Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Getting Out Of Dodge - Going To The Sun Road


This is the third and final entry in the Getting Out Of Dodge trilogy, I know it's taken a long time to get this third one out but there has been a lot of rides and miles put in lately. Not a bad problem to have I suppose.

I have been coming to GNP since I was a wee lad and have been up to Logan Pass plenty of times but I either didn't pay close attention back then or people didn't ride bicycles up the road because I don't remember ever seeing a cyclist on the road in my youth. Anyway ever since I discovered that you could ride a bicycle on the Going to the Sun Road, this ride has been on my bucket list. Unfortunately most of my friends and family have not been bitten by the cycling bug quite like I was so these types of rides are a bit harder to sneak into a normal vacation.


When it was decided that we were going to head to GNP for vacation I immediately began researching what rides were out there and trying to figure out what bike should make the trip. Ideally the Conquest would have been the best choice for the Going to the Sun Road but since I had a few other rides in mind where the cross bike would be at a disadvantage I decided that the Farley was going to make the trip and I'd just have to make the best to see how the Farley would work as a road bike.


When researching the ride it had said that the earliest the road would be opened to cars was going to be the 15th of June, which meant that it wouldn't open to automobile traffic until the week after we left. It must have been an unusually warm spring however because we got word from the Park Ranger on the 11th that the road was officially opened to everyone. I decided that I would ride up it on the 12th before it got busy as more and more people learned the road was opened a bit early. 5 a.m. I was up and by 5:30 I was on the bike and starting what would be a 60 mile round trip adventure.



The first 10-ish miles out of the campground the road mirrors Lake McDonald and is mostly flat and without much to see except the lake but once the lake ends, McDonald Creek starts to become visible and the views improve dramatically.



At about the 15 mile mark you hit Avalanche Creek Campground and it is more common to start encountering both cars and hills, the is the beginning of  the 16 mile climb up to Logan Pass.



In addition to the road starting to point up it also narrowed dramatically, at times the handlebars were mere inches from the rock wall if you were riding in the right of the lane, I wouldn't call it a shoulder because there really wasn't a shoulder.


This tunnel has always been a favorite part of the drive up the road, luckily there wasn't any traffic yet because it definitely could have been interesting if you were to encounter two cars going opposite directions at the time you were in the tunnel.






The views were well worth the effort and even more spectacular when seen from the saddle of a bicycle than they are from inside a car, there really isn't any comparison between the two. Not being surrounded by metal and glass you were actually in the nature you were seeing and not just driving through it.


As a bonus once you began the climb up after "The Loop" the mountain was on the opposite side of the road, leaving your view of the mountains, valleys and water falls unobstructed by passing cars.


You still had to pay attention and be wary of where you were going though and not get too taken in by what you were looking at, if you ran off the road that first step down was a doozy.


Plus you could run smack dab into the middle of people taking pictures in the middle of the road. Somewhere out there are numerous shots of a dude riding his fat bike directly at this group of budding photographers but since I didn't know any of them I haven't actually seen any of them but they were very intrigued by the bike as I pedaled up to and past them.


The people standing in the road were nowhere near as sketchy as this truck looked balancing up there on that jack like that.


Saw some Bighorn Sheep the day before when we drove up to Logan Pass but not a single Mountain Goat so I was pleasantly surprised to see this guy/girl just off the road as a crested the last climb before the pass.


Then, just like that the climbing part of the ride was done and it really wasn't all that bad considering it was a solid 2ish hours of solid climbing at an average of 6-7% grade and 4200 feet of elevation. Now it was time to rest for a few and then enjoy all those miles of road that would now be pointing down instead of up.


What took me about 2 hours to climb took less than 30 minutes to go down, probably would have been quicker if the road would have been closed to cars still as I had to keep slowing down for the car in front of me so that they could negotiate the turns and look at the sites for a second time. Even with applying the brakes frequently I managed to hit 32 mph at one point which was a blast, not sure how much faster I could have gone without traffic or more to the point how much faster would have been safe to travel considering the price you would pay if you miscalculated and went over the railing.



Weren't many pictures on the way back as it was the same ride just the opposite direction and the fact that I was moving at a much faster speed. It was nice to have a cabin with a shower, soft beds and a place to park the bike when I got back though, highly recommend it if you can swing it financially.

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