Because I’ve driven it at least a dozen times in the last seventeen years. But it’s really the only logical route from Yellowstone to Missoula, so that’s okay. And it is pretty.
Up along Earthquake Lake, which is the only lake I’m familiar with that was created by natural forces in my lifetime [g]. The Hebgen Lake earthquake, which happened on August 17, 1959, caused a landslide that dammed the Madison River, killed over 25 people, and, incidentally and not at all disrespectfully, was part of what sent Charley McManis back in time to 1877.
Over the natural dam and down the river to the long, wide valley west of the Gallatin Mountains, which weren’t terribly visible today due to the weather – I’d harbored thoughts of going back down to the park and spending a second day, then camping at Baker’s Hole again tonight, but when I saw the rain coming down I changed my mind. I have spent time tromping around the Upper Geyser Basin in the rain, but I have to say the thought wasn’t all that appealing this morning.
So on I went, down the valley through the town of Ennis, which is a fly-fishing hub on the Madison River, where I discovered, much to my delight, that the local Town Pump (Montana’s answer to the usual convenience store/gas station combo) sold unsweetened iced tea. No lemon, but that’s what the juice in my cooler is for [g].
I got back to I-90 about 11:30, and reached Butte about noon. I had my mouth set for another pasty (Butte used to have a lot of Cornish miners the way Michigan’s Upper Peninsula did, and I’ve eaten them here before), but I couldn’t find anywhere to sell me one, so I ended up with a hamburger, alas.
And so on northwestward to Missoula, where I am for the night. In the rain. Which is okay, since I’m indoors.
I had an idea this afternoon, too. I haven’t driven over Lolo Pass (about which more tomorrow) in a long, long time. Not since I was researching Repeating History and went to the Nez Perce National Historic Site in Idaho at least ten years ago. So I’m going to do that again, probably spend tomorrow night somewhere around Walla Walla or the Tri-Cities, and drive on in to Tacoma from there. Why not, right? One more day won’t hurt…
I found the World’s Biggest Bison this morning before I left Jamestown. It is a big bison, I’ll give it credit, but I saw the skull of an extinct bison this afternoon that I bet was bigger than that.
This was at the North Dakota Heritage Center, which is another name for state history museum [g]. After driving the hundred miles, give or take, to Bismarck, North Dakota, the cute little state capitol, population a bit over 67,000, so it’s actually bigger than Olympia, my state capitol, which is just under 50,000. The difference, of course, is that Bismarck is the second largest city in North Dakota, and Olympia – isn’t.
Anyway, I think I lost control of my sentence there, and I’m not going to fix it. I’m just going to say that after lunch I spent over two hours at the museum, which was just renovated completely a couple of years ago, and the shiny new is wonderful. There’s a whole huge room on the pre-man history, dinosaurs and glaciers and all, and a whole huge room on the dozen or so tribes of Native Americans, with these neat audios of people speaking in their own languages, and a huge room on the history since the Europeans showed up. Which they did way earlier than I thought – a French explorer made it to what’s now North Dakota in the 1730s, although the story really didn’t pick up till Lewis and Clark in the first decade of the 1800s, and after that didn’t get real steam till after the Civil War.
Interesting stuff, though. Lots of stuff about homesteading and the railroads, among other things, and populism and farmers vs. the big city and so forth.
After I finally dragged myself out of there, I drove past the strangest-looking state capitol I’ve ever seen. It looks like a condo building from LA or something, and its nickname is the Skyscraper of the Plains (it’s by far the tallest building in Bismarck, I’ll give it credit for that). Then I drove seven miles south of the town of Mandan (sort of Moorhead to Bismarck’s Fargo, except Mandan’s on the west side of the river) to Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.
Fort Lincoln was George Armstrong Custer’s last post before he headed off to the Little Bighorn and got himself and a bunch of his troops killed. It’s where his wife was when she found out he was dead, too. They’ve reconstructed his house there, but really, the most interesting part of Fort Lincoln State Park is the partial reconstruction of a 500-year-old Mandan Indian village. Five round houses (as opposed to tipis) on a slope near the Missouri River, two of which have exhibits inside them. The village was abandoned in the 17th century after the first of a number of smallpox epidemics basically wiped out 4/5ths of the population.
The houses are made of the same log and sod construction that the early pioneers built their houses from. Only the shape is different.
Oh, and there’s a wonderful, built-in-the-30s-by-the-CCC visitor center, too, with good exhibits.
By that point it was getting late, and I needed to find a place to sleep and hit a grocery store. I thought about camping at Fort Lincoln, but I hadn’t gone to the grocery store first, and it was awfully windy out there, too.
