Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Travelblog episode 12: Goodby Yellowstone, Hello I-90!

A pair of Pronghorn Antilope

Monday evening we got out the maps, assessed everyone's interest in further sightseeing, and made the executive decision to jam for home. Since we didn't have the wonderous Internets to help us plan, we busted out the ol' AAA maps and tried to guestimate how far we thought we could get the next day. We planned to head out the West entrance of the park, then take US 191 north to Bozeman, Montana where we'd pick up I-90 and race west as far as we could. We figured we could make it to Spokane for the evening, where we would again treat ourselves to a motel room at whatever inn had rooms available (and, naturally, cable TV and free internets).

On the way out of the park we got a final, highly appropriate, Yellowstone send-off: a lone bison walking down the road. Fortunately he wasn't on our side...he was walking serenely down the center of the lane, leading a looooong parade of cars entering the park. And he showed no interest in getting out of the way. Paige slowed down and told various drivers farther back in the line why they were going so slow, and reported that the farther she got from the offending bison the hotter the tempers got. Nor surprising, really.

The offending bison, ambling along

The drive from West Yellowstone up to Bozeman was lovely. We were skirting through the foothills of the rockies, rolling through non-controlled parts of the Park and various National Forest areas, with occasional ranches and farms and a couple small villages (most notably Big Sky, an island of rich ski resort in the sea of rural America). After lunch at Taco Time in Bozeman and a stop at a gas station to fill up it was on to I-90 and back up to our average cruising speed of 80 mph (have to love states with a 75 mph freeway speed limit!). We hit a couple more thunder storms as we rolled through the Rockies, slowing us down significantly thanks to the extra-heavy rain, but they were short lived and didn't affect our overall pace too much.

After a brief coffee and gas stop in Missoula we headed straight for Spokane, and with only one more brief stop to relieve some of the coffee-induced pressure we rolled in to town around 7:00 PM (thanks to gaining an hour as we crossed the Idaho border). The Super 8 was our motel of choice, being conveniently located just off the freeway and offering two rooms on the same floor at a AAA discounted rate. And not a moment too soon, as about a half hour after we were settled in and watching TV another thunderstorm blew through, this one with huge rain, strong wind, and some sweet lightning. It was quite an event for Spokane, with the local stations breaking in to Jeopardy or whatever to tell us to stay the heck indoors so we didn't blow away or drown. The highlight in our room was watching a guy pull in to the parking lot in his dump truck, maneuver it in to a parking space, then open the gate and tip up the bed to empty out a great volume of rain. Although it would have been fun to see how much water would have accumulated if he'd left it closed and down, I'm sure the Super 8 people appreciated not having a dumptruck-load of water dumped on their parking lot all at once...

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