Ready, Set, Go
You know how it is – those last final details of moving. Just enough left to do to be irritating. Almost done, almost done, it becomes a chant (or a prayer). It’s 8:30, Monday morning on October 3. As soon as we’re done, we’re out of here. Before we knew it, it was Noon, but everything was packed, loaded, cleaned and locked up.
1,796 milesÃ¢Â?Â¦here we come. I’m so tired, that the excitement of this new adventure has almost eluded me, but I’m confident that it will return.
Our first stop is in Troutdale – might as well top off the gas tank before we get into some serious freeway travel. $20.00 – that’s a great deal, if you don’t consider the $41.00 I put in the day before. It’s obvious at this point that it may have been cheaper to fly the Jeep and trailer to Esko.
An hour and a half had passed, and it started to feel really good just to sit and ride, knowing the packing and that tape-ripping sound were getting further behind us. It was also time to pay some attention to our special passenger, our cat, Sweetie (she’s a four-paw declaw). There she sat in her cat carrier between the driver and passenger seats, not saying a word. I asked if she’d like to get out, so I opened the carrier door, and she quietly slipped out and had a look around. She didn’t seem to mind being in the car – which was great! We were well-prepared with kitty tranquilizers if we needed them, but so far, so good.
Bill drove through the Tri-Cities, where we got gas in Pasco ($40.00), and stopped for something to eat. We didn’t want to leave Sweetie in the car while we went into a restaurant – after all, she’d been so good, it was our pleasure to dine in the car with our Carl’s Jr. Super Combo burgers with Criss Cut fries. It was about a 720 calorie meal, but we decided it was so good, that we could carry the guilt with no problem.
Fifty miles from Spokane, it was my turn to drive. Much easier than I thoughtÃ¢Â?Â¦.I’d never pulled a trailer before. I’ve driven moving trucks, but they were all in one piece, so I wasn’t sure how I’d do. I guess I did fine, as I drove until we arrived in
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Of course, it was dark and it started raining pretty hard, and I was having a terrible time trying to see, so I opted to stop for the night – it was about 6:45 p.m. Tired and blind, I’d had enough for the day.
Motel 6 was our motel of choice because they were pet friendly. So, in the carrier Sweetie went as Bill carried her into the room and then let her out. She thought that was pretty coolÃ¢Â?Â¦..a new place to sniff out, and she decided it was now safe to eat and get a drink of water. It was also to provide the privacy she needed to take care of any other business.
The rain sounded good, and we were already in our 3rd stateÃ¢Â?Â¦.only 3 more to go – what a piece of cake this was going to be.
Up at 6:00 a.m., ready to hit the road. Filled up with gas ($31.00) before we got onto I-90, so we could really make some time. Northern Idaho is so beautiful, but it wasn’t long before we had crossed the border into
Montana. As beautiful here, a million pine trees and a river following right along side of us for miles – by far, one of my favorite states. Then, we started to climb, and the trees started to change color, and I don’t mean the colors of Fall. This was white! It started off with a light dusting, and as it started to snow harder, the scenery became awesome – post card awesome. As pretty as it was to look at, I was getting a tad uncomfortable, as I kept my eagle eye peeled on the outside temperature. It was my decision that nobody would be in trouble here, unless that number went below 32. Of course, after the summit, I eased up on my intention to do harm (had I seen 31).
The next many miles remained whiteÃ¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦not heavy white, but white. As long as it stayed this way, no problem. Time to stop for breakfast in Missoula- they had a Cracker Barrel, so kitty would just have to understand that she’d be on her own for about an hour. Fabulous as always, the country breakfast was certainly a welcome spot-hitter. Since our tanks were now full, we had to do the same for the Jeep ($34.00), so it wouldn’t feel slighted before we hit the freeway again.
