May 28, 2012
Livingston, MT – Cardston, AB: 378mi
“What an amazing day. I feel humbled. So much can happen in one day. So much ground covered. The earth seems so vast, yet the world so small.” (Journal excerpt)
Getting started in the morning didn’t look good. There were winter weather alerts in Livingston and the entire surrounding area. I debated on just taking the interstate into Canada but I really preferred to take a scenic route.
89 goes through the Lewis and Clark National Forest all the way to Great Falls. Then it turns Northwest towards Glacier National Park before hitting the Canadian border. This was the way I wanted to go so I called #511 for road conditions.
Although it was 28 degrees and they were calling for more snow all day, the roads were open and clear. They were only wet. I decided to take the risk and head out while it was only sprinkling with freezing rain in Livingston.
As I was packing up the bike I noticed an older man staying in the room next to mine. He was curiously watching me from the window as I came in and out of my room loading up the bike. He moved to the doorway and stood there staring with a perplexed look on his face.
I was starting to feel uncomfortable. Without my gear on I was only wearing my under-armor. I was starting to think this guy was a creep. Just as I was warming up the bike he finally asked me, “Did you really ride all the way from Virginia?”
When I told him yes he just shook his head dumbfounded. “And you’re doing it alone?” I hesitated to answer that. When I nodded he shook his head again, this time with a smile. He went back into his room watching me from the window with a concerned face and half a smile as I put on my gear and left.
When I got into the Lewis and Clark Forest the rain had turned to snow. Visibility was tough through my visor. I had flurries coming inside my helmet tickling my eyes. The ground was covered and the spruce trees were dusted with white. It was a mental challenge seeing all that snow. But the roads were only wet with just a few areas of slush that were easy to avoid. I went slowly and it was a gorgeous drive.
This was the coldest day of my trip. I was thankful to have my heated gloves. They saved my life. There’s no way I could have ridden without them. However, when I was just 50 miles from Great Falls, I noticed my hands were getting cold and the gloves were no longer warm. Disappointed and concerned my new gloves were already broken, I stopped at a Harley Davidson dealer in Great Falls.
I had a few stares from a group of Harley riders as I rolled in. They were decked out in all their chains and leather. I started unpacking the bike to access the plug for my gloves on the battery that was under the seat. I thought it was the charger to the plug that needed to be replaced. But when a tech came out to help me, he realized it was the blade fuse on the plug that had failed.
Thankfully it was a cheap easy fix and I even had the fuse with me. I think it was a 10amp, which was strong enough for charging my Droid. But the tech suggested if I was using the heated gloves to go with a stronger fuse. I think we put in a 12amp.
Before I left the Harley dealer I was packing up the bike when the manager came out. He had a big grin and said, “I hear you’re on your way to Alaska, and by yourself too!” He was eager to know my story, where I started, where I had been, which way I was going. Just before I left he chuckled, “You’re way braver and tougher than any of those Harley riders that’s for sure.” That put a smile on my face the rest of the day.
“Rode out of Great Falls still on 89. Was AMAZING. It stopped raining. The sky was blue. And Glacier was magnificent. Seeing Glacier was just epic. I felt like I was dreaming. It was humbling, the magnitude of those mountains. The road twisted and turned at the base through aspen forests and streams. Coming through the north side into Alberta all the trees were dead, from beetles I think. It was surreal and eerie seeing all the skeleton trees backed by blue and white tremendous peaks.” (Journal excerpt)
Crossing the border was quick and easy. I was so excited when I got there. When I stopped at the booth I threw my hands up and yelled, “I can’t believe I’m here!” The officer kept a straight face probably thinking I was a stupid kid. All he said was “Take your helmet off.”
My hair was everywhere as if I had climbed out of tumbleweed. He asked me a few questions about why I was coming to Canada and how long I was going to be there. I told him I was just passing through on my way to Alaska and he just handed my passport back with a blank face and said, “Welcome to Canada.” Thanks eh!
I rode to the next town of Cardston through a vast area of green hilly pasture. At this point my Droid was no longer able to search for campgrounds so I pulled out the Milepost and found Lee campground. When I pulled up the camp host was sweeping the porch of the office. I was so excited when I got there I just yelled, “I made it!” He chuckled and said, “You been a long way eh?”
When I was setting up my tent I saw an elderly couple walking by. I could see the man squinting at my license plate. “Where is VA?” he asked me. When I told him Virginia he looked at his wife with big eyes. They were staying there for the summer in their RV and invited me up for hot chocolate.
It was a nice evening sitting around a fire and talking to them about my trip. They were very kind and offered me food. They were comforting to be around and made me feel at home. I was surprised when I went back to my tent it was 10:00 and still light outside. It didn’t get dark until 10:30.
Sleeping in my tent was pleasant. It was only the second time I got to use it so far. There was light rain overnight which made for peaceful sleeping. I hoped the weather I went through in WY and MT was the worst I would see. All I could think of was what an epic first week of riding. After hard rain, strong winds, unpaved roads, and snow I felt as if that was my “bootcamp” for the trip. After all that, how much worse could it really get?
“Saw three hawks today. I can’t help but feel Dan is with me and following me on this journey. I miss him and want him to be proud of me.”