Montana: Introduction to United States

Jörg and I were thinking that entering United States after visiting Waterton Lakes National Park would be a piece of cake. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any idea of the two endless hills that brought us to the seasonal border control of Chief Mountain. However, crossing the border couldn’t be more easy: quickly, the custom officer gave me back my passport, more interested to chat with his workmate about my craziness of linking one end to an other of the continent by bicycle. Here I am in United States, Uncle Sam looking at me from the top of that rugged mountain.

We wanted to celebrate our first day in United States with a juicy hamburger and greasy fries, just to be cliché. Once in St. Mary, at the doors of Glacier National Park, we were quite disappointed to face a waitress in a cafe that would fulfill our desire, telling us, as if everything was normal while the cafe was half empty (or half full), that there were a «waiting list» of 30 to 45 minutes. We wanted to enter the park before darkness… so we finally ended up in a mexican food shack, celebrating our entrance in USA with burritos!

St. Mary wasn’t really a village, but mainly a resort and service center for Glacier National Park. The Canadian park that we just visited is on partnership management with this one, under the label Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. We were able to enjoy for a last time mountain scenery like those encountered in Canada. We also went through a wonderful 1000-meter downhill over an endless 20 kilometers, going down just by sitting on the saddle and let it go, along the mountain slope.

It’s on the other side of the park, in Columbia Falls, that we finally were able to grab the book Cycling the Great Divide, found thankfully to the talents of a employee of Bad Rock Books and to Jörg’s determination to ask in every book shop about this out-of-stock book. With that, we could avoid to buy the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route maps, an itinerary developed by the Adventure Cycling Association. This route links the Canadian and the Mexican border through backcountry and forestry road, sometimes trails, following the Great Continental Divide. Most of the time, it is unpaved. When I heard about this route in British Columbia, I quickly got interested, because it would give me the opportunity to stick even more with the Divide than previously planned! The goal wasn’t to always follow that itinerary, in which case we would have bought the maps, but to do the most interesting and the most suitable for our touring bikes sections. Goodbye then the constant traffic on the main highway! And hurray to those little lakes discovered along the road, those squirrels coming to visit my tent’s vestibule at night and those risky downhills between frightened cows!

And then we still had to go through some cities. In Helena, the state capital, we were hosted by a student part of the college football team. We had fun going to see a game, national anthem, cheerleaders, music and crazy crowd included. For a moment, I felt like in an American teen movie. I ordered some new bike racks, to replace by steel my former donated aluminum ones, exhausted by the bumpy roads. They would arrive in Butte on the Wednesday, to a host family also contacted through CouchSurfing. They finally arrived on the Friday, but our hosts seemed to have been quite happy to have us around for two more days. Discovering cities with local’s eyes is always appreciated! Thanks to Galen and his flatmates and to Justine and Eric for their amazing hospitality!

My luggage were then way more better fixed to my bike, but going back on the road after Butte wasn’t that more pleasant. A dense smoke cloud was giving us a bad taste in the throat. For more than a week, we had to go through this variable-in-density cloud, caused by forests fire in neighbor Idaho. After cutting through the Interstate, where it is allowed to bicycles to go on in this state, we went back on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route itinerary from Lima, or «Layyyma», like you have to pronounce it to differentiate the 242-habitant village from the Peruvian metropolis. The next evening, we prepared a sumptuous camping meal and sip a can of beer carried the whole day on the bumpy road, in order to celebrate our last day of common road. After having entered in Idaho the next morning, Jörg took the road to the south, toward Salt Lake City, to go after that in San Francisco to meet his girlfriend and go along the coast together. On my side, I would have flirted with Idaho just for a couple dozen of miles, heading north-east to enter Yellowstone National Park. After more than two months of interesting company and developed friendship, here I am back alone on the road… but wonderful discoveries await me!

To see more pictures from Montana, click here.

Map of the roads taken in Montana:


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