This would be the day we’d find out if our plan to hold back paid off. The “red flag” warnings expired last night and weren’t reissued. Winds were light when we woke up and stayed that way through our departure from Great Falls — another early launch, too, rolling out of the campground at 8:30am.
Being a Sunday, traffic on the two-lane highways was fairly light. We drove roughly east, then turned south. Later we zigged east again before heading south for the final zag into Billings. And throughout those 225 miles the winds, which weren’t inconsequential, generally shifted with us — almost on cue, as if Nature knew we were in no mood for a crosswind.
We did, however, run into and out of rain. It was persistent but light, not a big deal. We took our time and stopped when we felt like it.
The roads we chose were the fastest and shortest route to our destination. Although they pass between and go ’round the small mountain ranges that pop up across this part of Montana, there were a few entertaining grades. The final descent into Billings from the north, plunging off of the landmark Rimrocks, was a particularly pucker-prompting stretch.
The landscape today was, for much of the drive, flat and featureless, punctuated by riveting scenery like that in the Musselshell River basin along US Route 12. Especially memorable was a passage along Otter Creek on US Route 191, where we saw (no exaggeration) hundreds of magpies.
But what we’ll remember most is a scene that unfolded as we crested a rise on US 191, approaching our turn onto US 12 — the Crazy (Woman) Mountains, their peaks capped with snow. The far-distant Beartooth Mountains, summits barely visible to the south, were likewise frosted.
The sight surprised both of us. It was another unexpected pleasure of this life on the road.
We arrived at our campground at 2:30pm, a half-hour before the official check-in time but (to be candid) we’d dragged ass as much as we could. We wanted to get off the road and settle.
The wind picked back up around 4pm. Our plan had worked.
For the next two nights we’re set up at a park on the banks of the Yellowstone River (which we expect to explore tomorrow) but just a few minutes from the night life of Montana’s largest city (where we enjoyed a great meal this evening). At this moment, the combination suits us perfectly.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.