Through the Windshield 3

Montana has the largest surface area (by measuring all the mountain area) of the 48 contiguous states. It’s filled with bumper stickers like “My state is bigger than your state.” Yet small states like Arkansas have more roads for trucks than Montana. So last year when we drove from North Dakota west across central Montana during the floods of the Missouri River, the road closures were scary. There are no detours. At least three places had one lane of the two-lane road washed away. The remaining lane was under shallow water, but passable. Not a good thing when the last truck we passed going the other way was half an hour ago and we have no cell phone or Internet service.

Most of central and eastern Montana is made up of rolling mountains. It is like a large scale version of Oklahoma, Illinois or Ohio, only the rises and falls of the landscape are measured in the thousands rather than hundreds of feet. When it is not freezing, it is quite green. The eastern badlands are quite an exception.

While Colorado has the highest elevation of any Interstate, with Vale Pass just West of the Eisenhower Tunnel at 11, 000 feet, Montana is filled with Interstate passes over 8,000 feet and several over 10,000 feet.

Ice fishing is popular. During the winter I have seen thousands of huts on lakes, but the most memorable one was about a hundred huts on a series of small lakes near Helena. The ice fishing huts I saw in New York, Wisconsin and Minnesota were just sitting empty on the lakes. Not so in Montana. There was always somebody ice fishing.

Last year around Memorial Day, maybe even in June, we crossed Lookout pass on I-90 into Northern Idaho. We stayed the night at a truckstop near the summit. Heavy snow covered the ground and serious avalanche warnings were posted at the doors. The walls of the  truckstop were covered with silver dollars. People wrote their hometown on the silver dollars with a magic marker before attaching them to the wall. They claimed there were 50,000 silver dollars fastened to those walls. I made no attempt to count them, but there sure were a lot.

Several restaurants in Montana serve Walleye. If that is something you might like to try, one place that serves it is at the Town Pump (Pilot) truckstop in Missoula, I-90 at milemarker 101.

While there are outcroppings all over the state, the really high Rocky Mountains are West of I 15. Butte is located in an impressive valley.

I once watched a coal train being filled with coal near the Anaconda Mine. The coal came down the mountain on a conveyor belt of some kind and filled a huge hopper. One car at a time, the hopper would open up to the train car below, close its door and allow the train to move to the next empty car.

The upper Missouri River in the Rockies is about one hundred feet wide and is perfect for fishing. It also seems to be the most densely populated area outside of a city. The dam across the Missouri River at Great Falls is spectacular. There is a gorgeous park where visitors can walk up and down the riverfront.

Several dams across the Missouri River in North Dakota make lakes so large there are ocean-going tunnel hull racing boats during the summer.

I-94 in North Dakota has a very wide median and shoulders. Instead of lawn mowers, North Dakota lets the grass grow long, and then harvests it for hay. It is quite a sight watching the grass get rolled into a hay bale.

2 thoughts on “Through the Windshield 3

  1. When we traveled the west, I was fascinated with the roadside hay. I thought it was so smart to use the grass rather than mow it and leave it for the wind to scatter.

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