Following the Yellowstone River

green_billings park

2016-06-26 – For two days we followed the Yellowstone River east across Montana, for over 300 miles, from Livingston to Billings on I-90, and from Billings almost to the North Dakota border on I-94. If these highways sound familiar to you, yes, they are the same highways that go through Chicago.

Many of the great American highways follow the rivers. They provided water and fishing for the original trails and the grades are less steep as you go through the mountains. We’ve followed the Platte River on I-80 through Nebraska. And we’ve followed different parts of the Colorado River on our trips west.

We are now on our way home. It’s a long way to go, but we detoured yesterday in western North Dakota through the Theodore Roosevelt National Park where we saw prairie dogs and bison. Does anyone know the difference between prairie dogs and ground hogs? Does anyone know the difference between bison and buffaloes?

Today, we will be passing through the rest of North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin before we get back home to Illinois.

North Dakota is the 45th state I’ve visited. When I say I’ve been in that many states, I am including every state that I’ve set foot in. Some states I’ve spent plenty of time in. Some, hardly any time at all. Until this vacation, my total time in Montana was 10 or 15 minutes as we drove through a little corner of that state to get from Idaho to Wyoming on our visit to Yellowstone National Park. I now have logged a week and a half in the state. My next most pitiful sojourn was Delaware, which I crossed at age 9 on a drive from New York City to Washington, DC. Oklahoma was just as bad with a brief layover in Tulsa on a flight from Chicago to LA.

The five states I have yet to visit are Maine, Mississippi, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii. [CORRECTION: North Dakota was my 44th state. I should have looked at a map. I haven’t been to South Carolina. I was hoping to get there this year, but the trip didn’t happen.]

We live in a beautiful country. And it is vast. Stop flying over it. Drive. Or take a wagon train.

And meet some of the people. They’re not like TV. They are pretty much like you and me. You can talk to them. We met a guy in an Am Vets post in Steele, ND who feels deep sympathy for those who died in Orlando—though he certainly has political opinions you don’t like. In the same town we were checked into a motel by a guy who went to my son Nat’s high school, only two years ahead of him. Back in Montana we attended a concert given by a guitarist who told stories about Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie and Neil Young.

We’ve got a long way to go today. And it’s back to work tomorrow.

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