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Monday, August 5, 2013

Sky Ice Tastes Good

Today was a day of wide openness and weather.  We left our Microtel by Wyndham around 9:30 this morning and headed to the WalMart next door to replenish our case of bottled water.  Leslie and the girls were very amused by
WalMart Escargot with shells!
some of the items for sale in the Williston, North Dakota WalMart.  Items such as canned escargots with shells--the shells were empty and in a tube attached to the can of snails.  Also available at WalMart in Williston which we have not seen at home are some interesting flavors of Lays potato chips. Such as dill pickle or chicken and waffles.  Yes, chicken and waffle flavored potato chips--with a pickle potato chip as a side?

The trip out of Williston heading west on Hwy-2 was
Montana Big Sky Clouds
a bit stressful given the fog that limited vision to about 100 yards.  With all the construction and trucks pulling onto and off of the highway from the fields my biggest concern was not ramming someone from behind or getting rammed but a trucker pulling out in front of us not being able to see us coming through the fog.  Thankfully not long after we crossed the border into Montana the fog began to clear and we had beautiful skies.  Various shades of blue and various shapes and types of clouds.  Big puffy clouds wrapped in whispy thin streaks of clouds for as far as we could see in all directions.

From just outside of Williston all the way to our destination of Shelby, Montana, Hwy-2 is a two lane road that parallels the BNSF railway line along the "High Line."  Trains that stretch to the horizon with hundreds of cars for hauling grain travel the High Line.  We never went too long without seeing grain silo complexes for transferring grain from the trucks bringing it from the fields to the railway cars that pull up to the silos on sidings for loading.  Fields of growing grain surrounded the highway, and stretched off into the horizon for much of the drive.  At one point I measured one field to be about two and a half miles along the highway and it appeared to be equally deep.  Montana is not only Big Sky country but big field country as well.

Highway 2 is not an interstate, it is a highway and as such it goes through towns, not around or over them.  Our route had us slowing down to 25 miles per hour quite frequently to go through a town of 200 people, at one town, I can't recall the name, a sign painted on the side of a building said, "Home to 526 very friendly people" going through the town we passed five or six buildings, half vacant.  Highway 2 towns are littered with old and empty buildings that were hotels, restaurants, bars, small town offices.  You can see that the highway at one time was a lifeline connecting all these towns and their commerce, today it connects one destination to another with all the towns acting to slow down traffic as it passes through to somewhere else.

One of the towns on the High Line that still has quite a bit of commerce is Havre, where Leslie and I stayed during Summer Road Trip II last year on our way to Minnesota.  This year we stopped for gas and a stretch.  On our way out of town (25 miles per hour) the wind picked up considerably to a very strong headwind, dust blowing down the main street. The sky darkened rapidly and I noticed on the Odyssey temperature gauge that outside it had dropped from about 75 degrees to 65 in a few minutes.  Thunderstorm definitely on its way.  Big huge drops of rain started hitting the windshield.  "That's some wet rain," Leslie said.  The girls laughed and Blaire said, "That sounds like something DonPa (Leslie's dad who is a farm boy from Iowa) would say."

"It is something he does say."

Then the clouds opened up and the rain restricted vision to about three car lengths and the noise level became very loud.  With the drop in temperature it was no surprise that hail followed.  Just little pea size at first and then it became very intense with large marble size hailstones pelting the car.  I pulled over into a
The girls with "sky ice"
restaurant parking lot downwind from a large SUV to protect the van.  At one point the hail got so large and was hitting the van so hard I told Blaire, who was on the windward side of the van, to crawl into the back on the leeward side--I had some serious concern if the hail would get even bigger and break a window.  Having seen shows on summer hail storms in the Dakotas and midwest I was aware that hail has that power. After about five minutes--though it seemed longer--the hail stopped and the sun came out.  The girls jumped out of the van to check out the hail and Jenna (who loves to eat ice) said she wanted to eat some.  Blaire told her "that's just gross" but Jenna grabbed some and chewed away.

"Sky ice tastes good!" High praise from an ice connoisseur.

As we left Havre and the hail storm behind we saw huge storm clouds and dark gray rain off in the distance to the south and west of us.  We plotted their path and our own wondering if we would skirt to the north of the huge storm of get hit by it.  Thankfully we passed north and just had a few drops from the edges.  It did provide some good lightening flashes for us however.

When we were about fifteen miles outside of Shelby late in the afternoon another storm approached from the north.  I watched our outside thermometer drop from 75 degrees to 60 and the wind from the north was blowing the van hard to the south. I was concerned we might be in for another large hail storm and soon the rain began.  The wind was blowing so hard the windshield wipers slowed noticeably on their return to the bottom of the windshield.  Gauging our path and speed and that of the storm it became evident we would just get hit by the edge of the storm.  "Just the edge" necessitated the "whiplash" setting on the wipers and visibility declined tremendously.  Thankfully we only had about ten minutes of the rain and by the time we drove into Shelby the sun was out and the storm was passing to the east and south.

Huge clouds are across the northern horizon and to the northwest, the direction we head tomorrow as we go up to and through Glacier National Park and then to northern Idaho for the night.  I am hoping the storm clouds make their way south tonight to give us some rain and storm free driving tomorrow.

Edge of a storm

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