I am taking the opportunity to update my blog notes as we are sitting here in the truck grinding through the Springdale to Livingston area of Montana on the I90. It's a notorious area for huge, gusty cross-winds (currently about 30 miles/hour according to the radio) that are pushing us around - we’re rockin’ ‘n rollin’ all over the road with the high sides of the camper catching the wind. It's nice to have something to take my mind off the erratic motion!
Today is Guy Fawkes day but I couldn’t convince Bruce to stop at one of the numerous Fireworks sales places (there are literally dozens of them here) so that I could celebrate in the true British style tonight. Oh well.........
This is true cowboy country. We periodically traverse the old Pony Express route and today passed historic Fort Laramie – a very poor and depressed looking area, however, I must say. We also have seen lots of Warren Buffet’s new stock here – his rolling stock, that is. (Wish, like everyone else, I’d known to buy in before………… blah, blah, yadda yadda, etc.) By the way, have I mentioned yet that I am heartily sick of cowboy music by now? That’s all we can find on the radio stations and it’s bothering me that I am beginning to recognize the songs now - I even downloaded one recently on to my iTunes!
We have had our first sight of real mountains since we left the West nearly two months ago. The Laramie Range is off to one side of us as we follow the North Platte River. Very high winds as we travel along at about 5,000 ft altitude. This is the famous Arapahoe and Cheyenne Indian area with Fort Phil Kearney – one of the most hated by the native population nearby. It’s hot today, too. Registered 78° this afternoon, which apparently broke some pretty old records for the time of year and had all the local radio stations huffing and puffing about it, as they’ve had such bad weather recently. In spite of the heat, however, we still see patches of snow here and there along the roadside.
On a very sad note, Jim: today I finished off the last of the dark chocolate you gave us in Wilmington. Not bad though, that it lasted this long, hm?
On arrival in Billings, Montana, we went to two different campgrounds that said we could stay overnight if we wanted to pay between $27 and $45 but that their bathrooms were closed down for the winter. Forget it! We can dry dock for nothing somewhere and have the same situation. We have a nice little bathroom with a shower in the camper, but we only use it in dire emergencies. Going without a shower for one night (or even two since there’s only Bruce and me in the truck to worry about it) is not considered a dire emergency, so we headed – yet again – for a Walmart parking lot. This one was also a 24-hour store (we’ve seen several) but we found a nice spot against a tree-lined fence off to one side of the parking lot and it was actually quiet. There was a very light, springy, spongy sort of surface to the ground just beneath our feet at the back of the camper - quite disconcerting to stand on. (Just what would it feel like to stand on a decomposing body buried only a little beneath the surface? Okay, okay - I have a weird imagination!) No trucks in the parking lot tonight, thankfully, and only one other RV parked overnight – it’s a good time of the year to ‘Walmart Park’ – I wouldn’t want to do it in the summer with zillions of other RVs surrounding us. I went into the store around 6am to make use of their facilities and there was a very bored young lady working there. I asked her if it was a pretty lonely job working there overnight and she emphatically said “Yes!” We certainly didn’t see much overnight activity in the way of customers, that’s for sure.
So – a very early start out of the gate this morning: 06:30am. Bruce is very keen to beat the weather across the mountains between here (Billings, MT) and Seattle.
We've moved into some dramatically spectacular country now and have left the high plains behind. We had the Bear Tooth Mountain Range on our left shortly after leaving Billings and the Absaroka Mountain Range off to our right. The highest point in Montana was also on our left – Granite Peak at 12,799 feet. We’d been hearing high wind warnings for high-sided vehicles on the I90 on the radio all morning and, sure enough, we have been hit by them. Bruce is not having a lot of fun holding the vehicle on the road in a straight line as he bucks the winds.
Much of the time we have been traveling through a mountain valley with altitudes between 3500 and 5000 feet. Periodically we go over a pass – one of them, Homestake Pass was 6375 feet high and super windy. Made for some ‘exciting’ moments, but we still have the kayaks on the roof! I’m also amazed to see a railway line coming up and over this Pass, especially as the trains we have been seeing (Warren’s new toy) are at least 100 cars long.
We are passing through ‘Legends of the Fall’ country – one of my favourite movies ever – so I’m playing the music from the movie on my iPod using a transmitter to FM radio. I usually only play that particular score when I’m writing – it's been my writing music for many years now – so I guess that’s why I pulled out my laptop and am writing up my blog as we travel along. We have just crossed the Continental Divide – again. We’ve done that a couple of times already on this trip. Pulled into a Flying J (travel stop) near Butte, Montana, about an hour ago to fill up and, just as we got there, the rain started to pelt down – rain with snow mixed into it – very cold as we were up high and the wind was also howling. Gotta love those travel stops (there are a few different chains) – they have absolutely everything a traveler could need – or want. Including electronics like AC/DC travel TVs - just in case one of these truck drivers gets bored belting down the freeway with his 50-ton 22 wheeler. Nice to know…………….
This afternoon we reached Pacific Time Zone – so we are on the final stretch home! It took us exactly one hour to cross Idaho – the northern panhandle portion, that is – and we are now at an RV park in Spokane, Washington. Tomorrow we go to visit a friend in Seattle, then we'll make our way north. Back home in a couple of days!