Missoula, Montana 28/9
I drove a fair way today..probably about 350 miles. The first half was not quite the featureless drag that I had thought it might be. It was fairly tedious, even so. The second half was through more mountains. It is spectacular stuff. Deep valleys, lined with conifers, punctuated by small settlements at the river confluences and with lots of exposed rock faces. Having followed the Tieton River yesterday, it was the Coeur d’Alene today.
Two things happened at the boundary between Idaho and Montana. The first, I think, is that it marked the Pacific/Atlantic watershed. I will follow this through on a map when I get back. If it does turn out to be the case, I am completely staggered that there was no mention of it at the roadside. I know the French are ridiculous about it but it is quite a significant feature to ignore. It will probably turn out that I am completely wrong. The second thing that happened there is that we went from one time zone to another. I remained unaware of this until arrival at tonight’s hotel. The very helpful girl at the check-in also helped resolve a nagging issue. I thought there were 3 time zones, eastern, central and western. In fact, there are four because there is also mountain time between central and western. I know this will be very boring for readers but it does help me to explain how all the timings between Denver, Dallas and Portland worked themselves out.
I stopped for 20 minutes at a rest area ( remember what the Americans use ‘rest’ to mean ) between Naches and Spokane. I hadn’t stopped other than because I needed to but I was glad there was a free coffee and cookie stand. I got talking to Pam and Lonnie, who were running it. It is set up as a fund raiser for a local cat rescue charity. She does the baking and makes the coffee. He drives her out there, 15 miles from Moses Lake, because Pam hates interstate highways. I think Lonnie couldn’t give a flying ferret for stray cats but fancies Pam. I say that because only Pam seemed to talk about the poor creatures she looks after and finds homes for. There was also a pretty obvious lustful gleam in Lonnie’s eye. All I would say is that this one is clearly in the eye of the beholder. Pam told me she lived in Moses Lake. I attempted an obvious gag about gills and fins which went completely over her head. Lonnie roared with laughter and said that was the first time he’d heard anyone take that angle. He had to be joking, I thought and said so. He insisted. I guess it does mean that when I get back to Wellington and find that someone is living in my house and teaching my lessons, I can come back out here and begin a new career in stand-up. Pam has been to Portland once and hated it ‘too big’. She has been to Montana once and hated it ‘too far’. She is 68 years old and has spent 67 years and 48 weeks of it in Moses Lake – well, not in it, you understand, etc, etc. Lonnie did work on the Teamsters ( long distance trucks, in case you were wondering ) and has seen quite a bit of the states. He also has one friend in London, England. When I said it was only 25 miles from my home he asked me if I knew whoever it was. I am very glad that this has occurred because I was beginning to wonder if the Americans had suddenly wised up to the idea of a one in 12 million chance being slightly less than feasible. It will probably be like London buses and having not been asked until now, I will probably get several enquiries in the next few days.
I am in Missoula tonight. I have yet to venture out to a bar but I am not entirely enthralled with the prospect. The hotel is in one of those vast service areas just off the Interstate. You know the sort that has MacDonalds, four or five hotels, a couple of petrol stations and some brand restaurants. I drove around ‘downtown’ Missoula, which looked pretty well shut at 6.30. When I asked someone in town where there were bars, he directed me back to this same service area where there are a couple of casino-type affairs, so goodness alone knows what the clientele will be like in there. The town is faceless, flat and featureless. As in Fakenham, Folkestone and Fontwell ( an in joke, which I will explain to the constitutionally strong on my return ). Cognoscenti will note that the joke has to be set up differently now that Ffos Las has become a racecourse.
I’m going to drive a bit less and visit more ancient monuments on the way to Yellowstone tomorrow. These are advertised on the roadside. I stopped at two today, thinking they might have been where treaties made by the early settlers with The Sioux were signed. The first was an early railroad halt and the second was an early lead and silver mine. Both were invisible behind a mass of undergrowth and I was not prepared to tread on a rattlesnake or come face to face with a bear in an attempt to force my way through.
Yesterday was really good. Today has been pretty ordinary. Such is travel.