Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 87 – West Shore State Park – Kalispell: Queen of Sheba

Thursday August 14, 2014, 29 miles (46 km) – Total so far: 3,962 miles (6,376 km)

Whoosh-crash-shhhhh. Whoosh-crash-shhhh. The sound of the small waves tumbling gently to shore is a soothing start to the day. The rain that was supposed to arrive overnight is tardy. Yet, when I zip open the tent fly, I see that the sky is leaden and full of the promise of precipitation. I’m not in any hurry to get going today – I’m just heading 30 miles up the road to Kalispell.

I am in for a treat in town. Yesterday afternoon, I had good cell phone coverage (Verizon has been really good on all of my trips), so I called around to motels to book a room for tonight. Unfortunately, anywhere that is decent and within my budget was booked out. It’s high season and Glacier National Park is fairly close. So my options were to stay somewhere cheap and crappy or blow the budget and stay somewhere nice.

Why stay in a motel at all? The first priority is so I can call Nigel before I head into Glacier. I don’t know when I will next have access to a motel. The second priority is to be able to close the door to the shower and build up some steam to breathe. Following this, I will fill the bathroom sink with very hot water and stick my head above it with a hot, wet towel over my head. I’m hoping this will help to start moving all the mucous that’s accumulated in my lungs after repeatedly inflaming my asthma over the past 10 days. Steam baths work for sinus infections and bronchitis, let’s hope it will work for my lungs this time. The third priority is to do some uninterrupted internet research on my upcoming route. RV parks usually have way too little bandwith to even let me get on the network. The fourth priority is sleep. RV parks can be noisy and as soon as the daylight hits the tent, I’m awake. Even though I’ve gotten pretty good sleep last night, my body is very fatigued, and I just want to hang out the “Do not disturb sign”, draw the curtains and sleep. And sleep. Finally, it’s been a hot and hard-to-breathe week, and I’m not hardcore. So, after a full-on sweaty, smoky, stinky week, I’m ready for a long shower and a soft pillow. I’m not in a remote, third-world country, so I don’t have to suffer 🙂

At least that is how I justify the expense of a nice room to myself. When calling around yesterday, I could not bring myself to stay somewhere crappy and have a room that has only been non-smoking for the past two years after 35 years of cigarette smoke. I’m looking forward to spoiling myself.

The light rain starts just as I get back out on the highway. It starts as a mist and then turns to light rain once I get closer to Lakeside. I have never been so happy to ride in rain. After all of the heat for weeks on end, it feels absolutely fabulous. I watch the rain drops pelt the skin on my arms and love every second of it. Every part of my body sighs a huge, collective, “Aaaaaahhhhhhh”.

The Montana bike map lies. There is definitely not a four-foot wide shoulder heading in or out of Lakeside. Several miles on either side of it have a fairly narrow shoulder, and it is a little bit dicey with the amount of traffic and their reluctance to drive any slower even though the road is wet and greasy. Among all of it, the road climbs and falls, sometimes with quite a decent grade, so I’m really alert to what is going on as I cruise north. I do get a laugh as I go. Several places with glass in the shoulder are broken Heineken bottles. You know you are in an area with money when the broken beer bottles are high-end brands. Indeed, there are yacht clubs and many expensive-looking homes along the route today.

The rain lets up by the time I get to Somers on the bike path. It is so wonderfully cool today. It’s like walking into an air-conditioned building after being out in heat over 100F. Gorgeous. By the time I get into town, the rain has come again. I stop at the post office to mail letters, postcards and a package to Nigel. By the time that’s finished, it’s time for lunch. I head over to Wendy’s for a small chili and baked potato. Yum! I haven’t had a hot meal in over a week.

After lunch I head over to the Red Lion hotel, hoping I can just hang out in their lobby until check-in time. I approach the front desk guy, “Hi, my name is Emily Sharp and I have a booking for tonight. But I’m on a bike, and it’s about to rain again, so I was wondering if it would be okay to hang out in the lobby until check-in time.”

He smiles. “Are you on your own or are you riding in a group”?

“I’m by myself.”

“Do you have a support vehicle or anything?”

“No, I’m on a long tour, I’m a few months into it, I’m travelling alone.”

He smiles again. “That’s awesome!” Then he starts asking all sorts of questions about where I’ve been and whether it’s been very hot and how I got started touring. I ask if he rides. He doesn’t, but he’s seen people on touring bikes before and thought it would be an amazing way to travel if you liked bikes. He asks even more questions. Finally, he says, “well, it’s almost 1 pm, so I’m sure I can get you into a room right now. Let me pull up your reservation.”

He looks at the computer and says, “I see here that you were quoted a base rate of $124, yes”?

“Yeah, that’s correct.”

“Well, that really is the best rate we can do at this time of year, even with discounts and stuff. But if you give me a minute, I’ll see if I can work something out better for you. There might be a back way to do something.”

“Oh, sure, that’d be fantastic.”

He fiddles with the computer. He points and clicks. He types. He frowns. He cocks his head. He types more. Several minutes later, he says, “I’ve done it for you. I can give you a rate that is $102 after tax. You are now in the computer as a VIP of the Northwest Montana County Fair. Don’t ask, don’t tell policy about that one, okay”?

“Yeah, no worries. Thank you so much for helping me out. What you just saved me is what I spend normally over a couple of days.”

He then steps it up even further. When I ask if I can bring the bike in the room, or they have somewhere to store it, he says, “Oh, you can take the bike in the room for sure. I’m going to give you a corner king suite room, so there will be plenty of room for your bike and your stuff.”

Holy crap. Life really does have a way of levelling things out. Granted you have to miss a head-on with a pick-up truck by less than 10 feet to get a primo lakeside campsite the following night, and then the most amazing customer service the night after that, but wow, how your luck can change!

The room is huge. The furnishings are quite new. The bathroom is big and clean. Before I get to relaxing, I walk over to a nearby supermarket and nearly wipe out their fruit and veg section. I also get two microwave mac n cheese meals and a litre of chocolate milk. Carb and veg banquet in my room today!

Then I get back to the room and get serious about relaxing. The shower is beautiful. The accumulated mucous starts to move. There is fruit and veg galore to eat. The wifi is fast. The bed is super-comfortable. The pillows bring me closer to zen. Verne and Kermit each get a pillow and look like they’ve gone to heaven. I feel like the Queen of Sheba. A naked Queen of Sheba. I deadbolt the door after I shower and spend the next 10 hours naked. There is no way I’m putting my clean body back in those smoky, sweaty clothes. I’ll do laundry tomorrow. Tonight, I’m just living it up in my corner king suite. Hehehehe!

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