Butte, Montana

It was, hopefully, the last really long day of driving we'll do on this trip. From the get-go, we wanted to get on down the road and feel like we'd fully immersed ourselves in the trip, leaving behind the busy-ness of planning for the trip. We've reached Butte, Montana, now, and sight-seeing begins today.

Of course, there's been sight-seeing all along. I've been watching for barns like a hawk. It gives me something to do, you know. There was one just down the road from the Spokane KOA.

When you drive out of Spokane, it's a matter of minutes before you cross the border into the Idaho panhandle.

And from there, it's a matter of minutes before you cross over beautiful Lake Coeur d'Alene. We love Coeur d'Alene, but it isn't on the agenda for this trip.

Also, right away, we began seeing the murky, smoky skies that would obscure our view virtually the entire day.

Crossing the Idaho panhandle takes approximately an hour, and then you're into Montana.

So, we traveled in three states yesterday. For a good part of the day, we followed alongside the St. Regis River, which eventually turned into the Clark Fork (named for William Clark of the Lewis & Clark expedition).

When we stopped at a rest stop, a sign informed us that wherever one travels in Montana, one is traveling in the footsteps of William Clark and Merriweather Lewis.

Of course, I tried to capture an image of every barn. Some had to be shot through our buggy windshield.

Some were far off the road and obscured by smoke and dust.

Since leaving home, we've been traveling roads that are familiar to us. When we passed this turn-off for US Hwy 93, we moved into territory where no kitties of the Three Cats Ranch (or people either) had traveled before.

At times, the smoke cast an orange glow over everything. This next image is a picture of the sun taken through the lens of my sunglasses (prescription, if you must know).

The sun is always so bright, even through a smoky haze, that it's impossible to photograph it without having it blow everything out, and so the sunglasses gave me a fighting chance.

I loved this log cabin barn.

Finally, after many hours and many miles (not to mention losing an hour because of the time change), we reached Butte. Our eyes and throats were burning from the smoke, and we were hungry.

Our tour book tells us that Butte is the "richest hill on earth" because of the copper mines in the area. Think Anaconda Copper Mining Company. More than 20 billion (with a "B") pounds of copper have been produced from the mines in this area.

The kitties have done amazingly well in all this traveling. Sadie continues to be perplexed by this cat in the mirrored doors of the closet. She thinks she ought to be able to get over there and kick that sorry cat's tail, but there's something...something...something preventing her from passing over. Weird, man.

They've been great though...no escapes, and not a lot of meoaning. They just hunker down, eat their food, and use their potty box when we stop, and then travel on, demanding the hanging of the catio when we arrive at a new destination. Seasoned RVers, they are.

Today we're venturing into Whitehall, Montana, about 30 miles down the road. I'm told from my resources there is a quilt shop there, but the quilt shop is just a bonus. Also there are the Ringing Rocks of Montana. You can read more about them at that link I've given you, and I'll say more about them in my next post.

After today, we're re-routing our trip. I spent some time looking at the map and doing some reading about Grasslands National Park in Canada, which was to be our next destination. As it turns out, all roads leading into the park are gravel...and we're talking 25-30 miles of gravel roads, at a minimum...which make us very cranky. Also, there's no camping nearby, although there is some in the East Unit of the park. And all of that to say, that we're not up for driving such a long distance on gravel roads. That sort of trip is not for RV travel.

Instead, we're going to go farther east across Montana and into North Dakota. One possibility is to see more of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We've traveled there before, and you can read my blog post about that trip right here. The park is divided into three units, and we visited only the south unit on our last trip. It's still up in the air, but we may decide to visit the North unit this trip as we make our way into Canada to see Riding Mountain National Park. That park is much more RV friendly with its paved roads and nearby camping.

Also, we did some re-thinking of our camping resources. We've been RVers for many years and die-hard tent campers before that. We re-upped our membership in KOA earlier this year, which offers us a discount at KOA campgrounds. This KOA in Butte is kind of a dump, and the one in Spokane was next to a very busy railroad track. The trains passed by virtually all night long, blaring their horns, and generally keeping us awake most of the night. Also, I should mention that the Spokane KOA is approaching "dump" status. And this has been our experience with KOA. They are quite expensive, as campgrounds go, and more often than not, the sites are not level, rundown, and give us the feeling that we've been ripped off. Also, the sites are often so close together, that we can practically reach out our window and touch our neighbor's RV. Now, I know some of you will get on and tell us about the very nice KOA you've stayed at, and we've stayed at a few nice ones too. Nevertheless, we're sticking with our opinion that KOA is not a campground to be trusted if one wants a well-maintained RV spot for the night.

With that in mind, I looked into my many folders and came out with information about Harvest Hosts.  Membership costs $44 for one year...about the price of one night in a KOA. They have a membership list of "hosts" which tend to be private farms, wineries, museums, etc., that will host one night of camping for free. The expectation is that you will purchase something from your host. For example, you might purchase a bottle of wine at a winery. There is a host just up the road from where we are now, and we're going to give them a try if they can accommodate us. I'll have to call them this morning during business hours to see if they have space. It seems like a good deal, and there are hosts all over the country. Their website is easy to use and so we're kind of excited about this. It's a little like Bed & Breakfast camping...only without the bed or the breakfast...because who needs that when you're in an RV?

