10/12/2003: Day 4: North across Montana
Karen woke me at 4:52 saying that it was 10 to 6! Well, her clock hadn't made the time-zone shift. We were on the road at 7:20. I took too many pix of the Crazy Mountains. This isolated clump of snow-capped peaks held my attention for an hour as we drove around them up U.S. 310 to Laurel, MT, where we took I-90 westward.
By the time we got to Livingston, MT (a nice Yellowstone gateway town), we were in light rain and sleet. It had become quite windy. I don't know what had annoyed these winds today, but they must be regularly irritable: There were signs posted along I-90 and on State Road 69 (our shortcut around Butte) warning us of "Cross Winds". We stopped for gas, and the wind snatched my sunglasses off of my head and sent them scurrying across the asphalt with me in chilly hot pursuit. Twice! We took a lunch break in Boulder, MT, spontaneously selecting the Elkhorn Cafe. It is a local restaurant, and we had a nice lunch there. The L&P Grocery across the street had a good selection of comestibles for such a tiny shop. One of the cashiers also had advice on what to see up in Glacier.
Random observations: The bloodstained highways of Montana, where the deer and the antelope die. We noticed vibrant red & green roofs on many a farm building as the old "tin" roofs are replaced by modern enameled steel. The contrast of opinion between the AAA maps and ourselves. The roads marked "scenic" were often simple, rolling grasslands. Un-scenic roads often offered breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains and winding valleys.
Another AAA kvetch: Wyoming may have had the unwelcome centers, but Montana simply didn't have rest areas anywhere near where they were indicated on the map.
We stopped in the mid afternoon in Choteau, MT where U.S. 287 meets U.S. 89. This town has 2 espresso joints, but they are closed on Sunday along with the rest of the 2 block downtown. There was a nice tourist section with old west theme and dinosaurs. We should come through here some day when they are open.
We decided to try to spend the night in East Glacier so that we could jump directly into the park in the morning. It was dusk, with light sleet blown horizontally as we walked through the little town. Several hotels had vacancy signs out, but no one was in the darkened offices. One door finally opened to our knock: The Whistling Swan (www.whistlingswanmotel.com). I'm not sure whether the swan could have been heard over the whistling wind, but the door was opened by Jen, the firefighter girlfriend of Mark, the absent proprietor. With several phone calls to the diner where Mark was working, she handled the unfamiliar duty of fixing us up with a room.
The room was wood. Pine tongue and groove plank walls and ceiling, wooden furniture, even a wooden shower stall! It lent quite a cozy feel to a big room. The heat was provided by a tall gas heater inset in the wall. It ran quietly enough, but when it cycled off it cooled with many a clank and bang, distributed over many minutes.