Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Take Five: Montana edition

I can't say I spent much time in Montana before my last vacation. I set foot in it in Yellowstone Park, and then drove through a corner on my way out of Yellowstone. So six days there are enough for some quick observations, which have a little negative feelings that shouldn't overshadow a fine visit:

1. You've heard of the phrase "Big Sky Country?" It's true, at least in the Prairies. We drove south on Interstate 15 for about 90 miles, with farm land stretching out to the west and east. There were no buildings to speak of in the way, and no trees. It's all earth and sky. I could see where people could become attached to it, although it is a little lonely.

2. One of the oddest parts about reading a local newspaper in Montana was seeing a column of 12-step recovery programs. There were a few dozen listings. I guess I never realized about the extent of the problems of alcoholism in that part of the world. Which brings me to ...

3. Speed limits. Let's see -- you have some windy mountain roads and an alcoholism problem in your state. Naturally, you set the speed limit at 70. Ugh. There are far too many crosses with flowers along the sides of the road, signifying fatal accidents, for my liking.

4. Is it more difficult to get a fishing license or a casino license in Montana? It's tough to tell. Casinos are everywhere -- adjoining gas stations, pizza places, hotels, etc. I didn't actually go in one, but it sure is different than anything I'm used to seeing.

5. I wasn't really prepared for the beauty of the Flathead Lake area, south of Kalispell. We took a drive that way, and it is spectacular. If you get the chance, go.

I was prepared for the beauty of Glacier National Park, and its neighbor to the north, Waterton Lake. I may have to do re-do my list of top tourist stops/scenic places, because there were three such stops (Avalanche Lake, St. Mary Lake and Waterton Lake) that were simply unforgettable.

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