Biking Montana

Day 63- August 2

We woke up early in Madison for a big day. We were going to bike 14 miles to West Yellowstone and have a big breakfast, all before 8.30……that didn’t go as planned. Mainly due to the weather- it was super cold when we got up, which slowed us down. Then riding down the hill into West Yellowstone was freezing as the wind was cold and we were in the shade. We stopped multiple times to warm up in the sun.

Dad was having a fit because he couldn’t feel his fingers. We finally reached West Yellowstone and headed to the Running Bear Cafe. They served non-traditional french toast, which is amazing. I had apple pecan bread and Dad had banana walnut. They also offer different types of syrup.

We then rode to the grocery store then to the visitor center to use the wifi. We were in there for an hour. We didn’t leave West Yellowstone till almost 11.

It was a nice day as the terrain was mainly dropping in elevation, of course there were some climbs, but not bad and it was beautiful.

The wind didn’t bother us really as we paralleled a river. Soon, the river expanded into a lake with dead trees in it.

This was Quake Lake and our map shares it’s history with us along with a visitor center down the road. To get to the visitor center we had to go through a construction zone with a pilot car, but I didn’t see anything that needed it. We turned off and went to the visitor center that overlooked the lake. We had some snacks then toured the information panel.

The story is that on August….17th I think….1959 at 11.57 pm there was a 7 plus earthquake in the area. It shook the area so bad that a landslide occurred causing the river to be blocked. Due to the increased river flow from the quake and the blockage, the water level rose quickly. The earthquake also caused the water to shift meaning that people with river property now had muddy beds- the water moved closer to the other side. The sad part of this story is that there was a campground in the valley/area where many people were since it was Summer. 28 people lost their lives and left about 250 survivors. There were camping cabins that got swept away- floating around- and, once the water level died due to a hastily constructed spillway, they landed in the meadow. It is now called Ghost Village. There are many things at the bottom of the lake still like cars and scientists say eventually the water with decrease and a river will flow again, but they don’t have a time period on that.

We continued on straight into a headwind. Our goal was about a 60 mile day to some campgrounds. Then we turned a bend. We got tailwind! Beautiful tailwind. With the downhill and no pedaling, the tailwind was pushing us at around 20 mph! The miles were flying by. We decided to go to Ennis- 87 miles in total. The wind carried us the whole way. We stopped at a rest area for more water and more food then went all the way. Our longest day yet.

We arrived in Ennis and got a hotel room, which ended up including a kitchen. It was nice having a room with real beds after no showers the night before and a long day. We got groceries and made dinner then went to sleep.

Day 64- August 3

After making breakfast we went on our way. We had a decent day of 44 miles ahead of us, but we knew we would also have headwind and a 2,000 foot climb, which was right off the bat.

To Virginia City from Ennis was 14 miles- 10 of which was uphill. There was a scenic turnout, which was incredible as we could see how far we came (about 8 miles at this point). Two bicyclists were coming down, East bounders, and they stopped. We ended up talking to them for an hour. They were super nice and friendly. We did forget to take their photos. When we got to that point Dad shouts “I’m a touring machine!”

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We came from down there!

Finally we crossed the pass and ventured down the hill. It was steep- 7 percent grade with little shoulder and the wind was blowing everywhere. Virginia City, and it’s next door neighbor, are Gold Rush towns and the residents have restored the buildings to what they looked like in the 1800s. It was like stepping into Disneyland. We had lunch at the saloon then kept going.

Though we had a drop in elevation or downhill the rest of the day, we had headwind and we didn’t feel like going all the way to Dillon, another 28 miles. So we made our way to Twin Bridges where we heard there was a nice campground for cyclists.

This was a shack with sofas and a clean shower and toilet. We pitched our tent outside. Another cyclist joined us from Washington, who was just going to Rawlins, WY then his dad was going to join and they are going to Boulder, Colorado.

We had dinner at The Shack- a large pizza that was delicious and devoured in minutes.

Day 65- August 4

We decided today was a short day. For many reasons. We knew we had to gain elevation and several huge climbs to make our normal 60ish day. However, after the next town, Dillon, there isn’t anything for 42 miles meaning it was going to be in the 70 mile range. Oh yeah, plus headwind. So we decided to just go to Dillon at 28 miles and camp at the KOA since they offer laundry facilities and we can stock up on some items. Oh, random side note, we had a lovely breakfast- I had a pulled pork omelet- so good!!

On riding into Dillon, we saw 2 dogs running by their owner who was operating a farm machine. It was cute.

We registered at the KOA and received a biker discount and set up camp. Once we did that, we noticed chickens running around. They were going under the fence and pecking their way around the grass. Very interesting to watch. We then did our laundry while looking at the remaining maps. We only have the rest of this one and 3 more!

 

We got our subway sandwiches for dinner then went to the store where there was a sale on cliff bars.

Day 66- August 5

As mentioned we had two climbs. Luckily the wind wasn’t bad. The two climbs actually passed quick as they were close together and it wasn’t that steep. In total we climbed 2,000 feet from Dillon.

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The second pass

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After the first pass we saw 3 bikers who looked like they were on the Great Divide trail and then we saw 4 more bikers climbing the second pass as they were going down.

Dad was having a hard time with the descents as the sides were like cliff drop offs- he was worried about falling off. But once we got more on level ground it was fine.

