Location: Dillon, MT (KOA campground)
It was a cold morning that woke me. It pinched my exposed cheeks and nose and roused me out of my sleeping bag. I certainly didn’t want to get up. I stayed awake late last night reading my novel. Brian had to poke my tent to make sure I was coming out in due time. I was, but I packed everything I could while still under the cover of my rain fly, waiting for the sprinkling rain to stop.
I only had a banana for breakfast. I was ready to start moving to warm my legs. Brian had already eaten and was mostly packed by the time I finished rolling up my wet tent. My fingers were so cold. They were wet from the dew and rain, and the south wind nipped at my knuckles. We started out on highway 279 on what we thought was going to be a seventy-five mile day from Wisdom to Dillon. To my surprise and good fortune, the mileage sign on the road indicated that we would only be going sixty-five. Our math last night was wrong. It must have been so due to fatigue.
We started down the road, and a hard crosswind was blowing. The wind blew down from the tall ridgeline of the continental divide and into the Big Hole valley. They certainly don’t call it the Big Hole for nothing. The valley is surrounded on all sides by mountain peaks. Some peaks are snow-capped even in August. Others are just grassy or covered with pines. The valley extends for miles in each direction. It may be a hundred miles across in diameter. We biked towards Jackson, a small town with a population of less than fifty in the middle of the Big Hole.
In Jackson, the wind blew down Main Street without mercy. It whipped flags and banners and seemed to blow around every wall in town. There was no escaping it. Brian and I both bought a bag of chips at the general mercantile. There wasn’t much of a selection. The shelves were mostly empty, and those shelves with merchandise had items arranged so that each took up as much space as possible. They were lined along the edge of the shelf, so there was no depth to the rows. The essentials were there, but there was no variety. We sat on a bench in the wind in front of the store and snacked. We talked with a couple truckers for a while and then we were on our way, back onto the road, back into the wind.
We crossed Big Hole Pass and Badger Pass without much difficulty. Sometimes the wind blew with us, and other times it blew at us. It all depended on the turns in the road. Despite the two climbs and fifty miles, Brian and I decided to skip lunch. We came down the east side of Badger Pass. The road was straight and steep. On occasion it curved, but for the most part it was stretches of straight away pavement. The descent made me uneasy though. We always gather a lot of speed on the downhill, and usually that isn’t a problem. Today, though, the strong wind blew across the road. Frequent gusts would catch me abeam and push me towards the center line of the road. I’d lean tensely towards the gust, and then the gust subsided or I’d ride behind bushes or trees and I’d be unbalanced. I’d quickly regain balance of a wobbling front tire at thirty-five miles per hour. The wind pushed me across the dashed yellow centerline several times. Each time I could not control it. Thankfully no cars were oncoming. We were on a seldom used road. If there had been heavy traffic, the descent would have been a thousand times more perilous.
We reached Dillon without incident and we went to the library. I needed to send our followers the weekly email update to let them know we have added pictures to the website. We found out today that the Topsail mayor will accommodate us at the Autumn with Topsail festival, so that should be a memorable finish when we get there. I greatly look forward to the day.
After the library, we found the KOA campground in Dillon. The cost of staying here is outrageous. It’s twenty-six dollars for the two of us. It’s not the most we’ve paid, but it is still too much for a patch of grass to sleep on and a shower. But, the other campsite is a couple miles off route, and I wasn’t in the mood to ride off route.
We made our camp, took our shower, and now we have gone to bed. It seems it will be a cool night tonight. A storm is moving in from the south. Perhaps it will spare us. An owl is hooting on a branch above my tent. Maybe he will spare me and find a different tree. Tomorrow, we plan to reach Virginia City, about fifty-eight miles from here. The terrain doesn’t look too tough, but the wind will be at our backs in the morning and then quartering our face for the afternoon. That is if the winds remain the same. They tend to rotate and switch without forewarning. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us. Every day brings a new and refreshing experience.
Oh, yes. I nearly forgot. Today we bumped into three men from North Carolina. They are cycling from Kitty Hawk, NC to Florence, OR. They are all from the Raleigh area. One man’s name is Rick Koelsch. He is retired from IBM, and he spends some time with his riding partner at Topsail Beach.