Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Day 4: Miles City, MT - Bozeman, MT

At last there are wiggles on the map!  Hurrah!

But not until about 200 miles of mostly non-wiggly roads along the Yellowstone Valley.  Bah!  I tried where possible to follow the pre-Interstate route, but my road atlas isn't sufficiently detailed to show all the roads, leading me to fear the prospect of travelling twenty miles only to end up in a field, so I ended up cheating on I-94 for much of the route from Miles City to Billings.  I didn't, in the end, go looking for further landmarks in Miles City, as it was still dark when I left.  Not to mention chilly and occasionally damp.

So the lid stayed up until the "gas" stop in Billings, following which I was for the first time back on familiar roads, at least for a few miles.  In 2005 I'd hoped to cross the Beartooth Highway, which reaches a smidge under eleven thousand feet in altitude, but that year part of it had fallen off the mountain, to the inconvenience of through traffic.  But this year it was open, and mostly glorious - there's a fair bit of resurfacing going on at the top.  I'd read that the posted speed limit was 15 mph, but at least on the Montana side the signs read "70" all the way up.  Though anyone who actually tries to do 70 up there is either a Tarmac rally specialist or tired of life.

I missed the sign at the top, so elected to turn round and go back to get the summit photo.

Bad idea.

On restarting, the tyre pressure warning light came on.  For a while I thought "I'll ignore that, it might go away", but it didn't, and frequent inspections of the rubberware seemed to indicate that the right rear was going all Dorothy on me.  The freebie map given away at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park shewed a "gas" station at Mammoth Hot Springs; with the intervention of their air line I was able to limp to Gardiner, where a Nice Man at Tire Iron diagnosed and mended the p+nct+r+ in twenty minutes, for twenty-five dollars.  Back in business!

Ah, yes, the Zen route.  Well, I think I found the place they stayed in Gardiner, and have, after arrival in Bozeman, spent a pleasant while seeking out the DeWeese residence, which is way out of town and set in some of the most gorgeous surroundings imaginable.  Bozeman itself, however, is very busy and, at least around what is now part of Montana State University, impossible to park in.  So I found the site of the Pirsigs' former house (though there's a suspiciously large area of grass where instinct tells me it ought to have been located), and the hotel in which Bob and Chris stayed after their hike into the mountains, but the Opera House sadly eluded me.

Bozeman splits the book's travelogue in half, as the Sutherlands returned to Minneapolis from here, and I feel rather sorry for them in that respect, as to come are more wiggly lines on the map.

Thought for the day: Alamo Car Rentals, you are a shower of dunces!  If I'd had to put the spare tyre on, I'd have been in deep doo-doo, because I wouldn't have known with any certainty where to put the jack, because you didn't leave the owner's manual in the car.  Are people really prone to nicking them as souvenirs?

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