WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: Finishers Wander 19 & 20 - Libby, Montana and Twisp, Washington
Date: Fri, 30 Apr 2004 22:39:08 -0700

April 29

Open land.
Big sky.
The last best place.
Private thoughts all day.

507 long, long Montana miles
Glasgow US2 Libby


April 30

    After a very long day of always approaching the mountains in the distance, which seemed about to arrive but never did, I suddenly found myself past the continental divide. I am back in the west. It feels right. It feels like home. It feels weird that the snow melting a few feet behind me will find its way to the Missouri River system, then the Mississippi, and travel thousands of miles to New Orleans before finding the gulf, but the snow right there on the side of the road will become part of the Snake, then the Columbia, and find the Pacific. So near, yet so far. Nature is amazing, if simultaneously confusing.
    Only a few miles out of Libby, near Troy, I was approaching a railroad overpass at the same time a freight was thundering toward a crossing. Between the road and the railroad was a fenced pasture, and in the pasture a roan pony was racing at full speed toward the conflux of the fence, the rails, and the bridge. Its mane was shimmering brightly in the morning sun, nearly flaming red, its muscles rippling with each stride. I don't know whether it was racing the train or frightened by it. An instant before it would have crashed into the bridge, it shuddered to a stop - perhaps it also saw my headlight closing on the same point at the same time. Magnificently, it rose on its hind legs and pawed in the air. The flesh horse saluted the iron horse. Then it turned and raced back across the field.
    Some moments can only be captured in the mind. Even the same person riding the same ride a second time would not experience the same point in time.
    What is it with apostrophie's? Why doe's it seem most people were asleep when they were taught in school's? The apostrophe either indicate's a possessive or it indicate's the absence (contraction) of missing letter's. Thus, every prior use of apostrophe in this paragraph is INCORRECT! It's hard enough keeping usage straight between "it is" (it's) and "it owns" (its). But it's annoying when its usage is abused. There seems to be an apostrofever rampant in Montana: the food store advertised Hunt's ketchup (the brand name is Hunts), the movie theater did not accept pass'es for some shows, the gas station sign said Restroom's. I don't want to know what they possess or are missing.
    One other rant - why in the world are there "wildlife viewing areas" in the wilderness? I can understand it when there is a limited area preserved in an otherwise urban area, and the view area might offer a particular vantage. But in the middle of the Kootenai Forest? How do the wildlife know they are supposed to gather there for viewing? Come on, folks, wilderness is not supposed to be orderly. There is no mathematical abstract of controlled chaos!

    It was a gorgeous day and a welcome change from the pressure to cover miles. The weather is no longer the adversity it should never have been. The wide spaces of Montana gave way to what little there is of the panhandle of Idaho, then the forgotten corner of Washington. Montana is bold, it is brassy, it is brazen. You are pressed to go farther, do more. Idaho is sedate, reserved, almost reticent. There is no hurry here. The pace is less frantic. Idaho has not been 'discovered'. Potatoes take their own time, and so do the people. Of all the places I've been, Idaho is the most individual.
    Again last night I stayed in a very pleasant small motel run by a private family. These are gems to find because they generally do not advertise. My skill at finding good food (the 'cafe eye') seems to be working on motels too. My practice is to choose a small town that is either a county seat or at the intersection of two significant (state or US) highways. That means there is likely to be some competition for travel service. Then I buzz the town, all the way through to the opposite boundary, and right and left if there is a crossroad. Good marks go to a well maintained property, but beyond that I look for simple decorations around the front space or around the office - things that are not necessary for business but indicate someone cares about the property, not gaudy eye catchers. Last night's choice caught me because of the little fenced yard near the office for PJ, the schnauzer. Yes, I like dogs, but the fence was high enough to keep PJ in and low enough to let him interact with guests. It was HIS fence, not A fence. They cared. It showed. Sometimes the name alone is enough to pique interest ... early today I passed a place that I would have considered had it been time to stop: Meandering Moose Motel.
    Have you ever seen a sign trying to whisper? So it seemed with a small sign a near Cusick WA. Near an unnamed road, it stood with small letters on a short post, maybe a foot off the ground. Almost like "shh, here, but don't tell anyone". The sign said: USAF Survival Training School
    Two observations. The trees here have leaves. What a concept. This is something I haven't seen since, oh, Maryland. And there still are drive-in movies in America. I thought they had all pretty much closed, but the one in Coleville is open this weekend. Bravo.
    On a previous trip I stumbled on the gem of WA20, the North Cascades Scenic Highway. I enjoyed it so much from west to east through half the state, that this time I resolved to follow then entire road, from border to border. It is wonderful, rising from the Columbia River at around 800 feet elevation, it crosses several passes (pass'es?) at about 5000 feet and a mixture of terrain from pine forest to snow covered mountains to sage covered desert - and this is only the "other" half. I've chosen to stay in the town of Twisp where the last time I found the most wonderful bakery which makes its signature nomenclature: Cinnamon Twisps. And on my motel reconnoiter through town, the 'cafe eye' woke up. Nondescript on the outside, something looked 'right' about the Twisp River Pub. They make their own brews. The cream stout and the porter are superb. Rebecca and I often joke there is no good food outside California. There are exceptions. The daily special was shrimp and scallop scampi (sauteed in garlic, butter, white white), served with avocado, feta, and fresh basil mixed over properly cooked linguine. And for the benefit of the wildlife, I saved the Chocolate Mousse.

349 miles
Libby US2 WA20 Twisp
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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