One of the best things about this trip is all the pleasant surprises along the way. Monday morning, we left Ennis at about 5:30 am and spent the next three hours heading up a steep climb (this was not a pleasant surprise). But after the uphill we had a glorious downhill that passed through the town of Virginia City, Montana, a town like no other. Part of the town was a restored mining town, with different businesses fashioned to represent 19th century Virginia City, a booming mining town. Doors were left open for tourists to check out the stores, complete with mannequins and an amazing number of wares from past years. I mean, like dozens of pairs of long johns, a store full of groceries, a tailor’s shop with about fifty men’s coats and vests. Someone put a lot of effort and forethought into collecting these things and while it all was a bit eerie, I really enjoyed it. And since it was still early in the morning, we had the place to ourselves.
We knew that we would be on the bikes for many hours today due to the long climb and 71 miles. We were looking forward to stopping at the Two Bridges Public Library to relax and talk with the library staff. Two Bridges, Montana, was built around two bridges that cross the Beaverhead River. The Beaverhead, Ruby, and Big Hole Rivers converge to form the Jefferson River in Two Bridges, making this small town (population 400-500) a pretty big deal in fly-fishing circles.
On the outside wall of the library is an amazing mural painted by local artist, Jim Shirk. It combines local history/attractions with cowboys, fly fishing, and spine labels. Inside we were surprised to find a stuffed lion. Edith, the library staff member on duty, told us that the lion originally belonged to a doctor in Two Bridges that liked to big-game hunt in the 1920s-1940s. The library has many more trophies housed upstairs and is trying to raise money to create a display open to the public.
The library sees many bicycles tourists passing through. The library allows use of the internet and wifi, plus offers free coffee and tea to all visitors. A big stand near the front door features pamphlets of local attractions, plus they have two large book collections of interest to tourists: the Fishing Collection and the Montana Collection. Nick, a fisherman from Asheville, North Carolina, was visiting the library looking for books and maps of the Madison River.
Edith, along with three additional volunteers, will be teaching Spanish language classes beginning soon. The library also offers computer classes, children’s reading program, and a movie night once a month. In addition to their book collection, they offer inter-library loan with county library partners, expanding the collection. Local residents often help with couriering the books from library to library, as they travel within the county.
Thanks to Edith for her time and the great conversation. We learned a lot about Two Bridges and very much appreciated the uniqueness of this library and surrounding area.