Early this morning, big thunderstorms were rumbling all around. A nice display of thunder and lightning. It started raining about 2 AM and continued through the morning till maybe 9 AM. Since this was to be another short day, I stayed in my tent, sleeping, till 8:45. Kathy and Justin, wanting to get the bike shop in Columbia Falls before it closed, left, in the rain, at 7:30 AM.
After I cleaned up at the service station across the way, I walked up the street for breakfast at a diner about six blocks away. Breakfast was good and after it I met an interesting couple that breed llamas. She is Amish, so we talked about the Anabaptist groups in the area. After leaving the diner, I stopped by the postoffice to pick up an express mail envelope, went back to my camp, and filled the envelope with two pounds of stuff (a novel I had finished, credit card receipts, exposed film). I went back to the postoffice to mail the envelope, went across the street for lunch, packed my, now dry, gear, and headed out on highway 93. It was 12:30 when I left Eureka, but sunset was after 10 PM , so I still had plenty of riding time.
The first 45 miles of riding was pretty good. Services were scarce, but I had some yogurt near Fortine and a good meal at a bar/restaurant near Olney. I just missed some construction delays (the flagman was just getting into position as I rode by), and the road was, even in the section under construction, in pretty good shape and traffic was light. There was also a bit of a tail wind on the last part of this stretch, so I was feeling good as I approached Whitefish. Then I reached the 'rough road' sign.
Whitefish must have the worst roads of any town in this country. Their potholes have potholes. There is little or no intact road surface. The 4 miles or so from that sign into Whitefish were the worst riding I have ever experienced. A steep curvy road with lots of traffic, no shoulders. Well, if they were there the potholes made them indistinguishable from the rest of the "road." The road was so bad that it was a challenge simply to keep the bike from crashing, never mind the fact that the car and truck traffic that was bouncing by. I made it into town - no better roads, but at least these were straight and less hilly - and out of town via the AC route ASAP. My day was ruined by having to ride through that miserable town. I just wanted to get out.
After the 10 miles to Columbia falls on highway 2 - busy road, but it was smooth! I stopped for a good supper and then rode on looking for an inexpensive motel. I found one and, to my delight, my friends had also stopped there.
Kathy and Justin reported that they had also had a miserable time in Whitefish. Justin had blown a front tire in one of the potholes, so they had stopped at a bike store to get a new tube. They reported that it was a nice bike store. I bet it does a great business in wheel rebuilding and pinch flat repair.
If I ever ride this way again, I will stay on highway 2 from Libby through Kallispell to Columbia Falls rather than going through Eureka. I like Libby Dam and Eureka, and there is good riding between Eureka and Whitefish, but Whitefish is hell and the route up Koocanusa is, at best, purgatory. I also talked with folks who have ridden this route on 2 and they thought it was pretty good. No more Whitefish! AC should take it off their route!
When Kathy and Justin were in Whitefish, they stopped at the Forest Service office to ask about Logan Pass (Going to the Sun Road). It was closed and not expected to be opened for at least a week. That means we will had to reroute. The next day we had a rain day (cold, high winds, and sporadic rain), so we had time to do bike maintenance and just take it easy. They decided to just ride highway 2 the next day and to stay in a hostel at East Glacier the following night. I decided to ride with them and to stay at the hostel as well.
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