That’s what the last two days have been all about. As we plotted our drive from Plains, MT to Marsing, ID we knew we had a couple of choices. Either stay on interstate-type roads, but add at least 100 miles to the trip, or go the most direct route that kept us on mostly two lane roads.
We opted for the shorter and scenic route, knowing it would be curvy and involved a mountain pass or two, but also knowing that we weren’t in a great rush and could take our time. (Don’t worry – we’re very courteous ‘I’m not in a hurry’ folks, and pull over every chance we get if there are vehicles behind us.) By the end of the two days, Gary decided it was probably the most challenging two days of RV driving that he’d done in the 12 years we’ve been on the road.
After distributing hugs to our friends at Bighorn, we got an nice early start on Friday.
(Aren’t those fun clouds just hanging there?)
We picked up Rte 12 just south of Missoula, and began our first windy UP to Lolo Pass.
Route 12, known also as the Lewis and Clark Highway, closely follows the trail taken by those early American explorers. Today it is a scenic and beautiful drive over the Lolo Pass, with many points of interest, hiking and camping opportunities along the way. (If you’d like more info about Route 12, HERE’s a nice little pamphlet about it. I had to chuckle when I saw it was subtitled – A Long and Winding Road.)
So it was 34 miles UP to the pass – a nice, steady and gradual climb with its fair share of twists and turns.
We checked out the Visitor Center at the pass, stretched our legs, and began the drive DOWN. Hello Idaho – thanks for the warning!
You don’t see THAT sign just anywhere!
Or one like this, either!
(Thanks 26 miles, not 2.6. Sorry for the blur!)
But when we stopped for lunch, and had this for a view –
well, it seemed those curves were well worth it!
It was a beautiful drive, although an exhausted driver was happy when we finally made it to Kooskia, and a bit more of the regular!
We picked up our connecting road to get us over 95, and maybe should have paid a bit more attention to the local name of the road. Around there it’s not called Rte 13, it’s called the Harpster Grade Rd. Yep, 6 miles of winding road, leading us UP.
And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that if there’s a long UP, somewhere in the near future there will be a long DOWN. In this case, we had a brief reprieve as we went through some lovely farmland and drove on some (mostly) straight roads.
It’s a good thing we enjoyed those nice flat miles, because unbeknownst to us (though not to a local traveler, I’m sure) there was a BIG down just outside of town!
You know it’s going to be a challenging drive when
1. The view is incredible.
2. The signs at the top give you mile markers for the THREE runaway truck ramps.
3. The term “8% Grade” is mentioned more than once.
(Oh, Yea – the Grade STEEPENS!!! Catch the runaway truck ramp?)
I was a very quiet rider, as Gary did a great job getting down that hill. And when we rounded the final bend and could definitely smell our brakes (Gary even felt they were feeling soft. Uh-oh), we were oh-so-delighted to see a nice big parking lot just waiting for us pull in. And cool down our brakes. And begin to breathe. In fact, it was so nice that after we unhooked the truck to see if there was dinner to be had in the little town of White Bird (pop. 106 according to the sign, but actually only 93 according to the restaurant owner), we decided to just tuck in there for the night. And man, that felt really, really good!
The next morning, with nice cool brakes, we set off to follow the beautiful Salmon River for a ways. It was a beautiful way to start the day.
After we fueled up with a hearty breakfast in Riggins, where the Salmon turned off, we continued on following other lovely rivers and streams that kept the roads winding, and the scenery beautiful!
There were still a couple more UPs and DOWNs in the drive, but nothing compared to the day before.
Soon we were in the final stretch –
and enjoying the beautiful agriculatural scenery of this area.
So, here we are at the Snake River RV Resort
with a great view out the front,
sunsets to warm my heart,
and a campfire that will call my name.
We are both looking forward to a week of no alarms and no (major) agendas. Sound like a good plan to me!
Thanks for stopping by,
PS – More Curvy Road Pictures can be viewed HERE!