Chapter 7 -- Big Sky Country

Saturday, September 13, 1997

I left Glacier Park this morning and drove down the east shore of lake Polson, a huge lake in a flat valley in Montana. The radio reports that the airport at West Glacier had the country's lowest temperature last night, 33 degrees. Today's destination: Missoula. They were having a Reggae fest on the river, and it was a fun place to be. Pepper made many canine friends, and a few human ones, as well. We checked into a cheap hotel. Snapped a picture of a great sunset, with the sun illuminating a thunderhead, and the just-past-first-quarter moon above, showing why Montana is "big sky" country. The moon was right next to Jupiter at night. We went back to the reggae fest for our evening's entertainment.

I was awakened the morning of September 14 at the motel by two little twerpy boys, ages about 4 and 7. They were running all over the outside of the motel, and their grandmother? was standing in the doorway to her room, smoking a cigarette, and yelling at them to be quiet. I'm not sure who was making more noise. This went on for at least two hours, between the time I first was awakened by them, and the time I finally left. They may still be running around, for all I know.

I soaked at Jerry Johnson Hot Springs, and then spent the night on a forest service road near Lolo, Montana. There was a tremendous fireworks show from lots of lightning in the clouds. The moon is waxing gibbous, and lights up the clouds even when the lightning doesn't.

Lewis and Clark came through this area Sept 14, 1805, exactly 192 years ago to the day. They apparently had some snow in 1805, but today it's very warm, almost to the point of being uncomfortable in mid-afternoon.

The forecast is for showers, and we've already had one this evening. There are scattered thunderheads about. I'm sleeping with the van's top closed down, both for warmth and extra watertightness. I've been sleeping this way for the past few nights. It also keeps out the sound of noisy campground neighbors, although that's not a problem here.

On September 15 I awoke to the sound of rainshowers, and headed back toward Missoula to see about getting an oil change for the van. Volkswagon pays for the first few oil changes, but you have to go to a dealer to get them. When I went to the VW dealer in Missoula, They said the earliest they could work me in was the 26th, 11 days from now. Missoula is nice, but there was no way I was hanging around here two weeks without driving.

I went on to Bozeman, MT. The weather has been very blustery the whole day, with occasional heavy rainshowers. Just before Deer Lodge, where I stopped for gas, it got downright nasty. There was pea-sized hail, and severe crosswinds that made it difficult to stay on the road. Bigger RV's and trailers weren't staying on the road, and things were blowing out of the back of pickup trucks. Awhile later the road made a 90 degree turn, from south to east, and then I noticed that the shadows of the low clouds were overtaking me as I was driving east at 65 to 70 mph!

Went into Bozeman, found the VW dealer, and they said they could work me in first thing the next morning (8:00 am). With all the storms, I decided to go for a motel tonight. After getting the room, I went to explore the campus, mostly the student center and library. It's a nice place.

September 16, 1997

Got up early in the morning, got to the VW dealer, got the oil changed, and got out of Bozeman.

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©1997 Richard Cochran
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