In order to visit Glacier National Park, I returned to America. The roads got worse as soon as I crossed into Montana, and filled with cows.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road is a spectacular road by any measure, 50 miles of delicate 2-lane mountain road winding through some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes one could imagine, sheer drops on one side and sheer cliffs up the other. In some places, glacial runoff sprays right down over the road, and in at least one place I could have ridden through it if I’d been quicker-thinking.
Thirty miles of it, though, was vertigo-inducing, hard to ride in the heavy traffic — don’t look up too high, or down too low, while navigating that wispy thread of road, surrounded by other sightseers.
There’s something to be said for the astonishment of the vertical panorama. Wide horizons we at least have precedent for, but a vertical swath from the sky down into the belly of the Earth is disorienting, like being able to see from space to the bottom of the sea in one glance, from Heaven to Hell in one fresco, too much for mortals.
There were two full-stop traffic jams on the way out, one for half an hour while we waited for a helicopter to evacuate a hiker, and another for a few minutes while a park ranger stalked the bushes carrying a bright pink long gun, presumably looking for tourists to put down.
The bright red, retro-styled park buses seem like the way to go — let someone else drive along the cliffs of madness, sit back and gawp at the wonder of the land.