74 miles (119 km) – Total so far: 3,098 miles (4,986 km)

The town of Ennis treated us right. We enjoyed everything a cyclist could want. Willie’s Distillery set us up with space for tents behind their tasting room. Did you catch that? Ennis has a distillery and tasting room. After a little bit of some of the best American whiskey I’ve had (and I’ve tasted quite a variety of American whiskey), we setup our tents on their very well manicured patch of ground. Angie, our hostess, also let us borrow a set of dominoes for the evening.

The town of Ennis, MT has everything a cyclist (or fisherman) could need.

The town of Ennis, MT has everything a cyclist (or fisherman) could need.

Angie from Willie's Distillery in Ennis, MT treated us right!

Angie from Willie’s Distillery in Ennis, MT treated us right!

Properly setup for an evening of camping, I sauntered over to the local pub and had a wonderful local microbrew, a Greek salad, and some tasty brisket. The food is so much better in Colorado and Wyoming than it was in Missouri and Kansas. And this great food trend continued into the next morning at a little coffee shop that served fresh food and… wait for it… espresso! I haven’t had an espresso since Virginia. Here’s how my order went down:

Barrista: How many espressos shots do you want in your Americano?

Me: How many do you usually put in a large Americano?

Barrista: Normally 3, but some people like 2 because it is so strong.

Me: I’ll have 4.

A four shot Americano in Ennis, MT

A four shot Americano in Ennis, MT

Utterly over-caffeinated I set out of town with my trusty sidekicks to ascend the pass towards Virginia City. Paul set a moderate pace while Terry and I pulled in just behind him to attack the hill. We chatted, palavered, gabbed, and blabbed our way up the mountain, happy in the cool morning sunlight. After an hour and change we crested the top. 2,100 feet of climbing with no stops and we weren’t even particularly tired. It feels so good to be a strong cyclist at this point in the trip. Having reached the pinnacle, I took a few minutes to lounge about on a rock and enjoy the beauty and the view.

View from the top of the pass between Ennis,MT and Virginia City, MT

View from the top of the pass between Ennis,MT and Virginia City, MT

Down, down, down the hill into Virginia city, I screamed along at just under 40MPH. By the time I entered town the speed limit had dropped to 25, and it felt great to be a lawbreaking speed freak! Good things the cops weren’t around… ominous pause. The twin towns of Virginia City and Nevada City are leftover of 14 such towns that dotted the ruby river valley from a local gold rush at the turn of the century. As the surrounding towns contracted during the inevitable bust, some enterprising souls started buying buildings, machinery, train cars, and other big paraphernalia. The buildings were deconstructed, moved to town, and then rebuilt as a sprawling museum.

Virginia City, MT

Virginia City, MT

Very old wood rail carriages in Virginia City, MT. Note the smokestacks for burning fires inside the carriage to keep it warm.

Very old wood rail carriages in Virginia City, MT. Note the smokestacks for burning fires inside the carriage to keep it warm.

By this point, it was 2:30, and we had only logged 25 of our 74 miles for the day. We reluctantly pulled ourselves away to start piling on some miles. The sun was shining, the wind favorable, the scenery fabulous, and the temperature cool. Perfect cycling. Then, some jerk in a double tractor trailer blew past us so close it nearly knocked me off my bike. As he passed he let out a mighty blast of his horn. Adding insult to injury, he called the Madison county sherif to complain about cyclists on the road. Said sheriff pulled up and gave us a lecture that we had to:

1) Obey the same rules as cars.
2) Pull all the way over to let massive trucks squeeze past: even with a double yellow line and oncoming traffic in the other lane.
3) Watch out for trucks behind us.

The logically mutually exclusive nature of the first and second directives combined with the absurdity of this third directive had me fuming angry. Fortunately, I held my tongue while Paul and Terry played the clueless Brits card. We rolled away 15 minutes later, but I had a hard time shaking the incident and enjoying the day until we hit Twin Bridges, where a bike lane felt like a reaffirmation of our right to use the roads here.

The bike lane headed into Twin Bridges was a welcome change from the hostile truckers and sheriffs of Madison county.

The bike lane headed into Twin Bridges was a welcome change from the hostile truckers and sheriffs of Madison county.

A super cool trike in Twin Bridges, MT

A super cool trike in Twin Bridges, MT

One of Persephone's forebears in Twin Bridges, MT

One of Persephone’s forebears in Twin Bridges, MT

The final 30 miles of the ride were very pleasant. Beaverhead county lies at the intersection of several river valleys, making a wide fertile basin surrounded by snow capped mountains. The road regained its shoulder allowing the tension in my shoulders to slowly dissipate. As a bonus, every five miles or so the roadside sported an interpretive explanation about the Lewis and Clark expedition in the area. I took a moment to honor their journey by cooking quadrilles over my jet boil. I burnt most the hair off my fingers before we happened upon the solution of using tent stakes to hold the ‘dillas.

Roadside quesadillas near Dillon, MT

Roadside quesadillas near Dillon, MT

Beaverhead Rock for which the county is named. I was very pleased to pass this rock and get out of Sherrif-thinks-he-is-a-cyclist-but-really-supports-wreckless-truck-driving Madison County.

Beaverhead Rock for which the county is named. I was very pleased to pass this rock and get out of Sherrif-thinks-he-is-a-cyclist-but-really-supports-wreckless-truck-driving Madison County.