Tuesday, July 15, 2014

wed & thurs, july 2 & 3, 2014: glacier national park

Wednesday & Thursday, July 2 & 3, 2014: Glacier National Park

Glacier Nat'l Park is essentially a north-south mountain range with highways up either side and several roads that run up the drainages.  Here you can see I was camped at one and rode to another...and back.

Most of the same terrain on this ride...but instead went up the Many Glacier drainage, which was very pretty, by the way, and highly recommended.
A mandatory shot.

Glacier National Park.  It's still a bit of a surprise to me that I haven't been here before.  I've been to a lot of places, a lot of parks, but never here.  And I'm scared of bears.  Really.  I mean, it's the only place you hear about bear attacks.  And they have grizzlies here.  And while I know the odds of actually experiencing any sort of incident with a bear--or a grizzly bear--are super low, it's the unpredictability of these big dudes.  If we were to fight, the bear would win.  This realization makes me uneasy.

Though I'm not scared of bears when riding my bike.  On the road.  So I put in some quality road miles.  (And they don't allow off-road riding in the park anyway, so that wasn't an option.)

But let me back up a bit.  Our original plan for the westward leg of our trip was to head northwest from Minneapolis and into Canada, run west along the Trans-Canadian Highway to southern Alberta, then south into Glacier.  Thus, weeks ago, we did our due diligence and got Audrey (16) a passport (kids under 16 only need a birth certificate).  What we did not do, however, was check the parents' passports.  No problem with Valerie's, but mine had expired.  Fourteen months ago.  And we discovered this about 14 minutes before leaving Shippensburg.

We changed our plans.  We'd head west (Go West!) from Minneapolis, through North Dakota (staying a night in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, a gem we discovered two summers ago), then take the northern route through Montana to Glacier, make camp, sleep the night, and then Valerie and the kids would head north to Canada for the original rendezvous with Valerie's friend and old roommate, and I'd stay another night in the park, without car, but with bikes.

So I had Wednesday to myself.  And wanted a nice long, hard ride.  I got it.

I'm told the route across the park, the only route across the park, over the Road-to-the-Sun, is a cyclist's must-do.  I'm sure the road offers spectacular views.  But June snowstorms closed the road and, from the east side, the road was only open 13 miles.  Bummed, but still anxious to get a taste of the road, I left the Two Medicine campground in the south end of the park and headed for the Road-to-the-Sun.

Well, you can see the profile...  The east-west roads in the park, those that run along the glacial lakes, are remarkably flat, pleasant affairs.  But getting from one drainage to the next requires an effort.  And from Two Medicine to the Road-to-the-Sun requires the effort of climbing over five ridge lines for nearly 3,500' of climbing.

A shot of US 89...from the side of US 89.  Super fun, twisty road.  With lots of climbing.

But what a beautiful road!  And lovely climbs!  I'm generally not keen on highway riding, but this was really nice.  In part, I think, because the roads were pretty twisty, keeping traffic going slower--slow enough on the descents for me to comfortably exceed their speed.  And of course the view to the west was full of glacier-carved (bear-infested) alpine grandeur and the view to the east wasn't too bad either.

On the Road-to-the-Sun

Park road construction.  Only 13 miles of the Road-to-the-Sun was open, I rode nine, only the first five of which was paved.  After I waited about five minutes to make it through this roadblock I just turned around and went back.

One of the things I love about the old national parks is that they are just as much a monument to the turn of the (20th) century leisure ideal as they are places of preservation.  Visiting Old Faithful I'm more in awe of the Old Faithful Lodge than I am of the geyser.  Glacier is full of this stuff.  It's lodges and hotels and "motor inns" are just awesome.

Many Glacier lodge.  I'd love to come back here and stay a few nights in the hotel.  Sans kids.
The lodge in East Glacier.  The railroad passes just below here, and the railroad company built the hotel to promote the park and thus increase rail usage.  Glacier was being called "America's Alps" in the promotional material.

On Thursday, I rode north over the same route as the day before to St. Mary, then continued north to Babb, had breakfast in a roadside diner, then rode the 12 miles up the Many Glacier drainage to the Many Glacier Lodge when I met Valerie and kids.  Then we hiked.  And sang songs.  And hoped our tuneless glee would keep the bears at bay.

