Week 3 commencing 16th June 2012 
When we left you last week we'd spent a day and a half in Virginia City Montana and were looking forward to another five days in the same location. We spent that time making long looping daily driving excursions out into the surrounding districts. Lynn and I love discovering new scenery and we love a one or two hour stop somewhere serene and beautiful for a picnic lunch, a bit of reading or perhaps 40 winks. This is our modus operandi wherever we travel throughout the world. I never tire of this kind of vacation but I must admit that the 40 winks part is increasingly becoming de rigueur nowadays.

Large sign on outskirts of Ennis, a proper town just south of us.

Our beautifully restored self contained old cottage in Virginia City

Multi State licence plate collection. Local stolen car chop shop?

Lynn getting tipsy in the local saloon. I'll just have a 7-Up myself.

There's virtually no night life in Virginia City, not that we are movers and shakers in that department. There are a couple of cafes that close around 8.30pm, a saloon and a live playhouse cum vaudeville theatre that has a few performances weekly during the summer season. We both love live theatre even when performed by amateurs and in this case most of the performers were imported from elsewhere for the summer season.... well the only season really.

The first hour comprised a one hour performance of "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" performed in a semi slapstick manner which was both frightening and hilarious. Then, after a short intermission the same company performed very funny song and dance routines for another hour. It was all great fun and good value for money at only $15 per ticket for Seniors. It might only be a one dollar saving but I just love to get something free for being old. Mind you a dollar aint much compensation for such a terminal condition.

Mr Music at the Vaudeville theatre we attended in Virginia City

The cast put on a really fantastic two hour performance for us

Seeing you asked , I'll say a few words about our rented Jeep Grand Cherokee. I started off hating it for two main reasons. Firstly the steering is incredibly direct and one has to be very vigilant, especially at speeds above 65 mph (105 kph) when the slightest movement of the steering wheel changes the car's course quite dramatically. Pretty much all the freeways and any good quality minor highways around here have a 70 or 75 mph limit and frankly this Jeep is a bitch to drive at 122 kph.

The other thing is that this 3.6 litre vehicle seems pretty gutless when we hit even a small hill. The auto transmission changes down at the drop of a hat and the vehicle is most reluctant to let go of those lower gears until we are completely on the flat again. I took it to a Jeep dealership in case there was some optional transmission option I was using incorrectly. The service guy said he couldn't find anything wrong, then said, "you could try turning the air conditioning unit off when you come to a hill.... that might help". Well "hello", so would throwing our luggage out the window!!

On the positive side we're finding the Jeep quite comfortable and the air conditioning unit is one of the best I've ever encountered. This is a big "plus" as the weather has been getting hotter and hotter. In spite of this Jeep's propensity for dropping into lower gears, the fuel consumption seems to be really light. I've been quite surprised by how far we can go for the dollars spent. Oh, and on a similar note, 88 octane fuel is costing us $3.65 on average per US gallon in Montana. According to my research a US gallon equals 3.7854 litres so our fuel seems to be costing us only (did I really say "only") 96 cents per litre. However, readers of a more mathematical bent may care to check my figures.

Next time we'll ask Hertz for a larger and better set of wheels

Something a little more like this with its extra luggage space!!

Pastor Joe's sermon during the "Cowboy Tent Church" service

Overflow cowboys have to sit outside the "church"

Cute girl and friend near the Cowboy Tent Church service

Choot-Choot train shuttle from Virginia City to Nevada City

We haven't attended a church service since leaving home so when I saw an advertisement for a "Cowboy Church Tent Service" over in Nevada City I just had to go. Lynn was more tentative but came along anyhow. The pews were in the form of bales of hay and our feet were on dry grass. It was a very easy going type of service with some chit chat between the Minister and parishioners as things went along. I thought Pastor Joe's message was both wise and relevant for the most part but Lynn thought it a bit fundamentalist and extreme. Next week I've promised to go back to a regular Catholic Mass again.

We attended a veteran aircraft show. This looks like a 60's model

I've met a few human maggots and night crawlers in my time!

They call it Ruby Lake because it's so incredibly blue..... huh?

This family camping group had Ruby Lake all to themselves

Pleasantly deserted road passes by Ruby Lake and mountains

We enjoyed a thermos of coffee and bickies beside this wetland

We've been driving heaps of miles and we've already put a massive dent in the 4,000 mile (6,437 km) allowance which came with our rental contract. There's no doubt now that we'll end up paying out an extra $500 to $750 for excess miles given the excess rate of 25 cents per extra mile. Still, the continental 48 States of the US is a very large area the same size as Australia and given the much better roads over here it's easy to spin the odometer if you want to see all the wonderfully diverse scenery on offer in the five States we are touring. 

