A Full Day With a Visit to the Big Muddy Badlands and Castle Butte

Today was the day to go get my booster, but it was also the day that my internet situation exploded media-wise. I woke up to a link in a comment to a write-up by CBC about our internet situation. I was, of course, pissed off by our reeve’s lack of support for the project. I was misunderstood/misquoted in a remark I made about the number of people affected and instead of saying something like, “The number of people don’t matter,” he just dismissed my efforts. Lovely to have community support. I then made the mistake of looking at comments and spent too much time replying to trolls. I’ve decided to not go back and look at any other comments!

I finally got on the road around 8:20. I stopped at the gas bar in Coronach before the border to get a coffee and was told I didn’t have to pay! It’s such a small thing, but it really reset my mood! And the coffee was actually quite good, to my surprise!

I was at the border about an hour after leaving home. The crossing was painless beyond having to explain what a cell signal booster does and why I need one. I then enjoyed a drive across Montana landscape that looks a lot like ours to arrive in Plentywood around 10:15. I was picking up my package at the Little Muddy Dry Goods store, which offers a package service for Canadians, but discovered that Main Street isn’t the road that cuts west-east through town. I stopped for fuel (saving 20CAD even with the exchange rate) and got directions.

The package service pickup is at the back of a bright clean open store. I was a bit dismayed that the room was open to the public, like the bar in Opheim I’ve used in the past, but was assured that the door is closed and locked when there is no staff around… I paid my 5USD and then lugged the huge box back to the truck. There, I opened up the package to make sure everything was there and I knew what I was bringing back across the border.

It was about 10:50 by this point. I was an hour earlier than I had thought to be in Plentywood, so it felt like a weird time to hunt down lunch, but I was ready to eat. I’d done research ahead of time and so I headed to the Cousins Restaurant to see if I could order off the lunch menu that early. I got to the restaurant and was greeted very warmly by a server. I find that sometimes these small town restaurants are light on the customer service because they’re not used to seeing strangers and the locals know the drill, but this was not the case here. I was handed a menu that had all their options on it, not just breakfast, so I figured I could order lunch.

The menu was pretty typical American diner fare, so I opted for a ‘patty melt’ which is a fancy term for a hamburger between slices of toast rather than a bun. This turned out to be a slice of ground beef with heaps of perfectly sautรฉd onions and melty American ‘Swiss’ cheese’ between slices of pumpernickel bread. The menu had said ‘marble rye’, but the pumpernickel flavour was really strong, which was a plus! It elevated the sandwich from pretty ordinary to something special. The sandwich came with fries for 7.99USD. I gave the server my last 10USD (I’d withdrawn 50USD from my US account, so if you’re following my day, you’ll know that I had 10USD left!). I’m really glad I had lunch at Cousins Restaurant.

Then, it was time to head up to the border at Regway/Raymond, which I hadn’t even known existed between Portal and Scobey until John in Santa Fe told me about it! There, upon seeing my passport and being told where I live, the customs official exclaimed that he recognised me from the radio this morning…

I declared the booster and he had me go in to pay. Then something interesting happened. He clued in that I’d said I work from home as a transcriptionist/proofreader and that I was bringing in a booster, so he asked if I was bringing it in for commercial purposes. Oh, boy, I thought. This is going to cost me! I cautiously asked what’s the difference. He looked at me like I had snakes growing out of my head. “Has no one at the border ever told you that if you import stuff for your business you don’t have to pay the PST???!!!” HUH???!!! Well, that was news to me! Dang!

It was then time to figure out what I owed now that I was importing as a business. I had my USD invoice and my PayPal receipt showing what I’d paid in Canadian. He said that I’d probably get a better exchange rate through whatever system they use and I said that the exchange rate is worse now than it was when I bought the booster almost two weeks ago. He did the math and went, “Yup. According to your PayPal rate, you owe me $53. According to our rate right now, you owe me $61. That will be $53, please.”

