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  1. #21
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default A year on. [Almost]

    No matter how many of these pictures you see, they do not have the same affect as when you are there and realise, this was someone's home.
    I can imagine. Sobering images, as we approach the first anniversary of this devastaing storm.

    Cool truck stop and nice image of Shoal Creek.

  2. #22
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Joplin to Missoula

    My only time constraint now was that I have to be back in Boston no later than 6th July. Other than that, I planned to take things as they come. And just as well!

    I had been given a recommended route through Kansas to I-80 in Nebraska. It was an enjoyable route. By the time I got to Fall River Dam and State Park, I was ready for a break. It is just a short way off US400, and looks like it could be a nice camping spot. There were only a sprinkling of campers there, on this Monday morning. I could not find a day-use area, so drove to a nice spot overlooking the lake, and went for a short walk.

    Next spot was Emporia, for lunch. The computer had shown that it may be slow going on US50, as there appeared to be road works all through the town. But when I got there, there was not a sign of anything going on.

    Cottonwood Falls was on my list to check out, even though it was a little out of my way, and I was by now - as per normal - running behind the schedule I had set myself that morning. So when I got to I-135, it was straight up to I-70, where I spent the night at the Flying J.

    Cottonwood Falls is one of these quaint little towns which time seems to have forgotten. The lovely old buildings, the leisurely pace and the brick main street, which is called Broadway. And the mostly small shops. No supermarket here. Towering over the town, and dominating its main street, is the court house,built before the town was established. This historic building is still being used as a courthouse, in fact it is the oldest continuously used courthouse in KS. Its benefactor wanted it to be at the head of the main street, which was not to be called Main Street.

    Tours are freely arranged by the Chamber of Commerce, and can be either guided, or self guided. Truly a small town experience. I spent far too long here, but it was so worth it.

    Next day would just have to be a little less sightseeing, and a bit
    more distance, as I planned to be in Sidney NE to check out the camping at the Cabella Sport Store. I knew that here at the headquarters, they had a campground, but have to say I was a little disappointed. Probably because it is focused almost exclusively on RVs. The charges were not too bad, $11.45 for a dry camp with electricity - the fees for the RVs ranged up to $40. But the facilities left much to be desired. Cleanliness was not that high up on their list, and the showers were too tiny for me to even consider having a shower.

    Since the RV's had full hookups, it was a puzzle to me as to why the dry camp spots were so far from the amenities block. They are virtually the only ones using it. I did not count how many RVs it can accommodate, but it is not all that big. The best part is that there is wifi throughout the campground, and it is a good connection. The biggest disappointment, I think, was that it is so far from the store. One would have thought they may want customers, but it is completely feasible to camp there and not go near the store. Bottom line is, it is good to know it is there, but I would not go so far as to recommend it.

    On the other hand, it was 3.30pm when I arrived at the exit to Sidney, and the nearby Shell service station and Walmart lots were already pretty full with trucks and RVs. (The actual town is about a mile north of the exit where the aforementioned are.)

    Left early, since the weather was fine, to drive to Rawlins, or Green River, or wherever... just so long as I could get over the summit before there were any strong winds, most likely in the afternoon. So Cheyenne only saw me briefly when I filled the tank. As forecast, there was no wind worth worrying about. The drive was particularly pleasant, with relatively little traffic on the road. I did however notice that we were now in the land of the B-doubles.

    I am not sure how much further on it is to the rest stop to the left of I-80, a rest area shared with the east bound lanes. Perhaps not really a rest area, as I do not recall seeing any facilities, but there were several trucks parked there. As a spot of interest it told of the area, and of the tree in the rocks.

    The view up there was spectacular. Once again, it was a great spot to have a break.

    Stopped at the summit rest area to see the monument and read all the history of the area and the road... both I-80 and US30.

    It was a part of I-80 I had not driven before, and was keen to make it this time. On the way down from the summit I became aware that my cruise control was holding the vehicle to within a mile or two of what it was set. Just like the cruise control I so valued on the Ford Falcon I used to have. Once again, a most enjoyable drive.

    I had read in the Truck Stop Directory that there is a truck stop at Little America. Not only that, but just like Wall Drug on I-90, the roadside boards extolling its virtues started many miles before I got there. So of course, I had to check it out.

    This was a really lovely place, with free wifi accessible throughout its several buildings. Complete with immaculately clean, as well as large showers. There was free parking, a motel and full service restaurant. It was in the driver's lounge (well! I am a driver, ain't I?) that I was able to plug in my computer, camera and jug, and made myself a much longed for cup of tea - or two - whilst catching up with emails and the latest posts. The truckies were watching something on TV so I took up position in the back corner, and quietly worked away and enjoyed a snack with my cuppa. It was a great truck stop with facilities to match.

    I had to, of course check out the smallest town in the US... Buford WY! It was all boarded up, and frankly, other than to be able to say I have been there, there is no more to the place.

