The loooong state of Montana

Eastern Montana and Western Montana are like old friends who don’t get together so much anymore. As we drove past a 60-mile long Indian reservation (and wow, the US Government really did give them some of the worst, most untenable land in the country), there were a lot of flats and a few rolling hills, the sky reaching down all the way to the horizon. I noticed that a funny thing happens when it does this. It seems to change color, kin of in a hazy way, kind of dusty, kind of purple, kind of Photoshopped. Fascinating to someone who’s only seen sky, buildings, and ground.

Eastern Montana gradually gives way to what can only be described as the Old West, in what eventually comes across as the west’s version of people who still want to live in the old Confederacy. At least they echo each other to me. We saw more mountainous terrain, the CR-V climbing up some 4,000 feet of elevation, and the towns became more frequent and more populated. I also started to see a preponderance of Lounge/Casino/Restaurant establishments, sometimes three or four to a town that had only one general store or grocery. As we made our way west, we started hitting the Rocky Mountains which, shockingly, have a lot of rocks. I’d actually never thought about that! We drove through a mountain pass on our way to Missoula, which was something like you’d see in a spy flick: curvy two-lane mountain road, mountain on one side, balance-beam-wide road (which are 4 inches across, by the way), and cliff. Don’t these people believe in guard rails? Holy shit, we could drive right off into the river below, people! Where is the local chapter of MADD?

(Editor’s note: pictures of all of this are on Susanne’s camera, so when we have a chance we’ll edit this post.)

Missoula was nestled in some of the mountains, down in the valley. Were this California or anywhere on the East Coast, there would be tons of houses up in the hills as well, but the people out west here have a shitload of space, and they’re not anywhere near to using it up yet. And it’s kind of in clumps that are like mercury droplets that haven’t merged together yet — town droplet, space space space, town droplet, etc. We saw as we were driving down, a huge thunderstorm several miles away. The only time I’ve ever seen a storm and not been it it is from the window of a plain, so again, the sky is huge out here. We drove down to our hotel after 10 hours of driving through Montana, only to find that their power had been out for two hours. We gave my friend Anna a call and met up with her for dinner at a local restaurant, and chatted about grad school and crazy people. Ah, it almost felt like home!

The next day we drove through the rest of Montana — how could there be more? — and through Idaho into Washington State. More scrubland, more wheat fields, the start of long lines of wind energy mills, along the tops of the hills. They almost look over you as you go by, far away automatons that could someday descend into town and chop us all into little pieces. So be nice to your neighborhood wind mill, people!

The drive on the last day was only about 6 hours, which for us is a breeze now. The last leg into Walla Walla takes us by a paper mill on the Columbia river which I swear is manufacturing spoiled broccoli, because that’s what it smells like. not spoiled spinach or spoiled anything else green vegetable. Or even spoiled artichoke, which I have personally drunk in the awful form of Cynar, an Italian liquor to avoid AT ALL COSTS. Definitely broccoli.

We rolled into town and showed up at the college to collect the keys to the house and sign the lease. And here is where things went more than a bit downhill. Next post for those details, because I really have to include pictures with that.

But hey, we made it! Final mileage count, 3,550. 27.2 miles per gallon, so we bought 130 gallons of gas, and at an average cost of $4.80 per gallon, that comes out to $625 in gas. We saved a bunch on hotel costs, though, spending three nights for free at various relatives’ homes, and only spent an average of $120 on hotels the other nights. The best shower was at the casino in Niagara Falls, which was a dream. The worst was the little motel in Saskatchewan, but even that was preferable to the disgusting cavern called a shower in our present house. Let’s just say we spent $150 yesterday at Target buying cleaning supplies…

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  1. The loooong state of Montana | Casino Orleans - August 22, 2008

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