First time I came away from the border having paid less than I expected to pay. Lovely guy. And yet, he and another guard then emptied out my truck (thankfully, I had very little in it) and even went through my purse, which I had left on the front seat. It’s so lovely to be waved through into a foreign country and be treated like a criminal when coming into your own. But, hey, I saved $53…

From the border, I headed north into the Big Muddy Badlands, eventually pulling over to check my emails. I had a voicemail from someone at CBC Radio wanting to schedule ad interview for later that day, so I was able to return that call and set up a time for them to call me.

Then, it was time to head on to Castle Butte, a famous landmark in the area. I thought I’d have trouble finding it, but there was a sign announcing the turnoff. Castle Butte is a particularly remarkable hill in the middle of lots of other hills and was used as a landmark in the old days. I arrived, changed into a hiking skirt and my Keen sandals and pretty much crab walked my way to the top. It was very slippery! But I got up there without much incident and was surprised when I reached the summit effortlessly.

The trip down was another story, though! I crouched down and pretty much slid my way to the bottom. Then, I had a walk around the entire structure.

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And people think Saskatchewan is flat…

From Castle Butte, I took the back road through Harp Tree to get to Willow Bunch. There were just one or two signs the whole way there to assure me that I was heading in the right direction. Just as I was certain I was completely misplaced, I saw the red tower of the Willow Bunch Museum! Whew, what an adventure! But I wouldn’t have really needed a search party since I had cell service the whole way through this particularly desolate part of the province…

When I got in, I called Caroline, who got home late last night, to check in as she’d left me a message and asked me to do that. I asked if I could come by around 4:00 so I could do my interview from their landline. Of course! So I called back my contact at CBC Radio and gave him C&C’s number.

I then very carefully unpacked my booster, making sure I kept the packing material and did as little damage to it as I could. The materials are really heavy and obviously of better quality than what I’ve received from Wilson.

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I tried to set the booster up temporarily without mounting the antenna at any great height, but I got the ‘you have oscillation’ error message that means that the interior and exterior antennas are too close together. I managed to get the old antenna off the pole and the new one mounted with a minimum amount of effort, but I still couldn’t get the booster to work. I went so far as to install the booster in the shed, which was as much horizontal separation as I had cable for, but that still wasn’t enough… Tomorrow, I’ll go to town and get another section of pole and hope that another 10′ of vertical separation will do the trick. If not, I’m at a loss and will contact the sellers to get their thoughts. I’m disappointed, to say the least. I had a feeling this unit would be overkill for my small property and I might be right… But I’m not giving up yet!

Then, it was time to head over to C&C’s, where I had a coffee and catchup before my interview. I think the interview went well and I was able to share how I lose internet during the day and have to pack up my things and race up the hill.

I think I’m done with this issue because nothing is going to get done. I’ve fought a good fight, but with SaskTel not having to answer to anyone and my community management not willing to get involved, this will never get resolved. Time to start thinking about where I’ll spend next summer since it won’t be here…

After my interview, I got another coffee and then Caroline asked if I could stay for supper! Of course! ๐Ÿ˜€ She made her amazing whisky-marinaded salmon with scarlet runner beans, corn on the cob, and grilled zucchini. She is such a good cook! It was a lovely meal where we all came away replete, but not stuffed. They don’t do dessert, but they do do wine! So we sat out for a bit to finish our glasses of fermented grape juice, then I headed home with a giant zucchini.

When I got in, I remounted the old antenna onto the broomstick and stuck the whole thing in the truck like I used to have it set up, then restarted the old booster. It’s going to rain tomorrow, but hopefully I can do more work on the new booster Sunday and Monday and get it working… Croft, you’d better be online this weekend! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Whew, it’s been a very long and full day. Time for a hot shower and hopefully a good night’s sleep. I’ve been so stressed that I have been sleeping poorly, but hopefully the exercise I did today will help.

Scobey to Haven and Rediscovering Miranda

I’m home!!!!!!!

I barely slept last night in Scobey, which was absolutely not the motel’s fault. I woke up around 4:00, read for a bit, and then dozed till 6:30. The room had a microwave, so I was able to make coffee, my last cup of the Mexican stuff!

I was packed and on the road by about 7:38. It was only 14 miles to the border, so I took it slow, about 40MPH, even though the speed limit was 70MPH (there was no one else on the road and I was still going a legal speed!). I got to the border exactly as it opened.

The customs officer was pleasant in taking my declaration, but based on how much he was writing, I knew I was in for it. Scobey is not a busy crossing, so I was probably going to be the most interesting crosser they’d get today and I paid for it. Like the Americans, they emptied the entire truck. Unlike the Americans, they did the work themselves. And unlike the Americans, they went through everything. I couldn’t see much from my vantage point, but I’d been asked to leave my purse and I saw them rifling through the receipts in my wallet; that’s how in depth their search was.

I was absolutely mellow about all this. I mean, I had made a truthful declaration and had absolutely nothing to hide. I wasn’t too happy to see them rooting around in my dirty laundry, but, hey, imagine how they felt!

Finally, I saw one of the guards pull out a piece of paper and take it to his supervisor. I knew exactly what it was. If that’s all they were worried about, I was in the clear. The guard came to me and said that he found what appeared to be a receipt for a 1TB hard drive shipped to me in South Dakota from California and had I included it in my declaration? I explained that it was a warranty return for a hard drive that crapped out in Mexico, that I had it sent to SD because UPS doesn’t come to Haven, that I have the paper trail on my computer, etc. The guard seemed to find that logical and then asked me why I have so many hard drives. I explained that I live in an RV and have pretty much digitized my life, so I have movies, books, pictures, and business backups on them.

The guard appeared to find all of that reasonable and moments later I was told they were both satisfied and I could go. And then guess what? THEY REPACKED MY TRUCK FOR ME.

I was there just shy of 40 minutes. Since they did all the work, it really wasn’t painful and I’d consider that a non-event of a border crossing. I do wish I had been as well packed by this point as I was when I crossed back into the US because I had a lot of loose items!

Both Google and my GPS refuse to route me from Willow Bunch to Haven via the gravel road, so they both put my travel time as double what it really is, claiming I was two hours from Haven at the border when it was actually just one hour. The paved roads were really bad and made me think I was back in Quebec! It was a real obstacle course! I was glad to hit the last 18KM stretch on perfectly graded gravel.

Before I knew it, I could see the green roof of C&C’s garage and then the blue roof of my shed. The property needs a really good mowing and still has trash that Charles had said he’d get rid of (he’s been busy!), but otherwise it looked good.

I’d left them my house key, so I entered through the cab. The first thing that hit me was just how fresh Miranda smelled. It was really surprising! I came in and found no dust worth mentioning, no evidence that mice feasted on the poison I left out, no signs of mould or water infiltration, and only an inordinate number of dead bees.

Satisfied with Miranda’s condition, I went out and removed the tarp that covered her all winter, then opened all the windows and roof hatches. I should point out here that it’s hot and sunny in southern Saskatchewan!

Next, I went to check out the water hydrant and was happy that it had been turned on for me as promised. I was going to start on laundry when I realised that I’d left my grainery key with C&C and that they weren’t home.

So I decided to start on the next most pressing issue, Miranda having settled over the winter and no longer being level. Her starting battery was dead and I didn’t feel like waiting for it to charge, so I just gave her a boost from Moya and her engine cranked right over! Good old V-10, doesn’t even care about the stale fuel! Getting level was a bit of sport, but the whole thing amused me. How many people leave their home for the better part of a year and the first thing they have to do is start its engine and move it around?!

Once I was level, I hooked up to power. My batteries are still in C&C’s garage, but I really don’t need them now that I have shore power, so moving those heavy suckers will be a task for another day (as will emptying C&C’s basement of the stuff I stored there!). With the power on, I was able to start the fridge.

By the time all this was done, I saw Caroline’s school bus was parked in front of the house, so I went over just in time for coffee break! We caught up on each other’s news and I went through my mail. There was nothing major except for a very overdue bill for gravel that I forgot would be incoming since I had sent payment for its shipment. I hope they will be understanding. Needless to say, I will send a cheque promptly, a letter of explanation and apology, and an offer to send me an invoice for interest!

