As we left the motel in Bigfork (it’s one word) with 500 miles between us and our evening campsite, I thought with regret about the scale and pace of the trip, and the opportunities we would inevitably miss. There’s just too much to see, do, eat, and drink in this great nation to hope to catch it all. It’s the “Disneyland Effect;” one can quickly burn out trying too hard to have fun. Hence, I didn’t get to stop at Whistling Andy Distillery , but I’ve marked it on the “next time” list. It turns out they weren’t open yet anyway.
For as much as we had already driven, we were still very much in the Inland Northwest on our second day. Broad valleys, sparsely populated by horses and cattle, passed by our windows, with the mountains lurking beyond.
Through the maze of ridges which make up the northern Rocky Mountains, forcing our overloaded minivan up one grade after another, we reveled in the great forest, knowing that soon we would leave it behind for a while.
We stopped for lunch in Helena, the state capital.
With a population of just under 30,000, it fit us nicely for a lunch break. I made a fresh pot of coffee in the park while we ate, as the fillup I’d gotten at the motel was barely drinkable.
We also “took on provisions,” as they say, getting groceries and gas at the the last Safeway we’d see for a while and sunglasses and such at the CVS Pharmacy-the first one we’d seen in over a decade. It’s all Walgreens and Rite-Aid where we live, so this was as sure a sign that we were on the verge of a new region as noticing a change in bird species or vegetation.
And on we drove…and on…and on. Descending from Helena, we crossed onto the vast plains of central Montana, into space and quiet of dizzying proportions.
Yet there is life in the vastness. We also saw a “megaload” of refinery equipment parked at a turnout, waiting for nightfall to resume its journey:
And we passed through towns as well. Some were no bigger than a dot on the map:
Some were slightly larger:
But they all got me wondering: where do they buy their groceries? I made a mental note to look into this when I got home, which indeed I will do.