David Freeze: My first day out of the mountains

Published 12:05 am Saturday, June 24, 2017

Editor’s note: Salisbury native David Freeze is cycling from Anacortes, Washington, to Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Post is chronicling each day of his ride. Contact him at david.freeze@ctc.net.

It was cold Thursday night! The low was 37 degrees and a reminder that just a year ago, I was experiencing heat as high as 117 degrees in the Mojave Desert.

Nothing nearly that warm on this year’s ride.

My night in East Glacier was quite nice. There are two parts of town separated by about a mile, with one being the regular town and the other part full of cabins, a big lodge, trendy restaurants and a hostel.

I stopped at a bakery and got some wonderful cookies and a brownie and had a veggie burger at the Whistle Stop Restaurant. It was surprising that they don’t put anything on the burger but I should have asked.

The hostel gave the whole trendy area an international flavor.

My waitress at the restaurant didn’t seem to speak English, and lots of others in the area are from other countries.

The best thing about the evening was my cabin at Jacobson’s. It had everything including a helpful owner and his wife.

I had been trying to find a regular Montana map since I entered the state and nobody seems to have one. The owner’s wife confirmed that there is a shortage of them.

The cabin and most of the little area had a great panoramic view of the Glacier Mountains.

Out early again Friday, I jumped back on State Road 2 and started pedaling east. There were some hills early, but on the way up one of them I spotted a sizable herd of buffalo. They seemed to be watching the traffic and wading in a marshy area. Like me, others had stopped to take photos.

This whole area is part of the Blackfeet Indian Nation. Browning was the next town and was listed as the tribal center of a certain segment of the Blackfeet tribe. I got two burritos with egg, potato and cheese from Taco John’s and hope to see that franchise again.

About the time I left Browning, a gentle headwind started. It was still cold, and I kept all my clothes on, including heavy mittens.

A tandem bike with Dave and Joanne Ryan of Seattle pulled beside me, and it was fun to talk with them because they have taken the summer off to pedal across the country as part of their 45th anniversary celebration. Joanne said their kids are tracking them every day, and we all talked about how harrowing it is to ride through parts of Glacier. In fact, the Ryans have put a 3-foot flag on the side of their bike to remind drivers to stay that far away.

The Ryans pedaled off, making better time than me with their four legs. I hope to see them again and thought I might catch them before the day was done but did not.

The next town was Cut Bank, billed as the junction between the Rockies and the plains. Honestly, I am ready for some flat plains, which I did get a taste of Friday. Cut Bank also is part of the Blackfeet Indian Nation.

The next town and the place where I would spend Friday night after 74 miles is Shelby, Montana. It seems to be a BNSF Railway junction and was popular during the cattle driving days of the 1860s through the 1880s. Cowboys used to say that they could drive the cattle from Shelby to North Dakota without cutting a fence. With the exception of the land controlled by Indians, the plains were a giant common pastureland.

Some of you who have followed my trip have probably noticed that I am not headed for Canada. Since I could not go through Glacier Park on the main road, the southern alternate made a nearly impossible ride to get to Canada and enter it in one day because of a lack of motels or campgrounds.

The Adventure Cycling maps called for spending just one night in Canada and more riding through less inhabited areas. I decided to pass up my second venture into Canada for this year and am going to explore other options, including going into Nebraska, a state that I have yet to visit.

My total number of states cycled should increase before the end of this trip. Nebraska could be a previously unplanned bonus since I will be so close when in South Dakota. More details on this in the next few days.

Saturday looks to be a very challenging day. Finding a good place to stay with WiFi doesn’t give many options, except for a short day or a very long one.

I see that I will be pedaling beside the railroad, which makes me cautiously optimistic. Most of the little towns that I pass through are very small, all fewer than 256 if they are even large enough to have a population figure. Hopefully a good tailwind develops during the day.

I will let you know how all that goes when I see you again Sunday.