Sunday, July 3, 2011

July 2, North Dakota and Montana!

Russ Meads and his new pizzeria in Williston, ND

This place is going to rock

Another transplanted Cape Codder

All new, booths now almost completed!

July 2. . . Odometer reads 2233 at the beginning of the day. Fireworks for sale along Route 2 (the Highline) at roadside stands. Some closed early in the day, but they open later. I am driving from Williston, North Dakota to. . . I was hoping all the way across Montana, but it became apparent that I wouldn’t make it. . . the road is not an Interstate, and there are many places to slow down. . .  every town along the “High Line” has there 25-35 mph speed limit, as they should. In between towns you can go for miles at 70 mph. But I get distracted by the towns. And I stop a lot.
I started the day by eating breakfast with Russ, the self-deployed to Williston son-in-law. We ate in the very nice breakfast restaurant at El Rancho Motel, which happens to be a very nice motel in downtown Williston, built in a quality manner in the 60’s or 70’s for the oil industry clientele, a very nice stay.
A large sports bar makes it a comfortable place to relax after a day on the road. Yesterday afternoon, at the hour when Applebee’s was full to capacity with “rough riders” just off the hard work week, the El Rancho sports bar was comfortable and not rowdy. Just what I needed. Russ showed me his new about-to-open-in three-weeks pizza place, which is located at the airport and right next to Applebee’s. It’s large enough to hold a lot of people. I am happy that he and his partners have found a great location to put out the top quality pizza he knows how to produce. Did I mention that a lot of these oil crews and truck drivers are living in travel trailer parks, and that passes as “housing”?  It’s true. These guys are working hard and making good money. There are thousands of them. Gas is not cheap in spite of the oil biz, it is $3.70 a gallon here. They will love the great pizza.
I left Williston behind, and soon passed over the Montana border. A sign announces that the white crosses indicate highway fatalities. There is no wondering where people die on the highways of Montana, the sites are clearly marked. I’m following the Missouri River, and if you know your history, this is the Lewis and Clark trail. They would be floored to see the oil tanks out across the landscape; sure, there is agriculture, with a mixture of farm silos and oil tanks. But many ranches have given up that because the oil wells and tanks take up so much space. I see abandoned houses, one blue one here that is boarded up but was recently lived in. ..  broken  cars from the 70’s in the yard. It used to be a ranch, but no longer.

Can see for so many miles ahead

The mix of agro silos and oil wells and tanks

There's oil in them there fields
Today most of the trucks are not running, thank God! They are locked up, many of them, behind chain link fences, and the guys are home for the Fourth Weekend. I am so lucky! But any tourist trying to follow the Lewis and Clark trail out here will have the amazing challenge of driving with the rough rider truck drivers. I count five bicyclists during the day. . . one solo and two couples. They must be nuts, I think. There is no breakdown lane, and the trucks don’t slow down to pass them by. Eeeeeek! But it is beautiful. . . the grass is green and waving in the wind, the sky is blue, the yellow wild flowers are blooming. And sometimes I pull over and shut off the car just to listen to the birds, because they are all busy mating and nest guarding and hopping and tweedling.
vintage permanent wave machine, yikes! electrifying!

A bar and a lady of the evening

No bar? make your own hootch

Prarie fashion through the ages

The way we used to shop for groceries
I stop in Culbertson at a little museum.  I am depressed for these Lewis and Clark museums, no one stops anymore. We are too used to large malls with fantastic indoor waterparks. I go in, and it is actually a fairly large display with many rooms of meticulously kept Americana from the glory days of this little oil town.
And before that, the pioneer days. So much stuff in here. A very nice woman following me around and telling me things, showing me how the old washing machines worked, and telling me about the people who wore some of the vintage clothing. My odemeter reads 2276.  I’ve only gone 40 miles today. I better get moving. I get into the Sioux Reservation, there are several towns along the High Line that are reservation towns, and I feel sorry for the people living along the highway because starting here it is totally ripped up on the right shoulder for miles. It looks like they are going to put in another lane, but that will be miraculous, because the terrain is very hilly and will require so much fill.  Millions of dollars of yellow construction vehicles are parked along the side of the road, all crews gone for the weekend. One front yard is cut right in half. They’ve lost most of their front yard. There are lots of white crosses along the side of the road at every intersection. I start counting crosses, but give up after awhile. I had gotten to 24. There is a large housing project at Fort Pick. The Poplar Hospital has a sign out front that says, “Walk in Balance.” Good advice. I stop soon and take a picture of an abandoned church. It seems very lonely, and it is not the first lonely church I have passed. The fields around it seem to go on forever. There is only one house in sight. The railroad tracks run along parallel to the road, so every now and then I see a train come towards me. They are slow moving today, without many freight cars. The land becomes very flat, and I can see the  badlands over to my left, the south. Here’s a sign. . . “Chose the Right Path, Don’t Drink and Drive.” Very good advice.
I pass the Wolf Point turn to the south. Mileage 2331. How could it be that I have only traveled 100 miles? I keep stopping at any gas station for a cold ice tea. It is hot. The land is green, but dry.  I am at a higher elevation. Crops here are not growing very fast at all, and the oil wells have faded away someplace behind me. I come to a historic point and stop to read the sign. Tragic.  In 1837, a steamboat owned by the American Fur Trading Company made its way all the way up here, and the crew carried small pox. You guessed it, whole tribe wiped out. I imagine more people lived up here in 1820 than live here now. Barely a human to be seen. Anyway, almost the whole “Little Girls Band” of the Assiniboines died.
The tribes still mourn that catastrophic loss of life. I see alfalfa but no grain on the sides of the road. But here is a huge silo going up, a construction project. I wonder what will go into it. There are yellow flowers growing on each side of the road, and I have to try my point and shoot technique. Cruise control is on at 65.  I can see for miles ahead sometimes. I come to the Fort Peck exit. The river is overflowing here, flat and lazy. But too full. I fill up twenty miles later just for the fun of it in Glasgow, I only need 6 gallons because I really am having a hard time making time today. Ah, in Glasgow the tell-tale signs of the Missouri up in people’s yards. .. a gray covering of silt. So it is receding here. It has been worse.

