Today was a day of winds. We were all a little wobbly this morning after a hard 60 miles of climbing and headwinds yesterday. Today we had two big passes, the first heading out of the Big Hole Valley up Big Hole Pass, straight into a headwind. Ick. Incredibly beautiful countryside though – impossible to describe or photograph. At the top of the pass was an info site, which mentioned (among other things) that the Big Hole Valley was such obviously awesome ranching country that by the time the first white person arrived to settle there, 27 000 cattle had already been moved in by drovers. 15 miles in the next valley and we hit a second climb over Badger Pass, this time with a slight tail wind. The descent down the hill was at least 2000 feet, as we lost the altitude we’d gained climbing Chief Joseph Pass a couple of days back, with mountains encircling us on every side and the valley stretching out before us. The slight tail-wind turned into a serious cross-wind, and then into a truly epic tail wind, carrying us into Dillon. A stop for lunch at Fiesta Mexicana! (a taco truck in an old bus) and another at the supermarket, and we were flying down the road again. When we were climbing into the wind this morning I was imagining the tantrum I was going to throw, insisting that we stop in Dillon. To turn down the tailwind, though, would have been an insult to the cycling gods. Good decision – we cranked out another 28 miles in an hour and a half, flying down the road at 20mph with hardly any effort.
Today was also a day of tourist-encounters. Coming the other direction in quick succession were: a group of 3 shirtless sprinters; Cory, a young guy riding a seriously loaded recumbent cycle; 25 twenty-somethings riding across the country to raise money for cancer research (4K for Cancer), with widely varying degrees of enthusiasm for the mountain they were slogging up; Norm, a retired guy finishing up the transam after spending four summers doing it in chunks; and a stinky ex-computer engineer who rode from Seattle to Orlando and is now on the way back, via Ecuador and Colombia. Larry left us when we arrived at Twin Bridges to take advantage of the headwinds and make it a little ways further up the road.
We’re staying in a fantastic place, a cyclists’ camp by the river. The town has set up a little hut with mosquito screens, toilets, a shower, a sink with hot running water, and cycling supplies like white fuel, spare maps, insect repellent, and stray books. It runs on donations. Every town should have one.
You might be able to tell from my terse prose that I’m pretty shattered. 77 miles with two big climbs is a long day, and this is our second big one in a row. To end: we saw a herd of pronghorn antelope hanging out in a local wheatfield. No photos. James, though, is on a serious hunt for a perfect Montana photo which has a) horses b) fields c) mountains d) the odd cloud. We’ll see.