Two down, one to go

Another brief blog today, but at least tonight I’m able to post from my computer. We covered only 160 miles and arrived at our destination by early afternoon, but we climbed from 4,300 feet to nearly 7,000 feet and then dropped back down to 3,200 feet, with lots of elevation changes along the way.

That has me sapped.

The roads were fine. The weather was clear and the winds were tolerable, though gusty in spots. Right out of the gate, however, we faced Homestake Pass — for us it was a monster of a climb, six twisting miles of 6% grade, followed by a slightly more gradual four-mile fall into Butte.

On the way up I dropped Ernie into third gear, set a pace of 35mph to 45mph and got comfortable with being passed. The goal was to put as little stress on the powertrain as possible, and it worked perfectly. Coolant temperature stayed between 185°F and 200°F the whole time.

Once we crested the pass, I left the transmission in third until the grade eased some — I was taught to go down the mountain in the same gear that took me up — and let gearing and the exhaust brake control our descent. Again, that worked like a charm. I never touched the air brakes.

From Butte west, I-90 followed (more or less) the Clark Fork of the Columbia River through a spectacular landscape. The winding and seemingly endless descent into Missoula, lasting 20 miles or more, made me smile and kept me on my toes.

Tonight we’re staying at a Harvest Hosts participant, an independent brewery on the outskirts of Missoula. After enjoying a couple of their signature beers — I had a Moose Drool Brown Ale and a Big Sky IPA — we picked up dinner at a nearby food truck and retired to the bus.

You may think of this as a night of boondocking with perks.

In the morning we’ll pack up and head north toward Flathead Lake, where we’ll spend several nights before pressing on to Glacier. It’ll be a shorter and much easier day than these last two — and that, my friends, I welcome.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath