Friday, July 26, 2013

Day 9: Great Falls to Miles City

327 miles; estimate 5:22 hours

The reason Dan and I can make these cross-continent journeys—this is our fifth—is that for Dan, driving is something like a sport. He is good at it, and he enjoys employing his expertise. Our route through provided plenty of challenges because because Montana is all ups and downs. Our elevation went up and down between 3000 and 4000 feet all day, but there is no way to count the number of tight curves the road made. For driving it was like an Olympic event. To complicate matters, the highway had only two lanes, and it was crowded with semi trucks and RVs pulling cars.

After a couple of hours, we came to a point where we could turn off the two-lane road, US 87, and head toward I-84. We considered this easier option. It was really nice to be out in the country, seeing the vast wheat fields alternating with patches of forest at higher elevations, and occasionally rock formations. Then it occurred to Dan that most of the big rigs would turn toward the freeway, and traffic might be light the rest of the way, so he stuck with the country road. We pretty much had the highway to ourselves for the rest of the afternoon, and then he could really enjoy the changing scene.

We got into Miles City around 6 p.m., having taken some time to shoot photos of the Yellowstone River. Our Best Western War Bonnet Inn was something of a let down after the upscale places we've been staying, but we were able to park right by the room, and the room is pretty functional. For dinner, Dan decided to eschew the local in-spot; instead, we went downtown and found the oldest bar in the state, the Montana Bar and Steakhouse, which was established in 1908. It has pleasant old-fashioned decor, and a pretty steakhouse next door. Dan's steak was only okay, but my steamed veggies were exceptional—cut into small pieces and served in a light butter sauce.

Dinner in Miles City

Traditional Bar

Steak house

Afterward, in an impressive burst of energy, we picked up a few items at the supermarket and gassed up the car. The gas station had a 24-hour drive-thru car wash, so we made a final push to run the car through the machine and dry it off ourselves.