Friday, June 4, 2010

Crossroads of the West

We are at the Town Pump truck stop in Shelby, Montana (map), a city which bills itself as the "Crossroads of the West." I personally think that's a bit presumptuous, as the intersection of I-15 and US-2, the only two thoroughfares in town, while certainly a crossroads, hardly qualifies for top honors.

That said, we are thankful there is a truck stop here, which owes its presence to the Interstate. We had a quiet night, as the surrounding trucks uncharacteristically did not idle all night. The truck stop has its own restaurant, the Country Skillet, but we opted to eat next door at Ringside Ribs, which was quite tasty and was able to provide us with wine. We did make a purchase at the c-store, though.

After leaving East Glacier Park yesterday, we drove through the Blackfoot reservation and its central town, Browning, where we discovered in our guide a casino with overnight parking. We did stop there and got parked, and I walked in to the minuscule casino to check our the restaurant and see if we needed a pass or anything. It was a convenient stop and we had a beautiful view of the mountains from our parking spot, but there was no way we could spend any time in the place, including at the restaurant. There were no hard walls, and the entire joint was filled with cigarette smoke, plus the restaurant turned out to be a shabby counter affair with no appeal.

Not wanting to make ourselves at home in the lot of an establishment we could not possibly patronize, we chose to keep moving, believing there was parking at an Elks lodge just a bit further along, in Cut Bank. There was, indeed, a lodge there, but the parking lot was perhaps 40' square, with an iron pipe rail most of the way around it, and accessed from an alley barely 16' wide. After jockeying the bus around for twenty minutes, feeling the whole time like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs, we managed to squeeze in caddy-corner and sticking out into the alley an uncomfortable distance.

After all that work, I was nervous we could get blocked in, plus uncomfortable taking up the whole lot, and we decided to continue along. Actually, we were surprised to find no cars there whatsoever on a Thursday evening, when at least the bar should have been busy, and we wonder if that lodge is even still in business (the sign in front was still in place).

We found no other spots in Cut Bank, even though the city park there has a dump station. We did not need the dump, since we took advantage of the one at Apgar campground in Glacier National Park. After we left the park we realized that was the only facility we actually used while we were there, spending $80 for the privilege. Not really, of course -- it was just a matter of chance that our annual America the Beautiful pass had expired just two days before we arrived, and we ended up buying a new one from the ranger at the gate. When we pulled up, though, he had expected to be charging us for a tour bus.

Just east of Cut Bank we found Al's Diesel, an enormous facility with service for, among others, Detroit Diesel and Allison Transmission. It had a large empty dirt lot in front, and we seriously considered spending the night, then buying a gallon of tranny fluid or coolant test strips or something in the morning. We could predict how that might go, though, with a mechanic knocking on our door at 7am, which is the usual starting time for these sorts of places, while we were both still in bed.

With only another half hour to Shelby we just pressed on, knowing there was at least one truck stop here. It was the first thing we hit rolling into town, so we don't know what other options there might have been. While we are further from the beautiful snow-capped mountains here than I had wanted to be, at least it is warm and dry now. Daytime temperatures here are in the upper 60s to low 70s and its dropping just below 50 at night.

Now that we are in more temperate and dry conditions (it is still raining like crazy in the mountains) we are going to slow down and take a few days to catch up on projects. We found two options east of here, including some BLM campgrounds on the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument. Unfortunately these are accessible only by gravel road and, more importantly, the closest one is listed in our guide as having a length limit of 24', even though the satellite image shows it should easily accommodate us.

Closer to our planned route are a couple of Bureau of Reclamation sites on the Fresno Reservoir, west of Havre. They are listed as being free with a 14 night limit and no length restrictions, and even though we are coming into the weekend, I expect them to be uncrowded this early in the season. So we will stop at the supermarket here in town to provision, then head off to the reservoir for a few days of downtime.

Photo of the crossroads by jimmywayne, used under a Creative Commons license.


  1. *grin* My wife and I came through Shelby last Saturday on our way from NC to Calgary, AB. She has a job at the university there so we picked up and moved everything. I'm back in NC staying with friends, working my job here, and furiously job hunting for a position in Calgary so I can join her.

  2. Shoot, see that sign up there? The one that says to exit at Lethbridge? Should've taken it, then I could've snagged down and given you a tour of the city I grew up in and live close to now ;). But I digress, Montana is mighty beautiful too.


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