Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Day of Rest

The plaques for the miner's memorial: architecture in the Finlan Hotel, Butte; amazing cloud formation above camp: the "elevators" used to lower men and mules into the mine shafts: way to fix the carnival tent Joe! 

Today was the layover day at Butte.  No scheduled ride, just time to explore; rest; ride; rest; eat; rest.  I see a pattern!

The tribe was up early and lounged under the big top, relishing the coffee and camaraderie.  Some chose to ride out and follow some of the routes that Levi Lepheimer rode as a young cyclist.  He is from Butte and the family name can be found everywhere.  Some tribe members chose to take tours of the mine and the town, some rode up to the Mining Memorial that overlooks the pit mine.  On June 8, 1917 there was a fire in one of the mines that killed 168 miners.  Between 1898 and 1967 over 2000 miners lost their lives in the mines.  Jack, Jim, Linda and I drove up to the memorial and spent half an hour reading the history of Butte and the mines and the hard way of life it was for everyone from the miners, their wives, and all of the community.  The town, in it's boom, had over 100,000 people living and working there.  Today there is 30,000.  Half of the buildings are boarded up. A large percent of the inhabitants live in poverty, the homes and buildings in disrepair.  A stark contrast to the mansions and restored homes scattered about.  It was very interesting to explore the neighborhoods: I love to follow the back streets and alleys of places new to me: you see the real heart of the area, not just what the chamber wants you to see.

There is a great read, The Copper Kings, that is recommended that covers the history of the mining boom in the Butte area.  There were 3 major mine owners that ran the city and the lives of everyone there.  It was a bloody history with the unions and the workers.  I have not read it, but am looking forward to the copy that Jim is going to send me.  (Hint, hint Jim.)

Speaking of Jim, I want to thank him so much for coming out from lovely, humid Baltimore to slosh around in the dish pit for a week.  We met Jim on the Oregon Gorge tour a few years ago.  He loves to spend his vacation time up to his elbows in soapy water somewhere that there is going to be guaranteed to have: hot sun, torrential rainstorms, mud, mosquitoes, and lots of beer.  I think it's the lots of beer that gets him here.  And our friendship.

After a day of wandering, the tribe feasted once again on a Fajita dinner.  Chicken fajitas, beef burritos, re fried beans, and all of the trimmings with chocolate brownie surprise to top it off, a good part of the tribe shuttled out to Fairmont Hot Springs for an evening of soaking and swimming.  Some of the tribe wandered back into town for a pub crawl, and some opted to turn in early.

We are up early tomorrow for a short uphill over Pipestone Pass and then down hill to a great campground at Three Forks.  Two more days!

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