Friday, August 10, 2007

Lemmon, SD -> White Sulfur Springs, MT

We rolled out of Keldron into Lemmon, where I visited the Petrified Wood Museum. Basically a ghastly collection of bits and pieces of otherwise gorgeous petrified wood cemented together into bizarre conical shapes. My advice, keep on moving.
A few miles out of town, I saw a hill with a small outcrop of rock, and figured I’d try to find a dinosaur or something. Hey, a trilobite would be enough excitement for me. Well, no such luck, but the ground was littered with chunks of petrified wood. Most of the rocks were either petrified wood or flint. I picked up a few pieces to take with me.

Soon crossed into North Dakota, where there was some construction going on, but that was fine with me, there was so much to see out the windows. We stopped at a spot for lunch (and to recharge my camera battery) to read about the presence of an asbestos-like mineral that was being used for road gravel. That made me a little less sanguine about the road construction!

The landscape continued to morph, more of the pastel colors of sagebrush painting the hills and fields.

By the time we got to Montana, it was unpleasantly hot. The first town we came to was Baker, a tiny town with several casinos, and a rapacious gas station charging an exorbitant fee for gas to cross the next 82 miles until the next station. Well, after getting lured into the low prices of South Dakota, I figured that the slightly higher prices in North Dakota were a rip-off, and Montana had to be lower. Not at all. So folks, tank up in North Dakota if you’re heading west on 12!

Right away in Montana, the land got much hillier and much, much drier. We passed a parched 13 miles into Plevna, where I stopped hoping to find soda for sale. No such luck. But there was a post office, so I stopped in there to send calling cards back to my folks.

The woman behind the counter was pleasant until the fact I was going to San Francisco came up. A look of concern, some might say a scowl, came over her face, and she warned me that the city was “full of wickedness”, and encouraged me to join her into an enquiry as to why the Lord had brought me, on this day, to her. I thought it was for a stamp. She thought otherwise, and sternly advised me to follow the straight and narrow path.

Now I know San Francisco is full of wickedness. A lot of the wickedness doesn’t interest me, some annoys me, and some intrigues me. But the irony of getting a lecture about wickedness in a tiny town with a casino and bar (but no general store) and a huge billboard warning about the perils of meth addiction seemed somewhat incongruous.

The next 64 parched miles to Miles City made it clear that we were in an entirely different country now. One where preparation would serve us well just in case a tire blew out or something of that nature. The cars were getting far and few between, and they were all in a hurry. After tanking up on gas, wiper fluid, radiator fluid, water, and soda in Miles City, we struck out again, this time on 94, a relatively comfortable road. At Forsyth, we got off again to continue on 12 West, and I knew we were in trouble when the road sign said 70 miles to Roundup, and 120 to Harlowton. But we pressed on, through unbearable heat. Gorgeous country, the hills getting hillier, and the lovely pastels of the sagebrush being complemented by pick rocks in the hills, the yellow grass, and the sultry green of pines. The road was at times quite pleasant, at others a white knuckle ride over pavement that bucked and swerved underneath us.

After Harlowton, the hills and buttes started turning into mountains, but it was a gradual transition. We came across another wind farm outside Martinsdale at what seemed to be some sort of huge co-operative hive of gardening and self-sufficiency. Only one of the turbines was turning, but there were new foundations being built, too.

We passed into the Little Belt mountains, and more stunning scenery. As we crossed through the pass, though, a violent wind caught us, making the next 30 some-odd miles to White Sulfur Springs a tussle with a shifting headwind determined to push us off the road.
I had intended to push on to Helena, but decided to stop and stay at a nice hotel in White Sulfur Springs. One with a hot tub, and other amenities. Very pleasant.

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