So that's where things stand. I'll tell you more about Harvest Hosts and our updated route as I know more. The one thing I know is that we're heading for Billings, Montana, tomorrow morning. It's 200 miles down the road, which is a relatively short day of driving. From here on...no more long days...unless we change our minds. Changing our minds is just part of the journey.

17 comments from clever and witty friends:

Linda M @ Pieceful Kingdom said...

I agree that KOAs are hit and miss. I'll be interested to see how the Harvest Hosts turn out. Have a safe trip!

Quilting Babcia said...

I'm loving seeing all the barns along your journey. I loved driving through Montana and Idaho, not to mention Wyoming, and really just about anywhere that barns can be seen. Sounds like the kitties are adjusting very well!

QuiltShopGal said...

I haven't been to North Dakota since I was a child. I am looking forward to seeing your photos and hearing about your trip. Thanks for the update. Long day, but well worth it. Enjoy


Debbie said...

Fun....love all the barns. Especially like the red barn with the smoky/misty area around it. Would be a great art quilt! I agree with the gravel road.....we ventured off on one in Alaska for 20 miles in a car and I was exhausted! Three states touched in one day is good but not fun on a regular basis. Your research for camping Band B sounds fun....new adventure. The story of the Ringing Rocks is different. Looking forward to your take on them.

claudia said...

The barns are just wonderful! Too bad about all the smoke. Hopefully, you won't encounter anymore adverse conditions.
I can't wait to hear about the difference "Hosts" you stay at!

gpc said...

The ringing rocks sound very cool! And the very idea of Harvest Hosts makes me want to go out and buy an RV. What a great concept, and an easy way to get your christmas shopping done. :)

works4me said...

So glad that the kitties are adapting. I can't imagine taking my two on along trip.

Harvest Hosts sounds like a fabulous idea. You see places and businesses you never would have otherwise, you meet warm and wonderful people (I assume), you may find great produce, or a new favourite wine, or that little item you know the kids can't live without. The only drawback I can think of so far is there might not be RV hook-ups.

Enjoy the ride.

Kristin in Alaska said...

That Harvest Hosts thing sounds awesome! Kinda like an "off the beaten path" form of travel, instead of being herded with the rest of the travelers. I'll be interested to hear more about it from you along the way.

heartsease54 said...

How funny, my sister & I are attending a quilt retreat in Whitehall starting next Friday. Despite having lived my whole life in Montana, I don't think I've ever actually been to Whitehall before. Maybe past it or through it quickly, but never to actually look around. Keep safe and hope the smoke lifts for you soon. I think Billings has had the best air in the state the whole summer.

Judy H said...

Dysfunctional Quilt Store! Love it! If you make it to Helena, The Sewing Palace, Prickly Pear Quilts are well worth a stop. Lovely ladies all.

Lyndsey said...

I love the barns along the way and your sun photo is fun. I need to hit google maps to see exactly where you have got to but that will have to wait until tomorrow . The kitties are doing amazingly well. When we travel with Scamp he drives me mad as he won't settle during the journey.

Ray and Jeanne said...

Love your photos! Thanks for taking us along. Stay safe and enjoy! Hoping the Harvest Hosts work out. ~Jeanne

Kate said...

Oh, my trail and my lake! I miss them so! Several of the people I stalk/follow on Instagram use Harvest Hosts - the wineries seem very popular! Can't imagine why. ;)

quiltzyx said...

The smoky/dusty barn is a cool picture! I haven't really been to the Idaho pan handle, but did go all over southern Idaho when I was 16 & went to meet my penpal. I think I was supposed to be there for a week & ended up staying all summer long! Dad was in the mounted Sheriff posse & we went to a different rodeo every weekend. Lot of fun. Interesting shot thru' your sunglass lens too.
Too bad about the KOAs. The Harvest Hosts could be a wonderful alternative!

kc said...

Very interesting read! Yeah, we're not big fans of gravel roads, either...in the car or the camper! one to 3 miles, maybe ok, especially if there's a geocache or something really fun at the other end (or we're trying to get to someplace that IS on the map), but not for general travel.

Thanks for your reminder about Harvest Hosts. We are currently traveling to the midwest (Indiana is midwest, right?) and we're finding campgrounds along the way are full. Dunno what's up with that, I mean, yeah, there's evacuees, and leaf peepers, and the GA National Fair, and the Ark, and all that fun stuff, but, I just want 1 site for 1 night..not so much to ask for is it? Oh, and gas, too, please! I think in 2 weeks it's going to be even more difficult to find a spot, and I'm with you on the KOA's. They do leave a lot to be desired. Unless, of course, you desire a dump. Then they've got you covered. Harvest Hosts might just be the answer! But I'd forgotten all about them!

Safe travels! Wheels turn at 8 am!

Brown Family said...

We have not camped in so long that we are out of touch with KOA. I know My Mon=m and Dad stayed in one for 9 months or more and got a lower rate. But that was because Dad was working in the area and they were not traveling!I have never heard og Harvest Hosts. Sounds like a good deal. I know we use to see Jellystone parks and they were over priced and run down, too.

Kate said...

That's a lot of traveling down the road for just a couple of days. Hopefully you can find some place nicer to park. Looking forward to seeing where you journeys take you.