Missoula, Montana

We are starting the process of summer trip planning.  Truth be told, this started some time during our last summer trip.  Corey and I both are suckers for maps and routing out trips is a great road game, especially on the interstate.  Even Henna gets into it a little.  Right now we are probably headed west through then down Colorado to the Grand Canyon, further south to visit family in Phoenix, west to S. California and then hitting Sequoia and Yosemite National Park on the way home.  We also would like to hit the pretty parts of Idaho.  And somewhere in that jumble of parks and beaches, maybe a night spent in Missoula, Mt.

Missoula is a funky western town at the intersection of I90 and route 93.  Not funky like San Francisco, but funky in that it is everything you like about the American West and everything you like about college towns blended together.  It also is set in an understated high desert landscape of low hills and buttes.  One of those hills has a giant M on top with a steep trail leading to it.  I have yet to touch that M.  Corey and I first came through Missoula on the way home from our Alaska trip.  Just married, it was our last trip sans kid and we hung out at the college bars.  The county fair was going on and we had fun betting on horses, checking out livestock, and watching some bad karaoke.  The next time through was with Henna.  No bars, the county fair was there again, and we discovered a laid back and very cool children’s museum.  They also have a great park with a restored carrousel.  If, while on the carrousel, you are able to grab the brass ring, you earn another free ride.  If I remember correctly I earned three free rides.  This summer, if we end up spending the night there, I know which horse offers the best brass ring access point.  I also plan on dragging Corey and Henna to that M.  Or more likely they will be eating ice cream while I venture a solo ascent. 

 

To all the roads I have loved before

The tilt is in full swing and I am writing you from Albert Lea, MN which is about 120 miles west of Lacrosse, WI.  I should be home tomorrow late afternoon/ early evening.  The heat and humidity plus our desire to get home by tomorrow contributed to us passing on such gems as the tractor museum and the South Dakota Hall of Fame.  We did spend about an hour or so today at Wall Drug.  Wall Drug is a place famous for being famous, but we like it plenty.  In case you have never been there, it has dinosaurs, robot cowboy singers, and shooting arcades.  It also boasts 5 cent coffee and free ice water.  The founder of Wall Drug strung signs along highway 16 advertising free ice water in the 1930s and this snowballed into a large mall with a cowboy bent.  A couple of years ago Corey purchased cowboy boots there that she has yet to wear.  This time we had breakfast and bought some souvenirs.  About an hour later we crossed the Missouri and decided not to stop at the rest stop/ small museum there.  It was 13 years ago that Corey and I did stop to make time by the Missouri River.  It was the beginning of one of our first true adventures and we met our first of many road friends.  David and Ethel were in their late 70s/ early 80s and agreed to take our picture overlooking the river (this picture is now framed in our bedroom).  We talked awhile and they told us that if we were still talking to each other at the end of the trip then we were meant to be.  We haven’t shut up since. 

A couple of hours past the river we crossed I29.  Corey was driving, Henna was listening to a story, and I was entertaining myself with our road atlas.  I was intrigued by the perpendicular interstate and saw that it journeyed south from Sioux Falls, SD to Sioux City, IA then down to Omaha and later Kansas City.  Travelling north one would go past Grand Forks, ND and then, by route, Winnipeg.  I was transported at that moment to earlier in our trip when we did just that.  If you remember, we took route 2 to Grand Forks and then, due to flooding in North Dakota, drove past lumbering cattle trucks into ranch land and gas stations that you could neither pay at the pump or pay before you pumped.  For a fleeting moment I felt that same freedom I experienced four weeks past.  I thought then of all the routes and highways I have been on.  There was one time when, just outside of Bend, Oregon my three-year old atlas did not anticipate a route (97) becoming a divided highway.  The sudden and unexpected terror of being on something that should not exist cannot be overstated.  Most times though the routes did not disappoint in what they offered; sights, interesting people, and a chance for adventure at every turn.  We made time on the interstates and had fun on the routes. 

Over the next week or so we will edit photos (my camera’s memory card is stuffed at a little over 1,500 photos) and try to digest this trip.  I look forward to the process as it keeps the trip alive for just a little longer.  Over the next year we will stare at maps trying to see the grand pattern, the route that speaks most to our heart.  We have several ideas for next year, but for now are leaning toward Newfoundland.  I hope you check in with us often as we will continue to post for as long as we feel the pull of the road.

Note:  Both photos taken Summer, 2009