Reuben, doing some very fierce hiking.  (Probably to scare the bears.)

Ride Stats:

Miles: 89.5
Time: 5:09
Elevation: 7,270'

Miles: 56.0
Time: 3:19
Elevation: 3,993'

Saturday, July 5, 2014

sunday, june 29, 2014: the "judson," chicago, illinois

Sunday, June 29, 2014: The "Judson," Chicago, Illinois

Yes, it's flat.  No wise cracks necessary.
If your search for a group ride in Chicago happens to lead you to chicagobikeracing.com, you will see "Judson" listed as starting at 7:30 am, that the ride starts at Judson and Greenleaf, and this peculiar note:

“Team Judson is first and foremost an anarchy, and whoever is in front gets the ultimate choice about the route we take.”

It turns out that the only accurate piece of information from the three is the start time.  Well, that and the name.  If you ride bikes in or around Chicago, you will have heard of the "Judson."  Even if you haven't ridden it.  The ride has a reputation, though based on my experience, perhaps not deserved.

The Judson doesn't actually start at Judson and Greenleaf, a nondescript intersection in a wealthy Evanston residential neighborhood just south of the picturesque Northwestern University campus, but at Dempster and Chicago, in front of a Starbucks, which is exactly two blocks north and four blocks west of the advertised starting place.  The ride itself follows a very determined route (I did this once before, two summers ago, and from what I could tell we followed exactly the same route) which all the regulars will know.  Therefore, I would like to suggest a change to the ride description: "Team Judson is first and foremost an anarchy, and by anarchy we mean that we don't start where we say we're going to, but everything else is determined and predictable."


My morning on the bike started around 6:00 am and began with a leisurely spin north, northeast from Forest Park to Evanston (the starting place for the Judson, both advertised and actual, was about 18 miles from where I was staying).  And let me just stop right here and say that rolling out on your road bike, regardless of the location, at six o'clock on a Sunday morning in late June is simply one of the great joys of life.  There's a stillness in the city (or the countryside, or forest, or whoever you are).  For an hour or so, anyway.  Combined with solstice sunshine, summer greenery, warm morning temps.  It's a magical combination that I will describe simply as good, good stuff.

That good, good stuff, however, was interrupted a few miles from my destination with a morning biological imperative.  We've (likely) all been there.  That place where you'd pretty much trade your front wheel for a public toilet.  Fortunately, I rolled across a Starbucks and needed only trade the purchase of orange-mango smoothie.

Today, the Judson started out pretty chill, but picked up steam suddenly and intensely about three miles in.  There were, all told, maybe 30-40 riders in the group.  Folks were quite courteous.  We stopped at stop signs and red lights.  There was friendly conversation.  Riders would sometimes shoot off the front in a sort of breakaway attempt, then guys (like me) would move up to and pull them back.  (No attacks here, I didn't know the route!)  The pace stayed high and the mood animated for 30 miles or so, but somewhere on the route back I suppose folks just got tired of riding fast or something because the pace dropped considerably, the animation was gone, and I cut off from the route a bit short of Evanston and simply rolled back home.

The Team Judson website includes this quote from Friedrich von Schiller.

"Anyone taken as an individual, is tolerably sensible and reasonable -- as a member of a crowd, he at once becomes a blockhead."

Schiller, a thinker and playwright particularly concerned with aesthetics and the question of individual freedom, might have enjoyed the liberating aesthetic of the bicycle.  This sentiment on crowd mentality is perhaps the most truthful observation of bicycle riding I've ever read.  But having died in 1805, I think we can safely assume Schiller had some other context in mind.

But while the Schiller description seems a particularly insightful description of any weekend morning bicycle group ride, the Judson, despite its reputation, proved civil, friendly, and well-behaved.  Perhaps all it takes to calm a crowd is an understated, preemptive, cynical prediction of its behavior.

Someone else out for a bike ride Sunday morning.
Ride stats:

Miles: 89.6
Time: 4:38
Elevation: 1,460'