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Central Montana 2020

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by wobbly one, Sep 21, 2020.

  1. wobbly one

    wobbly one Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2010
    Oddometer:
    249
    Location:
    Billings, MT
    Hello Fellow Travelers. Viruses and peaceful protests have me looking closer to home for my carousing this summer. So here are some photos from a quick 2 day, 400 mile, trip to central Montana at the end of August, taking me through the Snowy Mountains and Judith Mountains near Lewistown. Come on along if you're bored.

    CENTRALMONTANA 2020-1.jpg

    As a dang interesting fact that you can toss around during book club – Lewistown just happens to be the geographic center of Montana. Who knew? In fact, I think the actual center is right smack dab in the middle of the Big Spring Brewery. And if that is not reason enough to ride to Lewistown, I don't know what is.
    I was joined the first day by two compadres. And my failing memory tells me my friends suggested that I pick up the rear on the long gravel section, and that it was a lot dustier than what this photo would have you believe. Big Snowy's up ahead about 35 miles.

    IMG_2229-1.jpg

    We ended up misjudging an intersection and took a left when we should have taken our other left. This brought us south of the Big Snowies rather than east of them. I think we charged along for 30 minutes or so before it dawned on us that we were heading for the Pacific. You would think three old war horses who spent their lives in these parts would know better. Don't get old. It did bring us to a vantage point that we don't get to often. These grasslands just go on and on and on. Only good for cows, sheep, and disposing of one's enemies.

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    Getting a belly full of dust, I roll up next to a nice little starter home and decide to stop and let my two companions get a few miles ahead. You know, a little paint and gingerbread and I think you’d really have something here. I'll see a bunch of these on this trip – pretty tough to be a homesteader.

    IMG_2244-1.jpg

    Ok, now on to my first near death experience... The gravel roads up in these parts are generally pretty well tended and can support 60+ mph all day long if you are a race-honed stud such as myself. What is a little disconcerting are the blind rises that creep up on you. Well, near the end of the gravel that you can see below is another gravel road that comes in and intersects from the right, hidden behind one of these aforementioned rises. As I am hammer down cresting this rise my keen eyesight picks up this intersecting road but not the road continuing straight ahead. So it takes me about a millisecond to realize that my 16 year old brain has somehow gotten my 60 year old body into a pretty tough spot. And in a physics defying unrepeatable maneuver that would bring Steve McQueen to his feet in a standing ovation, I bring things to a stop. I am pretty sure I saw Angels, I saw my Uncle Earl smiling and giving me a fist pump, and I saw other relatives with their mouths open. My body absolutely aches from adrenaline, but It feels like I have won the lottery. And I have – the stupid old man lottery. So after an imaginary cigarette, I find the wherewithal to maturely set out after my two buddies.

    IMG_2246-1.jpg

    And there they are, apparently unconcerned and/or uncaring that I have just cheated the jaws of death.

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    More later.
    #1
  2. Idahopilot

    Idahopilot Been here awhile

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    Oct 28, 2004
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    Idaho
    "So it takes me about a millisecond to realize that my 16 year old brain has somehow gotten my 60 year old body into a pretty tough spot." Classic. This happens to me quite often.

    Great writing and great sense of humor. More please.
    #2
  3. wobbly one

    wobbly one Been here awhile

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    Thanks much for the kind words Idahopilot. It seems like I have a lifetime of close shaves but this episode had me spooked pretty good.
    #3
  4. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    Edmonton, Alberta
    They don't call it "Big Sky" for nothing. :thumb
    #4
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  5. wobbly one

    wobbly one Been here awhile

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    Thanks RedDog - this turned out to be one of the last clear weekends we have had. Turned real smoky just after I got back. I hit a mountaintop vantage point later on this trip where I could dang near see your neck of the woods.
    #5
  6. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    Edmonton, Alberta
    Prior to this screwy year I'm in MT every year. Very much an extension of Alberta, or vise versa. We had some smoke a few days back but it's gone. Beautiful blue skies and warm temperatures.
    #6
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  7. wobbly one

