The railroad is no real road

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After leaving Butte in Montana, Clancy and Allen had crossed the Continental Divide at 6,230ft that afternoon, and camped that night east of Whitehall, only to spend the entire sleepless night being tortured by the biggest and most voracious mosquitoes yet.

Gary Walker recreates Clancy riding the rails near Livingston, Montana
Gary Walker recreates Clancy riding the rails near Livingston, Montana

After a bleak breakfast of apricots and unripe bananas in the barren crossroads town of Warren Creek, they met a fellow biker who was on his way to Chicago.

A keen reader of the Bicycling World and Motorcycling Review, he asked Clancy if he’d read about the bold youth riding around the world on a Henderson, then proceeded to regale Clancy with his own adventures until Bob spoiled the surprise by revealing the truth.

After getting separated from Bob in the dark, Clancy finally spotted a light and was glad to find his companion waiting on the steps of the Corwin Hot Springs Hotel, where after 16 hours in the saddle they were glad of the eponymous springs around which the hotel had been built in 1909, boasting 72 rooms, a large swimming pool and hot showers fed from the springs.

Barred from riding into Yellowstone National Park the next morning, Clancy and Allen joined a coach party tour, then set off on a road so bad that they were forced to ride on the railroad sleepers, at which point Clancy’s saddle broke, treating his nether regions to miles of painful bumping along so slowly that it was dark by the time they got back on the road.

With his light broken after ramming a cliff, he then hit a stone wall head on and went sailing over it, and by the time they finally got to Livingston at midnight, they were amazed to be alive, and even more amazed to find a restaurant open.

Starving, they ordered the 70 cent special, fell to it with relish, and fell into bed.

Remarkably, none of his travails had sapped Clancy’s boyish enthusiasm, for the next day he begged a ride on a locomotive, then almost regretted it when it sped into a tunnel and he almost suffocated on the sulphurous fumes while the fireman cheerily related how his predecessor had been asphyxiated in that very same tunnel the previous summer.

At Bozeman Pass, we stood right over the railway tunnel where Clancy had almost been asphyxiated, while beside us a wooden sign related the history of John Bozeman, the adventurous Georgian who led a wagon train through hostile Indian territory and across this pass in 1863.

At Livingston, where Robert Redford returned to film his 1992 movie A River Runs Through It, we found part of the railroad line that Clancy had ridden along because the road was so bad, and since there were no trains in sight, we had to follow suit and ride the tracks.

I wouldn’t recommend it, and for Clancy to have chosen that option on a machine with no suspension other than the springs in his saddle, the road must have been bad indeed.

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