July 23, 2001 - Mike and Marilyn's 2001 TranAmerican Bike Tour

Mike and Marilyn's
2001 TransAm Bike Trip
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July 23, 2001

TRANSAM 2001 > Montana

Ennis to Dillon, Montana. (73 mi.) Mile 3211

Virginia City to the Beaverhead Valley

Readers of this journal may remember that we enjoyed spending the 4th of July with the cycling Grant-Perzanowski family from Vermont, wishing safe travels for them as they continued east. Yesterday we were shocked and saddened to learn that 13 year old Kara and her mother Jen had been involved in a collision with a semi while bicycling back to Vermont, and that Kara was receiving treatment and surgery for a serious injury to her foot. On their online journal, the family urged TransAm cyclists to stick to the Adventure Cycling route, since it has been mapped out with an emphasis on avoiding high traffic areas when possible. Just last night we had been seriously contemplating taking a shorter alternative to Missoula via Butte Montana, but are now sticking to the TransAmerica Trail as originally planned. We wish for the speediest recovery for Kara, who had impressed us with her strong and adventurous spirit.

Looking back down on the Madison River Valley from our 2600 ft climb to Virginia City.

Our thoughts have been on bicycle safety today, as we climbed up out of the Madison Valley to mile high Virginia City. This whole town is a National Historic Landmark. In 1863, gold was discovered in what was a small wilderness stream lined with alders. In the gold rush that followed, Virginia City and numerous other small towns sprang up along Alder Gulch, to become Montana's largest settled area at the time; 10,000 people at its peak.

Virginia City's colorful history includes a period of rampant lawlessness, robberies, and murders, ending when a vigilante movement hanged two dozen men in a one month period in 1864. We visited some of the museums in town, where one had on display the club foot of Club Foot George, one of Virginia City's early bad guys. After he was hanged, his body was later dug up to confirm his identify, and somehow his foot ended up in a bell jar in a museum display.

A stagecoach driver waits to take customers on an interpretive tour of historic Virginia City.

Virginia City's historic blacksmith shop

A few miles down the road from Virginia City is Nevada City, another historical mining town, as well as the rocky dredgings and rusty mining equipment that have impacted the otherwise attractive environment along Alder Gulch.

We've noticed out West, that when we use the restroom, we often have to decide whether or not we are a Cowboy or Cowgirl, Buck or Doe, Stallion or Filly, Ram or Ewe, etc. In Virginia City, we had a choice of Bull or Cow. This reminds me of those poorly designed multiple choice questions in college where none of the above are good answers. One just has to guess at the intent of the author of the question, give a sigh of resignation, and, in my case, go in the door labeled "Cows".

We also had an experience in tiny Riverside, Wyoming, in the Bear Trap Cafe, that characterizes the small towns we have been traveling through out here in the West. I had the sudden feeling we were at a costume party representing some of the principle customers to the small town cafes in this area. First, there were the cowboys, dressing their part in cowboy boots, hats, big belt buckles, and Western shirts, swaggering in from their dusty 4x4 pickups. Then there was a table of fly-fisherman, all dressed in khaki and earth tone clothing. They came in the Suburban. Then there were the RVers, in pleat front shorts, polo shirts, and white crew socks, and finally, there we were, in lycra bike shorts, funny tan lines, and helmet hair, easily matched to our vehicles outside too.

Ever since I dropped the digital camera, I have been missing photo opportunities. Some shots which I had high hopes for did not, for some reason, show up on the memory card when I went to edit them later. It may just be that the battery contacts have not been good since then and I might be able to solve this. Meanwhile, I will have to simply describe the Beaverhead River Valley in an inadequate way, as broad, beautiful, and green, with an immense blue sky overhead, and fluffy white clouds. This is country that was explored by the Lewis and Clark expedition in their successful search for the headwaters of the Missouri not far from here. I have loved the Missouri Headwaters valleys since I first saw this area years ago.

We had a very long but good ride into Dillon. We rode hard, with special purpose, driven by the knowledge that...... the Patagonia Outlet Store in Dillon would close at 6:00 pm. We have been asked by other travelers how we can fit all of our clothing into our panniers, and the answer is that we have carefully chosen the minimum high performance clothing (no cotton) that can serve multiple functions, be layered, washed and dried quickly, and packed small. Patagonia makes clothing like this. When we got there, a couple of other touring bicyclists were also in the crowd pawing through the bargains. The sales people told us that for bikers, they would ship any purchase to our homes free, or else, ship our dirty clothes home so we could continue on with the new ones. What a great alternative to doing laundry.

We ended up camping at the Dillon KOA on the banks of the Beaverhead River, again sharing our site with Jen Saks, as we have for the last few evenings. A brief thunderstorm passed overhead once we had pitched the tent, but it only added to the drama of this country. Montana has been good to us so far, with expansive scenic beauty and good weather; temperatures in the 70s-80s during the day, and no threatening storms or severe winds.

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