The High Country, Part 10

We had a mission in Missoula: find a t-shirt that Mom had once seen, one that reads "MISSOULA, MONTANA: A place.. sort of..." Why this was her quest I don't know, but it was important enough that she tracked down the person who'd had it in order to find out its origins. The source, as it turns out, was the kind of establishment you'll probably never find in anything except a college town: Rockin Rudy's, which sold posters, postcards, gifts, new CDs, jewelry, novelties, hats, used CDs and yes, t-shirts. I snagged a couple of gifts for the boys, including one of the above shirts, another shirt featuring Big Sky Brewery's Moose Drool Brown Ale, and two bargain-bin CDs: the debut album by OK Go and a copy of something I knew I could listen to in the car without scaring my folks: Linda Ronstadt's Greatest Hits. And loaded down with all this loot, I decided it was time to pose with the giant rooster out front:

DSC01134.JPG(Photo credit: Mom)

We made our way back through the lively streets of downtown Missoula, noting many of the features that show the U. of Montana's influence, but I was brought up short by a sign for a different educational institution, one which probably has a logical explanation, but I DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE LOGICAL EXPLANATION. All I want is to enjoy the beautiful improbability of its name:

DSC01135.JPG
And then it was back to the interstates. Before long we were leaving I-90 and heading south on I-15, the road on which we'd begun our trip north over a week before. And yep, we were still surrounded by snowy peaks, all the way into Idaho:

DSC01139.JPGBut even as we had such peaks on the horizon, we were approaching something much more like the sea-level places we knew well: we were heading into Camas National Wildlife Refuge. The weather was getting cloudy, and occasional brief spatters hit the windshield, but there was still enough light to make the stop worthwhile, or so I kept insisting. Dad agreeably turned off at the exit to Camas, and before we'd even reached the top of the ramp, I had a life bird: a Swainson's Hawk, its telltale white underside and dark flight feathers clear as it turned in the breeze to pursue a blackbird. Having kept my lifer streak alive for another day, I felt good and relaxed even before we entered the familiar confines of the refuge, which we all recognized immediately as familiar territory: a marsh.

Yes, there were mountains around us, but right in front of us was a network of pools and creeks and ponds and impoundments, each surrounded by tall grasses and thick scrub. The wildlife drive took us past waterfowl of every kind: Gadwalls, Ruddy Ducks, American Coots, Cinnamon Teals, you name it. A few Northern Harriers sailed over the grasses, occasionally harassed by a Black-billed Magpie, and I was pleased to get Mom her first look at a Yellow-headed Blackbird, even though he turned his back on us:

DSC01143.JPG
But I was most delighted to see at last a pair of Eared Grebes, which I had finally learned could be clearly distinguished from Horned Grebes by their all-black necks, and get my first glimpse of a White-faced Ibis standing on a mat of grass beside the road. That made three life birds for the stop, plus a number of other beauties, and even a bonus on the way to our Idaho Falls hotel: a group of Franklin's Gulls diving in and out of a roadside reservoir following a cloudburst.

By dinnertime, however, I realized that I was at the end of a very particular rope. I am an unrepentant fan of Asian cuisines--Chinese, Thai, Indian, Japanese, Korean, anything. This particular type of food, however, is something for which my father has no particular love, which means that we rarely eat Asian while he's along with us. After nine days of heavy-duty steakhouse dining, with the occasional and omelet-based meal for variety's sake, I was desperate to find something from the Eastern Hemisphere, and when the clerk at the hotel recommended a place we could get American AND Japanese food, I jumped at it. Dad could (and did) order his usual, and I put in an order for an appetizer of my favorite sushi--unagi rolls--and udon noodle soup for my entree. My friend Mike's advice--"Don't order fish in the desert!"--did not matter to me now.

Much to my surprise, however, the eel in my rolls was not the problem--it was the rice. I've never before had sushi where the rice betrayed such a lack of cooking skill. It was pasty and badly overcooked, without the slightest hint of the rice vinegar that usually gives a refreshing tartness at the end. Even a decent batch of udon couldn't lift my spirits after that, and I resolved to get some decent sushi at the earliest opportunity... which I didn't expect to come at our next stop: Salt Lake City.

NEXT: The Lake Isle of Innisalt
(or Antelope, Cantelope, 'Lope with You)

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on July 3, 2013 7:22 PM.

The High Country, Part 9 was the previous entry in this blog.

The High Country, Part 11 is the next entry in this blog.

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