    wobbly one Been here awhile

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    Screwy year indeed RedDog. You live in a beautiful part of the world. Give me a shout if your future travels carry you down Billings way and we can show you around some.
    #7
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  8. wobbly one

    wobbly one Been here awhile

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    Location:
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    The Snowy Mountains are a small range right in the center of the state, split between a larger piece called the Big Snowies on the west, and a smaller piece called the Little Snowies on the east. Go figure. A goodly chunk in the Little Snowies is owned or controlled by the N Bar Ranch, of the Wilks Brothers fame. Largest landowners in North America. Lucky bastards. I am not going to venture how large this ranch is, but to give you perspective, the Brothers decided they needed to build an airstrip to accommodate their friends planes, since the airport in Lewistown is apparently just a wee thing. So they built one to accommodate 737's (heck, probably even 787 Dreamliners, who really knows). This road kinda divides the two ranges: Big – to the left, Little – to the right.

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    I have come to the conclusion on this trip that there are some rare circumstances when mowing the grass is not a chore. Especially if it involves a new John Deere with AC, a nicely stocked Yeti cooler, and Pandora.

    IMG_2259-1.jpg


    So we all make it to Lewistown intact, only to discover that that the true center of the state may not actually be the Big Spring Brewery. Our disappointment was tempered by the delicious adult beverages they offered up. My amigos turn back south and I stay behind to camp and do a little more exploring.
    I set up the Taj Mahal between an active airport and the highway. Probably should have thought that through a bit more. Being the eternal optimist, I tell myself it will be fine.

    IMG_2263-1.jpg


    In talking with the locals I learn that the longest wooden train trestle in the universe is located just out of town a ways. Now I have a real weakness for railroad porn and the smell of creosote, so I must investigate without delay. It certainly is a big one – turns out to be about 1300' long and about 40-50 above the water. Just no real place to get a good photo to capture the size. Only when I get back home do I learn that there is an even larger, 2000' long, trestle just a few miles further out. Why did they not tell me that the two largest trestles in the universe were there?? Dirty bums.

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    Walking back to my bike I am hit with what I have long suspected – my gawd this thing is a black hole – I just cannot throw enough light on this thing to get a sexy picture. But I keep trying.

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    I am a little underwhelmed by the world's largest trestle, so I decide to continue on west a bit - do a little rideabout to salvage the day. I pass a Hutterite Colony, some cows, and lots of grass. And some hay bales.

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    Lots of grass, and a black hole.

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    Shadows are starting to get long and I decide that it is time to start looking for a piece of cheesecake so I point things back towards Lewistown. Beware the rises young fella, beware the rises.

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    #8
  9. wobbly one

    wobbly one Been here awhile

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    On my way back I bounce into this pretty girl – a prairie bungalow I believe.

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    Back in town I find my way magnetically back to the Big Spring Brewery and discover they have the best cheesecake on the planet – no joke. Belly full but not bedtime, I try to take in a movie at the town theater - a new A-list movie filled with much drama and mayhem. I just couldn't do it so made a bit of a clumsy and noisy exit. Sorry good citizens of Lewistown. I then decide that a thorough 2nd gear recon of this town is in order, so que up some Whiskey Myers and off I go. What a nice town. I am kinda transported back 30 years, and struck by how tidy and nicely kept things are. I did not see one bit of grafitti – not one bit. Refreshing.

    Hello moon.

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    Moon, Taj Mahal, black hole, comfy chair and a fine cigar. Not a bad way to finish up the day. Thank you Lord. And thanks also for seeing me through that youthful indiscretion earlier.

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    #9
  10. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    Edmonton's High Level Bridge. 2549 ft. across; 157 ft above the river. 107 years old. Rail on top; cars below. Lower bridge behind it is subway train bridge coming out of underground on one side of the river and back inside on the opposite side.

