Driving Montana '97 Route Notes
These notes are raw content for the site, describing various
cool sites (real not web) and waypoints.
- Saratoga, CA -- Fuel up then lunch at Max's Cafe.
- Highway 680 to 580 at San Ramon, crossing the Central
Valley, Sierra Foothills and through Yosemite on 120.
- Gas at Lee Vining then North on 395 to Reno. 395 is
a beautiful drive during daylight, but we catch stars reflected
in Topaz Lake after nightfall. Tour through Carson Valley
and pit stop at Carson City.
- We had planned to try the Silver Legacy Hotel in Reno,
but arrived to find the entire city occupied by a motorcycle
convention. The Silver Legacy parking garage held literally
thousands of shining Harleys. Impressive.
- Dinner at the Nugget in Sparks since Great Basin Brewing's
food service ended before we got there.
- Bed down at Best Western in Lovelock, Nevada.
- Breakfast there then fuel up & jump on 80 East
- Fuel up and pit stop at Elko then get on 93 North at Wells.
- Good buffet dinner at a sharp Cactus Pete's Casino in the town
of Jackpot at the Nevada/Idaho border. Change to Mountain time zone here.
- Pass through Twin Falls, Idaho to 75 North to Sun Valley,
catching a little rain. Spot Sun Valley Brewing in Hailey on
the way to checking in at the Best Western Christiania Lodge
in Ketchum. The lodge is a block East of 75 on the road to Sun Valley.
- Walk around town a bit. Ketchum appears seems the center of
lodging/shopping/dining for the Sun Valley ski resort area.
Check out shops and real estate listings in this posh and
- Fuel up then North through Sawtooth National Recreation Area on 75.
Ultralights and other small aircraft buzz the skies. Climbing
through rugged mountains leads to views of broad river valleys.
Lunch at xxx in tiny Clayton just outside of Sawtooth.
- 75 rejoins 93 at Chalis, then we fuel up at Salmon, Idaho and
continue North for the Montana border.
- 2 hour delay for road work just short of the border, then through
the unspoiled western beauty of Bitterroot Valley towards Missoula.
Bitterroot National Forest surrounds the homed and farmed valley on
both sides. Hamilton, the county seat, appears to be Bitterroot
Valley's commercial center.
- Check in at the Best Western Executive Inn (Holiday Inn
Parkside is full) and walk to dinner at the Depot.
Great veal chop, fresh seafood, warm & comfortable drinking
and dining. A desert stout in the lounge after dinner.
We spy an inviting new bar/deck at the back of the Depot.
Summer/Fall sunsets would be cozy there.
- North next morning on 93 through the Flathead National Forest
then follow spectacular Flathead Lake. Stop at Mission Mountain Winery,
Montana's Only. Pinot grapes grown on the lakeshore there and others
from Washington state comprise award-winning vintages.
- Right turn at Whitefish onto Highway 2 East and through Glacier
National Park. A dreamlike strech of glowing golden Aspens lining
the Going-to-the-Sun Road leads to fantastic views of ancient and
pristine glacier-carved valleys. Lush forests and tall mountains
surround pure blue lakes.
- Fuel up at Shelby and pick Havre as a stop for the night.
TownHouse Inn is across the street from the 24 hour 4B's resturant
which serves our dinner then breakfast the next morning.
- Highway 2 runs East-West about 30 miles from the Canadian border here.
Farm land plus some gentle rolling hills and plateaus form a rustic backdrop
while offering great visibility and excellent driving conditions.
We see some reasonable speeds on these beautiful, remote back roads.
This is what I came for. Imagine drier, slightly straighter and broader,
sunny, well-paved, English country roads, lightly-travelled and with no
numeric speed limit, taken in 10 to 20 mile stretches.
We've found an automotive promised land.
- Malta or Saco get a vote as a speed trap as we get radared on
both sides of town. These sole two radar-bearing vehicles are the
only ones we encounter in the Northeast quarter of the state,
spotlighting their own scarcity.
The difference in driving at night and day is, well, like
night and day. Roads that are travelled with extreme caution
in the dark in order to avoid animals can be devoured in
hungry gulps in the daylight.
- Fuel up at Glasgow.
- Lunch at MacDonald's in Wolf Point then head South on 25/13/200
More beautiful backroads travelled at safe, efficient speeds.
- Join I-94 at Glendive and head West. We take 90/94 a bit
slower than the backroads due to slightly more traffic and the
occasional Highway Patrol or County Sheriff vehicle. Their reported
tolerance for moderate speeds on these broad and open Eastern
Interstates is tested as I get radared without penalty at
about 95 MPH.
Traffic appears to run about 80-90 on this sunny day.
- Fuel up at Miles City and drive by the Golden Spur Casino/Milestown
Brewing Company brewpub.
