66 miles (106 km) – Total so far: 3,164 miles (5,092 km)

In the states of Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming the small towns I’ve ridden through have an “old town” or “main street” or “downtown”. Usually this center boasts the best shops and services that the area has to offer. In addition, a “new town” or “frontage road” has developed over the last 50 years just next to the interstate or main highway. This area has the same set of strip malls, fast food joints as every other small town, along with a Walmart.

In Missouri and Kansas, this new town usually sucks all of the energy and vibrancy out of the old town leaving behind a set of cute, but deteriorating vacant buildings. Each town is the same as the next with little variation— so much so that locals from on spot really had no reason to go from one to the next even if it was only 15 miles away.

By way of contrast, each little city in Colorado or Wyoming boasts some unique feature that the people of that area rally around. The populations are generally quite a bit smaller so these places draw from the neighboring farm and ranch lands creating compact and vibrant economies that attract tourists as well. In Ennis, the attraction is fly fishing; in Dillon, a university generates a cute art area downtown; in Wisdom, the beauty of the surrounding valley and forests is the focus.

All of which is to say that I had an amazing breakfast of baked oatmeal and a large espresso based drink in a funky and fabulous coffee shop next to the university in Dillon this morning. Yum.

The ride itself today was clear blue skies and beautiful landscapes. One of my favorite days so far. The first portion was along flats slowly rising towards the mountains along some lazy rivers. The rivers and marshes played host to an abundant array of birds and other wildlife. Even the ranches of Wyoming boast variety that is a sharp contrast to the bovine monoculture of Kansas.

 

Looking back towards Dillon,MT from atop a railroad bridge

Looking back towards Dillon,MT from atop a railroad bridge

Ospreys near Dillon, MT

Ospreys near Dillon, MT

Torrey mountain dominated my attention for the lion share of today’s ride. Starting out from Dillon, I could see it in the distance to the North, capping off the Western edge of a series of mountains running off to the East. The nice thing about the view today is that it wasn’t overwhelming: this single mountain stayed in view for hour upon hour, allowing me to focus in a way that is challenging in the midst of the over-the-top showy ranges of Colorado.

Torrey Mountain from the South

Torrey Mountain from the South

I ascended the 2,000 foot Badger pass at a stately pace without much difficulty: a fact that continues to shock me in juxtaposition with my early challenges on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Hayter’s gap. Continuing on past Badger Pass I found myself in a typical mountain valley, but with no real towns or development. This land is truly big and pretty empty. Just me and my thoughts and my bike… oh, and now Torrey Mountain off to the East, showing off another angle as I rode along.

Torrey Mountain from the West

Torrey Mountain from the West

Having ticked off the first two sections of the day, I began an attack on Big Hole Pass, another 2,000 foot climb. This time I decided push myself on a hill climb; racing to the top in a mad dash to see if I could pull off an extended uphill aggressive pace. About a quarter of the way up, I noticed I had yet another view of Torrey mountain and I hurriedly snapped a photo, not wanting my heart rate to drop too much.

Terry -- between Big Hole Pass, MT and Badger Pass, MT

Terry — between Big Hole Pass, MT and Badger Pass, MT

Torrey Mountain from the North.

Torrey Mountain from the North.

Cresting the pass, I was greeted by the amazing views of the Big Hole Valley, which is bordered by the Bitterroot mountains. In a vast country with gargantuan landscapes, the Big Hole Valley is enormous by comparison. The scale is hard to describe… the valley floor goes for miles and miles before hitting the roots of the mountains (I assume they aren’t all that bitter, but who knows, maybe they are holding a grudge)

 

The Bitterroot Mountains from atop Big Hole Pass, MT

The Bitterroot Mountains from atop Big Hole Pass, MT

The Bitterroot Mountains from the Big Hole Valley, MT. The valley is truly enormous.

The Bitterroot Mountains from the Big Hole Valley, MT. The valley is truly enormous.

Paul at Big Hole Valley, MT

Paul at Big Hole Valley, MT

happily pedaled away the last few miles in this idyllic setting, arriving at the town of Wisdom in early evening. The relaxed pace and pleasant weather left me with enough energy to read for a couple of hours, which is pretty rare on this trip. I finished the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed, which documents her journey on the PCT (and also in life). The ending left me thinking about my final weeks here on the TransAm trail. I’m looking forward to finishing and hitting the Pacific, though I know in a couple of months time I’ll regret no longer being on my journey.