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    #10
  11. wobbly one

    wobbly one Been here awhile

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    Dang! - that is pretty cool. Looks like I need to kick Edmonton a couple notches up the to-do list. We took the kids there to the mall back 20 years ago . Hopefully things quiet down a bit and we can do some across the border travel.
    #11
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  12. Bigger Al

    Bigger Al Still a stupid tire guy Supporter

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    Nice report!

    I almost forgot about the Tent Mahal. :D
    #12
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  13. pdedse

    pdedse paraelamigosincero

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    I love the wide open space...see forever. Beautiful.
    #13
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  14. wobbly one

    wobbly one Been here awhile

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    Hey Al - she still seems to be keeping the rain off me so I guess I'll keep her.
    #14
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  15. wobbly one

    wobbly one Been here awhile

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    Thanks pdedse - I hope you get a chance to make up to these parts.
    #15
  16. wobbly one

    wobbly one Been here awhile

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    Billings, MT
    Well a new day dawns and the good news is that my concerns about the active airport and the busy highway were misplaced. What I should have been more concerned about was the chance of two chatty drunks and an old AM radio setting up a late night camp next to me. That's what I should have been watching for. To their credit, they were at least considerate enough to not let the radio rest on any one talk radio station too long before searching for another. The local sheriffs showed up at 2:30am and invited them to find other accommodations. The other tenters next to me broke camp at 5:30, which was nice. My Mountain House breakfast was very peaceful.

    So today I am first heading east of Lewistown and then north into the Judith Mountains, a small range primarily known for gold mining. But first, a quick shot of this sleepy burgh.

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    And a stop at the local Veteran's Park. First thing that grabs your eye is this fella – a 53' long, 65,000lb, mach 23, 1 megaton (about 60x the explosive force of the Hiroshima bomb), attitude adjustment tool. Dang – given the sobering specs on this thing, it is a lot smaller than I thought it might be. Middle Montana is one of three concentrations of ICBM missile sites that were central to our cold war deterrent efforts. This was part of my generation. Back in the day, if things were to have taken a bad turn, this whole region stood the small chance of becoming a network of big swimming pools. The sites now contain the current variant of ICBM, but the likelihood of activation is far less likely. Certainly glad that more mature minds have prevailed.

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    And then there is this big ol' girl – another 65,000lb bundle of lovin. The 240mm M1 howitzer. This adjustment tool sends your adversaries a 9.4” diameter, 360lb welcome-to-the-neighborhood gift out 14 miles.

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    Well enough dilly-dallying – onward, there are gravel roads to ride. I salute you my brothers in arms.

    First thing I encounter a few miles off the highway is this. For those not familiar, this is typical ICBM missile site – kinda surprising how low key 1 megaton looks in the right light. I will bounce into three of these today.

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    The Judiths are fairly small and gentle – just right for the likes of me.

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    Probably a sad chapter is somebody's life.

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    #16
  17. Olythom

    Olythom Adventurer

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    Very. Enjoyable reading. Thanks for the report.
    #17
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  18. wobbly one

    wobbly one Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the kind words Olythom.
    #18
  19. pnw

    pnw Long timer

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    Thanks for sharing your trip report and photos.

    In February I was in Sahaurita AZ with a volunteer building crew. Saw this there at the Titan Missile Museum
    9 megaton detonation device was not much bigger than a freezer

    There was an accident with one of these missiles in 1980 at Damascus Arkansas with an explosion that ejected the warhead from the silo and detonation was a real concern.
    Command and Control is a interesting documentary video about it.

    Silo covered with plexiglass or polycarbonate so besides touring down around the silo and control room you can look right down on it.
    20200217_163724.jpg
    #19
  20. wobbly one

    wobbly one Been here awhile

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    Wow - that is awesome pnw! I just put another destination on my bucket list - Thanks .
    #20