We made it to Jackson and had a second lunch since we were hungry. We decided it was becaise it was cold and we climbed two passes. We met 5 bikers when we were there. None were doing the transamerica, but still decent amounts. A couple was going from Portland, Oregon to Denver, Colorado and 3 were riding from Bozeman, Montana through Yellowstone then to Missoula.

This area has a lot of hot springs and Jackson had one of them. The 5 bikers wanted to soak in it. We continued on to Wisdom with tailwinds, hoping to get a motel room for a nice hot shower and a bed. No luck. This weekend was the annual remembrance of the Big Hole Battle between the Nez Perce Indians and the Americans. So Native Americans were staying in town (which is close to the battlefield).

We ended up going to the American Legion Park, which offers free camping. We met some of the members who were also going to be camping that night and set up our tent in the shack to have more protection against the elements- mainly the cold weather. The past nights it has been reaching in the 40s Farenheit. No showers though and after 66 miles, I was tired. We got some random food items from the grocery store and met another 3 bikers from the Netherlands. They were following any roue, just their own. One of them did the transam in 1992 and has rode 17,000 miles in the USA.

Day 67- August 6

It was cold! We broke down our site and went to the restaurant in town, The Crossing for breakfast. It was busy! There were fire fighters from the nearby fire, the Native Americans, the 3 bikers, and other people.

The food was delicious. The waitress told us that there were several Elders from the tribe there and that the ceremony started at 10.

When we went out to get our bikes, we heard a lady across the street talk about bicyclists on the road. She seemed annoyed by is and said “I don’t know why they want to pedal uphill.” That makes the two of us….

We pedaled on. We reached the battlefield site/National Park site at 9:53. We toured the visitor center and watched the short movie on what happened here in the 1870s. Many people died – many women and children as the US soldiers surprised attacked at night on the sleeping tribe. But, reading between the lines, it sounds like the Nez Perce actually got the better of the soldiers.

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We could see a large group of people a bit aways preparing for the ceremony. It wasn’t until about 10:30, when we were leaving, did anything start to happen.

We had another big pass today, actually two, but the second one was downhill after the first so no extra climbing (yay!) The highest pass the day before was 7,360 while this pass- Chief Joseph pass was at 7,241. We had to climb about 1,000 feet.

The last few miles of this climb was rough as it had a lot of bends- we thought we were done, but there was a bend, etc. However, I’m glad we did the side we did because coming down….going up that side would have been long and steep. Much longer than our side. The view going down was beautiful. We had such nice weather. The second pass was actually the state line between Idaho and Montana, but we go into Idaho later.

At the bottom, I get a flat. A small half inch wire got me. When we were fixing it, the weather turned and we could feel rain drops. We biked a mile or two to Sula and stopped at their restaurant/store for lunch. She just closed the kitchen, but she still made us sandwiches, which was super nice! We watched as the rain came down. We decided to stay there as they had cabins. We thought of going on to Darby, but with the weather and the fires so close we thought they were going to be full. Sula was a good choice and it was a decent day of 40 miles.

Once we got in our cabin, it down poured. We were glad we weren’t biking. We talked to a couple from Lichtenstein, which was cool- there’s only about 35,000 people that live there!

Sula is in the beginning of a canyon and it’s spot is lovely. When the weather cleared again in the late afternoon, it was beautiful.

Day 68- August 7

We got breakfast at the restaurant and was joined by more fire fighters and the 3 bikers from Jackson who were going to Missoula. They informed us that they got caught in the down pour when they were coming down the pass. They were planning on going to Hamilton while we planned on going to Missoula, 83ish miles. We git our things together, but then it started spitting. We groaned, but luckily it stopped after a few minutes.

The ride beautiful. Going through the canyon by the river. We mainly had a tailwind and it was gradually descending or dropping elevation. We passed an old dead tree that the Native Americans honor as a medicine tree. It was an easy 18 miles to Darby.

We got some hot chocolate and Dad commented on how in the beginning we wanted cold drinks, but since it is colder here we now want hot. The temperature has been in the 70s maybe high of 80, but nothing compared to the 95 with 95 percent humidity we were experiencing. We later found out that Wisdom was expected to reach 34 Farneheit that night….

Dad received a flat…the cause wasn’t in it, but we could see the hole. Luckily we were going to be on a bike path for a good portion of the remaining miles meaning there wouldn’t be any junk on the path that could give us flats. The bike path ran parallel to the highway, which was nice. We were afraid it was going to be like the bike path from Breckenridge, Colorado to Silverthorne, which is scenic and has a bunch of leisure curves. We stopped in Victor for lunch and then continued. We had 35 miles to go to Missoula, but we stopped and 22 miles in Lolo.

So this part of the route is interesting….from Lolo is where one would turn West to keep going to Oregon, but the map has us going North to Missoula. The map says this is an alternate, but unlike the other alternates it’s not in a different color. The reason for Missoula? Because the ACA- Adventure Cycling Association, who’s in charge of these trails and routes is here. 13 miles essentially off route for what some bikers would call “the holy grail of bike touring.” You also get ice cream. The next map begins by going South to Lolo then West.

We stopped in McDonald’s for a snack and a break. An elderly woman approached us and said she thought I looked tired.

We were pleasantly surprised that there was a bike path between Lolo and Missoula as the map doesn’t indicate it. It spat on us throughout the day, being sunny in the early afternoon then rainy again.

We got a motel room couple of blocks from ACA. Now a rest day!

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