Montana is a beautiful state! As I drove from Medora, North Dakota to Big Timber, Montana, I was looking forward to a couple of relaxing days. The rain while at Theodore Roosevelt National Park was tiresome as was driving through it to Montana. The upcoming days in Big Timber looked promising, sunshine for at least my last half day! I’ll look forward to it!
Relaxing … yes…
I stopped at Spotted Eagle Recreation Area in Custer, Montana to complete my daily eBird checklist. No eagle, but did see an osprey and two Western grebes displaying some mating behavior. I wished I had a better photo, but it was a gray day and I never really observed their behavior till I was looking at my photos! The 2 birds were in the middle of hundreds of ruddy ducks, American coots and northern shovelers. This was wonderful! (My goal someday is a California photography workshop with an expert aware of grebe behavior. My photo was simply luck, whereas I know the expert has seen the grebes “dancing”.)
I take driving breaks every couple of hours. Stretch my legs, use restrooms if at a rest area with facilities, eat a snack and/or simply rest my eyeballs. After one of my stops, I started the van and an “oil change required” note scrolled across where my odometer and speedometer are located. I thought, really!?! Wanting no incident of running out of oil in the middle of Montana, or Idaho, my next destination, I thought it best to take care of it at a city … preferring a RAM dealership. I called one 2 hours away and said I will be there for their “first come first serve” process.
Montana’s speed limit is 80 miles per hour. In the pouring rain I was hesitant to drive that speed unless it was a straightaway. Thankfully there were plenty of straight shots and I made it to the dealership in 1 hour and 50 minutes. I understood they were down an employee; therefore, the guy meeting me in the lot said there would be no oil changes, they were booked. Fortunately I had called so I went right in to the guy at the desk and said, “I’m the one who called and said I would be here in 2 hours”. He explained it would be a couple of hours and I thought fine. Two and a half hours later I was on the road again… feeling better knowing oil was in the van. So that was the not-so-relaxing moment.
Relaxing again … yeah!
I arrived at my campground and truly did relax, ate dinner, took a walk and enjoyed my site near a creek with a turkey vulture nest overhead. The next morning I had no rush to be anywhere so breakfast was relaxing too.
I drove to Big Timber, Montana, about 10 miles from my campsite. I like to visit the local area so I drove another 10 miles up that road. Along the way I stopped to photograph sandhill cranes! My daily eBird list on this day included the cranes along with red-winged blackbirds, rock pigeons, ring-billed gulls, mallards and a red-tailed hawk. Seems like everyone is migrating and stopping at agricultural lands to feed.
Further down the road I saw a gravel road and decided to drive it. I know National Forest access would be somewhere. The road was in good shape considering all the recent rain. I drove 10 miles and still had not reached the access to the Crazy Mountains. Darn! I did see wild turkeys on the road and when I stopped there was absolutely no wind! It was amazing! Everywhere else I was holding onto my door to jump out and take photos. One time I could not even open my van door to jump out because the wind was blasting right at it and me!
Back at the campsite, dinner, shower, checking photos and writing. I met my campground neighbors. People next to me are from Montana and just out for the weekend. The other guy is from Spokane, Washington and visiting every national park before the snow comes. I love hearing travel plans. We all agreed we are very fortunate to have the opportunity to see what we wish. I know I absolutely love seeing the world … all of it … I cannot wait to return to international travel in 2024 too! My goal is to see the world, and I will do it as long as I can!