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TransAm Journal - Thu July 20, 2023

Day 72

Dillon MT, 72 miles

I’m going to share this post with the ACA. I think I have a responsibility to do that. I understand I am just one voice but I believe every voice should be heard

The climb out of Ennis was a big one, about 8 miles of significant grade. Once I made the pass I dropped straight into Virginia City (see below). I had an easy ride from Virginia City to Sheridan. From Sheridan to Twin Bridges was the fastest eight miles I have done on the tour. Downhill with a shoulder that lets you really put the hammer down. From Twin Bridges to Dillon was another story…

Twin Bridgets to Dillon follows State Highway 41. It’s a 28 mile stretch of road, but the first 20 miles has no shoulder. Literally zero shoulder in many places with a significant amount of broken white line in other places. To put it quite simply, it was a nightmare. The speed limit is 70 MPH and that is what most cars and trucks are doing. Bicycles don’t belong on a road like that. I got the distinct impression from the behavior of a lot of the vehicles that passed me that they are basing their driving behavior on a similar belief.

When I went through Yellowstone, I saw a fellow wearing a bright pink jersey, the back of it read: “Please Don’t Hit Me.” At the time this struck me as a somewhat obvious notion. A concept that I assumed at the time that everyone agrees on. Now that I reflect on that a bit, along with today’s experience, I’m having a different reaction.

When the TransAmerica bicycle route was established in 1976, we lived in a different era. Of course what I am about to say can be easily dismissed as subjective, but sometimes even subjective observations can hold a truth. In 1976 I suspect behavior on the road was different than it is today. People likely drove more slowly, cars simply weren’t as well built or as powerful. People might not have been in as big a hurry. Bicycles were a curiosity, now they are an annoyance to a lot of people. In other words, people were likely more courteous back then. I could go on about the attitudes of drivers and respect for each other as fellow humans, but I think you get the idea where I’m going with this…

I think the TransAmerica Bicycle Route is an important part of our country’s history and culture, and an endeavor worth undertaking. I wish that local, state, and even federal resources could be dedicated to making stretches like today’s Highway 41 safer for bicyclists and drivers. Giving the times we live in, I’m not holding out much hope for that. I admired what Nelson D. Rockefeller Jr. did to establish Grand Teton National Park. Perhaps our best bet is that some day someone like him will help provide the means to make the TransAmerica Bicycle Route the world’s premier (safe) bicycle experience.

My day did end on a very positive note. As I was leaving the Best Western here in Dillon to grab some dinner, a couple of fellows were tailgating in the hotel parking lot. I stopped to tell them their grill smelled really good. On my way back from dinner I stopped to chat a bit more. They asked me where I was cycling from and to. I told them a little bit about my trip. As I was walking away I heard one of the men say to his buddy, “Wouldn’t it be cool to have that kind of freedom.” Well there you go, that says a lot about this journey, and why I have undertaken it.

Virginia City is worth a visit. The history of placer mining here is a fascinating one. Some colorful characters made their home here during the Montana gold rush, not all of them were looking for gold in the river. A handful of lawless men made a profession of getting their gold any way they could until vigilantes stepped in and put an end to that practice, and to those men…