- Bozeman is a bit far for dinner at Spanish Peaks Brewing so
we stay at the 2 year old Best Western Billings and have dinner
Outstanding home-style American cooking using
fresh ingredients at this resturant/shop chain.
- Breakfast at Cracker Barrel then South onto 212 towards
Yellowstone National Park.
- The road twists and climbs to the snowy peaks of Shoshone
National Park in Wyoming on the way to Yellowstone's Northeast Entrance.
Tasty smoked trout for lunch at the Beartooth Cafe in Cooke City,
a few miles from the gate. This place has 130 beers, great food,
nice staff and tables outside on a sunny boardwalk. Way cool.
- Into Yellowstone. The $20 passage fee apparently doesn't
fund comprehensive road repairs where barely filled potholes
strech tens of miles.
However the potholes don't seem to bother the meadows,
rolling hills, forests, Yellowstone River or buffalo herds
foraging at its' banks. Numerous waterfall, geothermal,
and other generally scenic photog opportunities are explored
and captured for posterity. The thundering Upper Yellowstone Falls
and painted Lower Falls captivate.
- Miss deer on the road's shoulder. Catch Old Faithful erupting
- Cruise into West Yellowstone and pick one of 4 Best Westerns
to stay at. Good dinner at the Gusher & 2 for 1 on draft beer
including Full Sail (?) Oktoberfest.
- This town appears to be where visitors to Western Yellowstone
stay if they're not camping or staying on another side of the park.
There are thousands of motel rooms on a population of 900.
In addition to the neighboring National Park, West Yellowstone
tempts tourists with an IMAX theater, Grizzly park, Museum, fishing,
- We use the ATM at the Stage Coach Inn next morning then head
down 20 and join I-15 South at Idaho Falls.
- Fuel up at Pocatello and head West on Interstate 86.
- Lunch at Chili's just across the Snake River in Twin
Falls then back onto 84 West to Boise.
- Get gas & drinks at Boise.
- Cross into Oregon at Ontario and head West on Highway 20 towards
Burns. The countryside turns from farms to high desert as sunset
arrives. What looked like orange smoke at dusk turns out to be our
Milky Way galaxy after dark. Yes, the Oregon desert air is that clear!
- Eastern 20 is twisty, but opens up to long, broad well-paved
2 and 3 lanes towards Burns. Burns is a major speed trap this
Friday night with 4 different patrol cars spewing radar and tickets
in and around town. Turns out Burns is a county seat bristling
with Sheriffs and an Oregon State Patrol base. Radar detectors prove
helpful as we are warned that the speed limit in Oregon is 55 and
that deer and elk stray onto the highways after dark, creating havoc.
- The Best Western is full so we check into the perfectly adequate
Royal Inn. Dinner at 24 hour Apple xxx? was probably less good than
others in town.
- Head West out of town on 20 then turn South onto 395 towards
California. 395 is mostly straight and well paved as traverses
scenic high deserts then picks up canyons, lakes and some moderate
- Cross into California along Goose Lake. Farm houses
include the white and black spotted Gurnsey House at
New Pine Creek on the border.
- Enjoy great pasta lunch at Pizza & Pasta Place on Main
Street in Alturas.
- Fuel up and take 299 West about 100 miles then South onto
89 and towards Lassen Volcanic National Park.
- Valleys here are punctuated with forests and volcanic peaks.
At one point along 299 you can see several peaks including
Lassen and Shasta which are about 100 miles apart.
- Wave at stern CHP officer manically radaring and follwoing
people on the Northern approach to Lassen on 89.
- Mount Lassen, the Southern-most active volcano in
California, exploded 1920's like Mount St. Helens,
but lower level trees have grown back. Lassen has clear
small lakes and fuming steam vents reminiscent of Yellowstone.
Views near the peak include Lake Almanor about 20 miles to
the Southeast and hilly forests to the West.
- West on 36 through charmed forests towards Red Bluff.
We spot a deer near the road as the sun sets in the West.
- Fuel up at Red Bluff then South on 5. Authentic fresh
Mexican dinner a few miles South in Corning.
- Back to Southbound 5, detouring Sacramento using the 505,
then join 80 West towards San Francisco.
- Turnng South onto 680 towards San Jose we notice all road
manners seem to have mysteriously left drivers. Courtesy
on the rural Interstates is about 9 times better. Perhaps
it's the traffic density many times that of the open road.
- 680 turns into 280 and we say our farewells by CB
ending our journey of about 3300 miles.
- This trip was more relaxed than the first, with a couple
extra days for more leisurely travel. The roads in the interesting
places were mostly different from last year. We passed
through 4 or 5 of the West's prettiest and most significant
National Parks, found good to great chow and settings,
and had a wonderful time.
- Who's up for Driving Montana '98?