Rolling right along, our intention was to put on at least 300 more miles before stopping again, but that was not to be. The drive from Missoula to Billings wasn’t any worryÃ¢Â?Â¦.(we did stop inBozeman for guess what? ($41.00)), slight snow, sometimes enough to make the wipers come on, but not really a big deal, until it decided to let go about 20 miles before we reached Billings. At 32 degrees, it started sticking and accumulating and as it got harder, Bill decided to let me make the call for stopping for the night. I didn’t have a problem with that, at all. We tried the Motel 6, but they didn’t have parking for trailers, so they referred us to the Red Roof Inn across the street. Sweetie liked that room better than the first one. The bed was bigger, and she could jump up onto the windowsill and watch it snow. Again, waiting until we stopped before she took care of any business. What a good girl. As she watched the flakes come down, Bill decided we needed to order a pizza – wasn’t fit driving weather, that was for sure. Luckily, there was a gourmet pizza place that deliveredÃ¢Â?Â¦.worked out perfectly.
The next morning, things had started to melt and I was more than ready to push ahead. Surely, this was just some freak storm for Billings and we’d be out of it really soon. While I was getting ready, Sweetie had decided to make up a new gameÃ¢Â?Â¦.it was called “Come and Get Me”. While she was proving herself to be an excellent traveler, it was the part of getting into that little blue box to go from the room to the car and visa versa that was starting to annoy her. Anyway, “Come and Get Me” is played by her getting under the bed and as far out of reach as possible. Sadly, we had to resort to trickery to get her close enough to make the capture. She didn’t meow, but we did get ‘the face’.
We decided to go on to the next town before we filled up with gas again, just because we wanted to be back on the road so much. As the signs went by, we could see that the towns were getting fewer and further between, so we stopped at the next one – Ballantine, about 24 miles from Billings. While Bill was filling the tank ($30.29), I was in the little market getting coffeeÃ¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦as the co-pilot, that was part of my job.
Breakfast was about 120 miles down the road, but we knew it would be worth it. At the Cracker Barrel in Missoula, the lady had given us a map of all the Cracker Barrels in the . There were about 5 cities displayed on the Montana map, so naturally (stupidly), I assumed there would be a Cracker Barrel in Miles City, so that’s what we were going for. (Note: Before leaving the Red Roof Inn, we were watching the weather channel and they had made mention that power was out in much of Eastern Montana, but I knew it would be a couple of hours before we got there, so I decided to file that information away.)
On the drive to Miles City, there was so much white, that Bill thought he may go blind. The sun was out, but it was still hovering between 32 and 33, and it looked like really bright marshmallow crÃ?Â¨me as far as the eye could see. To ease my driver’s squint, I provided him with an extra pair of sunglasses I had, which he put on over his prescription glasses. I still had hours to go in the same car with him, so I did not make fun of this clever idea.
Finally, the Miles City exit. There were actually 3 of them, so we took the second one, City Center, thinking our Cracker Barrel would be at that one. Nope, it wasn’t, so we drove through the town looking for it. I’m quite happy it was a small town, so we didn’t waste a big town’s time looking for something that wasn’t there. Per Bill’s suggestion, I looked at the back of the Cracker Barrel Map to see the list of cities.
Miles City was nowhere to be found. So, we decided on the 4B’s Family Restaurant. It was still freezing out and there was a lot of snow and slush in the parking lot, so Bill let me off at the door while he parked in ankle-deep frozen mush. The minute we walked in, you could tell something was wrong. For one thing, the place was dark, but open. I asked if everything was ok, and the waitress let me know that they were out of power – as much of Eastern Montana was (oops, I was thinkingÃ¢Â?Â¦where did I file that weather information?) She was very nice and said she could offer us hot tea and a blueberry muffin or cold cereal. (Who knows where the hot water was coming from for the tea?) Anyhow, we decided we just wanted to use the restroom. So I got to use the flashlight first, then Bill took a turn.
The next town on the map was Glendive. I knew there was no Cracker Barrel, but it was going to be pretty far, so by then, we would be starving, so anything would be fine. We’ll just breeze right in to town and get some chow. Sweetie was being so good, just sleeping in my lap, so she was certainly not going to be a concern, besides, she was nice and warm, and it was still freezing out, so it was my pleasure to snuggle up with her.
GlendiveÃ¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦.hope it looked a lot better than it sounded.
