Day 49-50: It’s getting cold!

October 15th-16th

Miles 5170-5589 and 5589-6010

The cold weather really took me by surprise at this point. Yesterday when I was riding out of Portland it was actually relatively warm and didn’t need too many layers. So when it was cold in the morning out of the little Washington town I was in, I figured it would warm up as the sun came up. But, unfortunately, as I was continuing north, this didn’t quite happen and was breaking often to add layers as well as to just warm up

This put me slightly behind schedule. I had planned to go all the way through Glacier National Park today but after starting to head North off of I-90 after going through Washington, Idaho, and then entering Montana, it started to get dark just as I caught my first glimpses of the park and the Rocky Mountains. It also of course didn’t help that I had about an hour or two of less daylight and was moving east into later timezones.

I got through West Glacier Village and started looking for campgrounds, but as it turned out, they were all closed for the season. This obviously didn’t bode well for me as the weather must’ve been getting cold enough to close the campgrounds.

I eventually found a flat area by the side of the road right outside of Glacier where I was able to set up my tent for the night. So I set up, made a fire, and cooked up some dinner before heading to bed. I could feel it getting a little cold but nothign too bad, especially while next to the fire. The temperature kept dropping though and despite the layers of thermals, wool socks, fleece, hat, and gloves I was wearing in my sleeping bag, the cold woke me up several times in the night as I tried to sinch up the bag around me and bundle up in a ball as much as possible for warmth.

When I woke up in the morning, there was a thick layer of frost lining the inside of my tent from all the condensation freezing over night. It took a lot of will power to get myself out of my bag and into the biting cold. Once I had, I got out my pack towel to start wiping down the tent of all the ice and then packed up. I was a little concerned at how the bike would start up in the cold but the ‘ol Wide Glide started up without a hitch and I was on my way.

If it was cold when I was at rest, it was 10x colder moving at 60-70 mph. The cold wind was painful cutting through my leather jacket, rain jacket, fleece, shirt, and long  johns. Worst of all, my hands and feet had gone past the point of numbness to a biting pain. I tried to keep my left hand hidden close to my body but my right hand had to stay on the accelerator so it was all I could to continuously wiggle my fingers to keep the blood somewhat flowing.

Since this was the middle of the mountains there wasn’t really anywhere to stop, so I had to go about an hour before I got to East Glacier Park and stop at a restaurant. It was at this point that I decided that I couldn’t stay up here anymore and had to start heading south to some warmer weather. So I thawed out for an hour with a pancake breakfast and some hot coffee as I looked over the maps. The waitress then told me it had dropped down to 12 degrees farenheit over night, which certainly made a lot of sense. So I made sure to layer up as much as possible before heading back out, buying some fleece gloves to put on inside my leather gloves and wearing two pairs of socks.

Once this was done and the sun came up a little more, the riding got much more pleasant. I joined up onto route 89 which would take me back south, meeting up with I-90 again in Wyoming. Without having to worry about the cold anymore, I really got to enjoy the scenery of Montana which was absolutely phenomenal. The route continued to skirt by the side of the Rockies as it wound through hilly terrain that looked straight out of an old Western. The contrast was really impressive especially when, for the stretch before hitting I-90, the road was heading straight for what looked like a wall of mountains taking up 50% of your eyeline as they shot straight out from an otherwise relatively flat terrain.

I was sad to have to leave the more scenic rt. 89 for the monotony of the interstate, especially as it looked like it continued to head straight for the wall of mountains, which I’m guessing was Yellowstone National Park. I’m definitely going to have to make a point of heading back to Montana and driving the whole of 89 which goes through the middle of both Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, preferrably during a warmer time of year though!

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