In August of 2016, thirty Tenacious Dames made an end-of-summer trip to Glacier National Park. There were thirty of us total: twenty-six on motorcycles, two on Spyders, and two in a chase car. On Friday night, we converged upon Great Falls from Miles City, Billings, Helena, and Bozeman. The Great Falls chapter was gracious enough to house all of us who arrived from out of town. We slept in campers and beds, on air mattresses and couches. I know that nobody in the house where I stayed slept well Friday night because of the excitement for our trip. Everybody was up early.
Saturday, we all met on Flag Hill to group out and hear our last minute instructions. It was an impressive sight. There were lots of hugs and plenty of excited chatter. We had a few with us who didn’t have much group riding experience and some who are old pros. We were put in groups according to our city with a Road Dame (Road Captain) leading each group. We left gaps between cities in case a car needed to pass, which wound up not making a ton of difference since, as we were leaving town some jerk in a minivan NEEDED to be around us and almost managed to get himself into a head-on collision in the process. I was proud of the awareness that the girls riding nearest to me showed. They kept themselves, and him, out of trouble in what could have been a scary situation. I couldn’t keep from smiling as we rode the hills between Great Falls and Browning. It was impressive to be in just about the center of this line of women on bikes. On a big enough hill, I could just see the first bike in front of me and the last bike behind me.
We stopped for gas in Browning and drew quite a crowd. While I was filling up, a young woman walked up to me with wide eyes and asked who we were, what we were doing and the like. She said that she had no idea that there were that many women riders and that she had never seen that many all together in one place. While we were gathering in the lot adjacent to the gas station to wait for everyone to be ready to ride again, we were approached by a Native American man who was just as impressed as the young woman had been. He offered to sing a blessing over us for our trip. We agreed and listened as he prayed in song for us in the Blackfoot language.
The road between Browning and Glacier Park is one of the most fun I’ve ridden so far. There are plenty of switchbacks and some wide easy sweepers. I was grinning from ear to ear as we rode through them, there were times when I could see the first few bikes a curve ahead and it was such a good feeling to be part of such a strong, amazing group of female riders. On that particular road, we were riding through a lot of open range, which means there could be horses and cows on the road at any point. We were all aware of it and kept an eye out. Around one curve, there were five or six horses standing in the barrow pit. Standing, that is, until the first few bikes went by. At that point, they all sort of panicked and grouped up and started dancing around. Their eyes were wide and scared horses are kind of unpredictable. Thankfully, they determined that it was in their best interest to remain off of the road. At one point, I was close enough to the lead bike to see a very large black cow coming running down a steep embankment toward OJ, who was riding lead. I’m sure OJ’s eyes were huge while she decided up her best course of action, but all I could see was a big black cow. She looked up and saw the bikes and put on the brakes. She stood at the side of the road and watched all of us pass.
We ate lunch at St. Mary before continuing into the park. The chase vehicle had sandwiches and other goodies in coolers for us. We got lots of looks and a few people stopped to chat with some of us while we milled around in the store and visited as we relaxed over lunch. One man told us that he was impressed with not only our numbers but also by the fact that we had ridden in from all over the state to ride together. He was a rider himself and was very excited to see other riders, especially women.
After lunch, we headed into the park. The park employees working the gate were a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of us all traveling together. It became more apparent what a novelty we were as we moved further into the park. We passed scenic pullouts where tourists were videoing or taking pictures. As they heard the first few bikes go by, you could watch them turn and look. When they realized how many of us there were, you could see a sense of awe building, but when they realized that we were all women, you could see the jaws drop open and the smiles spread over their faces. Many of them turned their cameras or cell phones on us and took pictures or video as we went by. I have wondered often in the months since, just how many people have pictures of our group traveling through Glacier. We stopped a few times along the way to regroup and take some pictures and each time, we drew a crowd. People driving by hung out the windows of their cars taking pictures and video as they went by.
There is a portion of the road through Glacier where the road is cut into the side of a cliff. I had been on it once before on a motorcycle when my dad and I rode through a few summers ago. The view is breathtaking and the road is very high up. It was on this stretch of road where we encountered something new. The wind was blowing pretty hard, so we were relieved to be in along the cliff to offer us some protection. At one point, though, the wind seemed to blow straight down the cliff face and out over the road toward the precipice. We were on the inside lane, closest to the cliff, so there was no danger of being blown over the side, but it certainly was disconcerting to feel yourself be blown away from the cliff face by the wind.
When we came out of the park, we headed for a resort in Columbia Falls where we had reserved three condos and a house for the night. The looks on the faces of the other people staying on the resort when we all came rumbling in were quite hysterical. In fairness, this place was on a golf course and we were all on our bikes and clad in appropriate biker gear. We had been riding all day, so we were all appropriately windblown, sunburned and probably a little grungy from road dust. One older man did more than just gawk. He and his wife and some other lady came roaring up in a golf cart. He was all smiles and clearly excited. He asked us all about our trip and enthusiastically shared that he was also a rider. He then insisted that his wife take a picture of him with all of us.
The rest of the night was rather low key. Rhoda had prepared a feast for us and brought it along with her in the chase car. She is from the Philippines and enjoys cooking for an army, so she planned accordingly. She made pancit, crab puffs, fried rice and lumpia. There was enough food to feed at least half again as many of us. We all ate until we were stuffed and then say around visiting until late into the evening. It was nice to get to spend some time with some of the girls I didn’t know before the trip or didn’t know well. Eventually, we all wandered off to our respective beds and slept hard.
The morning began with more of Rhoda’s cooking. She prepared breakfast lumpia, which was a new flavor adventure and absolutely amazing. Lumpia, for the record, is a Filipino egg roll and my mouth waters even thinking of it. We ate breakfast and packed our bikes in order to be ready to head out at about 10am. A few of the girls split off from us here and had more adventures for an additional week. Several of us expressed our jealously. We took a different route home, through the Swan Valley. The road weaves through the forest and along a lake and a river, and is absolutely breathtaking.
We had lunch in Lincoln before saying goodbye to the Great Falls group and the Miles City group. The rest of us rode over Flesher’s Pass, which is another fun Montana road with lots or sweepers and switchbacks, and into Helena. We left the Helena group off at home and continued on south. At Bozeman, the girls invited us to hang out a while and clean up, stretch out etc. The last four of us declined. Our own beds and showers were only two more hours down the road. We hopped on the interstate and rode on home. If memory serves, we made it home around 9pm. 440 miles on Sunday and probably right around 8 hours on the bike.
Grand total for the trip was 15 hours and 900 miles, per Google Maps. This was a once in a lifetime trip, with an incredible group of ladies. For some, it was the longest ride they have made to date on their bikes. For each of us, it was a welcomed break from the everyday. Most of us made some new friends and strengthened bonds that we had built at previous events. This is and will continue to be one of my most cherished memories.
The funny thing is, I would not have known a single one of these women if it weren’t for motorcycles and the Tenacious Dames. We are incredibly different in our “real” lives and our opinions and stances on everything are all over the board. The one common denominator for us is that we are passionate about riding. The women I call my best friends are all riders in this group and I am thankful for each and every one of them. I cannot wait for the next adventure.