Maybe tomorrow night at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. If I get that far. I’m going about thirty miles north of here to Fort Mandan and the Knife River Indian Village National Historic Site first, because that’s where Lewis and Clark spent their first winter on the road (so to speak) and I’m curious.
So, yesterday I drove back down to the main highway, where I crossed it and went to the Manoir Papineau National Historic Site. My friend Christine had recommended that I go here. At least I think this is where she meant. There’s also a big fancy hotel nearby, but I’ve seen more than my share of big fancy hotels (not to stay in, mind, just to look at) for a while, and the historic site looked interesting, so I decided this was what she’d wanted me to see.
And I’m glad I stopped. Another bit of Canadian history wrapped nicely in an elegant 19th century house that reminded me a lot of Washington Irving’s Sunnyside – minus the vines, thank goodness. Mostly, I suspect, because of the riverside frontage, but still. Anyway. Louis-Joseph Papineau was a mover and shaker in 19th century Canadian politics, who got himself in trouble in the 1830s for helping to ringlead a group that wanted to break away from England. He ended up in exile for a number of years in the U.S. and France, and then got pardoned or something, came back, and built this pretty house on the Ottawa River. It was very elegant so that his visitors would be impressed, and the tour guide told stories about how they tried to keep it warm in Quebec winters, and how Papineau’s wife was not impressed with being so far away (two days of steamboat trip) from Montreal, and so forth and so on. Unfortunately they wouldn’t let me take photos inside, though.
After that it was on to Ottawa, where I ended up having to call Elizabeth because the street I thought was the right one didn’t go through to where I needed it to. But eventually I got there, and we had a good conversation, then went out to go buy her a new rotary cutter (she’s a beginning quilter!) and out to dinner at a very nice café. Then we came back and watched the Branagh version of Much Ado About Nothing, which turns out to be a favorite film for both of us [g].
I’ll be here at her place until Thursday, when I head for Toronto.
This morning I went to the Canadian History Museum. And I found it without having to backtrack once! Unfortunately, their main exhibit is being redone and won’t be open again until next year, but the other exhibits really made up for it. They had a whole floor devoted to the First Nations of Canada, which was fascinating. It was odd to see west coast things like totem poles here [g], but the whole exhibit was enormous and well done.
Then there were the three temporary exhibits. One of them was about Napoleon Bonaparte (of all people, my fingers keep typing), mostly relating to his time in Paris. The second one was about the gold rush in British Columbia in the early 1850s, right after the California gold rush. I’d known a little about it, having run across it in my Okanogan Country research for Sojournand Reunion(one of the trails to the Cariboo, which is what the gold country in BC was called, went through the Okanogan), but not nearly as much as I do now. I want to go up there and explore it one of these days now [g]. The third temporary exhibit was called Horse Power. A man in Montreal collected carriages and sleighs most of his life, and donated them. It was a seriously impressive collection, and fun to stroll through.
By that point I was pretty much done for the day. Tonight Elizabeth and I are going over to the house of Marna and her family. Marna’s another listee, and I think a couple of her family members are, too. We’re having something called fannish night, which is apparently a regular occurrence here [g]. I’m looking forward to that very much.
Then tomorrow I’m going to run a couple of errands, and maybe hit another museum. I’ve heard wonderful things about the War Museum, even if the subject matter’s not exactly my cup of tea.
Yesterday was mostly a driving day, from Halifax to Cape Breton Island, and a nice relaxing afternoon at Cape Battery Provincial Park’s lovely waterfront campground.
It was gorgeous and sunny and everything (although breezy and cool, not that I was complaining about the cool part, anyway), then, in the middle of the night, I heard rat-a-tat-a-tat on Merlin’s roof, and was suddenly really glad I hadn’t left anything outside, oh, like my folding camp chair, because when I woke up this morning, it was to the kind of rain I normally associate with a Pineapple Express in the winter back home. Well, it wasn’t that cold (although it never got above 62dF today, according to Merlin’s thermometer), but it was easily that wet. This is the kind of weather that words and phrases like “driving rain,” and “teeming” were invented for. Oh, and it was windy, too, so it’s been raining sideways pretty much all day.
I didn’t want to spend the day cooped up in the back of my van, so I went ahead and drove to the town of Baddeck, on Lake Bras D’Or (did you know that Cape Breton Island has a huge lake in the middle of it? I didn’t – although since there is a water passage from the lake to the ocean, I’m not sure it really qualifies as a lake, even though it’s named that way), where Alexander Graham Bell had a summer home, and where there’s a National Historic Site dedicated to him.
