Expedition 2023 — Part II, week 1: Montana

In part I, in January and February, we traveled along the southern border to Boca Chica along the Gulf Coast, and visited with Larye’s side of the family.  In Part II, we head east, visiting Judy’s side of the family, then up the east coast to the Maritime provinces and along the southern border of Canada back home.  Anyway, that’s the plan.

Smoke from the massive fires in British Columbia blankets Eastern Washington from the Cascades to Spokane. Photo by Judy.

Like the earlier expedition, we started with a major refit on the van: this time, it was a few weeks in the body shop for a very expensive minor repair that saw us pulling the interior out of the van and making modifications to the electrical system and structures in the garage, followed by a frantic three-day re-installation and load-out. The first day’s drive was through thick smoke across Washington State, culminating in a surreal drive through the Gray Fire still smoldering on both sides of I-90 just west of Spokane.

Fire crew mopping up the Gray Fire, along I-90 between Medical Lake and Cheney, WA. The freeway was closed for several days while the fire raged between the two cities. Photo by Judy.

Fortunately, the skies were clear beyond, and we put in for the night at a big box store parking lot just across the Idaho border.  In the morning, we headed early to a freeway rest area where we made coffee and breakfast before continuing on to Montana.

Our original plan to go to Idaho, Montana, and then across Canada before heading south to visit the east coast family was turned inside out as we got news from friends and relatives we intended to visit along the way. Exigencies of health and their travel schedules dictated that we head first for Montana to visit a friend who had broken her elbow in a freak home accident, then continue on to Idaho, Florida, and Georgia.

Our Montana visit was most welcome: Judy provided expert nursing care and advice and Larye cooked for the few days we were there.  We saw other friends from our quilting years, and took a few hours off for a bike ride in the midst of running an errand in Missoula. With our pattern of riding parts of long trails each time we pass by, we finished the last section of the Bitterroot Trail, from Missoula to Lolo.

Bitterroot River, from the Bitterroot Trail, a mult-use trail from Missoula to Hamilton. View: between Missoula and Lolo, MT.

Somehow, we managed to accept a stash of yarn from another friend, which took some creative rearranging of our storage in the van to accommodate.  The yarn will be left with family in Florida, more than two weeks hence.  We spent two nights and a day visiting another friend who shares Judy’s crafting and beading activities: Judy spent the afternoon creating decorative papers while Larye uploaded video footage from our bike ride, parked outside the local library to use their WiFi.

Sunset, Hamilton, MT

Finally, it was time to move on, into Idaho: we said our goodbyes, Judy caught up on WiFi at the library, we grabbed some pastries and espresso at a bakery, and headed south over Lost Trail Pass, into darkening skies.

Trapper Peak, the tallest peak in the Bitterroot Range. Photo from US 93, near Darby, MT.

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