Thursday, August 23, 2007

August 23 2005

I woke up at 4 in the morning to the sounds of Spookie's mewing. It was a very crisp morning. The fog was cutting through the mountains illuminated by the harsh street lights of the rest stop. It was quiet, only the sound of a distant car from the highway broke the silence. Spookie leaped into the van and went to his hiding place somewhere in the back of the van amongst my life's possessions.

I tried to rest up a bit before the sun came out. I went to the bathroom. I looked east and headed out on the road. I was a little behind schedule because of my escaped cat situation the day before. I was an hour or so west of Missoula , my intended destination the night before. It was okay because I planned to stay at a motel and since I thought it was dangerous to drive anymore the previous night, I was able to get a head start by starting at 5 in the morning as opposed to my planned departure of 8.

Even better was the view. I was in the valleys of the Rocky Mountains looking out at some of the most spectacular scenery. They say if you take the Interstate highway system, you miss out on America. Well, at least here in Montana, you are seeing Montana at its best. Many people I knew in Seattle were from Montana. They talk of its virtues, while I defend the honor of New Jersey. Well, in seeing this scenery, I was glad they weren't around to say I told you so. The mist flowing through the evergreen covered mountains inspired awe. The next two to three hours went with a feast of eye candy. I was in Bush country and I was loving what I saw.

The drive was free and clear. I-90 is a four lane highway, two on each side, which in smooth sailing as far as driving is concerned. Anyone who knows me, knows I am a somewhat slow driver. I rarely go much above the speed limit and more often than not I'm lapped by almost every driver on the road. Now, I don't know if it was the power of the mini-van but I was driving 90 miles an hour and lapping pretty much every car on the highway. I noticed many an RV or more truth to be told, tour buses for single families, on the other side of the freeway. Mind you, this was when gas prices were going up a dime a week.

Anyway, the Montana cities went by, Butte, Bozeman, and Billings went by quickly considering distance wise it was the same as going from Boston to New York to Philadelphia. Not one bit of traffic. This allowed some time for me to visit Little Big Horn National Forest. This was Custer's last stand. It's surprising that Custer thought he could take Little Big Horn by surprise when you see it. The skies are endless and you can see for miles and miles. I hadn't heard a peep from my cat. I stopped off at a gas station before I headed into Wyoming. Now, after loving Montana, I was finally getting to an area I was dreading when I made plans to travel across the country. Wyoming is a square state. Not much to it. It's flatter than Montana and a lot more dull. Whereas Montana is Bush country that made me re-evaluate my opinion of the red states. Wyoming confirmed my opinion. Montana had periodic rest stops that were family friendly and traveller friendly.

Wyoming seemed to be a land of Libertarians and Survivalists. It was in Wyoming where I first noticed the presence of ethanol. It was an option when you filled up your tank with gas. It was cheaper than regular, so yes I was filling up with it. I had not heard from my cat, which I don't blame, because storms were a brewing beyond the horizon. I was trying to make up time to head to Devil's Tower. This is the mountain made famous in the movie Close Encounters of The Third Kind. I tell you what, the storm looked very dangerous, maybe a tornado might occur but it seemed like it was heading northeast, while I was heading southeast.

I had to take some back roads to get to Devil's Tower. I was surprised the roads were very thin, like Irish roads. Now there continued to be no traffic except when you find a farm vehicle on the road. It took up the whole road and was going 25 miles per hour. I was delayed a good half hour because of it. There was no shoulders, no turn offs, finally I got close to Devil's Tower and was impressed with what I saw. It's one of the weirdest sites. It's not like Arches National Park in lower Utah near the Arizona border. It's one stone mountain amongst a flat area.

It was starting to hit sunset and even more of a problem, the storm was a'coming. I wanted to get to South Dakota before dark. On the way I accidently ran into Bedrock City, a campground with a Flintstones theme. What a hoot, I wish they had more across the country because I would like to go camping there someday is I ever have children.

I took a back road through the Black Hills Forest, beautiful to say the least. It wasn't dark yet, so I was able to visit Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse and see it in its glory. As usual for icons, it seemed smaller than what I thought. After I got done, I went to the downtown area. Nice town. It was my first impression of a state I thought would be a drag, and I liked it. Since it was in the Black Hills the scenery was spectacular and there was elements of Niagara Falls. A lot of development was occurring.

I stopped off to get dinner and called into the van for my cat. I didn't hear him, I dug around my stuff where I thought he might be, and heard no sign of him.

Uh oh.

He escaped again, but where? The last stop I made was more than three hours ago back in Wyoming to get gas. I didn't get out of my car for the Devil's Tower or for Mount Rushmore. Oh man I thought. I was trying to ease my conscience by thinking that surely at a gas station, someone would take pity on him and take him in. It was a better place to be lost than at Deception Falls the day before. I knew I should not have taken him, but I couldn't find a home for him and I knew he would be put to sleep if I put him in a pound.

There was nothing I could do, I ate dinner and headed back to I-90 to make up some time and hopefully see Wall Drugs before I went down the night. I went through Rapid City, the biggest I saw since Spokane, Wa. It was dark but I wanted to get to Wall so I could get to Kansas City the next night on time to see the ballgame. My eyes were too tired. I never was good at driving at night on Interstate highways. I did make it to Wall, SD a tourist trap town. I was going to stay at a hotel, but weirdly, it took me a third time's the charm before I found a hotel with a vacancy. I was tired, I drove a longer distance than I ever drove in my life, almost 900 miles. I was sad because my cat was gone. I went into the hotel room, watched the local news about an upcoming storm and a baseball game involving the American Legion. Now that's being in the middle of nowhere. I went to sleep

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