    After this I took a 'short cut' to I-15, using US30. This was really no slower than the interstate, as I was still able to maintain my 65mph. But the ambiance was so much more pleasant. The few small places for which I had to slow were insignificant, as most places the road bypasses the town. However, at Cokeville I found a Flying J, just when I needed to fill, and was once again able to use my Pilot RV Reward card and get 2c per gallon off. (and yeah! each time I have, they have been the cheapest.) Later in Canada I discovered that the savings are even better, with 1c per litre.

    The initial plan had been to follow I-80, all the way to Elko, and then head up to Bruneau Canyon and Dunes, as well as maybe Hell's Canyon, Lewiston and route 55 through ID. But the weather forecasts were most unfavourable, and I was not too keen to check out those places with the pending storms hanging over my head. So gave it a miss. (My apologies to the person whom I promised I would give a report. I cannot remember who it was, nor in which thread.)

    Once on I-15, Pocatella was the logical place for a much needed stop and something to eat. At this point it was still quite sunny, and the 'mature' lady at the visitor centre told me she had not heard anything about pending storms. Before the border with Montana loomed, the edge of the storm had arrived, and it began to rain... quite heavily at times.

    Crossing the Pass into MT is where I got my first real test with wind. High up on the continental divide with the wind howling in from the north west making the rain appear horizontal, I was struggling to keep the van on the road. Slowed right down to 50mph, and greatful for the fact that there was very little traffic around, I made good use of each rest area. The buffeting was taking a toll on me. I imagine if I had been travelling at the speed limit (75), I could well have been blown off the road.

    This was taken before the worst of the storm hit. Then I was too busy to bother with the camera.

    It was at the first of one of these rest areas that I was looking for a hotel discount booklet... but there was none. Another lady there was looking at some of the wide aray of brochures on display. We got to chatting, and hearing that I was headed for Alaska, she told me that she and her husband were from Alaska... now living in Montana. They also told me about their visit to Australia, mostly Queensland and central Australia.

    It was while we were discussing this that the topic of Melbourne came up. Suddenly a voice said, who mentioned Melbourne? It came from an American of Asian descent. Turns out that he graduated from the University of Melbourne, in 1960. The same university where I worked for eight years in the late eighties/early nineties. These little incidentals remind me of what a small world this really is.

    Despite the heavy rain I stopped at the next rest area where I managed to pick up the desired coupon book. That night was spent at a truck stop in Rocker, near Butte. Next day was straight into Missoula, where I had an appointment to pick up the remainder of the paperwork, including the title to the vehicle, from the attorney.

    It was over these last few days that I had noticed the vehicle pulling slightly to the right. Not too bad. It wasn't as if I had to struggle to keep it straight. But nonetheless, it was not running straight. At the suggestion of my advisor, it was decided to have the alignment checked out at the Ford dealer in Missoula, the next big city, and the last city I would be visiting in the US - before heading to Alaska.

    John, at Ford, asked me to come back at 3.30pm, and he would see if he could fit me in. I had mentioned that I was on the road, and just passing through, and since this was a Friday, I really wanted it looked at before the weekend. It was not quite 4pm when John came to see me in the waiting room with the news. Yeah! sure they could attend to the alignment, but it would not solve my problem. Some other major front end repair had to be done (can't recall what it is called - glc knows), and he did not have the parts. He could order them, and would have them by Monday, but until then, there was nothing he could do.

    This was neither planned nor budgeted for. Bottom line ended being $672.25, and it took almost the whole day on Monday. I was able to pick up the van at 4pm. On top of that I had four days of motel accommodation for which I not budgeted. It often concerns me when folk want to go on roadtrips on very tight budgets. Despite all the checks on this vehicle, it is something which was not picked up. Just like the fuel pump on my last trip. These things happen to the best maintained vehicle.

    I was really glad I had that coupon book. Complete with tax the room was less than $50 per night. It was spotless. Excellent wifi in a very well appointed room. Besides the bed there was a three-seater couch, a table with two chairs and a desk - as well as the TV, microwave and fridge. And the bathroom was newly renovated and spotless. All that at least made the forced wait bearable. I can highly recommend the Budget Inn, just off I-90, exit 105. Bonus is that it is right across the road from a small mall, including an Albertson supermarket.

    Missoula is not a bad little place, though I must admit, I only checked out a little of it. Took the opportunity to catch up on many neglected tasks. Tuesday morning, it was off to the border.... well, almost.


  3. #23
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    We've experienced some of that Montana wind ... glad you're ok!


  4. Default

    I've been enjoying your posts and photos. Will you be passing through Paxson (Alaska)? I wonder if it has grown to meet or exceed the posted population.

  5. #25
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Paxson AK

    CA, probably not.... I was down that way last trip, 2009.


  6. Default

    Thanks for sharing your trip. I enjoy the postings. You're making me eager to get back on the road. Last June I spent 31 days on the road crossing the northern US and back. This spring I was planning to take a long swing down the eastern seaboard, catching as many island and coastal roads as possible, but delayed to long. The south in the summer is not my idea of a fun time. Maybe I'll head north to Prince Edward Island soon and head south in the fall. I wish you smooth roads and honest mechanics.

