First of All –
- First time in the Pacific Time Zone since day one of the trip
- First elk seen on the trip
- Three Forks
- Sprague Lake
- Moses Lake
- Miles Driven today: 638
- Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,685
- Hours Underway: 11
- Fuel: 53 gallons
- Morning House Battery Reading: 12.85
- Wind Speed: light; Wind Direction:
- Daily High Temperature: 101
- Water Temperature: NA
We start early for the final drive of the trip, passing by Three Forks, named for the three rivers (Madison, Gallatin, and Jefferson) which join here to form the Missouri River. Lewis and Clark turned south here, in search of a route to the Pacific. We stick with I-90, which heads up to the continental divide near Butte. As we climb up to the summit, slightly over 6,300 feet in elevation, Sandy spots a lone elk peacefully grazing along an abandoned railroad bed below the highway. We’re in very familiar territory now, having traveled this route many times in years past. We stop for fuel in Drummond, and then roll on, past Missoula and along the Clark Fork River. We stop at the 50,000 Silver Dollar place for lunch. After lunch I turn up the frontage road, figuring it will lead me back to the freeway. However, the road turns away and I know I’ve erred when I see a dead end sign. I’m searching for a place to turn around, and end up having to back the boat into a residential driveway. As I’m carefully cutting and backing into the driveway, the homeowner walks out and helps me with arm signals. Once I’m positioned to complete the maneuver he walks up. I roll my window down and call out to him “Are you the guy who ordered the boat?” He gets a good laugh out of that, and tells me that lots of folks make the same mistake we just made.
We then climb to the summit of Lookout Pass, which serves as the border between Montana and Idaho. It also marks the start of the Pacific Time Zone. We’ve gained back the final hour which we surrendered on our trip east, exactly one year ago. As we descend into the Treasure Valley, with its famous mining towns of Wallace and Kellogg, it’s beginning to get warm, and after we crest 4th of July Pass and drop down into Coeur d’Alene it’s getting darn right hot. We cross the Washington State line shortly thereafter, and are once again in our home state. The thermometer on the truck’s rear view mirror reads 98 degrees, and the truck’s air conditioning is barely keeping up. Just outside Spokane, near a place called Sprague Lake, I see illuminated tailights and backed up traffic looming ahead. I slow and then stop, wondering what’s going on. I check Google Maps on the cell phone, and learn that we’re in a 25 minute delay. I wonder if there’s been an accident ahead, but it simply ends up being a construction zone. The backup is caused by heavy traffic funneling into a single lane. On this blistering hot day, and on the final afternoon of our trip, this delay is most unwelcome, but there’s nothing to be done but wait. We finally crawl our way to the end of the construction constriction, and can once again resume our speed. We near home around 5pm, but decide to stop at the Big Y for dinner, knowing that we have nothing in the house to fix dinner with. We know we’re finally home when friends walk in. We’ve been gone so long that they almost don’t recognize us. After dinner I fill the truck’s fuel tank one last time, and then we drive into town. I back the boat up our steep, narrow driveway and shut the truck down for the final time. In the past 4 days we’ve driven roughly 2,500 miles, but we’re finally home. In the past year our boat has traveled more than 5,000 miles on its trailer, and has cruised 6,421 water miles in completing our version of the Great Loop.