When I left the campground today I had two choices: Camas Road northwest to North Fork Rd to Columbia Falls, or ride a little ways on Highway 2 out of the park and take Belton Stage / Blankenship roads to North Fork Rd. The first alternative is about 10 miles longer but avoid Hwy 2 entirely, so I chose it.
Unfortunately, the first ~10 miles of North Fork Rd are unpaved and very dusty. Choking, can’t even see down the road clouds of dust every time a car passed. And the surface was very loose gravel that was pushed into washboards by the traffic. It was horrible to ride on; the only compensation is that I did get to enjoy quite a bit of the NF of the Flathead.
I passed this spectacular rock waterfall on the side of the road. The temperature was noticeably cooler in the spray and so I sat there having a snack and then replenished my water supply.
Eventually the gravel gave way to pavement, and I passed the other end of Blankenship Rd. So if I had taken the other route, I could have avoided all of the dusty section of North Fork Rd.
There was a bit of climbing along the road and then a very long (miles), gradual downhill to Columbia Falls. I went back to the same grocery store to get lunch. Then I called Avis to see if there was any chance that I could pick up my car today instead of tomorrow — because if so, I’d go straight to the airport instead of to Whitefish. They said they hadn’t gotten back any cars yet today, so I headed out for Whitefish. I knew this route because I’d already done it a few days ago and it went by quickly.
A few miles from Whitefish I passed a Hertz rental location that I had mentally bookmarked the last time I went by. This time, I figured what the heck, I walked in and said, “This is completely out of the blue, but do you have any cars that can go to Butte today?” They told me that they own their own cars and don’t sent them out of town, but Hertz at the airport might have something. Amazingly, they did, and even more amazingly, they told me they’d drive it over from the airport because it would be cheaper for me to rent it at the in-town location than at the airport! They said it would be a bit, and I replied “a bit is good, because I’m going to the beach!”. And I boogied down the road as fast as I could to the Whitefish Beach, where I jumped in in my bike shorts and got cooled off in a hurry. About 1/2 hour later I was on my way back to the rental car place and I got there about 2 minutes before the car did. The car was a Dodge Grand Caravan and I was able to load the entire bike without even taking off the front wheel!
So I managed to make it back to Butte tonight and staying at the Super 8 where my own car is parked. In the morning I’ll return the van to the airport and then be on my way back home to Boulder. My vacation is over!