Along Highway 287
Day 64. Today is supposed to be a little hard, with two passes to climb, but after that we are promised the elusive "downhill" all the way.
We have been biking through these valleys, called "holes" here in Montana (e.g. Jackson's Hole) that run North South and then climbing a pass to the west and hopping into another valley (hole) as we wend our way north, north west.
After 60 some days we have developed little traditions and jokes. Lew, always running behind, will say, "Don't wait for me." But as we are doing hills, he has regained his strength and just barrels away past and beyond us. When in this mode we call him the Lewcomotive.
Then there's John's self-deprecation, typically during a rest stop, or photo stop, or historical marker stop. "Well," he'll say, "the oldest and slowest of us is going to start and you'll catch up to me." Of course he then charges off, in his zone, and often will not stop for almost anything until he is in camp again.
We're climbing out of Beaverhead River Valley and we are firmly now following the Lewis and Clark Trail - yet another intersection of the TransAmerica Trail and other historical trail.
Yesterday we came upon Beaverhead Rock, a landmark recognized by Sacajawea that allowed the Corp of Discovery to meet up with her tribe, the Shoshone. That in turn led the group to acquire horses to be able to head up over the Continental Divide to find the headwaters of a river to go to the Pacific.
Like them, but with maps and guides, we will be following the same route.
Otherwise today seems to be a carbon copy of yesterday and the day before. Wide open valleys, snow capped mountains, beautiful wild flowers, and these distinctive Wyoming and Montana gates. Cattle abound but they seem so spread out, slowly and contentedly eating grass.
And horses. Lovely horses. We kept creeping up the pass, sometimes only doing four miles and hour. The weather turned nasty close to the summit of the pass, turning into a windy almost icy sleet. Popped on my new Patagonia Rain coat and was right as rain.
Blue Hole Valley, Montana
After Badger Pass it was another glorious descent. I had to take it easy with the brakes, because the road was wet and I didn't want to hydroplane off a curve. So I tried to keep my speed below 36 MPH.
The climbs are easier now, and I am unable to quantify the myriad of reasons why. I've been doing this 60 days. I've lost weight. I have a bike with three front gears. The grades here out west are nowhere near the erratic grades and curves of Virginia and Kentucky.
Now of course since Hoosier Pass, whatever we go up, we'll come down and then some.
But what an incredible, jaw dropping, giddiness-inducing view coming down. Blue Hole is an incredible expanse of a wide valley, rimmed by snowcapped peaks. It is, the sign later proudly proclaims, the land of 10,000 bales of hays. There are meadows stretching out for miles and cattle dotting the land.
Some of the cows were on the hills, with the snow capped peaks behind them, and it seemed like we were in Switzerland or on the wrapper of a Milka Chocolate bar.
It is a beautiful place.
Lunch today in Jackson, Montana - yet another small town (population 38) with another great little cafe - Rose's Cantina. Great hamburger with tater tots. It seemed everyone, except for Tom, was there. Two of Bill's friends, traveling through the area, had seen this was where we were to have stayed the night, and came to the cafe looking for him.
After lunch we started the final eighteen miles to Wisdom, Wyoming. Bob, from last night, warned us about the mosquitoes there, saying even motorcyclists found them bothersome at their speeds.
The road was great, clear pavement, a bit of a tailwind and just lovely skies and views. Most worrisome was the storm brewing across the valley to our left. It soon became apparent that it was heading toward us, or Wisdom and we needed to get there before it.
As we got closer, about five miles from town, I started to feel this light little dust hitting me but it was mosquitoes and gnats. Gross. As it was, when we arrived it was starting to rain. Lew, Jim, Norm and Christine were furiously trying to set up their tents in the rain and wind. John, Barry and I took shelter under the camp tent.
We camp tonight in Wisdom, Montana and there was rain, wind. I set up my tent under the group camp tent and then moved it out in the rain and staked it out.
Then the rain stopped and the mosquitoes came out. Tom and I cooked. Thai Chicken Soup with Rice Noodles. It was very good.
After dinner Jim, Lew, Norm, Christine and I went into town. This is a little crossroads of the town, but again - a good bar and grill. I had huckleberry ice cream - two dollars.
Tonight in the tent it began to rain, thunder and lightening. You could track the storm from the thunder come across the valley, over us and past. Stayed dry in the tent.