Caroline and Charles are super busy retirees and I had tons of stuff to do myself, so I didn’t stay long. As it turns out, our May long weekend doesn’t coincide with that of the US, so today wasn’t a holiday Monday after all. So I decided that I might as well go to town and pick up propane and groceries.

Before I did that, I got my water hoses hooked up to the hydrant and by the time I was nearly done, two more neighbours came by to welcome me back and catch up on the winter’s happening. What a lovely community I have!

The road to Assiniboia was also terrible and very good for practicing my reflexes! Propane was crazy expensive, $38 for 29 pounds!!!! Groceries were also terrible. I spent $80 and came out with almost nothing. As an example of the culture shock I felt, a watermelon that is 0.65CAD in Mexico and 1.20CAD in the US is 3.99CAD here. I was pleased to see that the grocery store is being expanded, that the produce that was there was better than anything I’d ever seen there (but they were out of onions!), and that they are starting to carry more international foods (like haloumi, halva, and thin pita; be still my beating heart!). I still don’t want to shop there again this summer for anything substantial and look forward to a Moose Jaw trip, if only for meat. Oh, and the non-alcoholic beer I discovered last summer was almost half off today and, I’m happy to report, is still as good as the real stuff!

The fridge and freezer were surprisingly cold when I got in. I put away the food and got started on laundry. I have almost zero water pressure, so I didn’t waste any time, filling the motorhome holding tank in between loads. I have tons of laundry to do because I discovered in Keystone that I picked up a mouse along the way and a lot of my bedding is mousy. Yuck!

When the RV was full of water, it was time to test my water system. And this is where I got bad news. I was able, after a lot of work, to get my water heater to fire, but I discovered have a bad leak in my hot water system. I can see it, but I can’t get to it to work on it. I knew this was going to happen at some point, having recognized since day one that I’d be screwed the day that I had to work on the water heater since the only way to do so is to literally cut a hole in the exterior wall to pull it out.

My only hope at this point is self-sealing silicone tape, so I’ll pick up a roll next time I’m in town and see if I can seal the leak with that. What’s leaking is a shut off valve, but there is literally no room to work to cut it out so that I can replace it with a new one. I’ll have to think about whether I know anyone with a smaller frame and much smaller hands who knows plumbing. My friend Croft has had similar issues. It sucks to have the technical competency to do something, but to not have the room to work!

So I have a tank full of hot water, but no shower tonight. I’m glad that’s the worst of it!

Somewhere in all of this, I got my booster and antenna set up so I could have internet. The signal I’m getting is worse than last summer, so I really do need to make a better antenna installation a priority. My office is partially set up now and I plan to be back at work Thursday.

I’m waiting for the last load of laundry for today to be done, then I’m calling it a day and will start to work on supper. I wonder how my bed is going to feel!

Keystone, SD, to Scobey, MT

The Black Hills region really is a tricky one to visit. It’s just not a safe bet in the shoulder season. I’m lucky that I got a good day for Mount Rushmore and will only return to the area if I can afford time off in the dead of summer. I do not regret my detour in the least though since it meant meeting Vicki, getting work done, and, of course, seeing Mount Rushmore. Oh, and eating amazing free food, too! ๐Ÿ™‚

It was raining so hard in Keystone today that the bridge between the main road and the camping area was closed for fear that it would get under water! A local guy showed me an alternate way out, a little rough, but doable in the truck. I was worried that that would wash out, too, so once I knew about the bridge closure, I was in departure mode!

I’d emptied a lot of the truck so I could transport passengers, so I had the fun task of refilling it in pouring rain today. Let’s just say I didn’t care to make it neat and tidy! I was done by about 10:30 and it was time to go since the rain wasn’t letting up and I was taking the flooding warnings seriously. It was almost 20 fake degrees warmer in northern Montana/southern SK and clear skied so, really, there really was no point in hanging around.

