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04 September 2007


DAY EIGHT: Deer Lodge, Montana to Spokane, Washington; via Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

Ladies and Gentlemen: we are back in the Pacific Northwest. I repeat, we are back in the PacNW. Beyond cowboy country and into logging territory. Tall pines, high mountain passes and everything a bit rougher around the edges, woohoo!

Greetings from Spokane, WA, where we are watching "Wizard of Oz" at the home of our sorority sister "Shanley" over mojitos and two of her young boys--they let me know that it was OK to use the MacBook in the TV room, and that drinks are allowed, but no food. They are SO ca-yoooot and it's wonderful to see them all again on our trek homeward. See?

It's especially gratifying to watch The Wizard of Oz now that I have...BEEN TO KANSAS! It makes me appreciate the threat of tornados on the prairies even more. "K" just pointed out, "Hey, that doesn't look like Kansas, that looks like..Wyoming."

This morning we awoke to slightly overcast skies and a few rain drops in curious old Deer Lodge, MT. The slight smell of fall in the air. While doing our usual safety-first-pre-drive-auto-check, I had to fill the coolant tank because it was BONE DRY from our apparently very high yet gradual ascent during yesterday's drives. Breakfast was at the restaurant next to the motel; let me hereby recommend the free hot breakfast and staying at Scharf's if you find yourself in 'the Lodge'. An egg, hashbrowns, toast, bacon and coffee--now that's what I call satisfying. The skies cleared up and we went over to the Old Montana Jail but didn't want to spring for the nine dollar admission price (spare me!), so we just looked from outside. Apparently Deer Lodge was quite the debauchery site back in the day. And it was in operation until 1979. Gosh!

Continuing on I-90 West, we headed towards and through Missoula--patches of the recent forest fires evident along the drive. "K" suggested stopping at one of her Montana drive haunts, the 10,000 Silver Dollar Bar near the Montana/Idaho border. The town name starts with an "H" or something; I was so overwhelmed at the tons of quality made-in-China souvenirs and chuckling a the irony when a large busload of Chinese or Taiwanese tourists happened upon the store. Humh: all the way from Asia to a 'Western' bar/restaurant/store only to find...crap made in China.

You will be pleased to know that the 10,000 Silver Dollar Bar store experience did not disappoint. We bought some souvenirs (OK, call it 'crap' if you prefer). Then we grabbed some lunch, and I was mistaken for a waitress while walking from the ladies' room back to my table in the restaurant. Here is a short re-cap of the scene:

Restaurant patron to me: "Can I get a carry-out box?"
Me: "I don't know."
Patron: ...?
Me: "I don't work here."

Then we laughed knowingly, in true pioneer/mountaineer fashion. At least that's my side of the story. Apparently my blue t-shirt was similar to the blue t-shirts that all the waitresses were wearing. Who knew?

Full of food and curios, we re-stared the car--and this was the point when, TA-DA!, the CD player mysteriously went back on! For miles! And miles! Working again after nothing since Nebraska! WhatEVS! I blame the magnetic force of the Continental Divide and/or any other natural and unexplainable phenomenon.

Thank goodness I had that Keith Urban CD, because Allison Krauss was just too mellow for us as we started our ascent up the pass into the panhandle--Madge did an amazingly swell job. We then went through Coeur d'Alene ('core-dah-LANE'), Idaho, a nice little town popular for its huge lake and touristy-fun main street. Cafes everywhere. Rest assured that you will not go latte-less in these parts. Then we created a new mission: a nail place. Because you see, at this point, after eight days on the road, we needed a relaxing pit stop. Darn it, we were back in the PacNW, so close to home yet still over 300 miles to go. So after CROSSING THE BORDER INTO WASHINGTON STATE (holla!), we hit a nail place and boy, did that foot massage feel nice. Next stop was Shanley's where we have enjoyed the closing of another sunny, warm day over pad thai and relaxing.

