We go to bed early when we’re camping, so we’re usually up early and this morning is no different. We pack up pretty quickly and with a whispered apology to campers around us, start our car and head off to Billings.
It’s about a 300-mile drive but as we discover when we soon cross the Montana State line, the speed limit has increased from 75 to 80. The land is just gentle rolling hills with very little traffic so we eat up the miles pretty quickly. I’m driving – and Walt’s jealous – and it’s very hard to resist the temptation to go way above the speed limit but I set the cruise control, determined to behave. It’s a gorgeous day, warming up quickly from the mid-40s to low 90s and the convertible top is down.
Walt is in navigator mode and finds us a decent-sized town to have breakfast (although I’ve started the day with a pre-breakfast piece of fudge). Later he sees something on the map marked “Pompey’s Pillar,” national historic monument. We have no idea what it is, but we’ve got time and nothing special we want to see in Billings, so why not?
The pillar turns out to be named after a child member of the Lewis and Clark expedition. It’s a huge chunk of rock right next to the Yellowstone River where the Clark part of the group camped on its way back east. Clark actually signed the pillar (as did many, many other people after him) and we head up the 300+ steps to see his name under glass as well as the view from the top. Again, Walt’s senior pass gets us in for free. We really should tally up just how much money we’ve saved on this trip thanks to that pass.
A bit further on and we stop at a North Dakota state park to see petroglyphs that were carved into caves. We have to pay the state’s $6 fee but it’s a nice stroll among the rock outcrops. The petroglyphs are hard to see but neither of us has ever seen any, so it’s interesting. The only down side is the numerous warning signs that prairie rattlesnakes are frequently seen on the trails around the caves. I’ve seen rattlesnakes while hiking on Tongue Mountain in New York State and they’re beautiful but I don’t really need to see one today.
We make it through unscathed and head on to Billings.