Daily miles 96. Total Miles 1633.
We knew when we pulled into the campround last night that we were at the base of a climb to start off in the morning. No doubt – we packed up, and within meters of the campsite we were climbing a reasonably steep road with switchbacks, and S-curves. I think we gained 1000 or maybe 1500 feet before cresting at a big dam. We knew the dam was up there since there was a sign in the campgroun warning that “If the stream level rises rapidly alarms are heard, seek higher ground immediately.” Very reassuring.
We buckled down, dug in, and had an enjoyable climb. I’m not generally a fan of reservoirs, but at the crest were amazing vistas of snow-peaked mountains to the south and east. I think it was the Pioneer Mountains. In any case, it was awesome to see big mountains, and we had a nice long descent of 1000 feet or so into the town of Anaconda.
Apparently, Anaconda was the center of copper smelting for ore mined in Butte and some other places around the area. That all ended in 1980 and now it has the look of an old company mining town (it was bought by the Anaconda Miing Cp. Back in 1924 or something like that). We snacked there and decide to try and push on to Butte for a late lunch around 2 pm. We had to get on the Interstate for a little bit along the way, but most of the riding was along side roads including an awesome little stretch of a one-lane raiload access that took us into Butte. We had lunch at the Great Harvest andcalled Aunt SuzAnne who is from Butte. She told us Great Harvest is a Dillon, MT company. Cool. Great sandwiches and a little “ice lolly” (ice cream bar) to accompany. I was struck by these little plywood yellow ribbons attached to lightpoles with the names of service people from Butte presumably in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a touching tribute showing great community support, but sad that they are faded from being necessary for more than one harsh season in the high country.
Aunt SuzAnne hooked us up with good route information for getting of town. We headed south and then up to the east over another pass – this one topping out over 6,000 feet, our highest point so far, but a record soon to become irrelevant. This climb too was enjoyable, carving our way up a mountainside. The descent into Whitehall was epic as well. I’m still nervous about the tires so kept the speed down and stopped a couple times to allow the wheels to cool down. They probably didn’t need it. The sun had come out nicely and we were toasty and happy as we arived in the little town of Whitehall. I ducked into a convenience store for water and saw a sign that said “Don’t complain about the coffee – you too will be old and weak someday.” It didn’t inspire me to buy any!
>From Whitehall, the final 20 miles, as usual, involved lots of grimmacing and fidgeting in our seats. A few miles shy of the campground, we bought a couple beers in a casino to celebrate the completion of FOUR WEEKS on the road! That’s about the midway point for both time and distance.
Being together 24/7, and being on the road with what possesions and comforts we carry is our reality. Neither of us would rather be anywhere else in the world. Some guy stopped me outside the bathroom asking about our ride. When I explained, he told me I was lucky “To have met a woman who would do such a trip for me.” It was a nice sentiment, but I had to tell him this trip is a tandem trip. Two people are required to ride the bike, fix the bike, plan the trip, and conceive of the idea. It is for us – not for me.
The sky is clear and beautiful, a combination of mexican soup, beer, and 96 miles in the sun has me sleepy. Signing off – tomorrow to Bozeman.