As we proceeded to the last town in Montana, remember that we did not eat or get gas in Miles City. I checked out the gas gauge and it was just under Ã?Â½ – but Glendive was only 120 miles, so that should be fine. Weather is still the same – still white everywhere and again, hovering at 32 – 33 degrees. It hadn’t snowed in sometime, so that was no longer a concern. As long as it had stopped, I didn’t think we had any problem.
Just over the next rise, the problem began to materialize. The wind had picked up and snow was blowing across the freeway like superfine granulated sugar, swirling in all directions, as well as coming out of the sky. Still ok, but a little nervous at this point, because it kept getting heavier and harder to see. Seemingly, it was just us on the road, which was fine, in case it got icy and we started to slip and slide. A little further, and the fast lane had disappeared in the blowing, deepening powder, then, even worse, both lanes disappeared (where DID I pack those kitty tranquilizers?) The slow lane was the only lane people were driving in, so it was ‘rocky’ with packed ice and snow. While visibility was worsening, we could see something not unlike an old-fashioned wagon train ahead of us. We could make out two or three semis and cars in between and at the end of the line – they were going up a hill.
Before catching up to them, we saw 2 abandoned cars and a pickup on the side of the road. We stopped at the pickup, because there was a man in the driver’s seat trying to spin his way out. He said he didn’t need any help, so we went on. That was when I asked Bill what was up ahead in the median. Getting closer, we saw it was a semi that had changed his mind and was going to turn around. By doing so, his trailer came away from his tractor and he was seriously stuck. He was going nowhere until help arrived. Right after that, we caught up to the line and it had slowed way down. There were 2 four-wheel drives in front of us that actually took on the fast lane to get around everyone. Bill decided to do the same. There was at least 2 feet of snow, but at least it wasn’t as packed and rough as the slow lane. My concern while passing, was that someone would spin out right into us. We still couldn’t go very fast, and pulling the trailer was not doing good things to the gas gauge.
Bill asked how much further to that stupid town, and at that point, it was STILL 20 miles. That was the longest 20 miles I can remember. While all of this sounds terrible (and it was), it was amazing how the Jeep handled the conditions. We didn’t slip once and maybe having the trailer hooked up actually helped with the extra weight. As we were grateful for such an amazing vehicle, we were still keenly aware of every mile that went by was as slow as trying to coax cold honey out of a jar.
When we finally saw the exit coming up, I told Bill I was seeing everyone take the exit and that I guess they’ve had enough, just like we had. Even the semis were leaving the highway. As we got closer, nobody had a choice. I-94 East had been closed from that point through the entire state of North Dakota. When we stopped at the gas station ($48.00), we were down to 4 gallons, and Bill was told the freeway was closed until 4:00 p.m. It was 12:30 p.m. now. (That blueberry muffin and tea was starting to sound really good.)
We didn’t get a room at that point because we wanted to make the 4:00 p.m. reopening. It was pretty clear, however, that until the freeway was thoroughly plowed, there would be no going anywhere for us. That didn’t matter anyway. They decided to rescue all stranded motorists before any plowing would be done, so the road would not be open until the next day. Good thing we got a room then, because not long after that, there would not be a room to be found.
The Yellowstone River Inn became our home for the night, and at that point, we weren’t sure how much longer than one night.
We were now safe and had a place to sleep and Sweetie (her lucky day) now had TWO beds to jump on. The T.V. didn’t work very well and the only weather we could get was for Denver, so watching T.V. was basically a wash. So, we went to the lounge for Happy Hour. (I was starting to like this place way better than a Motel 6.)
It was now 4:00 p.m., so we had a few drinks and an appetizer and watched the Weather Channel with everyone else in the lounge. Got pretty boring around 6:30, so we went back to the room and tried to see what CSI we could tune in the best and went to sleep around 7:30 (I think).
Around 4:30, I heard a loud ‘thump’ and the power went off. It was pitch black inside and outside, so Bill went to the Jeep and got the flashlight. After he came back to bed, Sweetie had jumped off the windowsill and her landing didn’t sound right. She had dove straight off into her water dish, so when she hopped up on my side, I figured that one out almost immediately. (Who said cats can see in the dark, anyhow?)