Yes, I turned off the highway.

A sea of grasses

someone mows but nobody goes

My buddy, the choo choo.

Thank you, tree

I am buzzed by seagull
Now it is sage country. I stop at a rest area and let Yoko get out and smell it. She likes it. A seagull flies over head.

I am not kidding. I am a Cape Codder, and I know seagulls. There has to be a large body of water south of me. Seagulls always find large lakes, don’t ask me how. But this one is definitely cruising me for potato chips. Smart, but I don’t have any. Now a new river, the Milk River, runs through the little town of Hinsdale. By the way, the Canadian border is not far to the north. Every now and then I come to a road with a sign that says “Canada” pointing to the right. North.
I slow down for Saco. This is really a very old town with an old store front and a little old church. The tracks pass through, and ancient wooden grain elevators say, “we used to be somebody.” No one here anymore, except for a few cars at the bar. Back in the green hills, a Norse boat goes by me on a trailer. Wow. That was weird. I see bee hives at the Robinson Ranch. That’s good. Wow, am I going road-crazy?  No, just noticing details. I come over a rise and see the mountains ahead of me . It’s the first time I’ve seen a mountain range west of the Mississippi. Maybe this is the Bear Paw Range. I’ll have to look that up. Not the Rockies yet. Malta goes by. Or I pass through Malta. The US Border Patrol has an office here. And there are a few more little museums. About the dinosaurs, I hope. They lived here. Hard to believe. Dodson, small small town. 71 miles to Havre. OK. I’m shooting for Havre. My husband is concerned, back in Massachusetts. He has made a reservation for me and the dog. The dog. The dog. The lady at the museum in Culbertson came out to see her. She asked if I was lonely, and I said, “I have a god. I mean, a dog.”  So, naturally, the lady had to come out to the car (which was in the shade) and see if I had a god or a dog. Yoko always wags her tail. She does. Oh good, found a link for the precious Culbertson Museum.
Yoko, are you a god or a dog?
 So. 70 miles to Havre. I listen to Canadian public radio. I love the call letters. DNTO.  At first, I thought it was some Native American name I’d never heard, because a Native American (Canadian. . . Canada is in North America, right?  So is Mexico, by the way).. . a Native American elder was talking about the use of the four biggies. .  Tobacco, sage, cedar and sweet grass. . . and how those four things are sacred and how they are used to honor. They honor just about everything from the earth to venerable humans to spirit. Very good. That is why I thought he was saying Dee-en-ti-oh. But it was really DNTO.  A good radio station, by the way. The next topic, which took me all the way to Havre, was about trees, with different people of all sorts telling about their significant-encounter-with-a -tree story, whether it was Christmas tree, or tree that grabbed their soccer ball and would not give it back, or tree that was going to be chopped down but was 300 years old so they raised money to change the route of the highway, or lady who lives up in a tree, or whatever, all great tree stories. I do like trees. I have been looking for them every time I stop so I can park under them. Thank you, trees.  
Approaching Fort Belknap. . . something high on a hill. I think it is a large pink house from the distance. I get closer, and it is a church. Closer still, it is a large abandoned church. How sad. Here is the cemetery, on the hill facing the highway. So many gravestones. So many lost ancestors. Where are the descendants now? Not here.  I cannot take a picture but I bet I can find a picture of this church, it is so very scenic. It is five miles before Fort Belknap, if you want to find it.  I have traveled 2489.7  miles. So far.  Ah, here is a shot of the church, and more great shots from the region I’ve covered today. Perfect. Thank you, photographer who shares photos.
Here are some more:,+MT&fb=1&gl=us&hq=church&hnear=0x533fd5e76a8d0d4f:0x214b830612525e88,Fort+Belknap+Agency,+Mt&cid=13893056355221473599  Worth looking at!
 I am leaving the reservation. The mountains are south of me now. I am being followed by two couples on Harleys. They were ahead of me, but they stopped to take off their leather jackets. So now they are behind me, and happy with that, apparently, because they have not passed me. I see a sign that says, Havre, 21 miles. I am almost done driving today.
The road coming in to Havre

Good thing I have all-wheel drive

OMG!  A chance to go four-wheeling. The road surface is gone here, and so is the road crew. Free for all!  Dust everywhere. Lots of ruts in the road, and sand wallows. I am following a camper trailer now, and he almost gets stuck. My little all-wheel-drive 4-cylinder Highlander just plows right through. I watch the Harleys in my rear view mirror, because I am only doing 25 mph, and have plenty of time to watch them. The car is driving itself through the sand wallows. Good little tractor, this car. The Harleys don’t dump. That’s good. They have dropped waaaaay back, though. Their arms will be sore. I know. I do have a motorcycle license in my wallet. Do not tempt me, or dare me. I will use it. I will. Those people on Harleys took off their helmets some time ago (I got jealous) to let the wind blow through their hair, and also smell the sweet white blossoms on these trees. . . oh, do they smell sweet. I will have to find out what they are. And here I am. In Havre. I made it. There is a buffalo jump here. I will visit it tomorrow. Time for a nap. Trip almost done. Glacier National Park tomorrow. And then I am almost to Bigfork.
I am here:   Thank you for keeping me company.

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