Tomorrow AM we'll head out and get back to east of Seattle before too late in the day, hopefully. I predict that the only really nightmarish portion of the drive will be over the Ritzville Flats. Yeeeesh. Seriously, give me eastern Wyoming over the flats ANY day. And that is saying a lot. But I bet the first glimpses of our Cascade mountains will compensate for any geographical anguish.

Here are a few shots of the day--keep commenting and we will report happenings from our final road day tomorrow!

In case you were wondering, Deer Lodge, MT still only has one traffic light. Squint hard and you might see it in this pic:

Missoula, MT

Don't believe the hype that Boise, ID is the most westerly Cracker Barrel. There is one in Missoula, MT now. Hmm, now those delish pancakes are only a 12-hour drive from my parents' in Sammamish, WA...oh, the possibilities.

Espresso stop in Alberton, MT. A fine small mountain pass town.

Alberton, MT

"OK. Now that I have latte in hand, I am ready to drive. Watch out."

See? It really is the 10,000 Silver Dollar Bar. Don't miss it if you're crossing ID/MT on I-90.

At the 10,000 Silver Dollar Bar: "I mean seriously. WHO buys this crap?!"

Idaho? NO: Udaho!

Descending Lookout Pass (4600 feet). What goes up, must come down. And the view is grand.

This pic is included to share the moment with you: Madge passes another vehicle on the interstate! This is only possible when going down treacherous mountain passes with intermitent pumps of the brakes (avoid brake-riding at all costs, road warriors).

Lake Coeur d'Alene (flashbacks to old college days of debauchery on those lake cruises. What was up with those?)

Dear readers, we have contact.

Celebratory mani-pedis outside Spokane...

Blue. Go figure.

Drive-by (photo)shoot: Spokane

Spokane, WA

Mojito Mama hooking us up. Cheers!


This is ranch country. Big Sky, baby!

DAY SEVEN: Cody, WY to Deer Lodge, Montana (via Yellowstone National Park). Greetings from Scharf's Motor Inn, in beautiful downtown Deer Lodge, MT, Montana's 'second-oldest city'. So we're off I-90 now, between Butte and Missoula. Yes, we popped back up onto, gasp, an interstate for a bit.

Driving in tonight to Deer Lodge was hillarious because "K" and I both realized we'd both been here before on separate past trips: I was here while driving through on my x-country trip out to PA and I recognized the town's old prison and was all "Woah--I've been here before." And "K" got a moving violation here when she was fifteen, for causing a ruckus in what the cop back then called " in downtown Deer Lodge". Which is hillare, since there is STILL only one red light here. As our frontier gal at the front desk said, "Once you've been to Deer Lodge, you never forget it."

We are pleased to report, however, that tonight, the local po-po are vigilant and at the ready when it comes to nabbing deliquent drivers; see 'Exhibit B', below:(NOTE: I believe "K" is recovering from the flashbacks that this scene may have caused...)

Fortunately we arrived here at Scharf's in time for dinner and I'm pleased to also report that the steaks are MUCH better than the shoe leather I tried to eat yesterday in eastern Wyoming:

OK, so today I really felt like we were indeed back in the West: we left our hotel room in Cody, WY: (cold pizza: breakfast of champions!)

...and finally found some decent coffee in downtown Cody (Rawhide Coffee Company--holla!):

Then we 'provisioned up' so as to avoid dehydration for the trek to Yellowstone (note: the Nestle 0.5 l bottles use 30% less plastic, or at least that's the bio-marketing I fell for...):

Entering: Yellowstone National Park! By the way, I've purchased the annual National Parks Pass, valid for all parks, lands, etc. I can totally get you in for FREE. Provided you agree to the updated 'I have the pass--you get the gas!' stipulation.

Yellowstone Lake:

Yellowstone Lake:

Early-morning tai chi or skipping stones? You decide.

Madge the Wonderbuick's trunk, aka 'The Situation Room':

Wildlife abounds:

Keep on commenting on the blog--we love it and can't start the car without it. Goodnight for now--here are some more pics from Yellowstone NP and then Montana...