6/29/2021 – St. Mary to Cutbank, MT

67.33 Miles / 810.84 Total Miles

2594 Ft. Elevation Gain /42,299 Ft. Total Elevation Gain

The Northern Tier route goes from Glacier to Cardston, Alberta, but due to the Canadian Covid border closure, we couldn’t ride that portion of the route, so today we were heading southeast toward Cutbank and saving ourselves 2 days of riding. When we got on the road, this morning, it was super chilly out, because it was only 6:12 AM! Can’t believe I pulled that off. There is a record heat wave, up in these parts, and we aren’t taking any chances at not completing this trip. Teaser: Earlier starts are coming.

As we rode out of St. Mary, it was good morning legs–a 6 mile climb up a 6% grade. Ouch! The scenery was the back side of Glacier National Park, and I really wanted to snap some photos, but every time we stopped, mosquitos swarmed and dive bombed us. I already have hundreds of itchy welts on my body, so this was adding insult to injury. They were biting me through my clothes, even when we were moving, so I had to constantly grab the fabric of my jersey, shorts and leggings and pull the fabric away from my skin to pull them off. They pretty much forbade any stopping till we got far enough down the road that we left the forest and wetlands and were in the plains of Montana. I tell you all of this so you to know that it took actual human sacrifice to take the following photos.

This looked like a really cool roadside exhibit, but we couldn’t weather the mosquito attack to read the signage and figure out what it was about, which was really a shame.

As I keep saying over and over–what goes up must come down. Once we reached the top of that crazy climb, we had a delightful downhill ride into Browning.

But before we reached Browning, Ed stopped for a photo of the view behind us, and I crossed over the road to see what he was looking at, stopping with a few inches of my rear tire out in the lane. And that’s when this Blackfeet Indian Tribe pickup truck pulled up with its lights on. I was busted! But the woman in the truck wasn’t wearing a uniform. She just wanted me to know that I needed to be out of the lane to be safe (I already knew that), and she was super engaging, so I started asking her questions. Like…have the Blackfeet Indians always been the Blackfeet, or did they used to be Blackfoots? Answer: They have always been the Blackfeet. There is a sister tribe across the border in Canada that are called the Blackfoots, but the US tribe has always been the Blackfeet. And she clarified that we had been on the Blackfeet reservation since leaving Glacier National Park. We discussed a bunch of other interesting stuff, then she warned us about a little herd of cows on the road ahead. Hmmm…just the type of thing we love encountering..

Us with MaryAnn Hall of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe.

As we rode on, the herd was completely occupying the road, but before we got there, a truck pulled up and starting honking its horn. Way to ruin the moment for us, truck. The commotion scared them off the road, and they scattered on both sides of the road, which was sad, especially for the panicking little baby calfs who were separated from their Mommies. Just a matter of seconds after we passed the scattered herd, I looked in my rearview mirror, and they had already reconstituted in the middle of the road.

Further down the road, more cows were hanging out at.a pool of water, with half of them down in the water. When I stopped to snap a photo, by the time I had phone in hand, which only took a few seconds, they were running to thwart my shot. Very clever.

In Browning, we stopped at the IGA grocery store to get a snack, resupply some food and refill our water bottles, then headed over to the Museum of the Plains Indian. After checking out the Blackfeet Creation of Life exhibit, we parked our bikes to see the museum, but once again, their Covid closure interfered. I’m starting to think that Covid is now an excuse to not do things and offer services that the people who control those functions don’t think are essential.

Back on the road, we had 35 miles left to get to Cutbank. We’re talking a solid 35 miles of wheat fields, punctuated by silos. The terrain was mostly what cyclists call “rollers”–little hills that come one after another, and the temperatures were still cool, so the cycling was pretty nice.

Nice, till it started to warm up the last few miles of the ride. I have been coddling a little saddle sore to keep it from getting worse. Heat aggravates it, so I had to keep stopping to apply and reapply ointment. We were so close to the end of the ride that Ed rode ahead to attempt to get an early checkin at our lodging for the night. Just before town was the official welcome to the Blackfeet nation.

Then after the Blackfeet welcome, there was a short steep descent to cross Cutbank Creek, then a .35 mile super steep hill climb to get into town. I’m pretty sure someone turned the heater on full force, because the temps were up near 100 by the time I made it up the hill. Partway up, on the right side of the road, was the “Welcome to Cutbank” sign, and I would normally stop to take a photo, but not today. The grade was probably 8%, so there was no way I was stopping for that shot. I would have never been able to get going again.

Our Super 8 Motel was just at the top of the hill, which was a good thing, because that hill and the heat sucked all the remaining energy out of my body. I parked my bike and collapsed into a chair near the entrance of the motel. Check in was not till 3 PM, so I had 1.5 hours to cool off in the lobby and gulp down water from their water cooler. After showering, I headed over to the grocery store to buy deli food for dinner and a gallon of soda pop and chocolate milk to rehydrate my body. I did a load of laundry and attempted to work on the blog, but I was down for the count. Had to call it a day.

2 thoughts on “6/29/2021 – St. Mary to Cutbank, MT

  1. You are such a good writer Eileen. We’re really getting a good feel for what your days are like. The pictures are bonus but we really appreciate them. I hope there is a break in the heat for you guys. For what it’s worth, you both look good in the photos! Stay safe.

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  2. I am so happy to hear that you have motel rooms for a few nights. A soft bed, a shower and air conditioning will renew your energy level a lot. As you know the heat can really zap your energy! We even get tired after being outside in the sun and in the pool so I can’t even imagine how exhausted you get after a day of biking!! Gary is doing well with his knee rehab and doing his exercises in the pool is great and helping him a lot. Your bucket-list journey has really made me start to evaluate how I should approach the rest of my life! Hang in there, be sensible and stay safe!!

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