|Posted on June 9, 2012 at 4:15 PM|
It is amazing the things I come across as I am riding off the beaten path. Today my leg was between Gold Creek and Garrison. The railroad runs parallel to the hwy and Sheila was certain the service road went all the way through ~ so gravel service road or hwy??? Hmmmm… ok, no brainer - go the less traveled way (or so I thought). Having made the decision to go the rail service road seemed like an even better idea when I saw that there were cattle guards and no gate to bypass the guard on the hwy on ramp. About ½ - 1 mile up the railroad service road was a good size marker saying that this marked the spot where the first gold was discovered in Montana. The only way anyone would know about it is if they knew it was there…and now I know why they call it Gold Creek.
I also knew that this was an active railroad. So far the activity across Montana really varied. And I am very Thankful for the conversations I had with RJ. I always thought of trains as loud beasts, but the newer ones are really pretty quiet. Knowing this kept me from becoming complacent. The other thing I have going for me is that I enjoy recognizing patterns. So I pay attention to how often trains/cars move past in what capacity. I also pay close attention to the lights on the track so I can anticipate which direction a train is coming from. We had a few go by and I was able to get Sierra down a little ways from the service road as you are never really sure how she might respond. Knowing that I was next to an active rail I also gave Ursa a day off (this gives me 2 hands for Sierra if need be). Well that service road came to an end about 2 miles before we had hoped. It would not have been a big deal if there was an exit for us if we needed to take it. Our only exit the vast majority of the way would have been down a steep slope into the river. Dangit….so here are my options……backtrack 6 miles (2-3 hours) and then take the hwy or risk it………….I thought about when the last train went through (luckily only about 10 minutes before) and how often they were running……..I think we can make it if we hurry. I jumped off and lead Sierra right next to that rail – I didn’t run….it was more like a people trot pace. Every so often I would stop and touch the rail to see if there was any vibration. Then the home stretch ---- you could see the bridge we wanted to take (which T’d into the tracks) and sitting there just on the other side was a big ole train, engine running. There was another smaller bridge off to our left which I thought about taking, but didn’t know where it might lead and it was for trains – to get stuck on that with a train coming ----ok, bad idea…forward it was! Another quarter of a mile and we were standing on the bridge as that big ole train blew her whistle and started moving down the track. I will always wonder if the conductor saw us and waited or if we just had plan ole dumb luck. Over the bridge and under the hwy to a stop sign where I tied up Sierra and I sat for a bit to let my racing heart get back to normal.
Then came the cattle guards……..holy ho hos, I think I went through at least 6 gates on only a couple miles of road. More than anything hopping on and off to open and close gates, well if that was the biggest of my problems – I had no problems at all. For me the gates can be difficult because they are so tight and I have not had the practice with them – if it keeps up like this I should be an expert by the time I hit South Dakota! It is interesting though, because I can say that yes, not a big deal, but dealing with high intensity situations also seems to lessen your patience for other things. I think it is fair to say thaty by the 4th gate I was saying out loud as I saw another one : “You have got to be kidding me!” To which Sierra would just snicker. For her the gates meant being tied up which meant grass she could snack on (let’s just say Sierra LOVES gates). This road brought me into what I think may be the back side of Garrison…..hard to ell as I never really saw a town. I did however see a few houses side by side next to the rail. The area I rode by had sort of a shanty town feel to it……
Now I was told that when I get to Garrison to stop at the ma and pa store and ask Jerry where Pam and Jeff live. This is a cute little store (little store) that seems to be a hub. Hwy 12 and I-90 intersect here and this place is right on an exit. I tied Sierra up and went in to ask for some directions. (ok, so I couldn’t help myself – I had to walk through it and see what they had to). Jerry is a man of few words and he sports a zz top look (I think I just dated myself…hmmmm). As I was in there a fellow came in and asked “do you not sell gas?” (there are a couple old pumps outside – but looked worn). Jerry “Nope” Man: “how far to the next town” Jerry “that would be Drummond”. Man : I don’t think I can make it……..can you call AAA?” (I missed the rest of the conversation after that --- I was busy thinking I wanted a hotdog) The fellow left…I went up to ask for a hot dog and Jerry looked at me and said “I bet he wishes he had a horse about now” I so had to laugh! Oh, and no hotdogs – the machine has been broken for a few months. So I settled with a small soda and a sausage stick. People are fascinated when they see a horse tied somewhere unusual (which seems to be about everywhere unless you are at a horse event or in the woods). And inevitably someone wants to touch Sierra. This was no different here. Sierra is becoming a really good ambassador. Oh, when I asked Jerry where Pam and Jim live – “ go down 12, you will cross a really big bridge that got put in…….its a shame, there was no reason………………….” Yep, politics country style. I ended up calling Pam to get a better idea of where to turn etc. and found out the Jim and a friend of his was moving the rig for me! A few miles down the road (actually just a bit before the big bridge I watched the rig go by. And a bit further a truck pulled over and I met Jim J. He told me a way to cut off a ¼ mile (very helpful), where I could put Sierra and my tack and to be careful on the bridge. I would see Jim and Pam a little later in the evening.
When I rode up on that bridge – well I’ll be, it is big. I thought – “it would be so cool if there was another bridge just below it that I could ride across…….then of course I had to check. And holy mother of all cows – there was one! I had gotten off and Sierra and I walked down a ways, unfortunately at a closer inspection, this was a trestle bridge – nope, we will be crossing up above. An interesting thing about this new bridge --- it sounded different then other bridges we have been under. Way different – it kind of had a high whine to it, which of course Sierra hated…. Cool, now she was a little amped upfor the crossing. The far side of the road had a bend to it, so cars/semis would come sooner then I would know they were there. The side we were on, well we had to come up a hill to get to it…….ok, so we need to do this fast (A rabbit Sierra is not). The bonus was that there was no real wind to speak of so could hear better if something was coming…….YAY ----- Made it across, then the cars came!! Down and around , then up the road to Jim and Pams! I got Sierra tucked in and went up to the rig. They said I could stay in the little cabin behind their place and the rig would be parked by it. I let Ursa out and we did our greeting ritual, grabbed my gear and into the cabin I went. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!! It was like a Hotel!!!!!!! The wood stove was ready to be lit (yes, they had set that up for me so all I had to do was light a match! Put some beverages in the fridge, treats on the counter – Holy Ho Hos!!! All I can say is that it was AMAZING!!!! And after the day I had, a little pampering sure goes a Long Way!!