Today was Hump Day, the middle day of 21 days allowed to complete the tour. I was up and out before 7:00 a.m. Very few people are on the road on Sunday at that hour. It was sunny and cool. I ran into a very brief shower. After that the day warmed up and stayed nice. This was one of the best riding days of the trip.
They call this Big Sky country and when you are here, that name needs no explanation. There are very few trees and the rolling hills are covered in grass or wheat. Above the land for as far as you can see in every direction is sky. There are clouds here and there, but everywhere there is sky.
US-2 is mostly two-lane in Montana, but with so little traffic it’s easy to make good time. There are plenty of straight stretches where you can pass a truck or Sunday driver. I picked up another hour because of the time zone change, but it was easy to make 562 miles.
I had an interesting gas stop mid-day. I turned into a side street of a town just before an Indian reservation, and explored for a few blocks. I came across a 24-hr self service gas station. No one was around. There are four pumps and a terminal where you swipe your credit card and choose your pump. The pumps are old. They have the numbers on wheels that roll up. When you are finished, you swipe your card again and the machine prints a receipt. Pretty cool. They had regular and high-test gas and taxed and un-taxed diesel.
A restaurant in a very small town caught my eye, so turned in and had lunch. There was only one choice – the buffet. There was Salisbury steak, fried chicken, corn, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, cottage cheese, watermelon, cantaloupe, and strawberry shortcake for dessert. Price, $7. It was quite a bargain.
I grew up in a town with trains. The Burlington main line ran right through the business district. I watched trains, counted freight cars and chased trains for many years. So it was natural for me to note the activity on the route of the old Great Northern, now part of BNSF, which runs parallel to US-2. I saw several trains today. The first was an Amtrak train headed west. I was in a small town doing 25 mph on the street alongside the tracks when the train blew its horns just behind me. I nearly jumped out of the saddle. The rest of the trains were freights headed east, but they were going very slowly. There must be a bottleneck farther east. The tracks go right by the motel and I’ve seen a couple of trains so far this evening.
There are lots of casinos in Montana. They are as prevalent as bars. There is even one attached to the mini-mart at the gas station across the street. I don’t know the whole story of why there are so many allowed, but it doesn’t seem right to me.
I asked at the desk about the “Going to the Sun Highway” in Glacier National Park. It’s out at the top and still being worked on. You can go 16 miles on it from the east before you have to turn around. You can go about 11 miles on it from the west. So I’ll leave that adventure for another time.
It’s very windy tonight. I’ll have to check to see if rain is forecast for tomorrow. I’ll be ready for it if it does, but tomorrow will be my first day riding in the mountains, so it would be nice if it were dry and pleasant.
Interesting coincidence. The road in front of last night’s motel was torn up and the road in front of this one is too.