Chicago to Portland – Day 4 – Early Start

Wed 12th August 2015
Day 4 Gillette, WY to Missoula, MT
13 Hours – 579 Miles – 2 States WY+MT

We were up and out and buying coffee by 6am and on the road; our own private highway.  during the first hour of our drive we encountered only a handful of cars.  It was as if somebody knew we were coming and decided to give us a clear run.  Not that you run into much traffic on the US interstate roads, unlike the motorways in Britain.
This isolation on the road and the vast expanse of the scenery all around us made me feel very small.  Our truck is relatively large compared to most vehicles I have driven.  I have to climb two steps to get up into the cab and we sit high above car drivers on the road although slightly below the semi trucks that pass us.  Despite all this I can’t help but feel dwarfed by the immense sky and hills all around us and it is one of the things which most appeals to me about driving in America.
Chicago to Portland-31 Chicago to Portland-32
There is no doubt that Britain has incredible natural beauty but it just doesn’t have the scale.  So far we have probably driven further than it is even possible to drive in the UK and we are only half way.  It is humbling.  It makes me very grateful that I continue to get the opportunity to have this kind of experience.
The 13,000 feet high summit of Cloud Peak loomed before us as we left Gillette and headed towards Buffalo.  Fortunately we passed around Bighorn National Forest, in which it lies and did not have to go through it.
 Chicago to Portland-29
We pushed on through Wyoming and crossed into Montana.  The sky didn’t get any smaller!  The grass had taken on a really interesting tone, almost as if somebody had gone in and desaturated the colour by a couple of percent.  It made the deep rich greens of the trees all the more prominent, like somebody had gone in afterwards and coloured them in.
Chicago to Portland-33 Chicago to Portland-34
Chicago to Portland-35
After a brief stop in Billings, MN for a tasty lunch in the hospitable McCormick Cafe we were back on the road.  However, we both nearly had a heart attack when, after we had been driving for half an hour, Josh, with a look of panic in his eyes, declared that he didn’t know where he had left the small pouch with all his money and important documents in it.  It was only after a period of 30 seconds of frantic searching that felt like 20 mins, that we found it.
The road stretched out so far ahead of us and the view is so massive and all encompassing that we were able to actually see the weather as we approached.  The rain spotted the windscreen for a few miles before we entered a small storm.  We could see lightening up ahead but fortunately we encountered none of this just a bit of rain.
We made our way through some spectacular scenery in the mountains.  I see now why they are called the Rockies!  The road twists and turns, rises and falls through passes and along side rivers and some of the most dramatic scenery I have ever seen.  We crossed the continental divide at over 6000 feet.  I am glad to be doing this trip in the Summer time, I can’t imagine it would be very pleasant in the winter.
We decided to do a slightly shorter day than we had originally planned as to carry on past Missoula would have put us heading over some pretty steep terrain in the dark, not something we fancied in our beast of a truck and trailer.
 
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