I headed to Rapid City and did a pointless Walmart stop since they didn’t have what I wanted. I then continued on to Spearfish, where I decided to get lunch. I haven’t been to Applebee’s at all on this trip, so I stopped there, but there was a huge lineup. I instead went to a Perkins across the interstate and had a pot of coffee and a burger. The server told me I had to order dessert and was very insistent about it, so I decided to try their chocolate pie. The bill came with the slice and as it turned out, they had a coffee and pie special that meant that my meal was about 30 cents LESS expensive with my buying the pie than if I hadn’t! Too funny. I didn’t feel guilty for leaving most of it behind as it was way too sweet, but the couple of mouthfuls I had were a treat.

Then, I drove in incessant pouring rain. So much water… But I could see a clearing to the north and I finally got patches of blue sky and white clouds as I approached Miles City, Montana. The weather remained fairly clear until just shy of Glendive where the sky let loose again. The rain was falling so hard I knew it couldn’t possibly last, and it didn’t. The rest of the drive was in increasingly clear and warm weather. It was about 70 fake degrees when I pulled in Scobey, versus about 50 in Keystone!

Coming into Scobey, gas was foremost on my mind. With tomorrow being a holiday Monday, I knew I had about a 0% chance of being able to get gas in Coronach and about a -100% chance of being able to do so in Willow Bunch. I didn’t think I had quite enough to be able to get to Assiniboia on Tuesday, so, really, I had to find fuel tonight. Moreover, I much preferred to fill up on cheap US gas! But this was late on a Sunday night in a small town, so I had a feeling the gas station would be closed. It technically wasn’t… but it’s pay at the pump place and it’s difficult to pay at the pump with a Canadian card at most stations. I swiped my Visa and was relieved that it was approved immediately! That done, it was time to find a bed for the night.

There are two places to stay in Scobey. The first wanted $86 for a room. PASS. The next wanted $58, more than I wanted to pay, but not enough to make me want to find a place to sleep with the truck and reorganize everything to clear the bed. The ‘room’ is hilarious. It’s actually a two-bedroom suite! You walk into the main room and there is a bed, dresser, etc. Then there is another bedroom with a fridge and microwave. The hallway has a big closet, then there is a bathroom! The suite even has a proper desk and computer chair!!!

By the time I lugged in my valuables, I realised that my noontime burger was very far away and I was actually feeling a little faint. I asked the motel lady about the odds of there being a place open for dinner and she said the restaurant nearly right next door was open till 10:00! I went and spent my last $20 in cash on a beer, steak, and baked potato. Yes, it was a big restaurant day, but it’s back to reasonableness tomorrow, what with Canadian food prices and all. ๐Ÿ™‚

Time for bed. I want to be on the road by 7:30 tomorrow so I can be at the border for its 8:00 o’clock opening. I only have 60 miles to go to home and Google claims that will take two hours. Unless the border crossing is disastrous, Google is being ridiculous!

 

 

 

A Day At Yellowstone National Park

I got to bed quite a bit later than I really wanted to last night and by the time I fell asleep it was about 12:30. I woke up at 6:30. That might sound like a short night, but six solid and uninterrupted hours is amazing for me. The bed at the motel was probably the comfiest I have ever slept in! I dozed until 7:30 and then got going.

It was a nippy morning and there was frost on the truck. The day remained cool, but very comfortable, a perfect fall day where you need to layer up, but not get super bundled. I was really impressed by my packing when I tried to remember where I had put a pair of gloves and a tuque and found them tucked into a side pocket of my travel bag.

I made a stop at McDonald’s for coffee ($1.70 versus $1.00 in non-resort towns!) and decided to be smart and top up the fuel tank ($3.55, which really isn’t horrible).

The west entrance to Yellowstone Park was right after the gas station, at the edge of town. I didn’t realise I was so close! Unfortunately, I had the sun in my eyes the whole drive down to Old Faithful, which meant that I could barely see anything and missed key signs I wanted to photograph, especially the ones welcoming me to Yellowstone and then Wyoming!