There was a visitor center/museum, which was very crowded because I wasn’t the only one looking for something to do indoors out of the rain, but it was still well worth visiting. I didn’t know much about Bell, except for the obvious that he invented the telephone and that he and Helen Keller had met several times (which isn’t as ironic as it, er, sounds – his wife was deaf, and one of his major passions was helping deaf people). I had no idea how much of an inventor he really was. Among other things, he was involved with early aviation and hydrofoils.
But the most arresting thing, at least sensorily, was the “try it!” display of an old-fashioned (omigosh, really?) dial telephone. The sound of it was just – wow, it was weird. I hadn’t heard the sound of a dial phone in decades. That seriously made me feel old. When I walked up, a woman was teaching her little kid how to dial it. So. Very. Weird. Sorry.
So. I really wanted to be indoors (not just in the van, but real indoors) tonight, and there were no rooms to be had in Baddeck (ba-DECK, not BA-deck), so I got a late lunch at a café with terrible service called the Yellow Cello (a 12” hot dog dressed like a Philly cheese steak, which was better than it sounds), and headed the thirty or so miles north to the Sydneys (there are three of them, Sydney Mines, North Sydney, where the ferry to Newfoundland leaves from, and just Sydney, which is the biggest city on Cape Breton Island), where I found a nice, warm, dry motel room.
The weather is supposed to improve somewhat, at least so far as the rain goes, by late tomorrow, but it’s supposed to stay windy and chilly, and that’s about what’s decided me to not take the ferry to Newfoundland. Four hours one way on the open ocean in weather like this (I get seasick unless the water’s pretty calm, and I should have realized long ago that it wasn’t going to be) does not sound like fun. Plus, the whole trip would probably take me at least a week, what with a day each on the ferry on either end, plus two days driving each way to get to L’Anse aux Meadows once I arrived on the island and just one day there. And that doesn’t even count seeing any of the rest of it (the other part I’d like to visit, St. Johns – Great Big Sea territory! – is clear on the opposite corner from L’Anse aux Meadows – probably a three-day drive one way, plus three more days back to the ferry). It seems like so much effort and time and money without as much return as seems reasonable. I’ve spent a lot of time driving through rather monotonous taiga in the last few days, and a lot of getting anywhere in Newfoundland is going to be 99% taiga.
So I’m afraid that’s just not going to happen. Still, I’m glad I got this far. Tomorrow I will probably go see Cape Breton Highlands National Park if the weather is improved enough, and I also want to see Louisbourg National Historic Site before I leave Cape Breton and head west, once and for good.
I’ve been on the road for six weeks as of today. That is so hard to believe. It’s going fast.
I was only about fifty miles from Williamsburg when I woke up this morning. I did, however, get a late start, and then I made a wrong turn that added about ten miles to the trip, but it was a pretty drive, so I wasn’t complaining. Also, I got to ride a ferry! A free car ferry across the James River, which at this tidal point is more of a bay than anything else. Also, I drove right onto the ferry, and it left right away. No waiting in the heat at all.
The ferry ride was fun. I could see the Jamestown NHS from the water, and some tall ships that are part of a living history museum next door (that I’m going to tour while I’m here). It was also about ten degrees cooler on the water, with the breeze (mind, that was ten degrees cooler than ninety-something with air thick enough to drink, but still).
After I got here, I found my motel so I wouldn’t have to worry about it (I’d made reservations last night – I was a bit concerned about arriving in such a tourist destination on a Friday night in the summertime), then I got seriously lost trying to find the Colonial Parkway to Yorktown NHS. I didn’t get there till about four, and most of the site closes at 4:30, but I did get to go through the visitor center. Yorktown will be on my way out of town when I head towards the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel in a couple of days (I may spend three nights here, I may stay four – there’s a lot to do and see here, especially for a history buff who eats up living history with a spoon like I do), so I’ll make sure to leave early enough to take the auto tour of the battlefield and see the rest of it then.
Tomorrow I am going to visit Colonial Williamsburg. Finally. I’m sorta doing things backwards, from a historical point of view. Yorktown is the newest site (it’s where Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at the end of the Revolution), Colonial Williamsburg is from an older time period, and Jamestown, of course, is the earliest settlement in Virginia (I’m thinking in what became the U.S., but I think St. Augustine, Florida, or Santa Fe, New Mexico, might be older). But that’s okay.
Anyway, tomorrow expect lots of photos of people doing antique trades and stuff, and fancy old buildings and their insides, and pretty gardens (the last time I was here was in April, 1999, and the place was full of tulips – I’m looking forward to seeing what the gardens look like in midsummer).
