Biologist on a Bike

Day 21: Dillon, MT to Ennis, MT

June 11, 2018

Distance 71.92 mi
Average Speed: 12.8 mph; Max Speed: 41.6 mph
Elevation Gain: 2,580 ft
Average Temp: 57.2 F; Temp range: 41.0-80.6 F


I had a late start today. Last night I washed out some of my clothes and hung them on the bike to dry. That was all well and good until I woke up to the sound of rain. Ooops. I grabbed my laundry, a few quarters, and my tablet, and went to the laundry room to do some work while I stuck my clothes in the dryer for a bit. Also, the main office and store had complementary coffee, tea, cocoa, and cappuccino. I ate my breakfast with one of those sugary “cappuccinos” from a machine. Coffee snobs, don’t judge. It had caffeine and calories, both of which are helpful.

Before packing up, I got in a conversation in the restroom with two women about my trip (although it started with the weather and the use of public spaces like restrooms or the laundry room to stay warm).

Where I woke up, Day 21. Do you see the magpie?

It was after 9 when I rolled out of the campground, with a wish of “tailwinds and long descents” from a woman cyclist. But I wasn’t quite on my way just yet; there was a Safeway on my way out of town, and I thought it might just be a large enough outfit that I could find some Gatorade powder to replenish my rapidly dwindling stock. I was right! Huzzah, electrolytes. After I left I immediately thought, “I should have bought two,” but I was eager to get going towards today’s destination.

The ride began with exactly what the woman wished for me: tailwinds and a long descent. It wasn’t steep, but between the elevation loss and the helpful wind, I was rolling along at a respectable clip.

I’ve been seeing a lot of things named “beaverhead” in the area, and today I found out why. The Beaver’s Head rock was a well-known landmark to many Native American Tribes

Beaverhead Rock

Years ago I read a blog post by The Bloggess about a 5 foot-tall metal rooster she named Beyoncé. I laughed so hard I cried. And it has stuck in my head ever since. Well today, on one of my descents, I had to stop, because I learned that there can indeed be a functional purpose to a giant metal rooster: a giant metal weathervane.

That is one serious weathervane


Eventually road turned, and the wind was no longer pushing me along. Now it was against me or pushing me sideways. Well, I knew it couldn’t last forever. It was a gusty wind, pushing around some menacing looking rainclouds. There were dark clouds all around, some with some serious downpour going on, but I was fortunate. Unlike the past two days, none of the storms did more than clip me with a passing sprinkle.

I love the play of light and shadow on the hills and mountains here

I passed two groups of TransAm tourers headed west today. One man had broken the TransAm down into 3 sections and this year was completing the third of those. He had set out just a few days ago. His recumbent bike looked very comfortable to me. (His blog) He was riding with two gentlemen from Valpariso Indiana who set out from Yorktown in mid April. Later I passed another pair of riders traveling somewhat light (two panniers each), but they were coasting downhill while I was slogging my way up, so all we did was call out hi!

On today’s route were two well-preserved and restored mining towns from the Gold Rush era: Nevada City and Virginia City. I saw a lot of families exploring the attractions, such as exhibits from those days, old trains, and places where you could pan for gold or garnets. It looks like it might have been a cool place to spend the night and explore a bit.

How could I not take a picture of an old train car with Chicago on it?

Great Northern

After Virginia City, which was over 40 miles into my day’s ride, came today’s big climb. It wasn’t terribly steep or long, but it was a bit of a challenge. The wind was assisting me again, thank goodness, but my legs just weren’t into it. I think they can be forgiven, though, since in the last 72 hours I’ve crossed 5 mountain passes. On my way up I got passed by no fewer than 4 Sheriff’s cars, two with lights, one with lights and siren. I have no idea what they were hurrying to, but all seems quiet where I am tonight, so maybe it wasn’t here.

The downhill was great, with a stunning view that a camera just cannot do justice to, and the promise of setting up camp at the next town. It was a bit chilly though, and adding in 30+mph speeds, my fingers were nearly frozen by the time I finished. Also, in one part of the descent there was a gusty crosswind that made me have to ride my brakes to maintain a slow enough speed to be sure I wouldn’t get blown off the road.

I made it, though, and set up camp in a small RV park/campground in town. There was free camping available, but not with restroom access. I will happily pay for restroom access. And the shower room here was amazing. I also took a jaunt over to the local market where to my surprise I found more Gatorade powder. My wish of buying two earlier in the day was now fulfilled, along with some cheese, granola, and a few other things.

The forecast calls for a low of 31 tonight, so I’m going to get bundled up and head to sleep. In two days, I fall goes well, I should be in Yellowstone!

Roadkill count: 1 bird, 1 cat, 2 deer, 2 unidentified mammals


Map Day 21

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