day 3 lewiston montana to maple bay minnesota

Early Saturday morning in Montana, my favorite state. Surprised that I wasn't kept awake by locals partying on a holiday weekend. Start the day at dawn with the usual - a 16 oz gas station coffee a pint of orange juice and a muffin wrapped in enough plastic to survive the millenium. Hwy 200 turns out to be one of the better Montana drives. Right thru the center of the state but way off the beaten path. Deer and antelope abound, easy to spot on the treeless expanse. Early morning and early evening are the best drives so its nice when the scenery cooperates.

I slip Andre Thibeault's Old Ethnic One into the tape deck and realize I've never given it the attention it deserves. Turns out to be exactly the right music for the time and place - early morning Montana. Middle Eastern percussion backing Andre's flamenco-influenced guitar and oud. The brash oud rich in plectrum inharmonicity and dissonant harmonics suits the music and the wildness of Montana. I send Andre an appreciative postcard at campsite that night. He never gets it. I find out much later he's broken up with his wife and she won't forward any mail.

The major problem with these habitual solo journeys is becoming clear - the evening campsite. It gets lonely then - and only then for the most part. I've taken to writing letters and postcards to simulate the missing camaraderie of campfire dinners and shared whiskey sunsets.

Kum&Go in Watford City North Dakota 1996 Except for the remote entry into North Dakota on route 68 - which is spectacular - the original tall-grass prairie of the Little Missouri Natl Grasslands - nothing of interest happens in ND. But I do find the source of the Kum&Go photo I took on 96 trip in Watford City ND. What a coincidence - only 2 places in the US that the 96 and 99 routes intersect and I happened to photograph it. North Dakota reminds me of Canada - it'll be my last trip thru it for awhile. South Dakota is much more interesting. In fact the further south the better at this meridian - with Kansas and Texas at the top of my list.

I beetle along Hwy 2 again from Minot ND all the way to Minnesota. Its a race against the sun to get out of North Dakota - lose a precious hour leaving mountain time. The scenery looks a lot like the transition from Manitoba to Ontario - hardwood forest on the CDN shield. I pull into Maple Lake County campsite in rapidly fading light after the warden's curfew and cop another free campsite. County and municipal campsites in the US are cheap and have character. I manage not to pay to camp on the entire 99 trip. It becomes a challenge that I'll really be tested on in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho on the return trip.

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