June 7 - 19: Idaho and Montana (and Idaho again)

6/13 - Hamilton (95 miles 3116.5 total)
oh so cold in jackson this morning. we grabbed our breakfast burritos & took them back to our rooms for breakfast. most people started off very early due to the long day that was scheduled. even sari & i were on the road by 6.
we continued north through the big hole valley. it was so beautiful early in the morning. we hadn't been riding long when we noticed the stump of a rainbow from the ground up to about the height of the mountaintops. we watched it for miles & miles; it would change in intensity & size.
it's in the right part of this picture. notice, too, the montana farmers taking their airplane out of the barn early this morning. in the distance--but not especially discernible--are the bitterroot mountains.
a roadside sign informed us that we were riding through the big hole valley, "land of 10,000 haystacks." indeed we had noticed quite a few haystacks dotting the beautiful green valley. the area is known for its abundant hay, fine horses, cattle, & great hunting & fishing. the early explorers called valleys holes...."holes" in the surrounding ring of mountains; hence jackson hole & big hole.
at mile 18 we arrived at the town of wisdom. the question was whether to turn left to keep on route or turn right to check out local eateries. not that there was much to choose from in such a teeny town at such an early hour (7:45). but we turned right. you never know where a prize-winning pie might be lurking.
we pedalled 'til we saw some bikes leaned against a cafe....only 3 bikes. (not many bikers had turned right at that fateful intersection.) inside the cafe were rose, gerrie, & sarah---the hard core of the breakfast club. they had ordered their breakfasts. sari & i scanned the list of homemade pies posted on the wall & settled for marion blackberry, a flavor we haven't seen yet. but someone in our group had advised us to try it if we ever found it. it arrived at our table warmed. my oh my it was good. & it was the first lattice-top crust we've had yet on our pie tour....or is it bike tour?
all of us had gotten very cold during that first 18 miles, but especially gerrie. she was having a terrible time warming up in the cafe. all of us wrapped our coats around her. here's a photo of gerrie trying to warm up with the help of all our bikewear.
after pie we ventured out onto the road again & headed west. the clouds were getting darker & the winds stronger. every once in a while we'd get pelted by some rain. sari & i stopped to visit the big hole battlefield visitors' center. the exhibits describing the conflicts between the indians & white soldiers were fascinating & informative. a staffperson at the visitors' center showed us a jar of little flower bulbs. they were from the camas, that bright bluish purple flower that we'd seen everywhere along our way yesterday, the ones that had made up those blue "pools" of flowers in the pastures. the indians roasted the flower bulbs & ate them. they have a very pungent odor.
we hated leaving the warmth & dryness of the visitors' center, but of course needed to proceed toward chief joseph pass, so out we went into the elements. from time to time we got sprinkled upon & often the winds gusted into our faces. it was beautiful, tho', along the roadway as we climbed. we had a treat along the way when we came upon becky in the subaru. she served us cups of hot chocolate to warm us up!
the incline was gradual 'til we got closer to the top, but we made it. by that time it was gerrie, sarah, sari, & i. the riders who had started off very early this morning were greeted by rain, sleet, & snow at the pass, but you can see that our weather was quite different:
since sarah doesn't like to be in pictures, she took this one. from left it's gerrie, sari in front, & me. you can see that we're pretty bundled up. it was cold up there.
we had some snacks from our bike bags, used the nearby restroom facility, & visited. finally, we rearranged our garb somewhat for the descent; we had built up some warmth from the climb, but knew it would be very chilly going down.
it was over 12 miles down the mountain....lots steeper than i prefer. i inched my way down, of course, while the others whizzed past me. at least i get more time to take in the scenery that way. at the bottom we stopped at a little general store at sula. the bikers who had stopped earlier pretty well cleaned out their supply of pie & soup. we used the restroom, filled up on water, & moved on down the road.
often along the way we saw signs pointing out that we were traversing the route that lewis & clark trod. it was interesting to imagine them making their way through these mountains. as we rounded a corner in the road we saw a dozen or so molting animals milling right along the roadway; we finally realized that they were elk. they seemed quite skittish. i had the feeling that they were hoping to cross the road to the river on the other side, but we & other traffic scared them.
here's a photo showing how our road looked there along the bottom of the valley. at this point the valley was narrow. that's the bitterroot river rushing along just beside the road. what a beautiful ride.
after sula the next town was darby some 20 miles away. we 4 decided to aim for ice cream there. as we rode into darby i again noticed a very large business specializing in log homes & furniture. i've seen lots of those the last few days.
as we rode toward darby the bitterroot valley opened out. this photo gives you an idea of the magnificent vistas we enjoyed.
darby is a cute town. we found an ice cream shop & each had a shake. we chatted with some locals as we enjoyed our ice cream treats. that's one of the most enjoyable parts of this ride....getting a chance to visit with the local folks when we stop.
'til darby we'd put up with lots of headwinds, but boy did we feel lucky--for the last 20 miles into hamilton--to get some tailwinds. it was 5:00 by the time we left the ice cream shop so needed to make time to get to our motel; we knew we'd be late for supper, but hoped they wouldn't hold it for us. the tailwinds got us to the super 8 in hamilton by 6:30. patty was just serving the shrimp curry. (what a treat!)
tomorrow we'll ride about 68 miles to lolo hot springs. becky says it's rolling.....with no passes to surmount. yipppee...a day without passes!
Higher quality versions of the pictures from my trip are available here. If you would like copies of the original, full-size photos, or if you would like text-only versions of these daily reports e-mailed to you, feel free to e-mail my son Mark with your request. Stay tuned....

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