This was becoming a nightmare, and I just wanted to wake up with power, so we could leave Glendive. The power came back on around 7:30, so we got ready and went to the restaurant for breakfast and the latest highway information. Roads still closed until 1:00 p.m. That was disappointing. There was only one thing to doÃ¢Â?Â¦..go shopping at the Dollar Store across the street – which shared the same room as the Ace Hardware. It was great – got a big bag of stuff for $15.00. I recommend it to anyone who may be passing through. And the best part? The clerk told us the highway had opened, as she had been seeing cars take the eastbound ramp. Hallelujah. We were so excited to get going that Bill hit the remote start button on the key ring and started the Jeep from about 800 feet away. By the time we got there, it was ready to go as soon as we played ‘Come and Get Me’ with Sweetie.
Well, we were almost ready to go. Because it had been so cold, and because of the rough road we had been over the day before, the information panel on the dashboard told us to check the tires, and told us the pressure each one still had. They were all in the 20’sÃ¢Â?Â¦..so our first stop, was a gas station to get air. It was even FREE air. That was pretty exciting to me, since every time we saw a gas station, I heard that cash register sound in my head.
North Dakota is Really Flat
OKÃ¢Â?Â¦..all fed and aired up. Freeway ramp is open and we’re pretty happy now. There were still spots of really rough road that the plows couldn’t get because they had been pounded down so much, but even those gradually went away. It had stopped snowing, but the temperature kept going down. We started off at 27, which got up to 34, but now in
North Dakota, a 23 reared it’s ugly head. At this point, I was so tired of worrying about the ice, that it didn’t bother me anymore. There hadn’t been any ice this far, after leaving Glendive, so, hopefully, there wouldn’t be any at all. And there wasn’t.
There wasn’t anything else, either. North Dakota is probably the flattest, most nothing state I’ve ever been in. It was still white, kind of like a sheet cake with that Crisco icing. Even that came to an end close to Bismark, where we got gas ($47.00). I saw lots of Sunflower fields and a few oil wells and that’s about it. Oh, I did see the world’s biggest cow on one side of the road and the world’s biggest buffalo on the other side of the road. Bill said if you stand under the cow you can almost touch the udders with your head.
One thing about it, I was pretty excited to get to Fargo. That was the last town before the Minnesota borderÃ¢Â?Â¦..going through the Flat Lands or Bad Lands or the Flat Bad Lands went pretty fast.
Just had to get some gas ($37.00) and dinner at Subway and we were heading for the state line.
The directions from Fargo to Esko still remain a mystery to me. I know when we left Fargo, Bill showed the map with the directions to me and I assured him that I sucked at map reading, but he told me it was about 90 miles to our destination. That would have been about a 90 minute drive.
He did ask me to point out Exit 164 as that was our next exit off of I-94. When I looked at the next exit coming up, it was Exit 2. Driving as much as I have in my life, I knew that we had 162 more exits to go before we were to find the one we wanted. Somewhere around Exit 100, we stopped for gas ($38.00), then kept going as fast as we could.
Needless to say, 90 miles turned into 300, so we ended up driving 5 hours instead of an hour and a half.
It was the longest day in the car that we had had, and pretty close to midnight, Sweetie couldn’t take it anymore. She actually went to the back of the Jeep and used her litter tray. It was really dark, so she got the privacy she insists on having as a proper young lady.
As we got further North, I remember looking through the sunroof and seeing a sky so full of stars, it was comparable to the
Arizona desert on a dark summer night. So close, you could almost touch them and their shine was nothing less than brilliant sky fire.
Sometime around 12:30 a.m. on October 7, we arrived at the Esko house. It felt WONDERFUL to finally be here. One trip through, and I had an idea of where all the stuff was going to go, but we were just too tired to discuss picture placement.
The next morning, the movers arrived at 8:30.
Timing was perfect and now, 6 days later, everything is exactly where it needs to be in this beautiful house.
Sweetie is very content with the fact that all her stuff is where it’s supposed to be. While she was an awesome little traveler, if she had to do it again, she may have to have some fake claws installed. It’s time to be still for awhile.