Well my blog has not been used much this year. I had a bug for about six weeks. (I hope it's OK to use the word "had" now. I've had a chronic sore throat, lack of energy and headaches, and I never get headaches. I've done an occasional ride now and then just to test myself but nothing that's been worth blogging.
In the meantime, I've had to take some jabs from Doug and Scott, particularly the ladder. Questions about whether or not I could ride a bike without training wheels, offering me the use of his moped for riding up hills, the kind of crap that I would have given him had the tables been turned.
The week starting July 5th, Carol and I did a touring trip with Trek Travel.
They have a route they like to do through Glacier. I did my best to rest for this trip and try to be well by the time it started. Well it was not to be. The night before in the hotel room in Whitefish, Montana I began to get ill again. I suffered from a very severe sore throat and to a lesser extent a headache. I took my medication to try and dull the pain and got a decent night's sleep. Also given that I had not been able to train for about six weeks, I was very concerned about being able to ride well with the group as I'd figured I'd lost a fair amount of conditioning (also gaining seven pounds).
Luckily, the first two days of riding were relatively easy. The first day we only did a small warm up ride of about 24 miles through some rolling hills. I figured over that short of a distance I would be ok. We started out together as a group and then we had a steep but fairly short climb. Next thing I know I'm right at the front of the group and hold that position all the way to the turn around point. I would have been glad that I was able to just keep up with the group given my lack of conditioning and ill health but I never expected to do this well the first day. I still felt like crap but I could hold my own.
Pic of Ken from Texas and behind and to the left is Angela. We three rode at the front most of the week.
The second day was an even shorter ride, an out and back ride up the mountain to a lake. I rode with Carol most of the way up. She'd been training fairly hard for our trip and did pretty well overall though she was feeling discouraged this day as the initial steep climb was bothering her but after it leveled out a bit she was did just fine. By the time we got to the top it was raining and it rained on us most of the way back down though not hard. Given the weather this was the best day of the week to do a short ride.
Carol and I by Cameron Lake.
I was not looking forward to the next day. We were scheduled to do about 70 miles with some significant climbing close to 4000 feet I believe. A miracle happened. I woke up Wednesday morning and felt great for the first time in a long time. I had developed a cough but the cough was helping me to get rid of some of the crap in my system finally. We had some super strong winds this morning so that put some fear in me but luckily over the first 35 miles or so it was predominantly tailwind.
This was the day we were going to climb up and cross back into the US. One of the neat things about living in the Lewiston, Idaho area is all the hills we have. Most of the rest of the country does not have these. All morning long people were really fretting the hills. I was too as I knew my conditioning was not great. I could not believe it though when into the first 1.5 hours of our ride we reached the highest point of our ride. We still had some climbing left but none of it was going to be very long or steep.
After cresting the peak, crossing back over the border I enjoyed some of the best cycling I've ever had the chance to do. We had a great road, twisty turny, nothing hard but a fun challenge and some rolling hills which again were not challenging because over all we were headed down hill. On top of this we had fantastic tailwinds pushing us.
After finishing the section of road and hitting the highway we had completeted the best part of the ride for the day. Once we hit the highway we had significant headwind most of the rest of the day. We turned off of the highway at one point to enter Glacier Park we rode our bikes back into Many Glacier Valley, at this point though the headwind was pretty awful. Carol rode right on my rear wheel while I pulled. It was hard to enjoy the beautiful scenery as we were fighting so hard. Over this ten miles stretch of road we must have only averaged 12 MPH at best. Once reaching Many Glacier our guides prepared for us a great lunch. Once lunch was finished it was time to go on to our hotel for the night. We turned around and headed back out the highway where the headwind was. This time we had a monster tailwind. Ken, Angela and I must have averaged in excess of 25 back out the highway. We still did not enjoy the scenery very well as were keeping our eyes on the road.
Once hitting the highway I waited for Carol as I knew she'd want me for drafting. Ken and Angela were off to beat each other up. I'm sure Carol was glad I waited. We had another ten miles to go to the hotel and it was tough rollers with a horrible headwind the whole way. The last three miles I was beginning to tire a bit. I had to teach Carol a bit about drafting. Much of the time when we ride together, I have to hold back for her, even when she is drafting. Sometimes though, I'm going a bit too slow and she tells me to speed up. Coming off of one of the hills she got going a bit faster me right before we started up the next roller, she yells to me "I'm braking" which means I'm supposed to go faster of course. My response was "this is all the fast, I wanna go." We were quite glad to get to the hotel and have some snacks. We had to rest up for the next day which was Highway to the Sun.
Again the whole group was a bit concerned about doing this big climb. We had ridden long and fought some bad winds the day before and were concerned about how we'd be able to handle the big climb. Our fears were not alleviated when we started on the "Going to the Sun Highway" and the headwind was just as bad as it had been the previous day. Our ride profiles that they had given us said we'd be doing over 5000 feet of climbing. The competitive part of me wanted to with the leaders going to the top, the husband part of me wanted to help Carol through the headwind. I did not know if I could do both. Carol drafted off of me the first several miles to the bottom of the hill. It worked out well as we stayed close to the leaders either slightly ahead or slightly behind. We still enjoyed the views however, stopping a few times for photos.
I pulled Carol the first two miles up the hill and then at one of the rest stops I left her to go chase down the leaders. We'd lost sight of them after we started climbing. They had several minutes on me so off I went.
I was surprised at how well I was riding. The average grade on this road was supposed to be about 6%, our local Spiral Highway averages about 5% I believe. Normally going up Spiral, my cruising speed on a decent day is 8-9 mph. Going up Highway to the Sun which was steeper I was cruising along at 9-10 mph and dropping down to 8 where the steeper sections were and the wind got strong. I had some help catching Angela. We both got stopped at some road construction, though she got to it well before I did, so that made it easier. I was a few cars behind her when they let us go. I zoomed by her and she let me know how she was not happy with the stupid traffic stop and that I never would have caught her had it not been for that. I think I had her anyway as I blew by putting a pretty good gap between her and me in only a few seconds. I stopped and took a few photos further up the road and she was still 100 meters back when I started again. I kept looking for Ken but could not find him, until finally I could see him resting at the other side of a tunnel we had to go through.
At the top, no one wanted to hang around for very long as it was very windy and a bit on the cool side. The descent was not as fun as it cold have been. There was a fair amount of road construction that slowed us and the traffic down. We could also go faster than the cars so we had to ride our brakes quite a bit. We could not pass the cars, in Glacier there is a $400 fine for a bike to pass a car. After awhile I got the idea to let all the cars go by and then to head down. This was a good idea and the descent was much more fun.
Once reaching the bottom we had just a few miles to go to reach our hotel for the evening. We rode along a river which gave some great views.
A view from going down the "Highway to the Sun".
Day 4, Thursday was our last significant ride of the trip. We rode from our hotel inside of Glacier back to Whitefish. A relatively flat 40 mile ride. We spent some time on highway 2 on this ride. I time trialed through all of the highway to get it done as quickly as possible. I was somewhat beat when we finally got to the park in Whitefish. Turns out they had a little surprise for me. That day was my birthday and then had scheduled a little party for me.
The gal to my left Leslie, also celebrated her 33rd birthday a few days before, so we shared the cake.
All in all it was a great trip. One of our fellow travelers crashed on our final day and had to spend time in the hospital but his long term prognosis appears to be good. Trek Travel took great care of us, if anyone is ever interested in doing one of their trips let me know.