The last few posts were a bit of a teaser to what I did over the Memorial Day weekend. Joe's mother was in dire need of a vacation, so she decided to head west from her home just outside of Pittsburgh, PA to visit her sisters and son. Her sisters all met in Pocatello, Idaho at one of their homes. Instead of paying for another airline ticket from Idaho to Montana, Joe decided to drive down and pick her up. This also gave us the ability to show her some of Montana's historic sites and scenery.
On Friday, Joe and I had to work until 6pm. We had decided to break the trip from Great Falls to Pocatello in half, so we left right after work and headed south. We didn't even eat any supper before driving out of town! It was strange driving right past Helena, throwing a wave out of the window in the general direction of my house. We pulled off the Interstate at about 8:15pm in Butte, MT (155 miles from Great Falls); and ate a quick meal at the Burger King there. A top off of the gas tank, and we were back on the highway in no time. The drive south from Butte to Dillon (57 miles), where we stopped for the night, was scenery we have only seen on a couple of occasions. Seeing new things helped the time and miles pass by. We arrived in Dillon, MT right around 9:30pm and picked out a motel. The rates were pretty low, considering we were travelling on a holiday weekend. We then drove to the local Safeway (grocery) store and bought some breakfast food as we were leaving an hour before the motel's Continental Breakfast room was opened. The room was clean, the bed comfortable, the night pretty quiet... but I had a hard time falling asleep. I would doze a bit, then wake... off and on, until about 2am. The plans were to be on the road by 6am, so when the alarm went off at 5:15 I really wasn't ready to wake up! Joe was already in the shower, so I drug my butt out of bed and got all my stuff ready for my shower and morning routine. I did feel much better after the shower, and eating the bagel with some Orange Juice for breakfast gave me a little boost of energy. The sun was rising as we were heading out of town, and since it was Memorial Weekend, I took the photo of the Flags and the Military Monument.
Saturday Joe and I drove from Dillon, MT to Pocatello, ID (191 miles); only stopping for a couple of geocaches and potty breaks along the way. We arrived at Joe's aunt's home around 10:30am. Introductions were made, we exchanged some small talk, then Joe's mom was ready to go. She told us later (over lunch) that she was happy to see her sisters, but she was VERY much ready to be leaving their company! We didn't waste any time in heading back north... we were back on the Interstate by 11:30am. It had been quite awhile since our small breakfast in the hotel, so we decided to stop for a good lunch in Idaho Falls, ID. Idaho Falls is a very pretty town, and I hope to see more of it someday. We chose to have our lunch at the Olive Garden, which was very good. By chance, I powered up my GPS receiver and noticed we were only 400 feet from a geocache! What luck! It was with this hide (and find) that Joe and I introduced Joe's mother to our little sport. She was ready to find another right away. Since this wasn't planned as a geocaching trip, I hadn't downloaded very many hides, and most of the ones I did were right off the highway in rest stops or tiny towns. Gretchen (Joe's mom) was ready to hit the highway and instructed us to stop at the next goecache so she could find another!
The geocaches along the route to the Montana border were placed just far enough apart to be good leg-stretchers, but not so close that we were stopping all the time. At the Montana border (Monida Pass) we stopped and took a photo under the Welcome to Montana sign for Gretchen's scrapbook. She was loving the mountains and the rustic pioneer homes that dotted the landscape.
The "Old West" ghost town of Bannack lies only 21 miles off the Interstate Highway near Dillon. Gretchen had told Joe that she would like to see the town (now a state park) if she ever came to Montana... so, we took the small detour to Montana's first territorial capital. I'll write more abut Bannack later. I only got a few photos because my camera was acting up, but I promise I'll share them with you. We spent over an hour going in the old cabins and reading the history of each one. The town and many of the buildings are said to be haunted, but the ghosts left us alone while we visited.
Heading north, once again, we arrived in Butte, MT at about 8:30pm. None of us were really hungry after such a heavy Italian lunch, but we needed something small to eat. Gretchen suggested chicken fingers from Burger King. Joe and I just shrugged... Why Not? Neither of us mentioned we had eaten there just about 24 hours ago! So, we had a Deja Vu moment, exiting at Butte, MT; going through the BK drive-thru, stopping at the gas station, and back onto the highway... only heading towards Helena this time.
Sixty-three miles and just about an hour later, we arrived in Helena, MT. The drive from Butte to Helena is beautiful! The highway follows a river through forested mountains and granite cliffs. Along the way, you pass a number of old gold and silver mines and the towns that sprung up around them. The sun was setting and the sky was washed with brilliant roses, magentas, and oranges. A wonderful light show to welcome Gretchen to our state.
The weekend plan was to stay at my house then head farther north to Kalispell, and Glacier Park... so we stopped at Wal Mart as we passed through Helena to pick up a few items, and drove the final 10 miles to my home. By then, it was a little after 9:30pm. A thunderstorm was going strong about 40 miles away giving us a show in the western sky as the clouds covered the remains of the sunset.
After 502 miles in one day , it was good to take a hot shower and sleep in my own bed... just so we could do another 702 miles over the rest of the long weekend. (...to be continued. See Back to work, safe and sound, part 2.)