8 July 2004
Way up north
Great Falls, Montana 1509.2 miles
I was hoisting a couple in Scooter's last night, and a chap from Yukon, Oklahoma (!) who knew this part of the world well advised me that I-90 was about as unattractive a route as one could find in Montana.
Which, of course, it is, but this is true of Interstates in general; Charles Kuralt once noted that thanks to the Interstate system, it is now possible to drive from coast to coast without seeing anything. Still, I-90 got me to Billings, which is a sort of neat town, though you'd never know it if all you had to go by was the view from I-90. (Tulsa has a similar problem, and Oklahoma City, pace Bobby Troup, isn't at all "mighty pretty" from the highway.)
Fortunately, there was a two-lane to take the bad taste of I-90 out of my mouth; in fact, the roller-coaster ride that is US 89 through the Lewis and Clark National Forest managed to leave me fairly gasping for breath. Apart from the wild variations in altitude Big Baldy Mountain, which one gets to circumnavigate, or graze, or something, climbs to a lofty 9100 feet there's the classic mix of tight turns, narrow roadway, and theoretical high speed limit. Add to this Belt Creek, which runs (and runs fast) along the side of the road, giving you something to drown in when you fail to make the curve, and the occasional roadside memorial as a reminder, and you've got the makings of some serious scare. If anything, I owe the guy in front of me in the F-250 with the camper shell; he was going through these with surprisingly little difficulty for a big, tall, tippy truck, and the need to keep my distance prevented me from taking curves posted at 45 mph faster than 60.
Thank you. I'll be here through Friday night.