We hit the road from Vancouver, Canada headed for the land of the free and trying to avoid having to fuel up until we crossed the border where future children’s colleague funds aren’t jeopardized for a tank of gas. Don’t be fooled kids, we spent your money on flights, festival passes, and beef jerky, sorry!
No other situation will have you feeling more like a criminal than trying to cross the border into the US. We were sweating it out over a packet of blueberries we had in the trunk. Not enough to throw them, those bad boys aren’t cheap. After the interrogation, we needed a $1.29 can of peach-a-rita specifically from the gas station, a novelty for anyone not from the USA to buy booze at the same place you buy your gas.
We had a quick look at the map over said peach-a-rita and decided to go the longer route through the towns after our last road trip fueled entirely on whatever the highway had to offer us, we made a goal to try and stop and eat something resembling ‘real’ food. Which seemed like an impossible feat for three girls that love taco bell and anything served from a drive through. Watch this space for updates on the tempting golden arches of McGoodness. And don’t get the wrong idea, it wasn’t a kale and quinoa trip… tacos would still be involved, in large quantities.
First stop, Winthrop. A heavy themed Western town in the middle of no man’s land with the original Town Hall and oldest operating legal Saloon in the states. Suggesting older illegal Saloons, note to self: find! Surprisingly the town had great shopping and restaurants in what used to be the primary school and dance hall. After a quick cider tasting paddle and BBQ’d meat at the Cider house we hit the road immediately regretting not purchasing the blueberry cider for the road.
Night 1 was to be our first glamping experience. We were on our way to Clinton Montana for sunset but the hunger war won and we stopped at the one street town of Mullan. Seeing the flashing open lights at the Outlaw Bar and Grill the inner country girl in us all had us at the bar having the $2 mystery shooter poured from a brown paper bag by the same woman who made our (unknown) taco meat wrap in a sandwich press behind the bar.
Heading up the driveway of Sky Ranch Retreat we thought for sure we were entering John Grishams next book. Not one noise or light around and a dirt road seemingly going nowhere. We’re smart girls so made sure to have a box of Walmart wine in the car assuming we would need to drink ourselves to comfort and warmth. But how wrong we were, about the comfort and warmth thing, we’re never wrong about the wine thing. Meteor showers across a blanket of stars with a red solo cup of the aforementioned wine. I don’t think we’ll ever sleep as well as we did that night.
Alarm was set for 7am, but got out at 9.50am anyway. The beds in that tent had us thinking of ditching the rest of the trip and staying put for 3 days. When we finally moved we had to haul ass to the next stop in Alta just below Yellowstone, butttt that planned changed every time we saw a small town worthy of a quick geez. Butte was meant to be a gas stop that turned into a two-hour break for lunch at Sparky’s an old garage turned pub followed by an hour of trying to make room in our bodies to breath/drive again.
Then we were serious about driving straight until Ennis happened and Willies distillery was the perfect place for our next round of golf (the card game we play on every trip) and a taste of Montana moonshine, just another unplanned two hour stop and another regret over not buying the good stuff to go. West Yellowstone we got lost because someone doesn’t know their left from their right and prefers to use the term turn to the driver or to the passenger, but there were no complaints when we found an old bus turned taco truck. After a few more stop for snacks, sunset pics and a run across a cornfield attempting some kind of scare-away-the-snakes dance, we got to our hotel too late to eat or hot tub. Red solo cup of box wine and sleep it was.
Another failure as we planned to head straight to Yellowstone. What was meant to be a takeaway coffee stop at Jackson, Wyoming turned in the works breakfast and a solid 3 coffees at Cowboy Café, a quick love affair with the town and hours of blissfully wondering the streets.
Around lunch, we finally entered the park. We planned on camping but the park campgrounds fill up around 7am while we were still dead asleep. Knowing we were a bit homeless for the night but we just put that in the future problem part of our brain and carried on to Old Faithful. It only erupts, if that’s what we want to call it, every 90 mins but signs are posted on all the gate entries with times. Had we missed it and waited 90 mins we would have been fuming higher than that geyser, we got struck by the ‘it’s the most famous so let’s go’ bug but it’s the smallest and least impressive geyser in the park just the most accessible, next time straight to Steamboat Geyser. Grand prismatic springs were unbelievable, as in if I saw someone else’s pictures I wouldn’t believe it was real. Mammoth Hot Springs was the raddest view. Being few meters from a Bison was the coolest (and most dangerous), but the park was far from the highlight of the trip given the last few days of small-town charm, dirty bars, and real-life cowboys. And heading straight into a tourist trap was just off-putting. But still 100% worthy of a day of life.
Lesson of the day was to drive like an entire family of elk is about to jump out in front of your car and stare you down the whole trot across the road while you try and work out if it was an actual heart attack you just had. AND don’t laugh when your dad gives you an old paper map of the park, there is no reception and you’ll need that thing you scrunched up and threw in the back.
So homeless we left the park and there it was, what turned out to be the best stop of our trip, Gardiner, Montana. It was a nothing town and we stayed in a cabin where all three of us had to squish in a double bed with a shower that would make you feel dirtier after than before, our dinner was awful and the service so bad it was entertaining BUT that if anything added to our love of this place.
In Montana, one see’s Horse riding as an option, and one can leave without jumping on. After calling a local ranch we had some time to kill before we had our inner thighs to kill. Obvious place was Two Bit Saloon where we made friends with Tom the park ranger who told us all his war stories from Yellowstone park and kept our glasses full because he was a gentleman! And three girls strolling into town probably doesn’t happen enough for him to worry about going broke for buying ladies drinks.
We spent the afternoon horse riding in the Montana mountains and then hit the road for Shelbi once again with the idea of legging it there for a good night sleep before heading back to Canada. Huge failure hit us about 10 mins into the drive when we stumbled upon the place we’ll never stop talking about, we did a U-turn on the Highway to go back. The Old Saloon in Emigrant, established in 1902 with bullet holes still in the ceiling, a bar next door that used to be a barn that was thrown on the back of a truck and dragged down the hill and locals that’ll talk your ear off about life on the farm in that real cowboy southern drawl. We played pool with our boots off, had locals invite us to their homes, drunk bourbon lemonades that were 10:1 bourbon.
At some point, we left the Western lifestyle for the border where we had a nice hotel 6 bed waiting for us to have 3 hours sleep, scoff some free waffles and get back to Tim Hortons and quit this no fast food nonsense, time for a donut and an iced cap!!
Kristy and Britt
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