Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Betty in the Wild, Wild West

South Dakota cornfield, with Beatrice and Oliver.
The journey continues -- when last we saw our heroine, she was ball-changing (that's a dance step, I clarify for what Betty Ross calls the "dirty Betties" amongst you) along a bridge spanning the Mighty Missouri River to connect one small town in Iowa to another small town in Nebraska.  Next up:  South Dakota, which I count as part of the West as I ran over a tumbleweed in that great state.  South Dakota is cornfields and prairies and wind that apparently used to drive settlers insane in the 19th century.  And if I remember correctly, it's where Laura Ingalls Wilder spent the bleakest years of her childhood.  It is also home to Mt. Rushmore, but Betty Debbie did BitW there already, so I stuck with the flatlands for my photo.

The Iowa-Nebraska line
As a reminder, this is what the Mighty Mo looks like as it carves through the Middle-west.  Sarah Ann is my go-to heroine for bridges, as she danced on the one in Avignon.  For reasons unexplored by any competent psychiatrist and completely hidden from my conscious brain, I am a huge fan of the Missouri River.  So, when I saw a sign by the interstate highway, somewhere in Montana, advising me of the proximity of the Missouri Headwaters State Park, you betcha I took that exit.

The Missouri River forms near Three Forks, Montana, where the Madison, Jefferson and Gallatin Rivers meet to create their massive progeny.  Wikipedia has an interesting entry about the headwaters, describing Lewis and Clark's naming logic (this part is accurate, or at least consistent with signs at the park) and claiming controversy over whether the Jefferson ought really to be called the Missouri, thus ensuring the Mighty Mo's claim to longest-river-in-North-America-hood; under the current nomenclature, the Mo and the Miss contest that title.

Headwaters!  Source of riverine wonderfulness!
Beatrice and Oliver (on sign) prefer small, quiet hotels.  The Gallatin for them!
The park also contains the few remnants of the once-thriving town of Gallatin City II.  (They moved Gallatin City I a few miles after it became obvious that steamboat anchorage was better downriver a bit.)  People apparently once complained about the noise coming from the still standing, but barely, Gallatin Hotel.  It seems an appropriate choice for Hilltop Tryst, in which our hero and heroine are put off by the palatial-ness of the Excelsior Hotel Ernst in Cologne.

Of course, the UK flag is also red, white and blue.  Humph.
Okay, true confessions:  as I explore this magnificent country (I have not been listening to the news much at all, so the country seems more magnificent to me than it might to those of you more tuned in to current events at this point.  Or is that a shoal?), I find myself occasionally reflecting on The Great Betty's seeming aversion to, well, America and Americans.  Many English of her generation shared the prejudice, and hers seems to moderate with time, but still.  Part of me thinks, "Stuff it, Betty!" every time I hold up a book in front of a glorious landscape or magnificent monument or darling little house.  So when I saw the red, white and blue cars lined up in the park parking lot, I couldn't resist a little patriotic snapshot.

My hotel - not Romantik, just groovy.
I left Montana and almost immediately turned into Spokane, Washington to spend a night.  Spokane is a revelation, as Betty Beth, who lived there for several years (lucky duck) will tell you.  I didn't know anything about it and spent so long wandering 'round it that I got myself stuck in Seattle traffic at evening rush hour and held up dinner at the van der Stevejinks's.  (Did Dr. v.d.S. get anything to eat that night?!?)

So I know some people complain about the hip-ness factor in the PacNW, Austin and maybe some other places.  I thought of my Spokane hotel as more groovy than hip, but then I'm neither so I may have that wrong.  It has a theme, like all 'boutique' hotels, and that theme is the arts, such as romance-novel-writing (although they pay a lot more attention to music and painting).

It has amusing touches like a polyurethane and chrome pod chair, cushioned in silver lame (like a Veronica pantsuit!) and suspended from a chain outside the lobby, so the chair swings and swivels (though not too much, as it's anchored by another chain to the ground).  Very cool.  Plus they gave me a gift certificate for a free second drink at their artisanal cocktail bar.  I offered my second drink to the desk clerk, as I'm not a big fan of two cocktails on a Tuesday evening even if I'm not driving, but the desk clerk doesn't drink much alcohol at all.  No petrol-flavored drinks at the Sapphire Lounge, by the way.

On Wednesday morning I walked around this small city, and became besotted with it.  No falling in love -- I'm with Detroit for now -- but definite infatuation.

Who rode a funicular on Madeira?

C'mon, Betty.  It's a great country.

The Palm Court Hotel seems a place Cordelia & Charles might stay.

Spokane River rapids -- they helped build a nation.

After I finally tore myself away, I started west toward Seattle.  An hour or two into the drive, I was thinking that Washington state has the most boring landscape I'd encountered in 3,000 miles.  Literally around the next bend -- well, shut my mouth right up.  The Columbia River was suddenly, dramatically before me, its steep cliffs plunging into the deep ravine, and a beautiful 'scenic overlook' all laid out and ready for picnicking and picture taking.  Washington state is sublime.

Not boring!  Got it!  Thanks for clarifying!