Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Helena to Great Falls

This is Phil a new friend I met at the Helena Brewers game. Phil is a fascinating guy to talk to and a font of information, specializing in all sorts of history . He is very well read and has a sort of photographic memory in that he can recall some obscure fact he read in a book and can tell you the author and the page number. He is retired and has taken up the hobby of training draft horses. Phil was a city boy from Chicago who took a temp job for 6 months in Helena early in career and never left. He is now an accomplished outdoorsman-hunting fishing etc etc.
He clued me in on a lot of local history and happenings as well as a lot of details regarding world events like the complications involved with the Louisiana Purchase which prompted the Lewis and Clark trip. The deal involved France-England-Russia-the Dutch -Spain and the USA. and somehow Thomas Jefferson put it together w/o the use of email-faxes or even telephones.
Phil would kick Alex Trebeck's ass in a game of trivia.

The country and scenery changes dramatically when traveling north from Helena. It quickly becomes ruggedly scenic--lots of bare rocks and spectacular geology. No more lush meadows and thick stands of pine trees. This reminds me of the background for a bunch of western movies. Also you can really see where the prairie starts --and also why this is called Big Sky country. It seems like it goes forever.
One interesting fact that Phil told me about is that the stretch of Interstate Highway between Helena and Great Falls was one of the last built in the entire Interstate system because many thought it could not be done. In at least 1 section 3 companies tried and quit before somebody figured it out.
In the section outside of Helena , which is a double ass buster bastard for bikers was completed by an inovative guy who won the bid for the job by bidding a lot lower than his competitors. His thing was that instead of doing the tremendous amount of basting with TNT or dynamite etc. H eused a combination of diesel fuel and fertilizer which did the job. This is the same combo that the Oklahoma City bomber used when he blew up downtown O.C.
I could talk to Phil all day, he is almost as interesting/informative/entertaining as driving around the country with Miss Sassy of talking to Chad Groff.

Changing scenery.

The Missouri river looking upstream from a bridge near Wolf Creek.


After taking some very scenic routes that were off the recognized Lewis and Clark trail I am now back on the trail. I realize I missed some history but the trade off was seeing Montana at its absolute best. Unlike real bikers Larry and Gary who rode every mile of the L/KTrail and Larry even walked his bike 12 miles over Lehmi Pass gravel track. Again these guys are real bikers and they have a great blog history of their trip 2 years ago.
These guys are so real that besides all they regular real biker stuff they ate off the land regularly--Larry caught fish to eat and trade for beer at saloons along the way. Just like L/K they instituted a sort of trade route whereever they went.
Besides being an excellent photographer, Larry is a real mountan man in that he did not even take a tent to sleep in--he normally slept on the hard ground wearing only a small loin cloth. Also he bathed in the surrounding streams using rocks to scrub dirt off--no soap for him. Sometimes he had Gary wash his back and other hard to get at places.
Check out their blog and you will see what I mean.

Now that I am back on track I will be following the Missouri River thru Montana , North and South Dakota, Nebraska, to Council Bluffs Iowa. I need to get to C.B. by July 17th for the start of the 10,000 biker Ragbrai and to meet Miss Sassy. I am having so much fun stopping and talking to folks and taking pics that it may be interesting to make it in time. If it looks like I won't make it in time I am sure the Ragbrai folsk will hold things up til I get there. These are very understanding/accomodating people.

It is about 85 miles from Helena to Great Falls with some interesting biking terrain along the way. It was pretty hot today--well over 80 degrees and it was a 7 quart day of water/gatoraid for me.Tomorrow morning I want to explore Great Falls and then head to Fort Benton.
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