Friday, August 30, 2019


Driving toward Rapid City, SD, earlier this week, I took a detour into the historic town of Deadwood. I was sufficiently overwhelmed by what a sleazy tourist trap it is, however, that I didn't even stop the car and drove straight through. Accordingly, I did not post anything about my so-called "visit" there.

Leaving Rapid City this morning, I soon found myself approaching the famed "Wall Drug" as noted by countless billboard signs en route. I have been there several times over the years, but decided to stop and see if it had changed at all. It has not changed one bit, still the immense warren of shops and dining facilities, not to my liking. So, I only stayed long enough to pick up a free bumper sticker then continued on my way east.

About an hour before reaching Sioux Falls, SD, for the night, the town of Mitchell offers "The World's Only Corn Palace." I have missed the opportunity to check it out on previous road trips, so I stopped by to take a look.

I'm not sure how to describe the Corn Palace. Entry is free and a couple of long corridors offer more history of corn than even I could endure. The main feature of the building is an arena, mostly set up for basketball, with an array of very large murals made up of light and dark ears of corn.

I may have missed the point, possibly even missing a part of the facility, as I quickly exited a side door, returned to my vehicle and took my dog for a walk. I may be old and jaded about Americana at this point in my life, but my three stabs at South Dakota Americana were pretty much a bust.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

South Dakota Air And Space Museum

Taking a day off from driving in Rapid City, SD, meant having time to visit the South Dakota Air and Space Museum. The facility houses an informative indoor display ares, but the main attraction is the impressive assortment of aircraft parked outside in a large, well organized and placarded array.

The museum is located adjacent to Ellsworth Air Force Base – home to the 28th Bomb Wing of the Global Strike Command – so the B-1B Lancer is featured front and center as you enter the grounds.

Among the two dozen aircraft on the grounds, you will find a spectrum of small trainers, utility and cargo aircraft, several generations of fighters and bombers. The B-29 Superfortress is in excellent condition, and amazing to compare to the vastly larger size of the B-52 that sits nearby.

Overall, an excellent two-hour diversion which I highly recommend... Stay tuned!

Happy The Hotel Dog

Usually after a long, hard day on the road, I have a big drink of water then curl up in my bed and sleep. But sometimes I'm fired up, ready to get on the big bed and watch TV with Macgellan!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Three Forks – Missouri River Headwaters

On July 4th, 1803, Thomas Jefferson issued these orders to Meriwether Lewis:
"The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri River, and such principal stream of it, as, by its course and communications with the waters of the Pacific Ocean may offer the most direct and practicable water communication across this continent."
Many months and hardships later, The Corps of Discovery arrived in what is now called Three Forks Montana. Here, they found the confluence of two rivers they named Jefferson and Madison (left and center) forming the headwaters of the Missouri River (right) which they had been tasked to explore.

Barely a mile downstream, the Gallatin River joins the flow and the Missouri is already a substantial river. Over the next 2,341 miles it will become the "Mighty Mo", the longest river in North America.

We had a nice, informative visit here during our drive from Helena to Billings.

Happy was not particularly impressed by the history and significance of the location, but she thoroughly enjoyed the taste of some cool, yummy river water.

So far, the weather has been absolutely perfect. Temperatures have ranged from the low-60s in the mornings to mid-70s in the afternoons.

We are going to spend just the night in Billings, then push east into the Dakotas tomorrow... Stay tuned!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Gates Of The (Rocky) Mountains

During my non-driving day in Helena, MT, I spent a very enjoyable afternoon with an old friend, during which we took a delightful boat ride on a lake in the Missouri River. The two-hour excursion included a variety of narrated sights, including geology, wildlife and native history in the area.

A highlight of the trip was passing through the famous Gates of the (Rocky) Mountains:

The Gates of the Mountains were named by Lewis and Clark. Captain Lewis wrote on July 19, 1805:
"This evening we entered the most remarkable clifts that we have yet seen. These clifts rise from the waters edge on either side perpendicularly to the height of 1200 feet. ... the river appears to have forced its way through this immense body of solid rock for the distance of 5-3/4 Miles ... I called it the gates of the rocky mountains."
In 1918, when Holter Dam was built forming Holter Lake, the water level of the Missouri River in the Gates was raised approximately 14 feet (4.3 m).

Another highlight was a close-up view of Mann Gulch, where a 1949 fire claimed the lives of 13 firefighters and which was the subject of Norman Maclean's book Young Men and Fire, which I heartily recommend to one and all!

We will continue east tomorrow, probably pausing at Three Forks, where the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin rivers converge to form the Missouri River, then continuing on to the Billings, MT, area... Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

I Can Haz Some Of That Subway Samich?

During my lunch stop at Subway in Newport, WA, my co-pilot was very attentive!

WA Hwy 20: Success! (and a little sadness at the end)

Success! I was able to make the drive of WA Hwy 20 straight through to the end at the Idaho border!

