August 2, 2006
I had three pancakes with coffee for breakfast, and then went to the Post Office to send home the old bike parts. The clerk gave me a newspaper to help pack my things, and the sports section said “Floyd Landis Wins Tour de France” on the cover. That’ll be a keeper when I get home. I’m proud of the Pennsylvania boy. Testosterone doping or not, winning Le Tour is an awfully difficult thing to do.
This morning was cool and misty, and I rode out of town wearing my fleece hoodie. I rode along the scenic Hebgen Lake for a while, and then Quake Lake. The lake was actually created by an earthquake in 1959.
The road descended along the Madison River from the narrow mountains to a wide plain. This plain gradually narrowed, and route 287 cut a swath through the middle of some golden ranch pastures, fenced on both sides by parallel mountain ranges.
With a slow loss of elevation, and virtually no wind, I was making great time through here at a good clip. Once I stopped to watch a hawk soaring above me – the sudden lack of wind in my ears, sound of my breathing, and creak of the crank was shocking to me. I could see for miles and miles amid a soft silence.
In Cameron I stopped for the first snack of the day, and had a 20oz. Coke, a Snickers, and a full size container of Pringles potato chips. Eleven miles later I came to Ennis, the biggest town I’d see today. The sign on the outskirts said “Ennis: population – 680, trout – 100,000.” At a gas station I had two hot dogs and a liter of orange soda. As I sat out front, a guy with spurs on his boots jingled past me.
I was sort of dreading the 2,000 foot ascent out of town, but it ended up being the perfect grade for me to steadily work up it without getting too exhausted. Near the top I felt like a fit bicycling machine… I’ll take my polka-dot jersey now, thanks.
The view was outstanding, and I actually recognized the scene from some other people’s TransAm journals. Somehow the pictures I’d seen from this mountain view became lodged in my brain as “Montana.”
So on the climb I was thinking about the word “Montana,” and a certain funny way of pronouncing it that I couldn’t place from my memory. Suddenly I remembered – the Russian Sam Neil character from Hunt For Red October. When he gets shot at the end, his dying words are, “I would have liked… to see… Montana.” Poor guy.
Then on the descent, the song “Elenore, gee I think you’re swell…” popped in my head. No, I didn’t play the radio at all today.
Halfway down the descent, I came to Virginia City, a restored Old West town. Gold was discovered in the area in 1863, and ten million dollars worth of it was reaped from a nearby gulch in one year, making Virginia City Montana’s second capital when it was still a territory. It was also the state’s first incorporated town, with a population of over 10,000. Now it’s just a small tourist stop with a population of 130.
With over 85 miles already under my belt for the day, I pulled a Crazy Ivan this evening and pressed on. I always pull my Crazy Ivans in the evenings.
The next town, Alder, had a small gas station with the nicest woman working there, where I had a half pound ham&cheese Hot Pocket, four Reese’s peanut butter cups, and a 20oz. Vault. Seeing a lot of deer this evening, I cruised on through to Sheridan, where I was going to pick up something for my dinner later, but everything was closed. It was after 8pm by now.
The final miles into Twin Bridges were great. There were dozens of sprinklers shooting off along the road, and the way the low sun shone through the flying water droplets was most excellent. Then the sunset fell right in front of me as I pedaled down a long hill, and the Lennon song “Instant Karma” got stuck in my head. Did you know John Lennon was a bicycle lover? There’s a quotation out there somewhere about how he used to take his first bike into bed with him at night.
An old couple in their yard waved to me. I passed two people on horseback, a guy with a young boy on an ATV, and two teenage girls on another ATV… everybody smiling and waving, as I rode into the sunset at the end of a rewarding high mileage day in Montana.
There was a gas station open here in Twin Bridges, where I picked up two boxes of mac&cheese and a can of Vienna Sausages for dinner. I was going to go with the old-standby pound of spaghetti and tuna, but all they had was a 24oz. bag of pasta – that’s too much to fit in my pot. Oh, and the mac&cheese box said “Best if used by NOV ’05.” Yummy.
Please note that I listed every last item I ate today. Also note that I’m now in my tent at the Twin Bridges “Fairgrounds.” Note that life is good.