Day Three - September 5, 1997

The Great Divide

Kalispell, Montana - Havre, Montana

279 miles -- 5:30 driving time   Kalispell - Havre (36025 bytes)


The overnight temperatures in Kalispell dropped to 41 degrees, so by the time we got up and outside it was all of 54 degrees. Now, for your basic northwest outdoorsy type, this means shorts and a polar fleece jacket and sandals. For motorcyclists, 54 degrees means bring on the layered thermal clothing. I started with jeans over thermal longjohns over bicycle shorts, then a thermal long-sleeve shirt, a turtleneck, a polar fleece jacket. And over all of this, my full body Aerostitch suit. Then, thermal gloves. I'm already heating up just standing there. In fact, I feel like a little kid bundled up in a snowsuit. Mark is dressed similarly. We know that we are wearing every bit of riding clothes that we have with us, and it's only 54 degrees. We leave Kalispell, headed for Glacier, and we need every bit of this clothing. In fact, I'm wishing that I had thermal socks. We hope it doesn't get any colder than this.

There's something about actually being somewhere that helps you understand names given to highways and towns. Today's lesson has to do with 'Going To The Sun Road'. Basically, I am certain that the people who named this road did so because you are in the shadows of the mountains for way too long, so you can't wait to get to the sun and get warm. I checked the keychain thermometer I have dangling from my suit and it says 50! It's getting colder.

Glacier National Park is full of tourists enjoying Montana's beauty. GTTS Road is a pretty, winding two-lane highway that meanders all the way up to Logan Pass. The speed limit is 40, but of course we're loafing along behind endless cars going 25. The only difference between a Disney ride where you sit in the little cars moving along the tracks and look at the exhibits and Glacier National Park is that here, you get to ride in your own car, and you get to steer too! We finally get the peak, where there is a big lodge and people seem to get off the road. Fortunately, the ride down from Logan Pass is much quicker.

Logan Pass

Logan Pass in Glacier National Park

At Logan, we are at the Continental Divide, which is the dividing line for water. From this point snow melting off the mountains goes into rivers flowing either east or west. We are tempted to test this theory but there are too many tourists around. We meet two Canadian two-wheelers, a motorcyclist from Vancouver and a bicyclist from Calgary. The bicyclist is on a 5-week trip, and he has four saddlebags (two in front, two in back). And I thought I was lightly loaded.

We have lunch in Cut Bank at the Golden Harvest Cafe. The specials today are goulash ($4.95) or tuna melt with soup or salad ($3.95). We both go for the tuna melt.

An enjoyable aspect of traveling the back roads is the signs that greet you as you arrive in each small town. In an effort to be memorable, each town proclaims its claim to fame, like "home of the state basketball champs 1983". We pass through Shelby, whose differentiating feature is that the 1923 heavyweight title fight between Jack Dempsey and Tommy Gibbons was fought here, a 15-round decision closer than it should have been.

I learned today that having a butterfly smash into your face is far less traumatic than a beetle, or whatever armed insects were performing their last kamikaze run on me.

Thanks to everyone sending encouraging mail. Several of you have asked about our motorcycles. I'll handle this in Q&A format.

Q: Tell us about your motorcycles.

A: I am driving a 1997 Harley-Davidson Road King. It is a beautiful black and chrome machine with leather saddlebags, and lots of gold and chrome accents. It is a relatively new bike within the Harley family, introduced in 1994, designed for comfortable touring. There is very little vibration at crusing speeds, and it's very quiet as well. For as much of a Honda snob as Mark is, he has been very complimentary about the performance and styling of my bike.

Q: What about Mark's bike?

A: It's red.

At dinner this evening we discussed the difference in driving in a state without speed limits. Rather than having everyone bunching up at the posted limit, or play a game trying to get by just a little bit over the limit, people go the speed they feel comfortable with. Apart from the occasional lunatic, it actually does a good job of separating out the traffic.

We had Chinese food for dinner. My fortune: "You will be the guest of a gracious host." Carl, are you listening?

Tomorrow - our last day in Montana.

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