Sunday, October 27, 2013

And I Would Walk 500 Miles, And I Would Walk 200 more...

Okay, I didn’t walk 500 miles and then some like The Proclaimers, but that Wednesday I did easily eclipse 500 miles of driving.

I woke up nice and late that Wednesday at the Tuppers’ house, well rested for one of the longest driving days of the trip so far. I would need every minute of that rest as the day wore on. Debi had something ready for me for breakfast, Rob had already gone to work. She shared some more about their family, particularly their sons, and I believe their daughter was getting married sometime not too far in the future. I’d chosen the Tuppers as hosts on Couch Surfing because, in their profile, they were very upfront about following Jesus Christ and their love of meeting new people and fellowshipping with them as they came through Spokane. She had told me that I was the fourth different person they’d hosted in four straight nights, they were clearly very invested in meeting and getting to know new people from all over the place. She had also recommended that I check out some of Riverfront Park by downtown on my way out of Spokane, which I did right after I left the house.

The best thing was, Debi prayed over me and prayed for safety for the rest of my trip as a send off from the house, which was a blessing. After hearing her talk about all the outdoor activities and events to go to in Spokane, it made me regret somewhat that I'd only spent less than a day there, I'll have to go back someday and check out more of what this medium sized city has to offer.

I drove south to the highway and west to downtown Spokane, passing the John Stockton gymnasium again, and parked in a large garage near the river. I walked with the camera and the Duckies in their usual bag to Riverfront Park, and saw these metal running people:

Nearby was a large fountain within a gazebo-like structure that the Duckies enjoyed:



The parts of the park by the river feature a clock tower, flower decorated bridges, an amusement park, and an IMAX theatre:


When I saw this sign by the water, I had to make a Bon Jovi reference:


You give love…a bad name! And look, live ducks for the Duckies to say hello to:

Abounding joy, that’s all I have to describe that Duckie situation. By this point it was already noon, and I had about 700 miles to drive that day to Miles City in eastern Montana, and I was going to lose an hour changing from Pacific to Mountain time. Plenty to accomplish that day then.

First I had to gas up the car, and for some bloody reason I didn’t get a proper meal to put me in good shape physically leaving Spokane. No no, at that convenience store I got a large bag of baked Lays chips. In small amounts, those chips are a tasty supplement to a real meal. The fact that they were my main source of solid food for the next 5+ hours wasn’t a good thing. What was I drinking? Water? Nah, doubleshot cans from Starbucks, of course! They’re sugary, caffeine-ey, and aren’t a good source of water. Don’t get me wrong, I was having a good time, zooming along I-90 at 75+, first through what little I had left of eastern Washington to cross, and then into another hour of the northern panhandle of Idaho. This part of Idaho, around Couer d’Alene, has thick forest again, and mountains, and big Lake Couer d’Alene:

That was only about 30 minutes east of Spokane. Once I got to Montana (first time there), it was multiple hours of I-90 surrounded by this:


I was finishing up the Harry Potter 6 audiobook on my iPod, and listening to tons of the Irish/Scottish alternative rock band Snow Patrol, from their Up To Now album mainly. Chocolate, Chasing Cars, Crack the Shutters, Just Say Yes, You’re All I Have, Hands Open (Chicago bursts to life!), Cartwheels, and especially The Planets Bend Between Us. All great songs! See, abounding joy!

Now, it’s 200 miles from Spokane to Missoula, Montana. I got there, and saw it’s bordered by mountains, and Big Sky in all directions. The forest had cleared out some by then:

Here’s some shots of the big country east of Missoula:

I was already hungry and had finished the entire bag of Baked Lays and at least 2 of the big Starbucks doubleshots, so I probably needed the bathroom too. Again, hard to explain why, but I thought “hey, I’ve made it 3 hours without stopping to Missoula, so why not keep the hammer down and make it another 120 miles to Butte?” So, I soldiered on for another hour and a half, and by the time I got to Butte, again my mindset was “why not make it another hour to Bozeman?”

Here’s the area around Butte (pronounced Bute or Butt depending on your maturity) by the way:


Here’s the upcoming sign for Interstate 15, which takes drivers either north to the Canadian border or all the way south to San Diego:

By now, my body was begging for bathroom, food and water, but I was in GO mode, having gotten a late start from Spokane, so I pressed on, further into central Montana. Both the car and I were quite literally running on empty by the time I reached Bozeman. I didn’t get any pictures of Bozeman, but the terrain in between Butte and Bozeman did remind me favorably of Colorado and New Mexico, that is, rugged and uneven:


In fact, by this point, nothing was going well physically. I’d been driving over 5 hours nonstop by then, and by now I was very hungry, totally parched, needed the bathroom worse than ever, and was even feeling low in energy (sugar crash?). I found a gas station in Bozeman, and filled up the car with gas, got a local Montana newspaper, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle; a quality pit stop, and a large bottle of water. The water didn’t help right away, but it felt amazing to stretch my legs after 400+ miles on the road like that. And, there was a lot of highway “construction” going on on I-90 in Montana, which slowed me down some too:


I didn’t handle the slowdowns very well, I got irritated at slowing down, super impatient as construction continued, and would rocket to 90 or 100 once the zones ended. Could’ve had a better attitude but being in a hurry can skew one’s priorities.

The next major step to reviving myself in Bozeman was to find a KFC and order 5 (yes, five) of their snacker chicken sandwiches. I was so spent and dehydrated waiting in the drive thru that my hands were shaking. It wasn’t a high point of the trip, but hey it’s good to overcome adversity, even if it’s somewhat self-inflicted. After a few minutes, I got the big bag of sandwiches and began immediately wolfing them down as I was driving away.

One good thing about Bozeman during my brief time there was that the temperature was still very pleasant, probably around 60 to 70 degrees, and this was after 6 pm (I’d crossed into Mountain time zone by this time). This is part of the proof of my discovery that the vast majority of the US experiences very mild weather and pleasing temperatures in the month of September. And Montana is way up there! It was in Bozeman, at that gas station, that I began to fully realize just how far away from home I was, how much in the far North I had traveled. It’s 1,500 miles to drive from Bozeman to Dallas, so I had to accept how “on my own” I really was. I knew nobody for 500 miles in any direction. Oh well, I had another 300 miles to drive to get to my hotel in Miles City.

I flew along I-90, and then I-94 for 4 more hours after Bozeman, listening to music pretty loud to stay alert, and thankfully I felt much better after the large water and 5 snackers. I think I even started up Harry Potter 7 Part 1 on my laptop and put it in the seat next to me as I traversed the darkness in eastern Montana. I drove 702 miles in Montana total on the trip, and most of them were on this Wednesday, it’s a surprisingly long, big state. It just crossed the one million mark in population too, congratulations Big Sky! And boy is Big Sky majestic around sunset, here’s the distant hills under the fading light as I was driving and by a rest stop east of Bozeman:

I made it safely to my hotel in Miles City at 11:30 that night, and checked in. I’d driven 693 miles, but because of only two stops, I’d made the journey in just 10.5 hours of total driving time, which I thought was fairly efficient. It had been dark past that rest stop, but I don’t think I missed much, it turns into flat plains east of there, kind of like eastern Washington and Oregon. I fell asleep quickly after getting to Miles City, for I was only halfway done with bulleting across the far North of the country and needed some good shut eye. Good night from Miles City, Montana.

As promised, The Proclaimers, which serves as my tribute to How I Met Your Mother: