July 1, 2001

7/1/01 Sula, MT

59.3 miles

Gets kind of crisp here at 6,575 feet, but once on the toad, you heat up pretty fast. The Big Hole Valley was beautiful. It seemed as if this big valley had plenty of farms (or maybe it's because you could see for miles). The higher peaks of the Bitterroot Mountains looked like they had fresh snow.

Made it to Wisdom in time for breakfast. Even though it's only slightly larger than Jackson (150 versus 100), it looks much more prosperous. The Big Hole Brewing Company bottles several beers, including Headstrong Pale Ale. The town looked pretty asleep until I found the Big Hole Crossing Restaurant. That's where a big group of cars had gathered. Allen and Maggie soon arrived and we had a filling breakfast before heading on.

The Big Hole National Battlefield is the site of one of the many battles of the Nez Perce Indians against the U.S. Army as they tried to flee to Canada. Colonel John Gibbons had planned to surround the camp under cover of darkness, but an Indian, up early to check on his horses, stumbled upon the hidden soldiers. The troops were facing the rising sun and when Indians began running towards the river for cover, thus heading right to the soldiers' position, they had difficulty seeing who they shot. But the Nez Perce were able to counter attack and force Gibbons' men to retreat. Military losses were 29 dead and 40 wounded, but most of the 90 Indian dead were women, children, and the elderly. The Nez Perce escaped, but were eventually forced to surrender on October 5, 1877, just 40 miles from the Canadian border.

Big Hole National Battlefield

After that, it was a long climb out of the valley to the Chief Joseph Pass at 7,241 feet. Again, another hot day. Finally, reaching the top in the late afternoon, we took a break to eat some snacks. Just after the pass, I think we actually were in Idaho for a quarter mile or so before heading down the steep descent towards Sula, Montana. This had to be one of the longest, steepest downhills I've been on, but our speed was held in check because of some fierce headwinds.

Met a bunch more east-bound cyclists. There were Robert and Stephanie, each pulling bobs. John and Marilyn were the first tandem I've seen heading east. They started in Seattle. Hans is a German who said he usually doesn't get started on the road until lunch. We met "Men on Bikes" Dan, Tim, Jason, Paul, and Steve. But the most awesome couple has to be Becky and Dean Heaston. They left their home in North Carolina on February 18th, headed west along the Southern Tier route. But they were having so much fun when they reached San Diego, they decided to head north on the Pacific Coast Trail, then turned east along the TransAm in Oregon, headed for home. Both are retired. And they've gone about 6,000 miles to get here. Simply awesome!

"Men on Bikes"

Sula, Montana is really the Sula Country KOA Campground. After a nice shower and dinner, the mosquitoes have driven me into the tent yet another night. Getting close to Missoula, hopefully day after tomorrow, the day before the 4th of July.

Alan and Maggie on their Thorn tandem