Monday, June 24, 2013

Virginia City, MT

Day 37: Monday, June 24, 2013
Dillon to Virginia City: 73 miles

Today's ride should have been an easy one: a run through one valley to Twin Bridges, and a run through another to Virginia City. But there was the wind. And rain.

The Chicago Three and New Hampshire Two were on the road by 10:00 - late enough in itself - but I stuck around to try to catch up on my blog. Yup, KOAs have wi-fi connections.

If you looked up beaver slides, you found that their original name was Beaverhead County Slide Stacker. Beaverhead County is named after Beaverhead Rock, a distinctive rock formation, whose name in turn dates back hundreds (if not thousands) of years, courtesy of Native American tribes in the region. I think it looks more like an Anaconda head. But then, anacondas were not native to these parts.

Beaverhead Rock
Beaverhead Rock

The run up the Beaverhead River valley from Dillon passes right by Beaverhead Rock. I was so engrossed by it that I didn't pay much attention to the huge thundercloud sneaking up behind me until it was too late. I tried to outrun it, but it was no use. This darn wide-open country offers precious little shelter close to the road. But there was a cemetery! As I pulled in and hurriedly parked my bike under cover of some huge trees, the wind sprang up something fierce. I ran for the cover of the caretaker's shack; it was locked, but at least I could stand alee of it. The birds, sailing to and fro, seemed to be enjoying the buffeting. And that's pretty much all it turned out to be. The bulk of the storm passed a mile or so to the east. But it made for a pretty good show.

Any port in a storm

Tyler and Katie were having lunch in Twin Bridges when I arrived there. They had decided to stop there for the day (pretty short trip!), then go on to Bozeman and then, by whatever path, to New Hampshire. After lunch with them, I said goodbye and started working on the second leg, to Virginia City.

school and church
Just an interesting school and church building in a small town

After Twin Bridges came Sheridan (where I talked with Howard, who wore a cycling T-shirt and just happened to cross the street in front of me) and then Alder, where the occupants of the saloon seemed to live there. Don't jump to conclusions - the saloonkeeper also ran the RV park. What with my late start, the thunderstorm, and now headwinds, I wasn't sure I would make it to Virginia City. But the camping facilities were not impressive. And it was an hour earlier than I thought. So on to Virginia City, via Alder Gulch, playing cat-and-mouse with more rainclouds.

Alder Gulch, like the Sumpter Valley, had been turned upside down by dredges searching for gold. It is said that much of the gold removed from Alder Gulch financed Harvard University. It also financed any number of road agents, who, as it turned out, were under the control of the local sheriff. They were eventually caught by a group of citizens who called themselves the Vigilantes and, after due deliberation, dispatched via the rope.

Alder Gulch gold dredge
This Alder Gulch gold dredge
is nowhere near the size of the one in Sumpter.

Alder Gulch, some fourteen miles long, is now filled with tailings from the dredges. Both Nevada City and Virginia City, at the top of Alder Gulch, sprang up in the gold rush. Today, they're parks, essentially manufactured ghost towns that contain not only their own preserved buildings, but others that have been brought in from other ghost towns. They're fascinating, and I wish I could have spent more time there. The towns are little changed from when I passed through in 1981.

Nevada City business district
The Nevada City business district

Nevada City historic district
The Nevada City historic district

Virginia City
Virginia City

In Virginia City, I spied the Chicago Three enjoying supper in the Bale of Hay saloon. I joined them, and ordered a pasty smothered in gravy, and an Amber Jack - my first beer of the trip. Both went down nice and smooth. But the beer might not have been a wise decision. The campground was almost a mile past town - and about a quarter of the way up one more pass. Ugh!

cycling to camp after dinner
Cycling up to camp after dinner at the Bale of Hay Saloon

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