Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Trek Out West - Part 3

I'm being chided by my readership to take a break from unpacking and get on with my travelogue. Ah, if only I were unpacking...I've been here just long enough that bills need to be paid and housework done (around the stacks of boxes). Oh, yeah, and grocery shop. Once the computer got up and running, there's been a ton of stuff to do on it too. I've gotten some help with the cleaning the last few days, so I've lost my excuse for not putting more stuff away! But it can wait a bit longer - on with my story.

Jesse, I should note, traveled pretty well, all things considered. This is her 4th move so she knows the signs. Once the boxes start stacking up, she becomes even more my shadow than usual. Eventually, the car is the only place she deems safe and it's hard to pry her out of it. I've had this particular car for a little over a year, and she has not been particularly fond of it. Difficult for her to get in and out of, and the back seat is harder and more contoured than the one she stretched out on in the old Saab. Although she'd want to accompany me on errands, she'd balk at getting in. So I was quite amused when suddenly she couldn't get in the back seat fast enough. She had to share it with my suitcase, but she decided that was a small price to pay to be sure she didn't get left behind. She got very adept at stepping onto the floor, then side stepping up onto the seat. Once we got rolling, she mostly slept, and when we stopped for gas, she'd hop out for me (but not for my friend if I was out of sight) and check out all the strange smells. All in all, a good traveling companion, as long as I was in sight or she was in the car.

Montana is a huge state, approximately 552 miles from east to West as the crow flies, and a bit farther driving the Interstate which dips south, then north again. Our goal for the day is to make it most of the way across it to within shouting distance of the Idaho border.

Before leaving Billings, we checked to make sure the forest fires were not impeding traffic on the interstate (at one point they were right along it and the road had to be closed), then were on our way. It was very smoky and hazy, so much so that if you didn't know there were supposed to be mountains off in the distance you might not see them. We stopped for gas in Livingston, which intersects with the highway heading south to Yellowstone National Park. You can see just how bad the smoke was, and the locals said this was the first day they'd been able to see the mountains.

Back on the road, we quickly found ourselves in a canyon going up over Bozeman Pass, and I felt that adrenalin rush I get from this kind of country.

Once over the pass, it was more open country, where I would normally expect to see deer or antelope. Instead, a coyote ran into the road in front of the truck ahead of us, thought better of it and ran back into the field. We decided that the fires may have displaced some of the wildlife, accounting for the confused actions of this one.

We started climbing again, this time over the Continental Divide (elev over 6,000 ft). Incredible rock formations on either side of the road.

As we negotiated the pass, I spotted this bit of color along the road, only the second hint of autumn we'd seen so far.

Then we were coming into Butte, site of a huge open pit copper mining operation now closed except for tourist tours (third picture below). Click here to read more about Butte, the Berkeley Pit and the on-going Superfund site clean-up.

As we headed for Missoula, I began to see the kind of trout streams Dad and I fished when I was growing up. I haven't fished for years, so I was a bit surprised at how excited I got, even feeling the urge to jump out and dip a line in the riffles. This land is in my blood!

Once past Missoula, the mountains close in more and are more heavily wooded. This picture is for Brother Bruce - the turnoff to one of our favorite fishing spots where he had a great deal of luck. Wouldn't you know it'd be named Fish Creek?

We opted to stay the night in Superior, a wide spot in the road that looks to mainly service the truckers, forest service and tourists. It is wedged in between the Interstate, a river, and a two lane road running along the opposite side of the river, all enclosed in a narrowing canyon. So far we'd had good luck choosing accommodations out of the AAA guide - just showing up and having no problem getting a very nice room. Since we knew the motel listed for Superior was small, we'd called ahead to reserve a room. Perhaps we should have driven the additional hour or so across the border to the next lodging in Idaho. This motel was anything but "Superior." Upon opening the door, we were assaulted by an overwhelming smell of disinfectant. It was the only time Jesse really balked. Leash or no leash, she was headed back to the car, and we literally had to shove her in the room. We weren't comfortable leaving the window open as this was a ground floor unit and we'd met some "interesting" men in the office who were also staying here, so we used the fan on the air conditioning unit to try to air the place out. There were other issues - flies, a dirty towel, remote that didn't work.

We decided to walk around town a bit - actually a pretty nice little town with a very nice park, several nice restaurants, and that river running right next to it. The towering mountains let me know just how close to home I was yet this night I went through a little bit of a meltdown. Guess Jesse and I ran out of adrenaline and excitement at the same time and both of us were feeling just a teeny bit homesick for a few familiar things and people of Wisconsin. Thank goodness once again for my traveling companion, who took the dog off my hands, and listened to me moan and groan during the walk and over dinner. Her ultimate prescription for my bout of the blues - much wine, a long shower, and a good night's sleep.

The first two did help, but the good night's sleep was not to be. The room was pretty hot, even though it was cool outside, so we cranked up the air-conditioning. Sometime around 1:00 a.m. or so, I heard Jesse up and realized it was stifling in the room. Yup, the air-conditioning wasn't working even though the very loud fan was still whirring away. I over-ruled my friend's vote to keep the window shut - what good is traveling with a dog if you can't trust her to ward off any strange men who might try to come through the window? Ok, so having the window open meant we had to listen to the semis pass by on their way to the truck stop, but at least it cooled off and we got some sleep.

End of day three.

1 comment:

Deb Geyer said...

Beautiful photos!