Day 35 – Bitterroot, Fire and Brimstone

Florence to Belgrade MT – 20th July 2021

So yesterday I only managed less than a hundred miles in total, not very far. I really need to get myself organised and make sure I have somewhere to stay tonight before I set off. I decide to try one of the Bunkas who was full last night to see if she can fit me in tonight and yes she can…. yay!! Thank you so much to Marnie in Belgrade MT.

I have a chat with Doc over coffee and he tells me a great route through the mountains to Belgrade, it sounds fabulous. So it is time to take my leave of Doc and Angie.. and the other guy who lives in a trailer parked up next to the garage, who I met briefly this morning.

So today I am riding south to Wisdom, then through Dillon to Virginia City and up over the mountains to Belgrade. It’s going to be a long ride as it is almost 300 miles across mountains.. eek!

The day starts cool but soon warms up as I head down towards Wisdom, what a great name.

Starts off pretty flat, can just about see the mountains in the distance. As I get closer I can see how imposing they actually are under all that smoke

On the way I stop in Hamilton for some petrol and the facilities, I see this hanging in the loo… I agree with all of it, try to do some of it and wish I was better at most of it.

A few good ‘rules’ to live by I think

I am riding in the Bitterroot Vally and next I arrive at Darby, an obvious cowboy town, preserved for the tourist trade methinks

Back on the road and approaching the turn off to the MT43 that will take me up into the mountains to Wisdom and beyond. As I turn into the road there is a sign warning motorcyclists to take extreme caution and to consider an alternative route… well I don’t have an alternative… this is followed by a loose gravel sign.. omg. At the side of the road is a truck, parked up… I stop to think about what I am going to do and the guy says, go ahead you’ll be ok, the fires are under control. I realise he must be one of the volunteer wild fire fighters, so I thank him and then ask about the gravel, he says there are 3 or 4 bridges that have been gravelled and have big bumps but I should be fine if I am careful, other bikers have passed through ok. I ask him about an alternative route, he says he has no idea, he’s from Arkansas.. wow the fires must be so many they are having to draft in volunteers from all over.

Ok time to put the big grrrrl panties on then. I start off and all is good, except I start to see areas where the fire has ravaged the forest.

I am also seeing some really beautiful scenery too

Oh Oh, those clouds don’t look great

Then I come across my first bridge… oh dear, it looks deadly,

I drop down into first gear and keep my hand well away from my front brake.. whew I’m through, so seems like that was a good strategy, need to remember that for the next ones.

Now I am actually starting to see smoke, right by the road

Even by the river there are still burnt or burning areas

I pass over 3 more gravel death trap bridges safely and am soon leaving the tree line, one final gravel bridge and I am then looking back at the area I have just ridden through

Not good… I am now out into the prairie again, but at a very high elevation of over 4000 feet.

The wild fires have put paid to any chance of visiting this area.

I arrive in Wisdom, a small town at the top of the mountain. There are a few places to eat so I pick one and go in. It is scruffy outside, but surprisingly good inside, very clean. I order tomato soup and a turkey sandwich, I mean you can’t go wrong with that can you?

Well I guess you can… it is not tomato soup as I know it, it seems to have rice or something in it and it doesn’t actually taste of anything. I eat half the sandwich and then go next door to a shop that sells Ice cream and get a cone, very nice too.

Now I need to make a decision as I don’t want to be arriving at Marnies too late so instead of turning right and heading for Dillon I decide to carry on this road. There is a set of temporary traffic lights just before I leave Wisdom, it seems there are some road works ahead. I sit and wait for us to be able to go. Once out of Wisdom the plains open up and the wind is terrible, OH MY GODDESS!!!!! it so reminds me of Utah that I am cursing myself for making another bad decision, who oh why do I do this??? I have to persevere as the road is one way due to the road works…. FFFFFF….. I am leaning to the left the whole way and would you believe the road works continue for about 10 miles!!!! The road works end but I must still continue on so I just follow the GPS.

Then I see the huge black clouds are away to my right and suddenly a bolt of lightening…. FFS, I am now starting to worry as I know that lightening can hit the ground up to 20 miles from its point of origin and bikers are killed all the time by lightening, especially here in the US due to the wide open spaces and of course the is exactly what I am in.

The GPS routes me onto a narrow road and I am still seeing flashes of lightening not too far away, I must say I am really bricking it, there is nothing and no-one out here but me as I make my way across the mountain roads. Suddenly it starts to rain, big fat blobs, but I am soon out of it and dry again as the air temperature means I do not stay wet for long.

At last I am starting to descend and take the time for a quick photo

Not sure what or why it’s there, just random I guess as there is nothing else for miles.

Soon I am able to stop and take photos of the mountains I have just come through, heart in mouth most of the time

Am very happy to put that behind me I can say…

This is more my style

I’m now on the I90 and very happy to be so.. then I see the thunderclouds have followed me and soon it is raining again, I pull in to put on my rain gear when I see another biker bombing past, obviously not bothered about getting wet, I think to myself, why worry I’ll soon dry out so don’t bother and get back on the bike. The rain stops again in about 10 miles anyway so I’m not very wet at all.

Only 50 miles or about an hour to go, which means I won’t arrive until about 7.30, a little late but I have been in touch with Marnie all the way and she says not to worry, just ride safely.

I actually arrive at 7.20 and am greeted by Marnie, her husband James and three very excited dogs, one of which is a Great Dane who loves to grab your arm in his mouth… nice.. but he doesn’t bite, he is just excited.

I am staying in their luxurious RV complete with Air Conditioning etc. it is lovely and very spacious. They don’t have any plans for dinner so again I offer to pay in exchange for the stay. We decide to go out and have dinner at a place they love, it is very, very good, I have steak fingers, which I am a little surprised by as they come in batter.. not what I was expecting, but very nice.. too much of course so there is plenty left over for the dogs… all that rambunctiousness certainly stops when daddy has steak for tea

Thank you so much to Marnie and James, another great couple of Bunka Bikers who have opened their home, (RV), to travellers like me, so very much appreciated.

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