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Glacier, Montana and the Kindness of Strangers

From Logan Pass, overlooking mountains and valleyMy favorite national park so far is Glacier, in Montana, which I visited in 2011. I camped at the KOA in Saint Mary, but splurged on lunch at the Izaac Walton Inn & Resort. I’d love to travel with my non-motorcycling family via Amtrak there — the resort is right on the train line.

I saw deer and mountain goats aplenty but missed out on Bighorn Sheep, bear and Elk. The Flathead River is the color of sea glass and I luxuriated in the park’s quiet beauty.

Going-to-the-Sun Road

I hit the park mid-July and was extremely fortunate to be about the tenth person to cross Logan Pass on the magnificent 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road on the very first day it opened. Yes, that means it took the crews until the middle of summer to clear the pass of snow. Logan Pass is the highest point on the Going-to-the Sun Road at 6,646 feet.

Since there is so little time to complete road repairs on Going-to-the-Sun Road, construction delays are frequent, and the stunning beauty of the mountains means you don’t mind them. During one of the longer waits, I chatted up a retired Alabama motorcyclist whom I’ll call “Stranger One.” He was also traveling solo, and we decided to catch some breakfast together when we finished Going-to-the-Sun. I expected we’d talk about our travels, which we did, but he mostly wanted me to know about his lord and savior, Jesus Christ.

Like me, he was headed to Missoula, some 150 miles south, so we decided to share the road. When we stopped at a roadside attraction about half an hour after gassing up in Kalispell, I discovered that I had left my Camelback at the gas station. The one with my credit cards in it.

Panic

I called the gas station, hoping someone had turned it in, but it was gone for good. Fortunately, Stranger One said he wouldn’t leave me in a lurch, which calmed my nerves significantly as I called my card issuers and my spouse trying to cobble together funds to get home. What a mess. North Carolina banks simply don’t do business in Montana.

Fortunately, I got my bank to overnight a certified check, at which point I told Stranger One I’d be fine and he should get back on the road. He hesitated, and offered me some cash, which I refused. He gave me his cell phone number if anything should go wrong, and we parted ways.

Every time I mentioned my misfortune, Montanans universally replied with shock, “Your backpack was stolen here? That doesn’t happen in Montana.”

Four weeks later, Stranger Two called my cell phone. “By chance did you lose your Camelback in Kalispell, Montana?”

When it arrived a week later, everything was intact, right down to the now-cancelled credit cards, the half-filled water bladder and the pack of chewing gum.

I’m often asked if I’m afraid of all the kooks and miscreants “out there” while I’m traveling alone. No, but I acknowledge that they exist.

Am I extremely fortunate not to have died at the hands of one of them? Or has the 24×7 news cycle convinced us that most people are psychopaths? I think it’s the latter. Strangers One and Two are the norm, not the exception, in my experience.

Post Script: Global warming at work

pictures of Grinnell Glacier 1940 and 2006Look at the difference in glacial size from 1940-2006. The U.S. Geological Service says:

“With evidence of worldwide glacial recession and modeled predictions that all of the park’s glaciers will melt by the year 2030, USGS scientists have begun the task of documenting glacial decline through photography. The striking images created by pairing historic images with contemporary photos has given “global warming” a face and made “climate change” a relevant issue to viewers. The images are an effective visual means to help viewers understand that climate change contributes to the dynamic landscape changes so evident in Glacier National Park.”

About Tamela Rich

Avatar for Tamela Rich
Tamela lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her family, but most summers she'll be found elsewhere, astride her motorcycle. Ask her to share some of her lessons from the road at your next event! Tamela's award-winning book, "Live Full Throttle: Life Lessons From Friends Who Faced Cancer" draws on the stories she heard while traveling the United States on two long charity rides to benefit cancer organizations.

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