Search DC's Musings

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Short Cuts That Take Longer

View outside of Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City is such a beautiful city, nestled up against the mountains the city almost looks fake as we drove by this morning on our way to Billings.

Our intention was to drive north on the I-15 to just west of Butte, Montana where we would catch the I-90 east to our destination, Billings.

Intentions.  Sometimes they are unfulfilled and today was one of those days. We enjoyed incredible scenery on our way north through Utah and into Idaho.  The preconception is that a drive from Salt Lake City north into Utah would be through mountainous terrain and foothills.  Instead we drove through huge, flat valleys with mountains looming to the east and far off to the west.  Farmland and ranches dominate with a town sprinkled here and there.  The space is vast, the land fertile and the drive enjoyable.  After about 260 miles of it we stopped to "rest" and fill up the van in Dubois, Idaho.

Just before we left the Phillips 66 stop I Googled our Best Western Clocktower Inn, Billings, Montana on my Samsung Galaxy 3s to see about how much driving time we had left.

Hmmmm. This is interesting.  If we continue on our route of I-15 to I-90 we had about 348 miles and 5 hours of driving time left.  However....if we drove straight east out of Dubois on a county road or two toward West Yellowstone, then headed north to Bozeman, then east on I-90 the total distance was only 318 miles but the total driving time was estimated to be about 45 minutes longer.

"Hey, Les, what do you think...."

Leslie was all for the change in route and going through the western edge of Yellowstone.  I love my travel partner, she is always up for an adventure and exploring new places and routes.  This was definitely an adventure.

We drove through Dubois, which has no stop light nor stop sign, and at the edge of town hit county road A-2.  It was barely two lanes wide, no center stripe, and was not a black top.  It was somewhere between a gravel road and paved.  As we started down the road I began to have doubts, there was nothing in front of us, no cattle, no buildings, no traffic.  Being the intrepid travelers we are we pressed on. After about half an hour of driving down the very rough road we finally saw another vehicle, about two miles down the road a pickup was coming, but then turned off the road and started across a dirt track into the fields.
Beginning of our journey on the A-20

About 15 minutes later we saw another pickup with a horse trailer, I thought for sure we would pass this one, but he turned off  on another ranch road.  I was beginning to feel like I was in a C.J. Box novel (the Joe Pickett series, he is a game warden in Wyoming), driving alone through the wilderness with no one in sight.

Finally we saw a huge truck that was some sort of road repair vehicle, with a giant arrow blinking on top of the truck to pass to the left.  "Duh" but what the heck I knew we weren't alone.

Leslie calls this picture on A-20 the "God Picture"
About a mile after passing the county maintenance truck we ran out of hardtop and our road became a dirt and gravel track.  For the next twenty miles we were traveling through fields and forest on a gravel road seeing only one car that passed us going the other way.  It was wonderful. No people, a huge hawk sitting on a fence post watching us go by, mountains climbing in the distance getting nearer, travelling from open meadows to forests back to meadows.

Eventually we found black top again and entered the Gallatin National Forest to highway 20 north which took us to the town of West Yellowstone.  From there we drove into the western edge of Yellowstone, following the Gallatin river through the forests and into Bozeman.
View at Bozeman

Lunch consisted of some Cliff bars and trail mix in the car. After a stretch break in Bozeman we headed east on the I-90 to Billings, arriving about 6:15, which was when we expected to arrive had we followed our intended route.

The desk clerk at the Best Western told us about a couple of good restaurants within walking distance of the hotel and we ended up at Walkers Grill for a date night type evening.  We each had a cocktail and split pork-belly lettuce wrap and sauteed calimari appetizers (delicious, delicious) and then I switched to a locally brewed pilsner and Leslie to a Central Coast chardonnay for our main courses (Korean barbecued pork sliders for me and cheese pasta with lots of goodies for Leslie--again delicious, delicious).  As walk around downtown Billings and we are ready to tuck in for the night.
Appetizers at Walkers Grill

We are so glad we changed our route to head through the somewhat desolate wilderness instead of staying on the interstate.  As we drove the "short-cut" I said, "We may be the only people we know who will ever take this route."

"No, we probably know some people who would."

She's right, some of our friends and family who read this may put it on their future itinerary--you know who you are and so do we.  (Looks like some great trout fishing...).

Does a bear....seen in Dubois restroom

Does your home need this sign?

No comments: