20130915-164155.jpgGOING TO THE SUN HIGHWAY

Speaking of Virginia Bound, did I ever tell you about her? She was this girl I used to know……. Not really! The truth is we, the Chelan Travelers, are on the road to Virginia where we’re going to help our son, Nicholas, build his house.

We left Chelan, Washington on September 10. Tonight we’re in the tidy little North Dakota town of Granville on US 2 and the weather is perfect: sunny and 65 degrees. The smell of spiced apple cider is in the air. We are reminded of September 2006 when we rode a littler south of here on our cross-country bicycle ride. We think we love North Dakota but a long-time resident once tried to disabuse of us this fantasy when he asked us when we visited the state. We told him “September” whereupon he said “That figures. September is the only nice month in North Dakota. The rest of the year it’s either frozen or mosquito-ridden.” Still, we stubbornly cling to our fantasy.

Our first night on the road we stayed at a lovely little garbage dump just across the Montana border. Really. We were cruising down a country highway and on the lookout for a place to stay when I noticed a pull out and veered sharply into it. That’s when we noticed the twenty garbage dumpsters arranged in a semicircle to one side. A random assortment of locals pulled in at all hours to deposit their household garbage but we were upwind so it wasn’t that bad. After all, it met the most important condition for a camp site – it was FREE!

The next day we made it to Glacier National Park. We had big plans for exploring the park’s many trails but those were dashed by the park’s openly doggist (like racist but directed at dogs) policy of not allowing dogs on trails. Since Mary won’t leave Vera alone in the trailer, we were essentially grounded. I managed to salvage a modicum of the park’s bling by riding up the famous Going to the Sun highway on my mountain bike. The road is long and steep and blasted into the side of a cliff for most of its length. Climbing it on a bicycle is no small feat. In addition to the 3400-ft climb, bicycles are not allowed between 11AM and 4PM. Starting at 9AM I rode like a maniac but was several miles short of the summit when the clock struck eleven. Risking incarceration or worse, I kept going, managed to elude the authorities and topped the mountain a few minutes before noon. Mary picked me up in the truck. In fact, driving that highway is no small feat in a full-size pickup like our Dodge. There are many corners where the road is so narrow that Mary had to stop and let the uphill traffic pass. She also stopped and folded in the truck’s mirrors for fear of scraping them off – a not unwarranted fear; I saw several mirrors along the road on my way uphill.


As I already mentioned, we rode this route in 2006 so this trip has been heavy on the nostalgia for us. Countless times, we have been riding along when we shout things like “Look! There’s where we saw the drunken Indians!” or “There’s where we ate lunch under those trees!” We brought along a copy of my book about the trip, The Northern Tier, and Mary reads aloud the appropriate paragraphs as we drive through the little towns and lonesome highways of our long-ago ride.

From here, we plan to travel through northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan before heading southeast toward Virginia. We have two weeks to kill before Nicholas will be ready for us so we should have time to see the sights. I’ll try to keep y’all informed.