Our plan was to go up to Glacier National Park, stay a few days, and then start heading south. But, I’m afraid we waited too late in the year. It’s starting to get cold and it’s already cold up in Glacier. Maybe not cold to you hardy Northwesterners but it’s too cold for us wimpy thin-bloods. So, we decided to postpone Glacier until next summer, either early or late, just depends on when we get there. Besides the cold, things have started to shut down up there. The Going To The Sun Road has already closed. At least the summit portion is closed, so you can’t make a continuous run from one side to the other. So, we’ll just hit it next year.
We decided to go on into Missoula and take care of a couple things. We’d ordered a Sirius/XM SD2 Docking Station speaker system to be picked up at the Missoula Best Buy so that would be our first stop. We did quite a bit of running around in Missoula, finding Radio Shack, some groceries and a wifi hot spot. It was mid-afternoon by the time we got out of town. Missoula bears a little more exploring. Looked like a pretty cool town and it was amazing how close the countryside encroaches on the town itself. Standing downtown and looking east (I think it was), it looks like the hills outside of town are only a couple of blocks away.
After we left Missoula, we followed the Blackfoot River east towards Helena. Camped at a spot right along the bank of the river. A lot of the places along the river are administered by some Montana fishing agency. The price to camp is $8 if you have a valid Montana fishing license or $12 if you don’t. The facilities consisted of fire rings, a bear-proof dumpster, some bear-proof food-safes if you need them and a vault toilet. Not a super deal but not a bad deal either. On the way, we stopped at a Rest Area along the highway that had a dump station.
There was a healthy breeze that night and it was pretty darn chilly. We’ve started using the propane furnace regularly. Stayed nice and warm inside but it was cold outside.
The next day we drove through Helena on our way to Livingston. Since we’d be dry camping at Yellowstone, our plan was to stop at a regular full-service RV park in Livingston for showers, charging everything up, dumping our holding tank and taking on water. On the way to Livingston we passed a landmark. At least it’s a landmark if you happen to be a fan of old Jimmy Buffett music. Remember a song called “Ringling Ringling”? Well, we drove right through Ringling, Montana. Back in the early 70s when the song was written, it was about a “dyin’ little town”. There were only 20 people living there back then but there was a bar at least. We drove through hoping to find a bar so we could hoist a beer in Ringling’s honor. But, although there still look to be only about 20 people, there was absolutely no businesses. Bummer for us.
We stopped in the next town down the road, Wilsall, for lunch. It was okay but, if you had a bar and were serving “Chicken Fried Steak Strips and Fries”, wouldn’t the obvious thing be to serve them with a little cup of white gravy for dipping purposes? No-brainer, right? Apparently not. Oh well.
Livingston was a nice looking little town. The store signs and such looked like they were out of the 50s, but not because they were tarted up to look that way. It’s apparently because they’re the same signs. Not run-down at all but it still looked like something from a road trip when I was a kid. We spent the night just south of town in an RV park that charged $37.50 after our Good Sam discount. Little pricey for this time of year but the facilities were nice. We probably made up some of the difference just by running our electric space heater instead of our propane unit.
The next morning we decided to have breakfast in town since we really hadn’t messed around in Livingston at all yet, just drove through. I checked out TripAdvisor the night before to get an idea where to eat. Of course, everyone had their raves and pans so it was hard to decide. We ended up opting for Pinky’s Cafe (“Eat Like The Locals”) right downtown. Turned out to be a mistake. The menu was actually fairly limited. Didn’t even have chicken fried steak! They had several versions of Eggs Benedict but one of the reviews I read panned the Hollandaise sauce so I decided to try something else. I opted for the “Spanish Scramble”. The fact that it was Spanish instead of Mexican seemed weird but whatever. It was two eggs scrambled with chorizo, pepper jack cheese, avocados, and pico de gallo. Sounded good. Unfortunately, the reality was a little different. The chorizo was just regular old breakfast sausage, the pepper jack was pre-shredded cheddar and damn little of it, and, sorry, Pinky, but a few chunked tomatoes and onions, even with the addition of a little cilantro, is NOT pico de gallo! At least the English muffin on the side was well-buttered. Can’t say the same for the muffin that Lulu’s breakfast sandwich was served on. It was bone-dry. Oh, and the coffee was crappy, too. Service was okay. Nothing to write home about, but okay. The coup d’grace came when we each decided to use the restroom before we headed out. To reach the john, you had to walk along a corridor that took you right by the kitchen. Holy, crap! This place was filthy! But other than that, how did you like the play Mrs. Lincoln?
After breakfast we gassed up and headed out of Livingston. Next stop: Yellowstone National Park.
We really liked what we saw of Montana so far. Can’t wait until next year to really explore it. Probably skip Pinky’s, though.
Lolo Pass Campground to Campground along the Blackfoot River: 217 miles
Campground along the Blackfoot to Livingston: 127 miles
Total to-date: 2255 miles (61 miles/day)