Oh, and I had an idea for another book today. I’m kind of afraid it’s a mouthful that’s way more than I can chew, but then that’s what I thought about what later became Repeating History, too, seventeen years ago, so maybe not. I hope.
I’ve been wanting to go to the High Desert Museum just south of Bend, Oregon, for a long time. I went once before, back in the 90s, when I don’t think it had been around for very long, and I wanted to see what it was like now.
I’d had it in my brain that it was this ecosystem’s NW Trek, which is basically a wild animal park (as opposed to a zoo) populated with local animals. The HDM did have local animals, but they were mostly of the creepy-crawly variety – reptiles and insects and a couple of arachnids I could have done just as well without – with the exception of a pair of river otters being terminally cute in a new habitat which just opened in April.
But the rest of the museum included a 1904 family logging operation (contrary to the moniker “high desert,” most of this part of the world is heavily forested with ponderosa pine) done up in living history style, a huge exhibit on the Native American history of the Great Basin, and several other exhibits. A temporary exhibit featured the work of the WPA in Oregon in the 1930s.
So, actually, it was a cross between NW Trek, the WA state history museum, and Fort Nisqually. Pretty darned impressive. And that doesn’t even take into account all the terrific outdoor sculpture, one piece of which was created by Rip Caswell, who I know through Facebook. Small world.
Lunch was back in Bend, and so was a trip up Pilot Butte, just east of downtown, thank you for mentioning it to me, Paul. But could you have at least warned me that the road to the top is at least as terrifying as the one up Steptoe Butte in the Palouse??? But it was worth the white knuckles, and I finally got some excellent views of the central Oregon Cascade volcanoes.
I spent most of the afternoon at Newberry Crater Nat’l Volcanic Monument, not far south of Bend, a place I’d camped at with my parents when I was about nine or ten, and with my first husband in my mid-twenties. It was fun to see it again, to hike the Obsidian Flow trail (which still had snow in places!) and stroll along the shore of one of the tiny lakes inside the crater.
Tonight I’m camped at a little forest service campground along the road to Newberry Crater, with a waterfall as background music. Pretty nifty, IMHO.
Peggy Henderson, a fellow writer of Yellowstone, tagged me to talk about seven things in my writing life. That’s going to take some thinking.
1. I’ve been writing a good chunk of my life. I started keeping my first journal on a trip to Alaska when I was fourteen, and I wrote my first fiction — an extremely bad case of Mary Sued fanfic of the shortlived 70s TV series Apple’s Way — not long after that. I kept voluminous journals (no longer in my possession, alas) in high school and college, wrote a lot of really bad poetry during the same time frame, and was only stopped dead in my tracks by the creative writing teacher from hell when I was twenty-one. I didn’t start writing again until my thirties, but have been ever since.
2. It took me twelve years, off and on, from the time I first came up with the idea for Repeating History, until I actually had a published book in my hands. I wrote at least three other books (none of which have seen, or are likely to see, the light of day) during that time, too, though. And wasted a lot of time receiving rejection letters from tradpub and agents that said, in essence, “I really like this, but I can’t sell it,” during that time, too, before self-pubbing became a viable option.
3. I’ve built two iterations of my own website, the first one hand-coded using Notepad and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creating a Website (I still own my dogeared copy), and the second one using self-hosted WordPress, which was both orders of magnitude easier and much more professional-looking. I’m rather proud of that, and of the fact that I do all my own graphics work, too. That was a steep learning curve for me.
4. I vastly prefer writing about fictional versions of real places, and preferably real places I have visited, or, in one case, lived in briefly. I also vastly prefer to write about ordinary people dumped into supernatural circumstances than to write about people who are supernatural themselves. I firmly believe there’s magic in the world, even if the only place we can write about it is in fiction.
5. I use the “event horizon” method of plotting, as once described by Lois McMaster Bujold. While I do usually have a last line or scene that I’m aiming for, what I do is plot until I hit the event horizon (the point where I can’t figure out what happens next), then write up to that point, then plot to the next event horizon, and so forth and so on, till I get to the end.
6. NOT a fan of marketing my books. I worked in advertising in a past life, and so have an extreme allergy to being marketed to, which means I don’t want to inflict that on anyone else. This makes life difficult. Also, unlike writing books, marketing them does not have a clear beginning, middle, and end. That’s very frustrating.
7. Most of my book ideas come from odd things I find, or from historical events, or from natural disasters, of all things.
I hope you enjoyed this little venture into sharing my writing life with you. If you have any questions, please be sure to ask!