzing of the brakes, the slapping of the chain and the rushing of the water down the mountainsides. I’ve come a long way to see ride this road so I took my time coasting down and savored every last view. From here to Seattle, there would not be a whole lot to see. Basically just two days of interstate so I enjoyed this as much as I could.
At the bottom of the mountain, I finally clicked it into gear and started up the bike. We arrived at the restaurant 5 minutes before it closed and asked the hostess if it was okay. She said it was fine, it happened every night at the park. After we got seated, I/ went next door to the store and bought some firewood and water for the evening. Dinner was so so, I had the barbeque chicken with the huckleberry sauce. Huckleberry seems to be a big deal in this area so I figured I’d give it a go. I couldn’t tell a difference between this bbq sauce and any other. Giancarlo got the roasted chicken and it looked just like fried chicken from KFC. Any visitors to Glacier should just avoid the restaurant at Apgar. The Moose Drool Ale, however, was quite tasty.
Back at the campsite, I started up the fire and we settled in for the night. We shared a few ride stories and ride plans. Giancarlo was heading over the border the next day into Banff. Ive heard the area around Banff is amazing and the Ice Fields Parkways supposedly blows GNP out of the water but unfortunately, its not part of my route this year. I couldn’t fit it into the schedule with having to fly in and out of seattle for work. Maybe next time when I do my Prudhoe Bay to Ushuaia ride.
Giancarlo turned out to be a really cool guy. He’s somehow I could definitely ride with and hang out with for a while. He even bought our dinner. Its funny to think about the chance meetings on the road. You wonder about the “butterfly effect.” If I hadn’t stopped at that cowboy bar, or the last overlook to lube the chain and remove some layers, would I have chosen that campground? If I hadn’t dropped off my bags at the campsite first, which I normally don’t do, would I have seen Giancarlo pull up to the drop boxes? He was just another rider on a KLR, what possessed me to talk to him for so long and offer to share my campsite? Who know, sometimes you just get a feeling I guess.
At some point, I asked Giancarlo if he read much. I just finished reading one of my books called “A Walk Across America” by Peter Jenkins. For some reason, I just had a feeling he would like this book so I thought I would pass it on. The first couple of pages are missing from me tearing them out to start campfires but he thought it was hilarious and said the book has a story and character. When I handed it to him, I told him when he finished with it, to pass it on to the next motorcycle traveler he met. Then I had this brilliant or stupid idea to date and sign the book. The motorcycle community can be a small world and I thought I might see this book again one day. How cool would that be?
Tonight, I was that guy keeping up the neighbors. It was pretty late before we turned in and I could hear Giancarlo turning the pages in the book as I drifted off.