I expected Glacier National Park to be cold and I was pushing my luck a little visiting so late in the season. The trees were certainly warning me that it was Autumn and I settled down in my tent for a cold night. Ten hours later I got up but I can't really say I slept, at least not well. It was one of the coldest nights I can remember. I was in three layers of clothes,plus I had my biking jacket liner on and I was still cold.
|Cooking dinner- before it got really cold|
I rode the “famous” 50 mile road to the sun, which passes right through the middle of the National Park. And I can report that it is a good road. However, a combination of 6 weeks of these kinds of roads, a miserable nights sleep and the fact that is was Sunday and everyone was on the road made it a slightly less than awesome experience. Sorry.
|Still a stunning road|
I exited the park and headed towards Browning. Browning is home to the Plains Indians National Museum. I felt it deserved a stop so I did. There was one other vehicle in the car park (unlike the Indian owned and run huge Casino next door which had at least 100 cars in it's car park – enough said). The museum had the usual stuff you'd expect with a depressing graphic wall map showing how the Plains Indians, who had lived in this huge swath of North America since the days of yore were basically wiped out (they didn't use that phrase) in as little as 100 years. In 1800 they were living, more of less, happily alongside small numbers of white Americans. But the gold rush of the 1840s, and some other stuff I've now forgotten, led to land seizure and by 1900 they had all been “settled” on reservations. History lesson over.
In one room, however, there was a grainy DVD of several Indian chiefs talking, using sign language. I didn't really understand why they were using sigh language until I stepped outside. In front of the museum there is a monument. In Sept. 1930 the U.S. Government organised a conference of all the (remaining) Plains Indian at Browning. The Indian Sign Language Conference. At that meeting the Indians were filmed talking using sign language. This was a language they had developed over the years as a way of communicating with each other (as they all have different languages) and it was being filmed for posterity. The monument was constructed by getting the 20 participants (16 Plains Indians, four U.S. Government officials) to stand in cement, a bit like they do in Hollywood.
Take a look at the pictures, it actually made me laugh out loud.
|Monument with 20 foot prints|
For me, this says SO MUCH about Indian/US Gov't relations. The officials just couldn't lower themselves to go barefoot and be on a level with the Indians. I can just imagine them having a conversation along the lines of “What should we do Governor?” “General Scott we will keep our shoes on, it's what makes them savages and us dignified.”
I was still smirking when I rolled into Augusta, Montana. And the smile was only going to get bigger. This was the America I was looking for. A one horse town Augusta consists of one road and 310 souls. I pulled up to the motel and enquired about camping out the back. $15 later I was pitching my tent ON GRASS for the first time on this trip AND for the first time I didn't have to pack all my food and toothpaste away.
I took a stroll along the road and, honestly, there was a guy sat on his rocking chair on his porch, under a star spangled banner, smoking a cigar. I went into a shop to buy some food and as well as selling food they sold bullets - where we normally have cigarettes.
Across the road was the towns bar, “The Buckhorn”. I had to go in. The interior was exactly as I had expected. Neon Budweiser signs, big T.V., long bar with stools and trophies of dead animals all over the walls and ceiling. I ordered a Bud and watched the ball game – I've been looking forward to finding this America and I was having a great time. All was going well until I nearly choked on my beer. Behind the bar there was a big hand written sign. It said. “ Win a gun – and help the needy kids at Christmas. Ask our friendly staff how.” I know I should have asked, I just couldn't - not with a straight face anyway.
The following day was just fantastic (happy now Dan). The sun shone - it was the hottest day I've experiences so far - and I rode for a glorious 100 miles through wonderful Montana. I stopped a lunchtime for a cold drink at Lincoln. Another small Montana town famous for nothing. Well that's not strictly true. I believe the Unabomber lived near here. If you're American you will know who I mean, but he's not that famous abroad so others may have to BING him. I first heard of the Unabomber 15 years ago and people like him intrigue me.
|Montana - no pine trees and glaciers here!|
|Montana - Awesome|
Anyway, moving on, the bike was purring and the fantastic Montana scenery was awesome. It's not called the Big Sky state for nothing. Occasionally the nothingness was punctuated by a sign telling me that I was about to pass a “Point of Historic interest”. This usually referred to something that happened in the 19th Century, often involving “Lewis and Clarke”. But this one was different. This historic point of interest was pointing out that I was near the spot that holds the record as being the coldest ever place on “Continental America”. Now, I know that the coldest point in the USA is near the Arctic Circle in Alaska so I suppose Continental America means the lower 48. I was just glad I was passing through in mid September and not four months later.
|I've now been to both of the USA's coldest spots. Guess I'd better head to Death Valley now.|
With about 50 miles to go to Missoula and in no particular rush I followed a sign off the main road and up a gravel track to a Ghost Town. I wasn't expecting much but was very pleasantly surprised. Garnet was a Gold rush town, set up in the 1880s it reached it's peak in 1898. With over 1000 residents Garnet had four stores, four hotels, three stables, a hall a school, a doctors and THIRTEEN salons (many of whom doubled a brothels – hence the title of today's blog.) 1000 people and 13 bars – doesn't take much imagination to know what went on most of the time in Garnet. But whatever did go on it wasn't for long. Garnets population dropped to a few hundred by 1914 and although it struggled on until World War Two (which started in 1941 apparently!) it soon became the Ghost town that it now is.
|Gold Rush/Ghost Town Garnet|
|Garnet - "when men were men and boots had nails in 'em"|
|Not everyone in Garnet made it rich|
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Garnet, all the more for not having expected it at all. This was the problem with the “Going to the sun Road” - over hype - and I fear for Yellowstone and the infamous “Bearclaw pass road” on this account.
But first I must stop off an another BMW shop in Missoula. I'm picking up my new spoke and I want them to check the front tyre. Ever since they changed it in Spokane (I've just re-read this and noticed the connection between the place and the bike part - cool) I've had a nagging feeling that it isn't quite right. It might just be me, it might be the spokes or, or course, it might be something much more expensive, like the bearings of the whole damn wheel frame. Time will tell.
Also, I've been typing far too much lately and will try to keep my blogs down to once a week from now. Enough of the laptop and more of the black top! I should be in Yellowstone towards the end of this week and am then heading west into Idaho.