Lewis & Clark Trail

Day 29: September 18th, 1999 Glasgow — Lewistown

Today I start things in a different order: I drive to the gas station first, because I was not able to find a nice restaurant on the main street. I ask for a good breakfast place and the guy recommends Johnny’s Café. They have a reasonable priced breakfast. Ok, I think it cannot be worse than yesterday evening…

Hopefully I don’t have to walk a long distance. It is really cold this morning, only around 35 degrees! I find the Café without big searching around and the parking lot is only a few steps away. It doesn’t look much from the outside. But it’s nice from the inside. It looks like a typical American Small City Restaurant. The guests look like farmers from the region. The breakfast is good and I leave the restaurant almost an hour before my planned start. In the meantime it has started to drizzle. I hope the weather forecast is right and the bad weather will be to the east of my route. Otherwise I will be in trouble on my backroads.

Willow Creek Road, MT Willow Creek Road, MT
Willow Creek Road, MT
Willow Creek Road, MT Willow Creek Road, MT
Willow Creek Road, MT

I drive back on Highway 24 until I reach the Willow Creek Road to the southwest. I take my chances and turn onto the backroad — the black clouds in the rear mirror. But I am optimistic and trust the weather forecast. But after driving more than 30 miles into the backcountry I encounter much too late that the bad weather will hit me! I have to turn onto the Ridge Road to the north. It doesn’t take long and I fully hit the heavy rain. The road turns slippery instantly and at some spots I really start to dig in the mud with the car. I realize this will not be a fun ride now!

I decide to stay on my route north. This should be the shortest path to reach pavement again. The weather is getting worse and worse. The road is just a mud road and I fight the mud as good as possible with this passenger car. Especially the inclines are difficult. I need a lot of momentum. But if I am too heavy on the pedal the car starts to slide from the road. Sometimes I catch the ruts and have a difficult time with a lot of sliding to get out of these tracks. I start to realize how true these “Impassable When Wet” signs are!

But I have no options, I have to try to get out of here somehow. After an hour I reach a small concrete bridge where I have the chance to stop. I take a look at my GPS coordinates and realize that I took the wrong crossing. I am currently on a loop back to Willow Creek Road. But I have almost reached this road. Therefore I don’t want to turn around and take my chances again on all the hills. Willow Creek Road was pretty even and should be ok to drive. So I hit the muddy road again to reach my Highway 24. What I didn’t knew is that the worst is yet to come: The Willow Creek Road, which was very nice to drive when it was dry, turned out to be the worst mud road ever. The only chance to escape is to put the transmission in second gear and keep the pedal to the metal. I see my car already flying off the road multiple times. I have a hard time to catch the sliding car and get back on the road again. And I am not able to ease the pedal. As soon as I would be too slow I will get stuck. In some spots the mud is so deep that I hear the mud scratching along the underbody. This means that I am down to the axle in mud. If I got stuck here it will take a long time to get out again. After another half an hour, which felt more like half a day, I eventually reach Highway 24. My car is completely muddy with no chance to see out of my windows. Just the windshield is some kind of clean. But during my drive there was sometimes so much mud on the windshield that it tooks several wipes until I was able to see something again. During that time I had to drive completely blind. Now, to have a chance to safely enter the highway I have to turn the side window down to see the traffic. Another look at the gas gauge tells me that I need a gas station before I take my alternative route. The odometer tells me that I needed for 140 miles as much gas as usually for 240 miles. I also encounter that the engine almost has no power anymore. I hope I haven’t blown up the engine by giving full throttle all the time. Also the car starts to rumble when hitting 40mph and when reaching 55 it is almost impossible to drive. Let’s see what the guys in Seattle will say when I return the damaged car…

Highway 191, MT Highway 191, MT
Highway 191, MT

First I drive back to a gas station in Glasgow. Then I hit Highway 2 West. I follow this highway up to Malta where I enter Highway 191 to the southwest. I am lucky that this road is paved. This gives me the chance to safely cross the Missouri. If the weather would have been nice my originally planned route would have been probably the most scenery part of my journey. But maybe there is a chance to repeat this somewhere in the future. Currently I am more worried about the car. This rapid loss in power and the rumbling is really worrying me. But for now I have to reach my destination of today: Lewistown. Because of my detour on the backroad I have lost a lot of time. But on these main roads I gain a lot again, even when driving slower than usual. Around half past five I arrive with heavy rain in Lewistown. The temperature is still not nice: Just 60 degrees compared to the nice 90 degrees of yesterday!

Muddy Car, MT Muddy Car, MT
Muddy Car, MT

My destination is the Super 8 Motel in Lewstown. But when I arrive they have no room left. So I take Highway 87 to Downtown. I see a nice Motel on the left: Mountain View Motel. They still have rooms for half the price — at least I have luck here. When unloading the car the owner looks at my car and shakes her head: ‘What happened to you?’ — ‘Well, the bad weather caught me on the backroad’ is my answer. I have to admit the car looks like returning from a rally. I almost felt like a rally driver on the road, too. The mud went over the whole car and covered all my windows so I had to drive completely blind for several seconds until the whiper was able to get rid of the mud. Also I took the curves more sliding sideways than driving straight through. I am really glad that I got the car out without any major damage. At least I have now way more respect of these backroads than before. After I unloaded everything I ask the owner where I can go for dinner around here. He says across the Super 8 is a Sportsman Club. They have good food and reasonable prices. I thank him and hit the road again. And really: I get one of the best steaks of my whole journey at the Club — for less than ten dollars. I already know where I will have breakfast tomorrow. What I don’t know is what to do with the car…

  • Sights
  • General
  • Breakfast: Johnny’s Café, Glasgow
  • Dinner: Sportsman Club, Lewistown
  • Motel: Mountain View Motel, Lewistown
  • Distance: 352 miles