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Travelogue -- Half a Day in Missoula

Sunday, July 31, 2016

After our big breakdown in Idaho and two days stranded at a slightly crumby hotel outside of Coeur D'Alene, we got on the road on Tuesday, July 26 around 11:00. Although we knew the clock was ticking and we had, oh, 2874 miles to go to get to Maine by Saturday as planned, we had to make one more stop first in Missoula, MT to visit Diane's college roommate Jeanne.

Way back at the beginning of our trip when we thought we were going to take I90 all the way to Seattle and then putter our way back East, we had planned to see Jeanne just after the fourth of July, but then we decided to go south to Colorado and save Montana for last before our big push for home.

In retrospect, saving Montana for last was probably not the best idea because

A. Montana is beautiful
B. There are tons of fun things to do in Montana
C. It was a bummer to have to rush through such a ridiculously gigantic state.

But things happened the way they did and we finally arrived in Missoula around 4:00 after a harrowing drive through a long, uphill construction zone that gave the Big Rolling Crate's radiator a real test. Thankfully we didn't overheat and after the mountains of Idaho, it was downhill to Missoula. As we drove Todd shocked, stunned, and stupefied Diane by saying that he thought we should stay the night at Jeanne's. Jeanne had offered to have us stay, but Diane had assumed we needed to cover more miles, after all, Missoula is only 160 or so miles from Coeur D'Alene. We hadn't stayed over with anyone else we visited, so this was wholly unexpected, but Diane was glad because she hadn't seen Jeanne in 13 years!

Jeanne and her daughter Helen greeted us with food and drinks and a dozen ideas of how we could pass a fun afternoon. We could ride bikes! We could take a hike! We could go climbing! We could go to a brewery! Helen, at the wise old age of 3, chimed in, "Brewery!" So that's what they decided to do. Because I'm a dog, I can't go to breweries, so I had to wait at Jeanne's. 

Todd said it would be no trouble to take the bikes off the Big Rolling Crate, an assertion you surely recognize by now as a lie because putting the bikes back on the Big Rolling Crate is a miserable ordeal that involves much cursing, sweat, blood, and maybe even tears, but he really, really wanted one more bike ride before the end of our Todyssey. 

Jeanne and her co-pilot Helen lead the way on a tour of the University of Montana and over a rail trail bridge over the Clark Fork, where Todd could not resist the temptation to take a really quick swim, and finally to the Dram Shop, a nice bar where Helen could get a delicious root beer and hang out in the play area while the grownups had beer. Diane and Todd had never before heard of a bar with a play area. You'll never see that in old Massachusetts.

When they came back to the house after their bike ride, Jeanne's husband Matt was home and he had the grill fired up for steak. Jeanne has a beautiful fenced in back yard so I got to hang out and relax in the cool evening air. I also got to have some steak.

I have to say, there are not a lot of people I can really relax around, but I liked Jeanne a lot. I even let her pet me a little. 

We didn't take a lot of pictures in Missoula because we were too busy visiting, so you'll just have to use your imagination to visualize all the fun we had. After dinner, we all got a good night's sleep, and good thing, too, because the next few days were going to prove exhausting.

On Wednesday morning, Todd fought with the bikes until they were securely strapped to the back of the Big Rolling Crate and we left Missoula with a promise to come back and visit again when we have time to stay a while.

The scenery was beautiful as we drove but we didn't stop to take pictures because we had over 2700 miles to go. We had a goal in the mind for the day: We needed to cross the border into North Dakota, because as Jeanne said, once you get out of Montana, you're a quarter of the way back to Massachusetts. Here's a picture Diane took as we rumbled down the highway.

About an hour from Missoula, we began seeing signs for Fairmont Springs Resort that advertised hot springs pools. Hot springs were something Diane and Todd both wished they'd had more of back in Idaho, so they decided to stop. After all, Todd said, we can still have some fun. Once again, I couldn't go with them, a fact I found extremely depressing.

Unlike the hot spring they went to in Boise National Forest, which was an undeveloped hot spring, Fairmont Springs are a developed area, which means the natural hot springs water directed into giant swimming pools. There's a big indoor pool and a big outdoor pool, each of which is around 95 degrees. The water constantly flows in and out and is minimally treated with chlorine. There are also indoor and outdoor hot tubs, in which the water is about 105 degrees. At the outdoor pool there was even a huge waterslide that was fed with hot springs water! Todd rode it a lot of times. He's pretty sure he was the oldest person in line, expect maybe one or two dads riding down with little kids. But isn't this trip all about being young at heart? 

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