THE END OF THE RIDE IS IN SIGHT
Day 65. Phil put up the remaining days and stops and suddenly this adventure, this journey of ours which seemed so vast and immense months ago is suddenly coming to an end. We only have 17 more days and two of those days are rest days, until we reach the Pacific Ocean.
Big Hole National Battlefield, Montana, United States
This battlefield marks one of the several battles between the US Government and the Nez Perce tribe - the portion which refused to sign or honor the revised treaty which reduced the reservation 90% once gold was found on earlier portions guaranteed by a yet another treaty.
They refused to move onto the new reservation and the US Government then tracked and hunted them down to force them onto it.
You can't blame the Indians.
It is universal in the history of people that when one people move into the territory of another that one of three things happen. (1) One group is displaced and moves on. (2) One group kills another group off. (3) One group assimilates into the other. This has repeated time immemorial all over the world. The Normans and the Anglo Saxons. The Persians and Elamites. The Assyrians and the Babylonians. The Mexica.
Here in the US we tried a fourth way - (4) Reservations. We did it badly.
This battle marked a surprise attack on the tribe as it tried to move away and venture into Canada. It was a Pyrrhic victory for the Nez Perce because although they rallied and fought back the troops, they lost many of their warriors, women and children and had to retreat so quickly they were unable to bury their dead.
The tribe holds memorials here and it is moving to see so many of the Native American's wear veterans caps and fly American flags. Perhaps some sort of assimilation is the best of all.
It's a beautiful big state, but the last three days seem almost carbon copies of the same scenes. Valleys. Grass. Cows. Horses. Vistas. Clouds. Here these yellow wild flowers inundate this rail fence.
Chief Joseph Pass
These passes are getting easier to get up which is a good sign. We're crossing the Continental Divide again for the last time and so now we'll stay on the Pacific side of things until the end.
Because we're on the Continental Divide in Western Montana we're skirting along the state line between it and Idaho. We still have a few days before we cross into Idaho proper but thought we should document this minor crossing anyway.
We love this height marker by the sign, as if Idaho is a convenience store where the height of prospective robbers should be noted, or as Barry speculates, there may be a minimum height to get in.
From the Pass it was a glorious seven miles down. At times I reached 40 miles an hour and it was the best thrill ride I have been on in a while. It took us a little over a half an hour to reach Sula which was eighteen miles away.
Things are starting to take on a more Pacific Northwest feel to them - perhaps it's the pine trees, and canoes, and bears - but there's more of that feel than the West of Wyoming and Colorado.
We're staying in Darby, Montana tonight. It's a smallish little burg, population 733, at the Travelers' Rest RV and Cabins. We are staying in neither- but tenting. It's warm - almost muggy, but there are no mosquitoes and the sun gives us a chance to dry out our tents.
Tom is not here - marking the third or fourth night that he has not stayed with the group. More bizarre, he continued to bike the additional 65 plus miles past Darby to Missoula and is staying there. We're not sure what to make of it.
We celebrate Barry's 49th birthday today with a new Yellowstone themed Buff and colorful Bison/Old Faithful Socks.
A first at the map meeting tonight. We're starting to make specific plans for the last day when we ride into Florence and (partially) into the Pacific Ocean. Although it's sixteen days and two states off it feels a little strange to even contemplate leaving this Never Never Land of existence in anything but hazy far off terms. Reality is creeping about in the distance and with that - the separation of our little group of plucky cyclists of whom I've grown very attached.
How shall I start my day without Lew telling me not to wait for him or John's sly self deprecating announcement that the oldest and slowest is about to take off?