Sunday, July 6, 2014

Conquering the Big Sky - Part 2

I had turned south from Roundup to Billings to pick up Yellowstone and Big Horn Counties (and replace my tire, of course).  Now I turned northeast for Treasure and Rosebud Counties. Before leaving the Billings area I picked up a cache at a trailer park and another in a guy’s alley way littered with old cars.  It was called “51 Chevy”.  I was heading toward the small town of Hysham but instead of taking Interstate 94 I took a back road north of the Interstate.  It was paved but didn’t have any center or side lines and was broken up in places.  However, it was a very scenic route and I found a great cache on it called “Ye Olde Watering Hole”.  It was very hot so I found a little shade and ate my sardine and cracker lunch there.  At the little town of Hysham I picked up a cache at the edge of town for Treasure County.  I turned south at Hysham and got back on the Interstate and headed east for a little ways before taking Highway 39 south toward Lame Deer.  Along the way I picked up “General Custer Camped Here 2” in Rosebud County.  It was so trashed with beer cans I thought I was back in Idaho.  Of course, Chief Dull Knife College is in Lame Deep and maybe some students were expressing their opinion of General Custer.

At Lame Deer I turned east on Highway 212 and soon found the “Red Shale” cache which turned out to be the only one I found for Powder River County.  There were two in Broadus where I stayed for the night but I failed to locate either one. 

I arrived in Braodus around 5:00 p.m. but I still had to go over and get a cache for the southeast corner county of Carter.  Broadus is kind of a dumpy town and so was my motel.  I got my room, unpacked my gear and again headed unladened east toward what shows as Boyes on the map but nothing is there.  There was, however, a nice cache there under a big shade tree with some old picnic tables nearby.  I left the Travel Bug there I had picked up along the Lochsa.  Its goal was to get back to Pennsylvania.  Even though I had satisfied the Carter County requirement I decided to venture about seven more miles to try one called “Open Range”.  It was in a trash pile near the highway.  I looked for quite a while before finding it inside an old stove.

Now back to Broadus where I cleaned up and found a place to eat on the edge of town (not very far). It was hopping and the one waitress was the fastest and most efficient one I’ve ever seen.  I had a delicious grilled chicken sandwich there and I’ve found that in these little towns the quality of the food can be easily judged by the local crowd there. I had covered 360 miles this day.

It was this evening that I discovered while looking over my next day’s travel that I had completely overlooked Sweet Grass County.  How could that happen?  I don’t know but it did.  I had planned to spend the next night in Red Lodge near Yellowstone in Carbon County and southeast of Sweet Grass County.  I got on the internet with my phone and found a motel in Big Timber (Sweet Grass County) that had a vacancy but first I had to cancel my reservation in Red Lodge.  No dice.  I had gotten it through one of those booking agencies and I couldn’t even remember which one.  I didn’t even have any Sweet Grass caches in my GPS.  I have a Geocaching app on my phone but I don’t have the means to navigate with it while on my bike.  So I looked up a couple of caches in the Big Timber area on my phone and manually entered the coordinates in my GPS that I use on my bike.  I figured I could take an alternative route back from Red Lodge going up to Big Timber instead of through Yellowstone.  I would still have to go back south to the north entrance of Yellowstone to get Park County as well as Gallatin and Madison.  So I also looked up a couple of Park County caches south of Big Timber and entered them into my GPS.  This took a lot more time than what you might think.  Consequently I was up late and didn’t sleep well worrying about getting that wayward county.

The next day, Wednesday, was nice and sunny.  I backtracked on Highway 212 and stopped at Lame Deer to visit the Chief Dull Knife museum on the Chief Dull Knife College campus.  There was a cache located inside the museum.  The museum was nice with a lot of great pictures.  Shortly after leaving the campus I noticed some police lights flashing behind me.  I was puzzled because I was sure I was within the speed limit.  The police were Indians and said that I had run a stop sign back at the intersection of Highways 212 and 39.  This was right at the museum.  It seems unlikely that the straight ahead traffic would have to stop rather than the traffic coming into a tee but I didn’t argue.  These guys were not friendly and never even asked to see my license but perhaps because of my age didn’t give me a ticket.  I traveled on west crossing Interstate 90 and onto a back road on the Crow Indian reservation.  I like traveling the back roads but there was some construction going on here and I had a delay.  There was also a cache that I failed to find.  I didn’t find another one until I got to the outskirts of Hardin which was another one for Yellowstone County.
I continued west on a frontage road paralleling Interstate 90 and picked up a couple of caches for Stillwater County.  I was getting close to the point where I should head south toward Red Lodge and saw I was making good time.  Noting that I was only about 45 miles from Big Timber I decided I would go and get a Sweet Grass cache and backtrack to Red Lodge and stick with my original route except for this detour.  I stopped at a little place called Reed Point before Big Timber near the county line to see if I could get one sooner but apparently there was no cell phone service because my phone couldn’t pick up any caches.  I proceeded on to the first cache I had tagged which was at a small park alongside a stream.  However, I couldn’t find it.  Now I was really sweating it.  Luckily I did find the other one which was at a little Charlie Russell museum.  I also picked numerous mosquito bites here.  I stopped nearby for a celebratory pop and Big Hunk before heading back.  I was feeling fine now in spite of the predicted rain in the future.

I went back on the frontage road because I had encountered construction on the way over on the Interstate and the frontage road was actually faster.  The speed limit is 70 mph on most any road in Montana including the frontage roads.  I love it.  I turned south on Highway 78 through Absarokee toward Red Lodge.  I got into more road construction and had the longest wait of my trip here.  Ironically there was a cache at the front of the wait line about four cars in front of me but I didn’t want to risk a problem.  I already had caches for Stillwater County anyway.

Soon after we got under way I was in Carbon County and was able to stop at a small commercial camping place and find my first cache for that county.  As I left it began to rain a little and I could see a big cloud behind me.  There were clearer skies ahead so rather than digging out the rain gear I tried and was successful in out running it.

I was soon in Red Lodge which is a beautiful little town alive with tourists.  The Lupine Inn where I stayed was by far the nicest accommodations of my trip.  Parked next to me were three couples from Quebec with their big touring bikes complete with trailers.  They were riding the motorhomes of motorcycles while I was riding the sport car.  Quite a contrast.  They were friendly but English was obviously their second language.  As nice as the Lupine Inn was I could never get their wifi connection to work.  However, there was a computer in the lobby and I was able to get all my caches to date posted which was nice.

I got a few caches in town and then went to a restaurant where you could design your own calzone which I did.  Another great waitress here.  I had a nice evening in Red Lodge but the next day was to prove not so pleasant. Mileage covered this day was 389. [To be continued]


Chris said...

I think I would have camped out before I would have spent the night in that motel!! Yikes!

M/W said...

Actually it wasn't all that bad inside.