Glacier National Park 2001 – Day 3: In Search of the Going to the Sun Road

May 31

  • Day trip from Missoula to Glacier National Park
  • 435 miles

Pattie, our Mom & intrepid adventurer, & her three sons, traveled from Chicago to Acapulco in her Opel Kadett in 1970, a journey of some 2,400 miles. You know, I’ve never gotten around to asking her why she always insisted on dressing us like triplets. From left to right: Scott, Jeff, Paul and Pattie.

After a hearty Montana breakfast with lots of eggs, bacon and strong coffee, we head North on Highway 93 to Glacier National Park. Along the way we enter the town of Pablo where Paul discovers the Pablo Bar and we stop for a photo op. Photos only, though, no drinks. We still have a long day of riding ahead of us. Paul picked up the “Pablo” nickname when our Mom drove us, yours truly the eldest at age 12 and my 3 younger brothers, all the way from Chicago to Acapulco, Mexico in 1970 and it stuck ever since. Maybe that explains why Paul and I are such adventurers in our own right. Apparently Mom got us off to a good start during our formative years. 

While we are doing the photo shoot in Pablo, Vince, our rabid sport bike enthusiast who would never give a Harley a second glance, is intrigued no end by Pork Chop’s Harley and he asks if he can take it out for a spin. We’re all taken aback but clearly the Harley mystique has taken hold of him. So off he goes and he quickly discovers the joy of riding this piece of steel Americana while taking advantage of Montana’s no helmet required law. We gather around when he returns looking for a report. He tells us it made him feel more manly and gave him a sudden desire to start bar hopping. Go figure!

Further down the road, Paul and I decide to swap bikes. We are arguably riding the two best sport touring bikes on the planet. His BMW RT has a level of refinement in its suspension, handling and features that is very Mercedes-like. My Honda ST1100 falls short in that regard but it has a big V-4 motor that is vastly superior to the Beemer’s eccentric descendant of BMW’s World War I era twin “boxer” motor which was initially designed for airplanes. When we pull over to compare notes, we quickly decide that my motor needs to be installed his bike which would result in the finest sport touring bike on Earth. Paul is a real motorhead and he says that lovely V-4 pulls like an electric locomotive due to its torque and smoothness. I completely agree. Thanks, Mr. Honda! You rock! (The ST1100 was designed for the European market and the objective was create a bike to ride two-up, with full luggage at 100 mph all day long on the German Autobahn without breaking a sweat.)

We finally roll up to the Glacier National Park gate. Ok, here we go, the moment of truth. Have we come all this way to be denied access to the Going to the Sun Road due to avalanches that have been coming down left and right this Spring? Up ’till our departure, we’d been anxiously watching the GNP Plowing Status website like stockbrokers watching the NASDAQ, hoping that the brave crews would break through just for us. According to the website, the road is normally open by now but we’ll have to blame it on global warming as we are DENIED! The road is barricaded off way down in the valley so our visit to the park is very anti-climatic. Oh well! We turn around and look for other riding opportunities. There’s always next year. 

Paul and I break out the road map and we find a wonderful road back to Missoula. Highway 83 goes East from Evergreen and South between the Mission Mountain Range and the Rocky Mountains. We encounter hours of perfect cruising along Swan Lake and through the forest with little or no traffic to share it with. It’s all so very mellow and a sublime way to spend an afternoon with your Brothers. 

We make a pit stop along the way at the Elkhorn Resort and as Trev and I walk into the restaurant to use the bathroom, all conversation and eating comes to an abrupt halt and we get “The Stare”. We figure tourists must come through this quiet mountain valley now and then but apparently Trevor and I don’t fit the profile because the locals in this joint look at us like we are one of the following:

  • Aliens from another planet
  • Bikers that are going to molest their children and family pets
  • A couple of crazy, espresso drinking, pierced and tattooed long hairs from Seattle
  • Take your pick.

No worries. We take in all in stride and continue savoring this perfect day of riding. It’s time to get back to Missoula, round up some Montana steaks and share observations while drinking a fair amount of beer. 

Go to Day 4: Dodging Bees & Chasing Pork Chop Through Lolo Pass

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