When I had begun discussing my plans with my friends, the invariable response had been "email me along the way, okay?" By the time I left home, I had a mailing list about twenty-five names long set up on Hotmail.
So after the very familiar 90 miles of mostly unpopulated road to Kalispell (I'd driven it at least eight or nine times when I lived in Libby), my first stop was at the public library to use their computers to keep my promise to stay in touch. That was sort of fun. I'd never tried to communicate by email while traveling before (remember, this was eleven years ago, and public computers with internet access weren't quite as easy to come by -- neither was WiFi, which was a moot point as at that point I didn't own a laptop or a netbook, anyway). Anyway, I left a nice chatty message, hit one of my favorite used book stores (Blacktail Mountain Books), and a quilt shop I'd enjoyed when I lived in Libby, then headed south towards Missoula.
The road between Kalispell and Missoula runs along Flathead Lake, an incredibly beautiful mountain lake named after a local Indian tribe. For some reason I didn't take any pictures, but the link will show you exactly what I mean. After I left the lake, I stopped to take a picture of the Mission Mountains:
Mission Mountains, Montana
And of the sign for the Flathead Nation and the National Bison Range:
Flathead Nation sign
Unfortunately, the bison, while visible with the naked eye, were not close enough to photograph even as brown dots. I promise there will be more bison soon, anyway.
And on into Missoula. I like Missoula. It's a classic college town with all the classic college town amenities, but with a nice western flavor. One of those classic amenities was a hostel (which, alas, has closed down in the years since), and that's where I spent the night. I was really looking forward to the next day -- the first stretches of road I'd never traveled before!