Within the early autumn of 1994, only a decade wanting the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition and a decade after Dayton Duncan’s fantastic guide Out West retraced their route, I, too, set out on a journey of discovery.
Lewis and Clark and their “Corps of Discovery” had been commissioned by President Jefferson to discover the newly acquired Louisiana Buy. Duncan did his retrace in a Volkswagen Bus that he nicknamed “Discovery.”
I used to be newly divorced and needing a while to determine simply who I used to be as a person fairly than as a part of a pair, so I referred to as my journey “the voyage of self-discovery.”
In contrast to Lewis, Clark or Duncan, my goal wasn’t the Pacific Ocean, however the maybe unlikely vacation spot of Deer Lodge, Montana.
Why Deer Lodge? As a result of after my grandfather retired from his place as a jail warden in Illinois, he was employed by the governor of Montana to assist put that state’s jail again collectively after a riot. Twice, we — my Mother, Dad, my younger brother and me — drove to Montana on our annual household holidays to go to my grandparents in Deer Lodge.
It’s tough to elucidate, however ever since Deer Lodge has served as a “true North” for me, and I’ve been again two or 3 times as an grownup. It was throughout my drive from Michigan to Montana within the early fall of 1994 that I discovered the roads of which I write at this time as a part of our month-long sequence.
Considered one of my objectives for the journey was to keep away from interstate highways, to do the drive like we did once I was a child, when the interstates had been simply being constructed and other people nonetheless traveled roads reminiscent of Route 66 and the Lincoln Freeway, after we ate in roadside diners and slept in motels that weren’t a part of any nationwide chain.
And I nearly completed that purpose, however for one stretch in Wyoming the place I-90 had changed the outdated highway and there was no various to the brand new tremendous slab. I fled the interstate on the city of Buffalo, as a result of I wished to drive the Cloud Peak Skyway, after which go to Shell Canyon and the Medication Wheel Passage earlier than turning north towards Montana.
The Cloud Peak Skyway is a 47-miles scenic part of U.S. 16 between Buffalo and Ten Sleep (don’t you like the names of Western cities?). The Skyway crests on the Powder River Go, the place at practically 10,000 ft the temperature was 45 levels, fairly a change from again in Buffalo the place it was 72.
I finished in Greybull for lunch — at a restaurant referred to as Lisa’s. Simply east of Greybull on U.S. 14 is Shell and simply past city is Shell Canyon. This phase of U.S. 14 is the Bighorn byway and my journal from the journey reviews that Shell Canyon with its tall partitions and waterfall made the pink rocks at Sedona, Arizona, appear “insignificant.”
It began to rain whereas I used to be driving that phase, and it began to snow once I turned off onto U.S. 14A for the Medicine Wheel Passage. The snow fell by way of fog as I drove up Bald Mountain, and was piling as much as the purpose that I walked the final mile to the Medication Wheel Nationwide Historic Landmark, which I wished to see however couldn’t as a result of it was buried beneath the contemporary snow.
Luckily, there was a ranger station on the website and the ranger invited me inside, shared espresso and gave me a beautiful lecture in regards to the wheel and its historical past, how the stones used to create the wheel some 12,000 years earlier weren’t native to the world however had come from the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, in addition to from the Arctic and Central America.
He defined that the circle of stones was 3-feet tall and the casements went down 6-feet to bedrock. The doorway confronted the rising solar and the stones lined up with the spring and fall equinox and I used to be reminded of an earlier go to I’d made to Stonehenge in England, besides right here there have been 28 ribs, the identical quantity as a buffalo.
The snow lastly stopped and I hiked again to the automotive and drove on to Lowell, the place the Texaco station, an old style gasoline station with service bays as an alternative of a comfort retailer, nonetheless stuffed your tank for you.
My journal says I spent that evening in Billings, and arrived in Deer Lodge the next day. It additionally has a observe I wrote about how this journey had been very similar to these of my childhood — again roads, another person pumped gasoline, and I used to be going to Montana.
In multiple approach, I had come full circle.