The ranger who greeted me at the ticket booth was super friendly. I took my friend Jody’s advice and got the $80 Interagency Pass (commonly called the America the Beautiful Pass). Jody says that it’s good for a lot of sites in Idaho, Utah, and Arizona.

The first milestone of the day was crossing into the first of the two new states I’ll be visiting on the way down, Wyoming!

From the west access road, I turned south onto the Grand Loop towards Old Faithful and stopped at the first walk, Fountain Pots, to see some hot springs and mud holes. It was a nice leg stretch, but the boardwalk was slick with frost and I nearly slipped a few times!

I knew that I needed to go back to West Yellowstone to get to Idaho Falls, so I decided to go straight to Old Faithful and then come back and do as many walks as I had time for, not knowing how long I would have to wait for the old geyser to blow. Old Faithful was essentially a dead end today because of road closures so I couldn’t go beyond it anyway. There was thankfully no construction so the drive in was quick and I got to the visitor’s centre around 10:20. The next eruption was predicted to be at 10:40. Do I have good timing or what?!

Old Faithful isn’t the biggest geyser in Yellowstone and it doesn’t go off like clockwork, but it is very predictable, so I knew I had to go right back outside. The minute I found a spot to watch the famous geyser, it started its show.

And what a show it was! I couldn’t believe the plume of steam coming out of the ground and the column of water! I couldn’t help but think that this is where clouds are manufactured.

I then went back to the visitor’s centre and toured the exhibit and gift shop. I learned in the exhibit just how unique Yellowstone is in the world. It has the largest number of undisturbed hydrothermal features and what really makes it stand out is that it has all four types of features, hot springs, geysers, mud pots, and steam vents. Geysers are also a lot rarer than I realised.

I went to the other gift shop across from the VC and treated myself to a lovely pair of silver earrings. I got my ears repierced this spring after piercing my nose and was pretty sick of the pink stones I’ve had in my ears since the spring! I got studs in a leaf pattern. They were just $13, to my immense surprise.

It was surprising to see this other gift shop and the restaurant being open, so late in the season. In the summer, the Old Faithful site is a bustling community, with a general store, gas pumps, and rental yurts.

Before leaving the Old Faithful site, I had a picnic lunch in my truck. It was only noonish when I headed out, so I went back up to the west entrance junction at Madison and stopped at literally every point along the way to walk and see every type of geothermal feature!

A lady suggested that I make one last stop at the Artists’ Pots just north of Madison and I decided to do the detour since I didn’t feel quite done yet. On the way there, I stopped at Gibbon Falls.

The Artists’ Pots loop involved quite a hike upwards over rough terrain, but it was worth it for the view! I was quite glad to see my truck after and even gladder that I really felt ‘done’ instead of rushed to get back on the road so I could get to Idaho Falls at a decent hour.

I think I did a pretty good job filling my day at Yellowstone! I saw and did a lot more than I expected and really got a sense for what the park is all about.

A few pictures from the day…

And a video…

From Yellowstone, it was time to head to Idaho Falls, where I had reserved a motel room for the weekend. It was only about a two hour drive (except for a half hour construction delay! ๐Ÿ™ ), so it was the perfect place to get to to get out of the mountains and feel like I was making progress before stopping for three days.

My gas mileage today was perfectly normal, maybe even good since I had a very long downhill stretch where I just put the truck in second and third gears (depending on the slope) and coasted.

I’m not in Idaho Falls to play tourist because I have quite a bit of work to do. If I manage to be on schedule or better, I do have one excursion planned for Sunday. Otherwise, I will do it Monday and head to Utah from there.