Fly fishing Montana style. Nearly killed myself getting this shot

Oarsman tries to slow the descent. Other guy casts his flies

We were most interested to watch fly fisherman trying to catch trout in a river which must have been rushing downhill at about 10 or 12 kph. One guy mans the oars and tries to row against the current to slow the descent. His "lucky" partner gets to cast his trout flies towards interesting places along the bank, around snags or rock eddies. Given the rate of descent it seems to me that if your hook snags a log or tree a 100 metres of expensive line would get stripped of your reel in nothing flat !! It all looks strange to a coastal man like myself.

Beautiful horses beside the road near Dillon Montana

Dramatic rocks scene beside a minor highway in Montana

An idyllic lunch beside a stream near Bannack Ghost Town MT

Checking out a sign near Bannack Montana

We spent an hour or two around Bannack Montana having a picnic lunch and then exploring the preserved ghost town. At the height of the 1862 gold rush there were over 10,000 people here and Bannack even became the State Capitol. When the gold ran out all the miners rushed to a new strike at Virginia City (where we are currently staying) and it then became the new State Capitol. Hands up all you folks who know Montana's current capitol..... I'm waiiiiiiting. Ok, hands up if you said "Helena". Now hands up those who said "where the hell is Helena".

Actually Lynn and I were passing near Helena one day and lunch was overdue so we said, "let's visit Helena and get a bite there". Look don't get me wrong.... there's nothing really wrong with Helena but it was a very small State Capital and extremely quiet. We couldn't find an open cafe and we didn't want a fast food franchise meal. After 30 minutes of searching we eventually found and entered the ????? Italian Bistro. Well when we looked at the menu it didn't look all that much like Bistro food to me. When the server came by our table (they don't seem to say waiter or waitress in the US anymore) she cheerily said, "and what brings you folks to the ???? Italian Bistro today?" Look, I'm ashamed of myself but I guess my blood sugar was getting low by this time and I growled "BECAUSE YOU'RE OPEN !!" I later tried to make amends by leaving a larger than normal tip trying to prove I wasn't really a first rate bastard!

A tepee rose up above shrubs surrounding our picnic location

The ghost town of Bannack was once capitol of Montana

"I'll have the 50 cent haircut, bath and bottle of whisky special"

Ghost town Bannack was once home to 10,000 gold miners

Preserved main street of Bannack Montana

Hey sorry, but like the song says, "The pub's got no beer"

The weather during all of our time in the US has been extremely fine and increasingly hot. I'm starting to wonder how we'll find things down south in Colorado when we get there in mid July. Still we can't complain about sunny weather and it certainly makes for wonderfully wide Montana skies as you can see in my photos.

Bright azure blue sky over Montana's former capitol

We've reserved this cottage for next year's visit

It was amazing how quickly our week's sojourn at Virginia City passed by. After a hectic program of touring southern Montana we set out for Bigfork in Northern Montana Point "G" on our Tour Map. It's quite close to the Canadian State of Alberta and we're now seeing lots of Canadian licence plates as well as Canadian and Alberta State flags on flagpoles here in Northern Montana. The flag part seems surprising really.

Tiny gaol. Just what I needed when the kids were growing up!

On to Bigfork Montana. Our apartment beside Flathead Lake

Our vacation apartment in Bigfork is highly unusual but we'll tell you about that in the next instalment. Nevertheless it was ideally situated beside beautiful Flathead Lake (named after a tribe not a fish).

Oh damn, there was a hail storm during the middle of the night. I rushed outside and nearly got brained by the 20mm hailstones pounding on my head and the hands I then put over my head. I drove the car across the road and under somebody's carport and left it there before returning to bed. In the morning I discovered quite a few dings on the roof and on the hood. I rather fear that the $1,000 "front end deductible" clause on the car rental insurance contact might get invoked.

Some months ago I booked us in to see a live performance of the musical show "Damned Yankees" which was being performed in the Bigfork Summer Playhouse. It was a very professional performance by young actors having a summer break from various drama colleges around the US. As a matter of fact we're also booked in to see another play in this theatre on Lynn's birthday but more about that in a few days time.

Program seller in foyer of theatre where we saw "Damn Yankees"

We thoroughly enjoyed the play "Damn Yankees" in Bigfork MT

I'm afraid I am now absolutely exhausted so I'll end this tale here. However because I am writing these words two weeks after the described events, I can let you into a little secret. The next webpage I produce will include our visit to the greatest scenic experience of our entire lifetimes. I'll give you a "heads up" when that particular webpage is finished.