Last time, I let you know I was excited to meet BOB - I'd always wanted to try him out. On the second day of our trip, I was totally smitten.
But I don't want to get ahead of myself. It wasn't all about BOB.
Finally, it was the real first day of our tour. The plan was to ride about 40 miles from Whitefish Bike Retreat to Apgar Campground in Glacier National Park. My first hurdle was actually making it out of Whitefish.
We had to follow Highway 93 for about seven miles from the retreat into town. It's a godawful stretch of road with narrow shoulders, lots of traffic, and, this summer, a construction zone. I didn't mind all of that so much. What really annoyed me was the fact that as I was going up one hill, Pali's chain started jumping all over the rear gear rings. Next thing I knew, the pedals wouldn't quit turning even when I was coasting. The tour had barely started and I already had technical difficulties!
Glacier Cyclery to the rescue. The guys as this fabulous little bike shop listened to my explanation, immediately took another bike off of a repair stand, and put mine right up. Within 10 minutes they'd removed the broken pie plate (the plastic guard that keeps you from over-shifting off the largest cog - it was jammed in behind the crankset), straightened my derailleur (the cause of the chain jumping), and sent me on my way. I had just long enough to choose a beer glass to add to my little collection. It's their lovely flower bed I'm posing on in the photo above. Once Mandy took care of her needs at the bike shop (a new mirror), we were off like a herd of turtles.
Our route out of Whitefish had us winding along rolling back roads past bucolic farmsteads. I was desperately missing Madeleine. The roads were all wonderfully paved, and riding a mountain bike seemed totally unnecessary. I do have to admit, though, that Pali's low gears were very welcome on many of the short, steep rollers.
Did I mention my new-found love for BOB? If you recall, I told you before that his name means Beast of Burden, a definite truism. Unfortunately, burdening BOB also means burdening the rider - me. Basically, BOB consists of a one-wheeled trailer that attaches to the rear axle on the bike and a big waterproof duffel bag. However much you can cram into that bag or strap on top of it is how much you can take with you. In reality, however, there's a limit to how much you'll want to tow, especially up hills. I'd packed as light as I possibly could have (I didn't carry anything that I didn't end up using), but I still figured I had nearly 35 pounds of personal stuff, group gear, and water. Add to that the 13 pounds that BOB (Yak model) weighs ,and I was towing almost 50 pounds over Montana's rolling terrain. I could see my quads getting bigger with every pedal stroke.
One of the highlights of the ride was an artesian spring about 25 miles out of Whitefish along North Fork Road. A 1-inch PVC pipe poked out of the hillside to provide some of the coldest, clearest water I've seen. Being a spring, we didn't have to worry about giardia or other parasites, so I immediately dumped the stale city water out of my bottles and filled them up with this ambrosia.
The spring wasn't all delights, however. For some reason, my derailleur chose this moment to start giving me fits again, even worse than before. Several of us were standing around staring at Pali flipped on her head (well, seat and handlebars anyway) trying to figure out what was wrong when Guide John pulled up. He immediately chastised me for having the audacity to turn a bike upside down, and the took her for a spin. Yes, the derailleur was bent again. He pulled it back into some semblance of alignment, cautioned me that it might still jump in the highest gears (the ones I'd need right before coasting, so no great loss), and suggested again that it should be replaced with a higher quality unit.
I was off and rolling, and climbing, again. Mandy and I were nearly the last ones into Apgar, but that was partly because we couldn't resist stopping for t-shirts at the gift shop at the entrance to Glacier National Park. I really wanted a photo of the entrance arch, too, but heavy traffic didn't make that a very palatable idea. I did, however, get a really cute tie-dyed shirt with moose on it.
Our delay worked to my benefit, however. There wasn't quite enough room in our large-group camp site for all of our tents to be on designated sand tent pads, so I got to set mine up on nice soft vegetation. The only downside was that I had to pick an assortment of slugs off my tent and groundcloth the next morning. Yuck.
Before the slugs, though, came an hour-long lightning storm during which we all huddled around a picnic table under a little tarp and drank wine - huckleberry (blech), cherry (better), and red (a shiraz, I think - mmmm). A walk to Apgar for huckleberry ice cream (yummy) followed. It was the height of huckleberry season, although I never had the chance to pretend I was a black bear and graze.
Full tummy, tired legs...my tent never looked so good.