I really lucked out on the motel. The cost per night after taxes is $51.75. I have a newly renovated room on the second floor well away from the busy road. The desk and chair setup is adequate, a fridge and microwave mean I was able to get a few groceries (and will be able to make my own coffee), and there is even a pool and hot tub (not that I’m going to make it there tonight, I’m so beat!). This was the absolute cheapest place I could find in the area and the reviews were so good I was suspicious. I am really pleased and won’t mind being locked in here typing for a few days. ๐Ÿ™‚

One of the promises I made to myself for the trip down was that I was going to avoid chain restaurants. But by the time I was unpacked tonight, I realised that I was famished from all that fresh air and exercise and that I didn’t want to research local restaurants and drive all over town when there was an Applebee’s close by. So I headed there and, to my immense surprise, ordered a STEAK. Seriously, what’s gotten into me?! ๐Ÿ˜€ I splurged and got shrimp in a garlicky cheese sauce to top the steak and had nice veggies and mashed potatoes as sides, along with a glass of white wine. It’s a good thing I don’t eat like that every day! But, hey, did I mention I did A LOT of walking today?! ๐Ÿ˜€ It was a crazy good meal and not too expensive.

After dinner, I went over to Walmart (the closest grocery store) and got some food so that I don’t have to go out first thing in the morning. I’ll do one meal out per day, likely lunch (cheaper), but it’ll be nice to have coffee in the morning without having to get dressed!

Billings to Yellowstone, MT, With a Virginia City Detour

I wound up doing more mileage than expected today (about 350KM, although it felt like MUCH more), but I’m right near Old Faithful (less than an hour if the road is open and there are no detours), so that will save me time tomorrow.

A lady at McDonald’s this morning suggested to me that I check out Virginia City, a ghost town near Bozeman. I checked the map and that was barely a detour on my way to Old Faithful, so that’s where I pointed the GPS. But first, I went to Walmart for an oil change and tire pressure check. I had an hour to kill while waiting for that, so I stopped at the deli counter for salami and cheese (enough for two days), apples, crackers, and a veggie tray. I also found a map book, but the GPSes were packaged and shelved in such a way that I couldn’t comparison shop. Plus the prices were too high, so I left them there.

During this time, I also switched back to my CDN SIM card to call SaskTel and suspend my service for three months. That will save me $150, so it was worth the wait to get through to a service rep!

The service manager for automotive apologized for not vacuuming the inside of my truck. I told her that I am aware that my truck is bursting with stuff and that I wasn’t expecting that bit of the service. ๐Ÿ™‚

I left Billings around 10:30 and took I-90 west towards Bozeman. There isn’t much in the way of radio out in these parts, so I continued to listen to an audio book my friend L gave me this summer after he was done with it, a pulpy thriller by Tami Hoag, whom I enjoy on occasion. It was a good story with characters I could care about as well as super well narrated, so the miles just ate themselves up.

I stopped at a rest area for an early picnic after getting a coffee at a service station. The wind has been terrible and my gas mileage is absolutely horrible so far. Fuel is still cheaper than I budgeted for, but barely. I had planned on 1.20CAD per litre and I’ve been averaging 1.00CAD. I’m about a third of the way to Nogales (really!) and as long as gas doesn’t go above $3.50ish a gallon, I’ll do okay, especially if I get out of the mountains and high winds!

I really do wonder if there’s something wrong with my gas gauge. I can go from ‘F’ to three quarters of a tank or three quarters to a half or a half to a quarter in literally minutes after being stuck at the previous mark for ages. When I get to a quarter tank, I get to the red mark so fast it makes my head spin. I really should go to the Ford Ranger forum and see if this is normal behaviour.

At any rate, I reached Bozeman and had to get off the interstate and onto a state road. This involved stopping at 50 billion red lights. I am barely exaggerating. That sort of city driving is so fun with a clutch. Not.

Between the lights and all the construction I had and would pass, my ETA to Virginia City changed from 2PM to 3PM. I didn’t mind because I suspected, correctly so, that the city would be shut for the season and there wouldn’t be much to see or do. I parked on a side street and walked up and down the main strip, enjoying the old western-style buildings that reminded me so much of Dawson City. The ice cream parlour was open, so I stopped in and asked for two tiny scoops in a cup, one of cookies and cream, one of cherry cheesecake. My portion was apparently ridiculous (no, it was not, and the proof is below) and got me a discount!

