A day for getting things done, among other things.
I didn’t go very far three weeks ago today, 150 miles give or take, but I went to the grocery store, did laundry, and made some motel reservations. And still managed to see some interesting sights.
There was no running water at the campsite. Fortunately, there was running water at a rest area a few miles down the road, so I was able to stop and “brush my teeth, wash my face, and comb my knotty hair” as my mother would say, before I reached Glasgow, the next town along the Hi-Line, where I found, of all things, a chain grocery store (an Albertsons). I replenished my picnicking supplies and bought a bag of ice for my cooler — I’d have preferred a block, but block ice proved ridiculously hard to find for most of this trip.
You might wonder about the names of some of these towns: Harlem, Glasgow, Malta… U.S. 2 runs parallel to the Northern Pacific railroad across eastern Montana, and apparently the person in charge of naming the new little communities along its route back in the 1880s decided that blindfolding himself and sticking a pin in a map of Europe was a good way to name towns. Or at least that’s what it seemed like to me.
From Glasgow I headed down to Fort Peck Dam on the Missouri River, which was very impressive (one of the largest earth-filled, or, more accurately, mud-filled, as I learned later, dams on the planet). It had a wonderful ‘interpretive’ center, too, with a rather odd combination of ancient wildlife — skeletons of dinosaurs and ancient marine mammals from the famous-to-paleontologists local Hell Creek Formation (you’ve seen Jurassic Park, right? Remember the desert where Richard Attenborough in the helicopter comes to pick up Sam Neill and Laura Dern? That’s where they were.) — modern wildlife — the enormous reservoir backed up by the dam is surrounded by the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge — and historical panels and artifacts telling the story of the construction of the dam itself as the single largest make-work project of FDR’s New Deal back in the 1930s.
I drove across the top of the dam, too, which provided some great views. And visited the former company town of Fort Peck, the only survivor of the many ‘instant’ communities that sprang up to house and service the thousands of men and their families who came from all over the country in search of work, spent over half a decade constructing the dam, and then vanished as suddenly as they came.
After I made my way back up to the Hi-Line, I stopped in the small town of Wolf Point to eat lunch at a small café and to do laundry. At that point, I was only a few miles from the next small town, Poplar, but due to highly unusual and unexpected-to-me circumstances I will attempt (they still seem incredibly odd to me even now) to explain tomorrow, I stopped there for the night, even though it was only the middle of the afternoon.
The motel was okay, the cell phone reception was awful (non-existent except in the parking lot where I think I had one bar, which was better than the non-existent period that I’d had pretty much since Havre), the ice cream stand a block away was very welcome, and the shower facilities were — interesting. In the Chinese sense of the term (as in the curse “may you live in interesting times”). But given the thunderstorm that passed overhead that night, I was just darned glad to be indoors. The lightning got way too close for comfort, in my not so humble opinion. At least it didn’t strike my car…
Repeating History, “A GRAND yarn you can’t put down.” Janet Chapple, author of Yellowstone Treasures