Red Shale Campground, Custer National Forest — OK, I’ll admit it. I wasn’t sure I wanted to drive over an 11,000 foot pass in an RV. SteveL had recommended this road, but you have to remember, he did it on a motorcycle. Still, I decided the truck and I were up to the challenge of driving over a pass that’s 200 feet higher than Mt. Baker. Remember that next time you look at Mt Baker, my truck with camper was 200 feet higher than the top of that volcano. All I can say is, it was a blast! Where else can you drive through alpine meadows and past alpine lakes like the one pictured at the top of this post? Whoever decided to put this road in is absolutely crazy!
Here’s a shot on the way up the West side
I made it to the top! It’s pretty cold and windy. That, and the fact that I my truck doesn’t have a pressurized cabin meant that I didn’t stay at “the top of the world” very long.
Here are a couple of pictures taken on the east side of the pass. These were not taken from an airplane!
I celebrated my transit with my first restaurant meal of the trip. I had breakfast at small cafe in the town of Red Lodge, a small town on the Montana side of the pass.
After Red Lodge I made my way to the historic site of the Battle of Little Big Horn. There’s not much to see beyond a monument and grave markers, though the visitors center does have some of Custer’s belongings and other artifacts. I’m glad I stopped. There’s a lot of historical significance to this special place, and later I couldn’t help but visualize the life of the nomadic tribes as I crossed over the Northern Plains on my way to the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Here’s the view as Custer would have seen it the day he and his men died. I like the fact that the Park Service noted that both sides fought for what they believed, for their people. It was nicely balanced.
Next Stop: Mount Rushmore
Miles Today: 252
Total Miles: 1286
Avg Miles/Day: 257
Virginia City — It’s not big, and it won’t take you long to see what there is to see, but what impressed me about Virginia City, MT is that it’s not really a tourist trap. This gold-rush ghost town has a large collections of period buildings, many of which were moved there from other places. That said, they weren’t turned into cheezy t-shirt and gift shops. Sure, there are a few buildings like that, but most of the them are set up with period interiors. The best part — it’s all free. Step inside the doorways and you’ll see an old dry goods store, barber shop, newspaper, or dress shop.
I hope you enjoy the pictures. But before I show you Virginia City, here’s a shot from Nevada City, which is less than one mile away. One of the great things about a truck camper for a road trip is that you can park almost anywhere. Here’s my truck in front of the Star Bakery. If you ever pass through Nevada City, stop and try the cinnamon rolls. They’re perfect. Not very sweet, and very soft. The locals seem to eat here.
As you can see, the Virginia City isn’t very large.
Here are some example of what you’ll see when you step inside a doorway.
Virginia City — My expectations for today were admittedly low as I just knew I was in for a lot of boring interstate driving. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’m predicting that today will end up ranking near the top of great driving days on this trip.
It’s probably been twenty years since I’ve been east of CDA on I-90; it was like seeing this scenery for the first time, and it was nothing short of spectacular! As the trip progressed from rugged mountains to open forests and valleys, not once did I find that there wasn’t something interesting to look at (well, except for the gas stop at Costco in Missoula). If I didn’t have a more distant destination in mind I think I could have played around in Western Montana for quite some time.
Click on the pictures for a larger image. Even enlarged, it’s hard to capture the scale of the scenery in a picture.
The Garmin provided me with the icing on the cake. It routed me off of I-90 in Butte and put me on Montana Highway 2, which is a twisty two lane road more suited to a motorcycle or sports car than an RV.
The truck did great. It really doesn’t seem to roll much in the twisties. I’m just glad I wasn’t towing something or I’d been cursing the Garmin! I’m also glad that I had the road to myself; it was a steep climb, which at the peak approached 6800 feet according to my altimeter. This next picture was taken on that road. The early fall colors are typical of what I witnessed all day long.
From HW 2 I turned onto HW 41. These last two pictures were taken as I drove along this valley. I could probably see 100 miles.
I arrived too late to do, or see anything in Virginia City, an gold-rush ghost town. Tomorrow I’ll explore town. Though not the most famous one, this town also has a cemetery named Boot Hill.
As for the check-engine light. It finally went out only to come back on again when the engine was under a bit more strain. Lee could be right about the transmission. It might also be the EGR valve — I’m sure I’m blowing out a bit of carbon 8-).
Miles Today: 372
Total Miles: 712
Avg Miles/Day: 354