Today's Miles = 71.5
Average Speed = 9.9 mph
Maximum Speed = 39.0 mph
Total Miles = 3605.0
I had breakfast here in Jackson with Katie and Kristi, the bicycling sisters I met last night. The two of them have been traveling east together since Seattle, but the ride had taken longer than they had anticipated and Kristi has run out of time. This was to be their last morning together before Kristi headed back to Washington and Katie continued eastwards alone. I think that Katie was feeling a little doubtful about riding by herself, and I assured her that she would have a wonderful time and meet great people along the way. Inside I think I envied her, being close to the beginning of her ride instead of coming to the end like me. Over breakfast they shared with me some mail they had just received from their mother. It was one of the "classic" letters that mothers send to their daughters, full of marriage announcements from their hometown and a newspaper clipping on the perils of cohabitation. I wonder if their mother could possibly been trying to give them a hint?
After breakfast I said goodbye to all the cyclists still at the lodge and started heading west once again. This part of Montana is simply delightful, as beautiful as any a national park, only perhaps better because it is a place people can actually live instead of simply visit.
The route I'm following for the next few days follows closely the path taken by the Nez Perce Tribe during their failed flight to sanctuary in 1877. The Nez Perce War was triggered when a band of Nez Perce Indians were ordered by the government to relocate to within the boundaries of a reservation which had been whittled down to one-tenth of the originally negotiated size by a continuous wave of settlers and renegotiations. As tempers flared, three young braves from the tribe sought revenge for prior grievances against white settlers. With the death of a handful of settlers, the die was cast.
Chief Joseph of the tribe sought to avert war with the settlers and the Army, and formed a truce party to seek peace. But the Army fired upon the truce party and a short battle in which 35 soldiers and no Nez Perce were killed followed. Unable to continue their traditional way of life in their homeland, or to negotiate for peace, the band of 750 men, women, and children set out on a 1,300-mile march to the perceived safety of Canada. Ultimately the tribe was involved in 20 major or minor skirmishes before finally surrendering at the Battle of the Bear's Paw, only 40 miles from the Canadian border. In explaining his surrender, Chief Joseph spoke the famous words "Hear me, my chiefs, I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever."
One of the major battles of the Nez Perce war was here in Big Hole, and I stopped at the National Monument that commemorates the site. I noticed that there seemed to be a difference in the way the defeat of the Indians was portrayed here as opposed to what the flavor had been in the eastern states. In Virginia and Kentucky, the white victory over the Indians seemed to be presented very matter of fact. There was a "we came, we saw, we conquered" attitude that permeated those accounts of history. But here, there seems to be an open acknowledgement that there was something shameful in how we treated the original peoples of these lands.
During the day today I made the decision that I won't be going to Missoula after all. Although the town is "officially" on the TransAm route, one gets there by riding thirteen miles down Highway 93 only to turn around and ride the same thirteen miles back onto the route. That alone didn't dissuade me, but I learned from other cyclists that the hostel listed in my guidebook has gone out of business. I decided that with twenty-six extra miles and no place great to stay, Missoula wouldn't be in my plans for tomorrow.