Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Big Sky and Big Box Stores

Day 10 Sept. 5, 2011

Today was a very strange day for our usual vacation. We woke up in a gorgeous campsite on the side of a mountain in Yellowstone National Park, overlooking the road entering the park and the mountains beyond. Our campsite was on the outermost “ring” of the campground, which meant there was nothing between us and our view. We ate breakfast at our picnic table, looking out at the gorgeous vista.

At last at around 10am, we finally realized we’d better hit the road. We reluctantly tidied up and left Yellowstone. Just as we passed the ranger booth at exit, we saw this last group of pronghorns, gathered to wish us a farewell.

The road from Gardiner MT up to I-90 at the town of Livingston was beautiful--a lot of fishing goes on up there, because the river runs along State Highway 89 through the valley. We did stop for gas at a General Store in a small town, and it was a true general store--they had everything from fishing tackle to groceries to the latest People Magazine. The cover struck me as completely incongruous in that setting.

Once we got to the interstate, however, the most important “errand” of our day began. We headed for Bozeman, 30-some miles west, and the Walmart Supercenter there. I didn’t mention, but Joe lost his eyeglasses back up on top of the world in the rocky glacier field on the Beartooth Highway. He discovered this when we were stopped for lunch in Cooke City, and although I suggested tongue-in-cheek that we go back and look for them, we both decided against that. Luckily he has prescription sunglasses, which he has been wearing all day anyway. He takes his glasses off entirely to read something like a book, but he can’t drive at night, or see too well inside buildings, without the other glasses. We couldn’t do a thing about it for the time we were in Yellowstone, so we just let it go until we left the park.

We had several ideas as to how to deal with the glasses. Idea One did not pan out, because when Joe called the Pearl Vision Center at home to ask them for his prescription, they refused to give it to him--they said it had been more than a year since he’d had an exam and they couldn’t tell him the Rx. This meant we couldn’t simply take the Rx to someplace for new glasses, he needed an exam first. Plan Two: Go to the Vision Center in Walmart and get an exam. Then if they couldn’t make the glasses right then, have the glasses made at another center in another Walmart farther down the road, and we’d stop and pick them up when we got there. Plan Two didn’t work, because there was no one at the Walmart Vision Center who could do the exam. But the girl who worked there gave us Plan Three: try the local Lenscrafters.

By this time it was around 12:30, and the earliest appointment they could give Joe was 3:30. He told them he wasn’t sure we’d still be in Bozeman by that time. But as it turned out, we were. Our day was a veritable tour of Bozeman’s big box stores. We had a big shopping list of items. Walmart came first--groceries, and a few other odds and ends. It took us about an hour in the store, and it was lunch time when we finished up. Mo was parked out in the lot between two other “vintage” RVs. This was the funniest part of the day--everywhere in Bozeman that we went, we saw what we consider “old” RVs, i.e. as old or older than Mo. We were parked next to a Winnebago almost our exact color and size, and nearby was a small trailer which was even older. All day as we drove around, we saw 1970s-1980s vintage RVs of every kind.

Anyway, after lunch, we went to Home Depot. We needed a new latch for one of our cabinets, something to fix the seal on our refrigerator, and a couple of other things, including propane, which we forgot to buy at Walmart. While Joe shopped in Home Depot, I swept out Mo and then took Roxy for a walk. That led to a surprise: the shopping center (with Home Depot on one side, and an REI and some other stores on the other) was surrounded by a sidewalk with flowers, shrubs, grass, and even some benches to sit on! Understand this looked like a 6-lane “highway” when we drove down the road, but with these sidewalks. So Roxy had a VERY nice walk, rather than the expected parking-lot walk.

By the time Joe came out, it was 3:00, exactly time to start looking for Lenscrafters. This led us to the Gallatin Valley Mall, probably the last place Joe would ever choose to spend even 2 minutes during a vacation. But no choice--we wanted him to be able to see again! He had his eyes examined, and then they made the glasses then and there (the lenses were even on sale, half-price with a purchase of frames, which of course he also needed .) While Joe got his eyes checked, I did a little bit of gift shopping. Then we both had a drink while we waited for the new glasses to be finished. At last, around 5pm, Joe could see, and we left the mall.

However this was not the end of it. We’d remembered our plan from a few nights ago to get rid of our old grill--it is broken. I’m not sure why we remembered, we were discussing our plan to buy one at Walmart, which of course we’d forgotten while there. But as we were driving past the Home Depot again, Joe looked over and saw something called Sporting Warehouse, and decided we should look there for an inexpensive grill. This store was literally right next to the REI. Apparently everyone in Bozeman (and the rest of Montana) is so into outdoor sports, hunting, fishing, hiking, and everything else imaginable, that two enormous big-box type sporting good stores can literally be built side by side and both stay in business! As you can see from this sign, to paraphrase Dorothy, we are not in New Jersey anymore. The sign was posted inside the door of the Sporting Warehouse.

Alas, however, neither of these stores had an inexpensive grill--I didn’t want to pay almost $100, especially since we had spent a fortune already today. We certainly did our part for the Bozeman economy, which may be a good thing. We passed at least 3 pawn shops between the Home Depot and the mall!

At that point we jumped back on I-90, and I am actually typing this while we drive along. It is the most ironic thing that our day in Bozeman turned out to be shopping instead of some kind of outside sporty thing (not that we are such sporty people, of course--my original plan was to visit the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, on the Montana State University campus. But Joe would not have been able to see inside the building anyway until we got the glasses, and by then the day was over!) The interstate went through absolutely beautiful wheat fields and then rangeland, always with mountains in the background.

Bozeman, btw, is surrounded by mountains and that was amazing, driving down a road filled with stores like Home Depot and Walmart, but looking right at these huge mountains which seemed as if they were right at the end of the road (and in some cases, they are!)

So now we are about 30 minutes away from our campground in Missoula, MT. The only thing we forgot to do when we left Bozeman was stop at the Flying J and dump our waste tanks. This means we needed a place to dump them tonight/tomorrow, and our only good bet is a private campground. So too bad, because I’d hoped to stay at a Montana State Park tonight. OTOH, I’ll be able to upload this blog, and the one from yesterday.

Our plan tomorrow has us driving through Idaho on the Lolo Pass road, US 12, which is on a lot of “Most Beautiful Roads” list. We will most likely be in a National Forest Service campground someplace in eastern Oregon for the night, not too far from Hell’s Canyon National Recreation Area, which seems by the map to be pretty much inaccessible! So we are looking forward to a real adventure, and also to adding at least two more states to our map.


Tom M said...

Views like the one from your campsite are priceless.
Did the Bison in your blog have a handicapped placard?

Tom M said...

It looks like you are going to hit Oregon. Need to check out Crator Lake.

On our last trip there were piles of snow in the parking lot.

Ellory said...

Okay.. I want to be out with you and not is rainy NJ. Oh.. Natan said all was okay when we stopped by on Sunday.