Missoula, MT to Billings, MT

We scheduled a little more driving today. Route. We could drive a little further, but there just aren’t any conveniently located cities. Montana needs more cities, but first there would have to be more Montanans. I think there are only around a million, and somebody has to live on all those ranches.

But let’s take it in chronological order. Breakfast at the hotel in Missoula. A walk along the river on the paved paths closer to downtown (and also closer to our hotel, which is not downtown but is on the same side of the city). We didn’t even have to pay for the parking, as we were all done before 0800. 

On the road before 0900, with sporadic drizzle and light rain. Careful planning allowed us to reach Bozeman just before noon so that we could have lunch at the Nova Cafe. You didn’t really think we’d do a roadside picnic in the rain, did you? I thought we’d beat the rush, but they have huge brunch traffic. We were handed a pager and waited about ten minutes. Our waiter looked like a pizza delivery boy – unshaven and sloppily dressed, but he was actually pretty good. He checked on us, updated us on the status of our order, topped our water and brought our bill just as I was looking to him for it. Caroline ordered a Gas Hog, which is a black bean veggie burger with a sweet chili sauce and provolone. I had the bison burger, which they cook to order. I think this is a good idea, as bison meat is lean and gets pretty dry if you cook it till it’s brown. Public health wonks disagree, but the road to horrible food is paved with good intentions. It came with mushrooms and Jarlsberg cheese, I think. Menu Link. I stand corrected – Swiss cheese. Oh, and grass-fed bison – like I care what he ate. Anyway, it was marvelous. Do Americans spell marvelos without a ‘u’? Don’t think so… why not? Same deal with fabulos.

Gassed up the CRV while we were there just so we wouldn’t have to exit the interstate twice.
Drove through a thundershower just before Billings. It sounded like hail, but I didn’t see any visible hailstones. Glad I wasn’t one of the many bikers. Also, Caroline keeps falling asleep when I drive (yes, even when I’m hurtling down a mountain road at 75mph!) so she wouldn’t do well on the back of a motorcycle. “Good gas mileage today, Caroline, it’s like the bike is lighter…. Caroline?”

Arrived at our hotel in Laurel before 1500. Now I don’t usually say much about Best Westerns because Caroline works at one and I don’t like to bite the hand that gives me discounts. Many of them are splendid, especially the one we just left in Missoula. But the BW in downtown Billings is in a scary neighborhood. And the one on the interstate is a Premier, which are mondo pricy. Which leaves the one next door in Laurel. They gave us a very good rate, but the trade-off is there’s nowhere good to eat in Laurel. Also, the rooms are small and dated. Caroline grew increasingly agitated about the hotel and its location until we actually considered paying five times as much to move down the highway to the fancy place. Luckily, they were sold out of even the King Suites by the time we called. I suggested Plan B, which is (generally) the Hilton. It was only three times as much, so that’s where I’m writing this. It may actually be three times as nice. Certainly it’s bigger, and the desk is twice the size of the table squeezed into the corner of the room in Laurel.

We got coupons for free glasses of wine from the front desk. Caroline is much happier. This means dinner will be much more pleasant whether or not the food is.

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