From what I can understand about Virginia City, most of the buildings have been renovated to keep their derelict appearance, but the town is very much alive and has businesses and a population. I couldn’t even get a walking map today, so I didn’t get much info about the town. Going there was something to do to eat up part of the day and I’m absolutely glad I made the detour, but it wasn’t a memorable stop for me.

By the time I got back down to Ennis, the town where the wind apparently blows hard enough to rip off a man’s arm, it was time to decide where I was going to spend the night. It was really too early to stop without having a place outside the truck to spend the evening and I still had two hours to go to get to Old Faithful. My GPS and map told me there was one more sizable community before I hit the park, West Yellowstone. It was only an hour away, so I decided to push on.

The wind along the drive was brutal and cold. I stopped off a few times to take pictures of a submerged forest and was nearly blown into the lake! This lake came to be after a major earthquake in 1959 that killed 28 people, most of them sound asleep in tents at a campground. The first plaque about the earthquake was announced ahead of time as ‘The night of terror and loss’ and let me say I didn’t need convincing to pull off the road and see what that was about! I can’t imagine what a nightmare that night was!

To my immense surprise, there was a rest area along that desolate stretch of highway. I was grateful that I no longer had to look for a tree to squat behind and made a point to check the forecast for West Yellowstone. It was going to be bitter cold overnight. I decided to shop for a motel if I could find something for under 75USD per night, which is way more than I’m comfortable spending, but I’m in major tourist country.

I should point out that my budget is tight by choice and so quite flexible. I’m just worried that next month’s cheque will be late, too, so I’m doing what I can to stretch out what I’ve got in the bank to cover my early day expenses in Mexico (border fees and first month’s rent) as well as all the November bills. Worst case scenario if I get a major extra expense, I’ll have to wait for the November cheque to arrive and delay my arrival in Mexico. Not a huge deal, certainly not enough to freeze in my truck tonight! ๐Ÿ™‚

There was a surprising amount of businesses still open in West Yellowstone considering the time of year. I walked and drove around, checking out the less expensive looking motels. The first one was a NO because the office reeked, while the second and third had no one staffing the front desks or answering the buzzers. The fourth one had someone at the desk. A room was $69 with the tax, better than expected for a resort community, even in the off season, so I was suspicious and asked to see the room. It turned out to be very clean and fresh with a newly renovated bathroom. I was impressed!

I packed my truck in such a way that everything I needed for a hotel room was in one bag, so it was easy to grab that bag, my computer bag, and my purse andย  move into the room. I didn’t have to dig around for clothes, toiletries, and sundries and felt quite organized!

By the time I was settled in, I was beyond ready for dinner, so I went back down to the main strip and popped into the first place that was open, Buckaroo Bill’s. The wait to put in an order was so long I was actually putting on my coat when the server finally returned, but I stayed and settled in for a long wait for my food. To my surprise, it didn’t take that long, much less than the wait for the server to take the order!

I ordered the Tatanka burger, which is exactly what it says, a buffalo burger. It was just a meat patty, no seasonings in it at all. I much prefer the mild taste of buffalo to that of beef, so that was fine, especially after I added mustard, tomato, lettuce, and even the dill pickles! Buffalo is a very lean meat and can be quite dry if not cooked slowly. This burger while not juicy was quite moist. I was very happy with it! I decided to get sweet potato fries with it and their portion was positively unAmerican, small enough that I ate them all! The meal came to a ridiculous $10, plus a $2 tip! Do you know how much I have to pay to have buffalo in Saskatchewan?! And if someone had told me a few years ago that I would know anything about buffalo meat, I would have laughed!

I’m off to research Old Faithful and figure out roughly where I want to be tomorrow night. I would really rather not pay for a room again since I’ll need to take one over the weekend, so I may have to drive a bit. I have the room till 11:00, but will likely head out around 9:00, just in case there are detours to get to Old Faithful.

Oh, and it started sleeting the second I walked into my hotel room. Am I glad to be here and that I didn’t have to walk from restaurant in that mess!