Day 70 – Shelby, MT to Browning, MT – 60 miles
Our first task before leaving Shelby was a stop at the post office. As we contemplate the upcoming mountains, Jim sorted thru our panniers & pulled out a bunch of extra gear. We mailed nearly 5 1/2 lbs of gear back home. “Ounces countses!”
It is very hazy today with the forest fires burning in Canada and Washington. We could very faintly smell the smoke as we rode out of Shelby. It did impair our view though – we were told we would see the Rockies outside of Shelby, but not today! On that note, we are getting reports that the North Cascades Highway is closed due to fires – this is part of our route! I hope they get the fires put out soon!
We got to Cut Bank at about 11am (nice town!) & went to the Big Sky Cafe for lunch. We had planned on a short day today and a long day tomorrow, but it was such a beautiful day for riding that we started tossing around the idea of moving on to Browning or East Glacier. We knew there is plenty of elevation gains in the coming miles, so we weren’t sure how much to push ourselves. Then we took a look at the weather forecast, which is calling for a breezy day tomorrow. That prompted the decision to do a long ride today & short one tomorrow.
It was a nice ride afternoon for riding! After the initial climb out of a Cut Bank, the elevation gain seemed to be very slight & we were moving along on the prairie at a good clip. We met an eastbound rider, Kevin from Buffalo, NY who is riding from Vancouver Island to Washington, DC. We had a nice roadside conversation & exchanged tips on the road ahead. One thing Kevin said gave us some confidence, he said our climb to the Continental Divide won’t be bad at all, he said he had to pedal on “his” downhill side! That sounds like something we should be able to pedal up! (Especially with 5.5 less pounds 😉 ). Kevin is a nice guy & he seems to be having a great time. (Aren’t we all?!)
After we left Kevin, Shawn said to look out to the right, at about 2 o’clock – she was thinking she was seeing the mountains. And sure enough, snow capped, real deal mountains. This is the point where we will sound like real flat landers, but we both agreed that no matter how many times we see the mountains, the size, the grandeur, the height always impresses us. One more time we were impressed, but this time we will have the added thrill of crossing them on bike! Times like this bring the reality of this adventure to a head…WOW! We are really doing this!! The mountains approach!!
With 10 miles to go, it was as if someone flipped a switch & we had wind! This must be a common occurrence because there were road signs (with wind socks on them) warning of strong crosswinds. It felt like a headwind for us. Luckily, there was a good amount of downhill that eased our pain.
Happy (stray?) dogs! Lots of loose dogs in Browning – saw these same dogs in the morning too!