My other cycle tours have been international, totally self-contained, with two other cycling companions, so I'm looking forward to this group-cycling experience. I love Montana, cycle touring, and camping; Bike Centennial has put together my ideal domestic tour - a sag-supported cycling adventure for 50, beginning in West Glacier, MT, over Going To The Sun Highway/Logan Pass in Glacier Park, down the east side of the Rockies to Yellowstone Park, out through the Cooke City entrance of Yellowstone, over Beartooth Pass, ending in Red Lodge, MT, eight cycling days, two rest days and 600 miles later.
The idea of beginning a cycling trip with a malfunctioning, or worse - a trashed bike - is at the top end of my "life stress points" list. In the homey baggage claim area, Gordon and I watch our bikes come off the plane with "This Side Up" arrows pointed straight down!
As we check into the KOA camper cabin we decide to share, hauling the large bike boxes across the wet gravel, few other cyclists are about. A dark green touring bike with four red panniers is propped against a table in the covered patio area. The owner says he's tenting and waiting for the drizzle to abate. Another woman pedals in, and a tall gray-haired woman in a van looks as if she might be part of our group.
We unpack our bikes on the cabin porch. Both bikes deplane without so much as a scratch! Careful packing has paid off.
It rains sporadically all night. Gordon is up and out at 6 a.m. for a bike ride to Lake McDonald. I decline his invitation to accompany him. It's DARK out. He's still on eastern time, while I'm somewhere between pacific and mountain time. Our tour begins tomorrow and I plan a day of relaxation.
Later, sorting my gear, I notice that around Rufus' neck, my teddy bear mascot which has ridden shotgun on all of my tours, is a shiny chrome bell on a leather tie. A bear bell! Gordon picked it up on his ride today and bejeweled Rufus. The question: "Is this a bell to fend off, or attract, kin?" Folks gather. I check in and am given one of the purple Bike Centennial t-shirts with a terrific logo designed specifically for this ride; our yellow safety reflector triangle; packets of trail mix; route map; and learn that Angel Rodriguez (of Rodriguez bike fame) and Carla Black will be riding with us on their shiny tandem. Angel has volunteered to do evening bike maintenance for those in need.
As I look about, I see a wondrous cross section of cyclists. We appear to range in age from late 20's to mid-60's; there seems to be a nice balance of males to females; some bikes are out-of-the-box new to touring while others look to have been through thousands of touring miles, grime permanently affixed to frame; some bodies look sinewy and strong, ready to race up the nearest peak, while others look less able. Most are smiling. Our diverse group includes lawyers and judges, medical professionals, high techies, low techies, educators, entrepreneurs, consultants, folks in the public sector, a writer or two, a pilot, and more. We have converged from as far away as Connecticut, Florida, California, and places in-between.
Chuck, the red panniers' owner, says his tent is wet from the rain and he's looking for a dry place to sleep. Gordon offers accommodation and Chuck moves his gear onto our top bunk. We have created our own youth hostel.
A video of Glacier National Park, our first park and first peak, is shown after dinner, plus the opportunity to get better acquainted with our fellow cyclists. Steve (Bike Centennial staff) gives a presentation of tomorrow's route, extolling the importance of being over Logan Pass by 11 a.m., as the road is closed to cyclists from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. If not over the summit by 11 a.m. the rangers may ticket you and sag you up (if you are lucky), or sag you back to Lake McDonald (the beginning). We are strongly encouraged to leave by 6 a.m.