Another gallon of water got me to Dillon, MT

Thursday July 16, 2009, 71 miles (114 km) – Total so far: 3,269 miles (5,261 km)

After my post last night about the 11,000,000 trout in Ennis, I went to the diner and ordered Rocky Mountain trout for dinner.  They were out. Did the trout population drop that much?

This morning started out cool and clear, and we started up a hill.  Not a pass, not a mountain, just a hill that went from 5,000 feet to 6,900 feet in 11 miles.  I wondered if I was that weak that I needed to use my granny gear going up, but it was a 7% grade on the other side, so the steepness didn’t help any.  Nice view of the Madison Valley (with some haze) from near the top, and taking pictures is always a good excuse to stop while climbing.

Ennis and the Madison River valley

We dropped down that 7% grade at a good clip, although I max’ed out at 35 mph.  Not from over-use of brakes, I assure you!  I guess the drag from the bags slowed me down.  Towards the bottom was Virginia City, which appeared when gold was found in Alder Gulch in 1863.  That was enough to split Montana from Washington Territory, and Virginia City became the territorial capital until the gold ran out.  It’s been preserved through the efforts of one family, until the state stepped in about 15 years ago.

I'm not sure the painted trout is historically authentic...

Part of downtown Virginia City today

We needed something to eat by this time, and the candy shop provided water and delicious fudge and taffy.  We care more about nutrition as the day wears on, and this was still morning, so empty calories were fine as long as they were calories!

Right below Virginia City is the remnants of Nevada City.  There’s a train there to take you up to Virginia City, and that’s about it.  Virginia City has motels, taverns, and lots of other touristy stores.

Down in the Ruby River valley and later the Beaverhead valley, there was a lot more irrigation going on (mostly for hay and grass).  We came across our first, and second, and N’th sheep farms in Montana.

Sheep in Montana

Down to Alder, then through Sheridan (where we had lunch) and into Twin Bridges.  Picked up a package that had been forwarded twice at the Twin Bridges post office, and then faced a dilemna.  The town had just put in a nice bicycle park, with showers, screened in dining area, water and toilets.  Did we want to stay there, or push on toward Dillon?  As it was 2:00 in the afternoon, staying put sounded like a good idea.  But the post office flag was pointing southwest: tailwind!  We decided to try the next 28 miles into Dillon.

Fickle wind. It was a tailwind, or mostly a tailwind, for 6-8 miles.  Then it turned into a cross wind, then a headwind for a couple of miles.  Then it died down as we approached Beaverhead Rock at the halfway point, then fluctuated some more.  In the last 10 miles it decided to blow in our faces, but we were not turning back at that point.  We made it in about 5:00, showered and went looking for food.

Beaverhead Rock from the east. Sort of looks like a beaver's head, if you look at it just right.

Beaverhead Rock from the west. Lewis and Clark met the Shoshone Indians they were looking for near here. Lucky for them, Sacajawea's brother was the chief!

Supper was all right, but the shaved ice for dessert was just what I needed!  We’re going to take it a bit easier for the next day or so, in part because there’s a lot more climbing to come.  I think ACA is trying to avoid I-90, but it’s tough because most of the valleys, and so most of the roads around here, run north-south.  We need to go northwest, so you pick your passes carefully!

As for the one gallon day, when you’re looking at Kansas-like scenery with slowly changing mountains, what else do you do besides count the bottles of water you drink?  It ended up hot — 91 degrees on the Dillon bank sign — so it a good water-sipping day.

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