Jul 202011

It was miserably hot in Montana yesterday, but we covered a lot of miles and saw some pretty scenery in spite of the heat. Believe me, it was better to see it from inside our air conditioned motorhome than being outside in it!

We left Indian Creek Campground in Deer Lodge, headed east, and even though the road was smoother than it had been the day before, in most sections, a stiff side wind still kept me on my toes. A few times, when coming out from a hill or underpass where we were sheltered for a moment, the wind slammed us hard once we were out in the clear.

The terrain was not as steep as it had been the day before, but there were lot of snowcapped mountains in the distance. It was strange to be driving in 103 degree temperatures, and see snow on the mountains!

Snowcapped mountains

We still had some very steep hills to climb, with dramatic rocky faces, and the downhill grades were just as steep.

Rock face

Rocky hillside

I 90 dowhnill

At one point, we passed the scene of a rock slide, and I sure was glad that didn’t come out onto the highway!

Rock slide

I always wonder about the old houses we see along the way.  Who lived there? What were their lives like? Were they happy? What made them move on? Some great tragedy? Or the hope for a better life? Sometimes I find myself inventing stories about the people who lived there. I think it’s part of being a writer.

Old House

It looks like these folks even left their car when they took off. Why were they in such a hurry?

House old car

We like old barns too!

Old barn

But not everything we saw yesterday was quite so scenic. Part of it was terrible. As we approached Homestake Pass, west of Billings, we started seeing black smoke, and the closer we got, the thicker it became. I told Miss Terry I feared it was a vehicle fire.

RV fire smoke 2

And sure enough, we topped out at the summit, and on the other side of the highway, we saw what was left of a motorhome, totally engulfed in flames. There wasn’t much left but the twisted frame. Even though we were in the far lane of a four lane highway, we could feel the intense heat as we passed. We learned later that the Highway Patrol reported that it it was a family from Kentucky, and that the RV started to overheat as they climbed the pass. The driver pulled over to the side, and then discovered the fire. Nobody was injured, and they managed to disconnect the car they were towing, but the motorhome was a total loss.

RV fire 

RV fires are terrible things, and we were subdued for quite a while after seeing the fire, counting our blessings that it was not us, and feeling terrible for the people who lost their RV and everything inside it.

Traffic was pretty heavy in Billings, and I was glad to put the city behind us. We continued eastbound, picking up Interstate 94, and the countryside was much more open. Mostly rolling hills and farmland.

East of Billings

Farm cows

Between Billings and Miles City, there aren’t many towns, and the few we passed were small. It was getting late in the day, and we were both ready to stop, so I used the new free Woodalls  RV & Camping Copilot app on my iPad and located a nice little family owned RV park called Big Sky Camp & RV Park, on the east side of Miles City, just off Exit 141. The place is nothing fancy, but it’s clean and the owners are very friendly, and we got a full hookup pull through 30 amp site for $23. I just hooked up the water and electric, we didn’t need sewer, and I just wanted to get back inside out of the heat.

We covered 407 miles, and yes, that’s a very long day of driving. But now we’re getting close to North Dakota, where we plan to slow down and see some attractions along the way. We had heard about the Medora Musical and Pitchfork Fondue for years, but at $34 a person for the musical and another $26 each for the meal, we quickly decided to pass. Our tastes and budget are a little more modest than that. But we’ll still find some fun things to check out in the area.

Thought For The Day – We could certainly slow the aging process down if it had to work its way through Congress. – Will Rogers

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Nick Russell

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  14 Responses to “Great Views & A Terrible Sight”

  1. Hi, Nick–
    I am using your blog as a travel guide for my trip in September (I am reversing your direction in Montana/Idaho) and your report of the RV fire is certainly a cautionary tale–I will be keeping a sharp eye on our temp gauge! As for the Medora Pitchfork Fondue, we did that last year, and you are not missing anything. It was a lot more interesting and fun in concept than in execution (you don’t get to fondue your own steak, LOL!) and the food was, IMHO, mediocre. As I said in my blog, “we did it so you don’t have to.” If you want to read about our day in Medora (a long, Nick-style travelogue) the url is http://debandjoeontheroad.blogspot.com/2010/08/aug-22-2010-today-was-our-medora-day.html.

  2. You should have done the musical, my Mom has attended it twice and says it is fabulous! She and her husband tried to work camp in Medora this summer but were flooded out–kind of scary, someone knocked on their motorhome door at 4am and told them they had less than 30 minutes to get out.

  3. And, come one Nick, even if Billings is a RV unfriendly spot, the traffic is never that bad! Homesteak Pass is east of Butte but not east of Billings.

  4. We also heard how great the musical is, but didn’t see it when we were there. If ‘Bully’ – the one man play about Teddy Roosevelt is still playing that is a *MUST SEE*. Our blog on the day: http://geeksontour.blogspot.com/2010/08/north-dakota-on-map-bully.html

  5. Mac McCoy could have certainly helped the people in the fire if they had attended one of his seminars. He has sold many fire suppression extinguishers for the engines of diesel motorhomes as well as the one for refrigerators. With these you feel much safer. I do not know if he has any statistics as to fire that his equipment has suppressed. I just feel a little safer, though I have a 5th wheel but I have the small one in my refrigerator.

  6. We did the muscial & pitch fork and loved both.

  7. thank heavens the family got out safely. Motor home and stuff can be replaced but a life cannot. I am with you on the music event over $50 a person is to much for it. The weather forecast for Forest City is 91 with matching humidity,Tomorrow it is a cool 81. Maybe this oppressive heat is finally on it way someplace else. Stay cool if you can and please be safe.

  8. Thank you Jana, I have corrected that to west of Billings.

  9. Please don’t show pictures like the RV fire again. It disturbes me and makes me worry that it could happen to us too. Now I’m afraid to travel in mountain country.

  10. Mary Ann,
    RV fires can happen anywhere, even while sittng in an RV park. Just like house fires happen. You can’t live your life worrying about what might happen. We have automatic fire suppression units in our engine bay and our refrigerator compartment, we carry fire several extinguishers, and we keep our motorhome in good repair. The rest is left up to fate.

  11. I’m curious Nick….. I’m ignorant on the subject of engine fires so can you explain how the fire was started by the engine overheating? We never had a diesel Class A and I’m wondering what the differences are between gas & diesel as far as engine fires – if any. Thanks

  12. We have a friend who calls those old houses “wouldja couldja” houses–Would you, could you live with me in that house? Most of them, my answer would be NO!

  13. Mike and Cindy,
    Engine fires can start in several ways. I’m not the expert, but if you contact Mac McCoy at mac@macthefireguy.com he can give you lots of information. He is the recognized expert on RV fire safety.

  14. Nick, really feel bad for the family from Kentucky who had their motorhome destroyed. I am making the same route you are taking in mid August, headed to Gillette, Wy. for the Escapees Rally. Hopefully the weather will be cooler by then. Thanks for the info on gearing the Allison tranny down to second gear and just let it roll with the engine brake on. Have my appointment made for Mac to install my fire suppression systems in the engine compartment and generator compartment of my rig. The generator compartment suppression system is for the wiring system, not the generator. Mac’s suggestion. Tell Miss Terry am getting great photo’s with the camera she suggested. Travel safe & slow folks.

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