Northern Tier 2010

July 21, 2010

Rider on the Storm

Filed under: Montana, Section 02 — Henry Scott @ 9:00 pm

Almost all of today’s ride was in Canada, and my intention was to name this post “Canadian Bacon,” in reference to the late, but very good, breakfast I had in Cardson, Alberta. However, as I write this I’m thinking about what is freshest in my mind, and that is the 90 mile race I lost to my first real thunderstorm on this trip.

I left my Belly River camp early this morning because I had a long day planned: I wanted to get all the way to Cut Bank, MT, which is 113 miles. All of the riding in Canada was great, but the first 20 miles or so were particularly impressive because I was going through the Canadian portions of Glacier, most notably I was very close to Sofa mountain and its recovering forest from a 1998 fire.

Early on I found myself with a tough decision to make — I was at the intersection at which I could leave my route to visit the famous Prince of Wales hotel and visitor center in Waterton. It would have only added about half a day to my trip and not much backtracking, but I decided to leave it for another time.

As I continued from there I felt good about my decision — even though I was leaving the mountains, it was incredibly pretty. Traffic was extremely low, the road was in great condition and there was almost no development except for fences and a few access roads for ranchers. Mountain views remained excellent for many miles, and the roadside was littered with brightly colored wildflowers.

There were many redwing blackbirds. As I’d pass, presumably a nesting area, one or two would give chase for an eighth of a mile or so. They wouldn’t get very close, but they made it clear I wasn’t welcome. At one point a larger bird, I’ll loosely call it a hawk (I’m not sure of his identity), got into trouble with the blackbirds as well, and we made our escape together.

But, rather than bond us as allies, the hawk began to chase me once the blackbirds turned back. I may well have misinterpreted the dynamic with the blackbirds, but I was clearly the target of the hawk — he would swoop towards me, barking a warning I couldn’t understand, and come close enough that he had me swerving all over the road. I was simultaneously scared and amused, laughing as I picked up speed and did my best to dodge my pursuer. Despite these aviary conflicts, the riding was great.

However, before long the wind picked up, and I was riding straight into it. The topography just consisted of rolling hills, but even on the downhill portions I could only go about 12 mph. I started second guessing the choice to head east until I looked in my mirror and could see dark clouds forming over the mountains I was leaving behind — maybe I was saving myself from some miserable weather. At first I thought the headwind meant I was safe, but cumulus clouds were quickly forming everywhere I looked, and the storm front to the west was clearly heading south and east (i.e., toward my destination). I looked at each cloud with great suspicion, trying to ascertain if they were growing darker or gaining in vertical development.

Thus began my long, and ultimately fruitless, race against Mother Nature. I was on the bike for well over nine hours today. I made it to Cut Bank, but about ten miles shy I got caught in a heavy downpour. Fortunately the lightning was in the distance, and I have good rain gear (and lights), so it wasn’t that bad. By the time I reached my campground, it was already clearing.

Although I ultimately spent less than 24 hours in Canada, I had many encounters with friendly people, just like I’ve been having for the entire trip so far. The biggest difference I noticed was in the things I saw laying by the side of the road. Try to guess which of the following I saw in Montana, and which was in Canada.



  1. What wonderful posts–hawks and storms among other challenges. Glad you
    got safely to Cut Bank.–Our walking group is interested in your trip. Katie
    Christodouleas, John’s mother, is now in our group. Mel Woodard said one
    of the Glacier Park rangers is the son of an IUP professor–I think the last
    name is Potter.

    Comment by Celinda Scott — July 22, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

  2. Hopefully there isn’t a killer on the road, other than bicyclist-chasing hawks. What a funny image 🙂 Stay safe and dry,


    Comment by monika — July 22, 2010 @ 9:15 pm

    • I would have found that grizzly that you saw much more frightening than the hawk.

      I’m guessing that you saw the hockey stick in Canada. Wondering what the other object is.

      Comment by Sally — July 23, 2010 @ 1:26 am

  3. Henry,
    Great blogs! I loved reading all about your adventure. My Brother did that same route, east-west, in his 20’s. He still talks about Glacier Nat’l Park as the most beautiful place in North America. He also hs the same picture of Logan Pass, which you took on my B-day. Good luck with the trip and watch the hawks, my bro said one landed on his back once. Stop by Wayne,Pa for a hot shower if you come near.

    Comment by Tim Franklin — July 23, 2010 @ 2:03 am

  4. So glad to see these last few days’ posts! I had been missing my daily dose of photos and observations from the West. I’m amazed at how much ground you’ve covered already. Thanks again for sharing this adventure will all of us.

    Comment by Jerry — July 23, 2010 @ 2:47 am

  5. Henry, what an inspiring trip! I hope you didn’t miss the comment by Tim Franklin (“Hey y’all! I’ve got an older brother ’bout yer age!”). FYI, he and his wife Faye just had their second child, a daughter named Lilian!)

    It’s been a busy schedule here in the lower LA basin, with nothing remotely spectacular to report, except that you and I share a vaguely similar ‘solitude’ of sorts. Your trip is beautiful and I am so happy that you have the situation and motivation to take advantage of and subsequently produce such a memorable journey. I eagerly look forward to your next post(s) and, like Uncle Dick, wish the wind to be at your back and your encounters friendly. I certainly am with you in spirit!



    Comment by David D. Scott — July 24, 2010 @ 9:01 am

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