We woke bright and early the next morning, after sleeping quite well in the back of Strontium. Since our last road trip, where we fought with a leak-a-licious air mattress, we decided to go basic, cheap and old-school. We went to the thrift store, bought a twin mattress in decent shape for $25, shoved a few pillows into the gaps around the doors and wheel wells, tossed our full-size pillow top over all of that and called it good. Turns out, it's significantly easier and just as comfy. Huzzah!
We took a quick tour of the tiny Cooke City Cemetery that happened to be just off of our campsite, then hit the road, heading up the Cooke City Highway, a curving, amazing road that takes you to the top of the road and back down.
I mean, look at this place! I was in love instantly. Amazing stone formations peeking from lush green grass. Deep blue mountain lakes hidden around the corner... I could have spent hours up there wandering if not for one thing.
Much like the Greek Gods lived on Olympus, at the top of the world, it's Mosquito country, and I'd MUCH rather deal with a pissed off god, thank you very much. Didn't notice 'em at first. I got out, wandered a bit with my camera, took a few shots, slapped my arm a couple times. Then I looked around.... I was absolutely surrounded. I looked towards the car and Lindsay was frantically waving her arms at me, shouting something, but all I could hear was buzzing. I started swatting madly at them, moving fast, my hand diving into the car and coming out with the can of insect repellent. I sprayed continuously, coating my body, but still they came, almost like the first wave didn't want to land on me, but the 13,000 behind it pushed 'em! I sprayed more wildly, getting a hefty spray directly in my right eye. I screamed out, bellowing like a wounded hippo and lumbered blindly towards the car, bug spray and tears streaming from my face.
Lindsay frantically gestured for me to get in on her side, the mosquitos were bunching around my door, that was where their flabby feast had come from. I dashed to her side and quickly climbed over to my side. Finally, aside from the slight rocking of the car as legions of bloodsuckers pummelled the car with their bodies, we were safe! I felt like Robert Pattycake, star of Twilight at an eyeshadow convention for twelve year olds!
This is the photo I took -
This is the photo after painstakingly recreating the hordes of mosquitos -
After a while, we developed a method. It was too gorgeous for me to not stop and get some photos, so we would stop, I'd quickly leap out, snap off a couple of photos and crawl in Linz's side and drive on, before they could mass enough of a force to tip the car over. Apart from my right eye swelling and throwing off my depth perception it worked well.
On the way down the hill, we stopped and borrowed some water form a lady at a lookout so that I could rinse my eye out. Curvy roads, bug spray and eyeballs do not mix well. There were also ridiculously friendly chipmunks at the lookout and we hand fed them a few pumpkin seeds. Adorable, they were. (I think they may have been clever mosquitos in furry suits... clever buggers.)
At the bottom of the hill in Joliet, which seems to be pronounced Joe-Lee-Ett in the Montana vernacular, we found a little statuary place that was selling skunks, which have been on my father in law's wish list for years, but they weren't open yet, and Linz wouldn't let me steal them, so we ate at a little drive-in there till they were open. The drive in was great. Cheap burgers, copious fries and 24 flavors of soft serve ice cream, which were very subtle but quite good.
Turns out, the owner of the statue place was a talker... took us 20 minutes and 3 stories about disasters on the highway before we could leave with our skunks... Shoulda stole 'em. She was old, there's no way she could have chased us!
After that, we headed to Billings, MT where we planned to explore a bit, eat some dinner and head North for the evening.
Turns out, we hate Billings. Hard to navigate, their downtown has no character at all, every single restaurant we went into wanted between $13 and $24 per entree.... By the time we'd left the 6th restaurant, declining the $16 plate of General Tso's and 3 page sushi list, we'd had enough, walked 4 blocks back to the car, got some take-out at Hardees and left for Roundup, MT. Billings, MT, you get a D-.
In fact, here's another picture of the Top Of The World, mosquito headquarters, which I preferred infinitely!
We made it up into Roundup after dark, around 9pm and were told that there was a free campground over by the river. Free! Don't that beat all? So we snagged a couple of waters and slept peacefully in a quiet, dark, free campsite. What a day #2.