Very early in the morning, in the dark, we packed up and left the Flying J, stopping at a freeway rest stop for breakfast just as the sky began to brighten. Then, on we went, crossing yet another time zone, the third in as many days, and into Montana, where we turned off the freeway onto MT-200, a lonely two-lane highway that crosses the entire state in nearly a straight line from east to west, passing through few towns on the way.
Finally, after three days of fast driving and high winds that drove our fuel economy very low, we puttered along at 100 kph, well below the 112 kph limit, and kept the day relatively short, 690 km/427-miles, checking into the Kiwanis Rest Stop/Campground in Lewistown, Montana. This is one of the few rest stops that permits overnight camping, and, indeed, has a 10-day limit. We’re here for the afternoon and overnight, but it looked like some of the campers had been there for a while, and it was nearly full when we arrived at 1430, though some left. Primitive camping, but we were able to refill our water supply, for the first time in more than a week.
Crossing so many time zones in so short a time has left us a bit jet-lagged, which explains in part why we are early to bed and early to rise, and tempted to drive the extra daylight west-bound travel provides, as the days get shorter and the nights colder.
The weather forecast, which we heard because the Montana Department of Transportation has the report running at all highway rest stops, called for dangerously high winds and rain in Eastern Montana. We arose very early and drove the 175 km to Great Falls in the dark. On time, the winds came up over the Belt Mountains. By the time we had stopped to refuel and shower at our favorite truck stop chain, the gusts had increased and we were treated to spectacular rainbows in between the fierce rain squalls as we continued on MT-200 toward the Rocky Mountain Front. The skies cleared over Rogers Pass, but the gusty winds continued down the Blackfoot River to Missoula.
We stopped over at our friend’s house near Florence, where our journey started two months ago, for a night of “moochdocking,” plugged in. Despite running our small electric heater overnight, the temperature inside the van dropped to 54F/12C, and the grass was frosty in the morning. After a great breakfast, we headed south to celebrate another friend’s birthday and overnight “moochdocking” in her yard, dinner “out” at the Bitterroot Brewery, which, since we left 14 years ago, has a new chef and an amazing menu with lots of vegan and gluten-free items, plus great microbrews.
Finally, after yet another great breakfast, we were on the home stretch, headed north to US 12, over Lolo Pass for our 4th timezone change in six days, back to our “normal” Pacific Daylight Time. We took our time, stopping at a picnic area along the Clearwater River, then crossing into Washington over the Snake River between Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington. Sunset came as we crossed the Columbia River, and we stopped for the night at yet another truck stop. In a rare move, we picked up fries and jalapena poppers at the fast food restaurant attached to the truck stop, and, as we had the last few days, grabbed a coffee at Starbucks in the morning to go with our usual van-made cold breakfast, getting underway just as the sky began to brighten.
We stayed off the I-82 through the Yakima Valley, taking the old highway, until forced onto the freeway to bypass the slow Rattlesnake Ridge Landslide at Union Gap, which has been sneaking up on the freeway since 2017 when Thorp Road, the extension of the Yakima Valley Highway on which we had been driving, was closed. Back on US 12, we headed for White Pass, following alongside the path of last year’s bike ride on the Yakima Greenway along the river and along US 12 toward Naches.
Climbing up to the pass, we were amazed to find Rimrock Lake, the main irrigation reservoir for the Yakima Valley, nearly empty. It was low last year when we went over to Yakima, but Washington State is truly in a drought with nearly non-existent snow pack the last few years.
Over the pass, we were treated to a clear view of 14,414-ft Tahoma (Mt. Rainier). Down into the more populated corridor, we took the Jackson Highway through Chehalis and Centralia, again uncharacteristically stopping for lunch at the Country Cousin Restaurant, a fixture off I-5 for 50 years, serving huge portions on an “American” menu. Judy opted for her favorite non-vegetarian BLT, while I had the veggie omelet, which was huge and packed with mushrooms and broccoli, serviced with *real* (not reconstituted from dried shreds) hash browns.
Taking our usual back roads through Littlerock and past the Mima Mounds on Waddell Creek Rd, we came out onto US 101 at Mud Bay for the final 25 km home, stopping at the post office to pick up our two-month pile of mail.
- We were gone for 61 days, drove 19017 km (11819 miles), and rode our bicycle 91 km (57 miles).
- We filled the gas tank with 665 gallons of fuel, for $2545 USD. an average of $3.83/gallon.
- We stayed at paid campsites 9 nights, for $280 (average $31), and one night at a B&B, for $128. We paid about $45 for showers at truck stops. Campsites ranged from RV parks, Provincial Parks, State Parks, National Parks, Bureau of Land Management sites, and a city park.
- We stayed for free at two Cabela’s parking lots, two Walmart parking lots, a national park campground, a rest area posted for camping, and 12 truck stops.
- The other 32 nights we stayed with five friends and relatives seven times for one or more nights.
Despite the common wisdom that gasoline is always more expensive in Canada, the highest price we paid was actually in Washington State, $4.83/gallon, on our first fill-up, with the highest price in Canada a penny less, in New Brunswick, at $1.748/liter ($4.82USD/gallon. The lowest price in the US was at Buc-ees in Georgia, at $2.95, and the lowest price in Canada was at Canadian Tire in Ontario, at $1.50/liter ($4.19 USD/gallon).