The drive out of Kettle Falls this morning was a very entertaining two-lane track through tall, dense evergreen trees, punctuated only occasionally by tiny little towns and seasonal road work stoppages. It was pretty to look at, but not something that lends itself to being photographed.

That lack of photogeneity ended abruptly when I reached the Pend Orielle river at the tiny town of Tiger, WA.

There's something about driving along a beautiful river that always gives me joy. I think it's partly the peek-a-boo views that you get around every turn in the road, but it's also that sense of quiet power I get from a moving body of water.

Whatever the reason, it was a beautiful hour's drive down to Newport, WA, and quite possibly the highlight of the trip.

In truth, it took us about twice that long due to multiple stops along the way. Happy is also a big fan of river walks, so we dawdled at various places to enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, etc. She also frequently practiced her art of leaving p-mail for future visitors from the canine nation.

Those of you who know how I look forward to seeing "Begin" and "End" signs at the termini of my road trips will understand that I was a little sad not to see anything of the kind at the border of Idaho. The closest thing to it is this monstrosity, which denotes WA Hwy 20 cutting away from US Hwy 2.

Sad as that may be, I am delighted to finally have made the WA Hwy 20 trip from end to end! Once that was accomplished, I was a bit nostalgic about being back on my old friend US Hwy 2 for the stint down to Spokane. I've driven all of US Hwy 2, and many parts of it many times before. If you ever get the chance to drive it, do it. The "Hi-Line" is an epic drive.

I plan to be in Spokane for a couple of days to visit with friends, then will sprint east to Helena, MT, to visit with other friends. Look at me being all social! Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

WA Hwy 20: So Far So Good!

Two thirds of the way across Washington State, it's looking like I'll finally be able to drive the entire length of WA Hwy 20! If all goes well, we will complete it at the border with Idaho tomorrow.

Heading east out of Burlington yesterday, Happy and I made several stops just for fun, including one to take the required photo of Diablo Lake. Even on a hazy day, it is a stunningly beautiful lake.

We stopped for the night in the small town of Omak. After her first full day on the road in quite a while, Happy was obviously pleased that I found her a nice shady spot in a grassy park to catch up on her sleep.

Happy is 14 years old now and definitely showing signs of age. Mostly deaf and partially blind, she's also got some arthritis and has small "tremors" and balance issues, which the vets say is the onset of a neurological degradation similar to Parkinson's in humans.

I'm pretty sure this will be her last road trip, and I am determined to make it a good one for her to wrap up her career.

We continued east this morning, crossing the typical rolling hills of Central Washington, then made our way over several passes.

This is the area that was badly burned several years ago when we were thwarted in a previous attempt to transit this highway end-to-end. It is remarkable to see how many of the trees have recovered.

So far, I am quite pleased with my new little road rig. Although it is has only a fraction the power and capabilities of my previous trucks, it is performing quite capably in the mountains. It is also far more nimble and economical to drive.

Having the large, open van so easily accessible, it is turning out to be more comfortable and convenient to get in and out of. Happy seems to be giving her new dog-truck a smile of approval!

We've stopped for the night in Kettle Falls, which is as far as I got coming from the east on my last WA Hwy 20 transit attempt. The town sits on the edge of Roosevelt Lake, which is a major body of water caused by the Grand Coulee Dam about a hundred miles to the southwest. You can just see a piece of the water from this roadside vantage point.

If all continues to go well, we will drive the final 100 mile stint on WA Hwy 20 to the Idaho border tomorrow. From there we will drop a short distance south to Spokane, to visit with friends and get ready to head east on the larger highways.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Time For Another Road Trip!

I have some family matters to attend to on the east coast next month, so I've decided to make a road trip out of it. Since I've already driven all of the long-distance US highways in the northern part of the country – (you may not believe my cumulative road trip map when you see it!) – I plan to stick mainly to the interstates on my way east. That said, if the weather holds I may try to drive WA 20 end-to-end from my home in Burlington to north of Spokane. Hopefully it will be after mudslide season, before fire season, and I can finally make it all the way end to end!

After taking care of things in the east, I plan to drop down to Virginia Beach, VA, and begin a coast-to-end drive of US60 to the southwest corner of Arizona where the road now ends. If all goes well, I will drive a quick stint south to the Mexico border in Yuma, AZ, and drive US95 north to the Canada border at Eastport, ID. If you have a ridiculously good memory, you may recall that I planned to drive US95 back in 2014, but shifted to US191 instead.

Altogether, it should be about a 7,500 mile road trip, a proper expedition by any standards. I have no end date in mind, but I'm guessing I'll be back in the Pacific Northwest sometime in October, about two months from now. I'm honestly out of practice being Macgellan, so I don't know how much I'll post, but I will at least log enough to memorialize the voyage!