I promised myself at the beginning of last year that we'd post more often than we had in our first couple years of blogging. I remember thinking four posts a month was a good minimum figure, and since January 2009 we've only dipped below that once, in February of this year. But now September 2010 is over and we've only posted twice. It's because of a lot of things, but rest assured that it's not because of flagging interest in the awesome/maddening world of ACVW ownership.
Really I don't want a meager "(2)" on this month's record, marking as it would not only failure, but dismal failure at that.
What to do?
It chafes me a little but I figure a rerun is better than nothing, so here goes, from November 2006 about a roadtrip undertaken just about four years ago, funny layout, pedanticalness and all. Hey! At least it's updated with a map:
West-central Montana Road Trip
Last month we decided to take a two-day tour of Montana. Since moving here, we've pretty much been stuck in and around Missoula, but Montana is the fourth biggest state (AK, TX, and CA are bigger) and we wanted to see more of it. We'd heard from natives that Great Falls, the third-largest city, wasn't so great. What better reason to go see it, since if we lived here too long we might become biased and never go there at all. On the way back we'd see some things around Helena.
Garnet is a ghost town in the mountains east of Missoula, on the way to Great Falls. We took the side trip and saw the sights. It was pretty impressive. There were significant waves of gold mining in Garnet in the late 1890s and and again in the 1930s, and the last of the town's 1,000 residents left in the 1940s. It's pretty crazy how whole families would live in these tiny houses. Plus, there was never any running water. The biggest house in town (three rooms and two stories) belonged to the schoolteacher. I bet you'll not find that to be the case anymore, anywhere. We also looked around the abandoned gold mines just down the road. It looked like back-breaking work, moving and smashing all that rock for so little gold. Did you know that all the gold that has ever been mined would fit into a space about the size of a small apartment building?
The sign says it all. Taken just barely on the Pacific side of Rogers Pass (5610ft). Click this (or any) picture for larger image.
Once we got on the Atlantic slope of the Great Divide the landscape changed completely. It's eerie how abruptly everything changed from one side to the other; it was like driving out of a giant pine forest and into the Nebraska panhandle. The picture is of Square Butte, West of Great Falls. Painting these landscapes made Charlie Russell famous.
Along the Missouri River in Great Falls is a fresh-water spring, reputed to be the largest in the world. Six and-a-half million gallons of water bubble to the surface an hour; that's 108,333 gallons a minute, or eighteen hundred gallons per second. The water is always 54 degrees Fahrenheit. It has its origin as rainwater and snowmelt on the Little Belt Mountains, forty miles to the south. After spending several thousand years of seeping downhill through the limestone bedrock, it shoots to the surface with great force (300 pounds of pressure per square inch) through 700ft of cracks in a matter of seconds.
Much of this water dumps directly into the Missouri (as seen in the picture above), but a bunch of it also forms its own river, the Roe River, which lays claim to the title "shortest river in the world". The picture above encompasses the entire length of the Roe, all 201ft of it. Melissa is the blue patch at the mouth of the river, on the other side of the bridge.
The Sip n Dip is the hotel bar for the O'Haire Motor Inn in downtown Great Falls. In 2004, GQ magazine declared it the greatest lounge on Earth. It's a really small bar decorated in a tiki/Hawaiian style, seating maybe fifty people. What makes it so special is that the wall behind the bartender is a glass window looking into the deep end of the hotel pool. What's more, they have a mermaid swimming on weekend nights. Daryl Hannah pulled mermaid duty while she was in town filming Northfork (horrible movie). We didn't see a mermaid while we were there, but they were hiring: "$10 an hour plus tips, must be a good swimmer".
After a night "camping" in the WalMart parking lot (so what? Clean restrooms, 24-hour security and no fees) we got up and headed South toward Helena ("HELL-uh-nuh"). A last, quick stop at a thrift store in GF opened our eyes to the existence of truly cheap secondhand clothes, something Missoula is somewhat lacking and of which Santa Barbara was completely bereft. Anyway, our next destination was Refrigerator Canyon, a slot canyon in the Gates of the Mountains (part of Helena National Forest), Northeast of the city. The road was winding, and by that I mean it was fun driving. Along the way we passed through the tiny town of Nelson, the self-proclaimed cribbage capital of the world. We came across several small groups of Rocky Mountain Goats, and even slowly herded one group across a bridge.
Rocky Mountain Goats (four of them, just below center)
Refrigerator Canyon was just barely too wide for me to touch both sides at once. It was probably about 100ft to the top from where we were standing. The canyon's extreme narrowness shields it from the most direct effects of the weather, mostly heat, so it's usually colder in the canyon than out of it-hence the name. We drove back out (more goats) of the Gates of the Mountains and on into Helena.
Helena sat on one of the richest gold deposits ever discovered. (Or should I say "sits"? In the 1970s they struck gold when repairing the basement of a downtown bank.) In the 1880s it was one of the, if not the, richest city in the world. We drove through the impressive mansion district and saw these palaces; very impressive, even if it appeared as though most of them have since been split up into apartments.
Less impressive, though still nice enough, was the state capitol. I think being familiar with Nebraska's state capitol (without a doubt the best one in the nation--sucks to you, Louisiana!) kind of spoils the others. What the capitol did have was deer roaming through the neighborhood. The picture above was taken from the Southeast corner of the building's block. Our downstairs neighbor, a Helena native, says deer are commonplace there. Recently, a buck killed someone's hundred-pound dog right in the middle of town.
It was too dark to take any photos of the trip back to Missoula. We powered over the Great Divide at MacDonald Pass (6325ft) early in the evening. The roadsides were rife with deer. Neither of us had ever seen so many in our lives. Either of us will state without exaggeration that we saw more deer on the road between Helena and Missoula than we had ever seen in either of our lives previously, combined. I'm glad we didn't hit any; luckily, they stayed off the road. The only problem we had with Ludwig was a cracked headlight ring which finally gave way, but were able to replace, after finding one nailed to a tree on another road trip just two weeks later. Weird.
View Great Falls/Helena road trip Oct 2006 in a larger map