TX: Across Nothing – 01/24/2017 – 01/27/2017

Parking: I-10 Rest stop near Roosevelt
Rating: 8

Parking: I-10 Rest stop near Fort Stockton
Rating: 8

Parking: Red Roof Inn in El Paso
Rating: 8

AFN, TX
Nothing

I saw a print version of this “map” of Texas a few months ago, and I can now 100% confirm the AFN region (between Fredericksburg and El Paso). There is an interstate, sometimes another road paralleling the interstate, a fence, and rare glimpses of livestock (mostly goats).

Between Fredericksburg and Austin, it was slightly more interesting. There is an average of one winery per mile, but there are surprisingly few actual vineyards, so I don’t know how that works.

After driving through about 600 total miles of this vast nothingness, reaching the Socorro/El Paso area is like suddenly finding Los Angeles in the middle of the desert. There is almost a hard line between the big empty and MILES of continuous strip malls. It’s bizarre.

AFN, TX
Cactus
AFN, TX
Rest Area

MT: Across I-90 – 06/20/16 – 06/22/16

MT

WoW: Plaguelands (de-plagued)

Parking: Econolodge – Missoula, MT
Rating: 7

Parking: Rest Area – Bozeman, MT
Rating: 10

After Flathead Lake, we decided to head to Wyoming by crossing I-90. We stayed a night in a hotel in Zoo Town to take some good showers and do laundry, and then we overnighted at a Rest Area in Bozeman (not the one pictured). These were mostly just driving days.

MT

MT

MT

Rave:
Montana is fantastic. The no sales tax on anything makes you feel like you are getting a discount on everything you buy. They do have an income tax, but either this state is in a big financial hole, or they really know how to squeeze their dollars. For a state that is covered with snow for a significant part of the year, the roads are in excellent shape (they were re-paving I-90 even though its current condition was far better than any interstate in WA). The rest areas are beautiful – the stalls at many of them are individual rooms with granite wall tile and are as clean as possible. The city parks are well-kept and in fantastic locations. The streets are clean, and (in the cities we drove through) businesses were thriving and the administrative buildings were attractive.

I’m sure Montanans complain about things like I complain about Washington, but from this tourist’s perspective, it looked pretty sweet.

If you are looking for a new place to live, you might want to do some research on Kalispell. The city pretty much has everything you need (or if it doesn’t, it probably is under construction). It’s near Flathead Lake (the largest freshwater natural lake in the West) and snow skiing. There are mountains, hills, and plains nearby. Housing is cheap. They have some excellent health care facilities.

WA: Sprague – 05/26/2016 – 05/30/2016

Sprague, WA

Parking: Rest Area
Rating: 8

Parking: Fishtrap
Rating: 10
WoW: Arathi Highlands

After getting confirmation that the buyers had signed their paperwork, and the sale was being registered, we were officially house-free and were ready to travel. We headed for Moses Lake, but it was absolutely ridiculous for the holiday weekend – tons of people and dust flying everywhere, so we headed further east.

We arrived at Fishtrap a little too late to try to figure out where to park (especially for our first official night), so we decided to stay the night at the Rest Area a few miles back west. We drove through the town of Sprague, and it was weird and creepy. It was absolutely empty looking. It seemed to be the kind of town that Stephen King would write a tale of stranded tourists being caught by long dead ghosts to become permanent residents.

The Rest Area was clean and restful. We stayed about five minutes less than the eight-hour maximum and headed back to Fishtrap. The area was a bunch of old farms that the BLM has taken over. We were expecting another crush of people, but it was nearly empty. We pulled over into a nice parking spot and unloaded the motorcycles. Eventually, a couple tent-camped near us for one night, and a mile or so away, a group of horse-riding and ATV-riding truck campers set up. There were a few day folk that visited during the holidays to bike or hike, but other than the truck campers, we only saw one other RV. It was unbelievable to have the place pretty much to ourselves on what should be a very busy weekend – especially since it’s a free location.

The area is beautiful with rolling hills of grasses with a few pine groves in the distance. The motorcycle riding was excellent, and we met a lovely couple that gave us some information on the area and suggested that we visit Big Horn in WY when we get out that way.

We rode out back to Sprague to get some groceries at the gas station, and the town was completely different than at night – it looked like a perfectly normal (but little) place. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones to notice the difference because we overheard another party making similar comments. It’s bizarre that this part of WA supplies so much food to the rest of the state/country/world, but they themselves have limited access to buy their own groceries. For example, when we got a loaf of bread, the cashier said, “it’s still frozen, so you know it’s fresh!”

Sprague, WA

Sprague, WA

Sprague, WA

Sprague, WA

Sprague, WA

Sprague, WA

Sprague, WA

Sprague, WA

Sprague, WA

Sprague, WA

Rant:
This is a well-maintained area, but when we arrived, someone had recently left their garbage bag behind, animals had shredded it, and the winds had scattered the trash all over. The area does not have dumpsters, so visitors are expected to “pack it out,” but apparently that is just too much trouble for some folk. The trash was clearly only from only one day’s visit (one day’s food, one empty pack of cigarettes and bottle of booze, and some used toilet paper), so there’s no doubt these litterbugs would have had plenty of room in their vehicle to take their trash home. So, the first thing I had to do when we arrived was to get out a bag and gloves, and pick it all up – some of the toilet paper all stuck in the bushes. Then we had to keep some random person’s poop-covered trash for three days. Nice.