  7. #27
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default National Bison Range, Moiese MT.

    During my time in Missoula I had picked up quite a few brochures and other information about the surrounding area. One which caught my interest was about the National Bison Range at Moiese.

    Since it was on my way, it became my first port of call. And did not disappoint.

    Even though it was long before the 20 mile loop road was opened - in fact the staff told me that more snow had fallen overnight - I was still able to drive the 5 miles of road at the lower level, there and back. This section of road remains open during winter. (The summer road rises some 2000 ft over the mountains, with many switchbacks and steep grades. Vehicle restrictions apply on this road.) The roads are gravel, and even on the 5 mile stretch there are steep grades and lots of potholes to negotiate. But the drive was so worth it.

    The wildlife was prolific and active.

    Much of the activity was centred around Mission Creek.

    As well as bison, there are bear, sheep and several types of deer.

    Pronghorn antelope.

    It was obvious that there was going to be a huge population explosion soon. The ranger told me that most of the deer give birth to two or three young, but that only a small number survive. Despite great efforts to hide their offspring, coyotes and wolves feast on the rest. The bison calves do not suffer such fate.

    This is a place worth visiting, when in the area. It says to allow an hour for the winter route, and two hours for the 20 mile summer loop. I was there for much longer. For one thing, the bison were on the road, and none of us (3 cars) were going to push our way through.

    Back in the car park there is an Antler Tree which grows each year.

    For those who do not have the NP annual pass, there is a $5 per car charge in summer. Winter is free. Trailers are able to be left in the carpark while visiting the Range.
    Last edited by Lifemagician; 05-19-2012 at 01:54 PM.

  8. #28
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default One of my favorite places!


    Nice photos -- Yes, this is one of the places we've recommended hundreds of times over the years. My first visit was in 2005 and here are some photos of one of the bison calves...

  9. #29
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Up 200 and over the border on 1 in ID.

    On my last trip I had taken highway 200 from Missoula MT to I-15. I recall it being a most pleasant and scenic trip. So I figured since 200 is also marked as scenic from Missoula into ID, it would be the ideal road to take me towards the Canadian border in ID.

    Almost all the way it runs along rivers and lakes, and the scenic turnouts are numberous. I tend to spend far too much time at these serene and scenic spots.

    Highlight along the route was a torch run which I met near Thompson Falls. I had at intervals seen small groups of young people along the road, with identical red shirts, but not taken all that much notice. Now I realised that they were all waiting for their turn to carry and accompany the torch.

    There was no time to stop to take this photo, despite having seen the accompanying police vehicle. Later when I met some of the runners, they told me it was for the Special Olympics.

    What stood out most about this route was the unusually high number of white crosses by the side of the road - including many where there were two or more. It is not as if it was a busy road. It winds along with the river, and up and down hills, but not as if it is a dangerous road. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that this two lane road has a speed limit of 75... and most who travel it feel obliged to drive at that speed. It was really very comfortable at 65.

    At Sandpoint I headed north to Bonner's Ferry, where I stayed the night at the 3 Mile Truckstop.... three miles from town! Chuck, who has owned this facility for more than three decades was a most obliging and friendly person. We spent quite some time talking about the roads and truck stops in general. On his advice I planned to cross the border on highway 1 in Idaho, to Creston, which I was told was much quicker than 95, just to the east.

    Chuck relates well to travellers, and aims to provide the best facility for them. It is not a huge truck stop, but there were quite a few trucks, as well as a small selection of others spending the night. For the benefit of the drivers, Chuck makes wifi available for free. Something the big boys may like to think about. From the drivers with whom I have spoken I get a clear message that whoever provides free wifi will have the lion's share of the market.

    Crossing the border was a bit of a let down, after my last experiences. This guy was not busy, was not talkative, just asked the standard three or four questions, and I was on my way. Doubt I would have been stationary for more than 60 seconds.

    Once in Canada I followed 3A all the way along Kootenay Bay.

    The ferry which runs between 3A and 31 near Balfour, only runs every hour and a half or so, during the winter months. And this, the end of April, was still winter schedule. It was more than an hour till the next ferry went, yet there were already many cars and trucks. After making myself a drink and a snack, I got to chatting with the lady in the car behind me. She explained that there was a slide (avalanche) on the pass on route 3, so all the trucks had been rerouted north through Nelson. Discussing whether we may miss out on a spot on the next ferry, she assured me, from her experience, I would not have a problem. When the ferry finally arrived, and all the vehicles, including logging truck, were off, it was time for the waiting vehicles to start loading. Imagine my horror when I was the very last vehicle on. I did feel so bad.

    The green one, behind the silver pick-up!

    Later on, at Galena Bay, there was yet another ferry crossing. This one however, much shorter and nowhere near as busy.

    Spent the night in Sicamous. Both these days were around 250 miles - a comfortable distance on the two lane highways.


  10. #30
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.


    Thanks Lifey, I have been looking forward to an update and it didn't dissapoint one bit ! The Bison Range looks a great place to visit. Glad you made it on the Ferry, so don't feel to bad ! ;-)

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