So, a dear friend of mine told me that there was this place in Billings, Montana, that serves the best pancakes in the west and that I had to find it. A little bit of sleuthing on Yelp quickly pointed towards Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery downtown. I managed to find it easily and even got a parking space early this morning. A pleasant half-block walk got me there, and I was seated after just a very brief wait.
I did order just one of the Monstercakes, and it lived up to its name. Wonderful buttermilk pancake, with a scrambled egg and some sausage was enough to more than fill me up. The service was good and the staff friendly.
Here are a couple more pictures outside Stella’s.
Two interesting license plates seen today in transit:
PKGHWLER (on a FeEx truck on downtown Billings)
MTNATHRVN (on a pretty expensive car downtown. Somebody is doing well in this economy!)
The drive today from Billings to Spokane was long, but fun. It’s nice to have a new car that is ready to run and take it out on the roads where you can go eighty mph, do multiple S-curves and steep grades in sport mode and have a ball passing ninety per cent of the other cars and trucks on the road. Big sky country lived up to its name long before I hit the mountains, and it was indeed a gorgeous day.
Other observations and general business of travel in the west:
Sprint has NO coverage after you get past eastern North Dakota. NONE. I thought something had killed my phone dead, but it was just turned into a bigger, more expensive iPod Touch until I got to the outskirts of Spokane, when it woke itself up. Good thing I had a Verizon iPad, so I knew that I needed to stay on the interstate and go west. Right.
I did have some deeper philosophical thoughts while driving today. One is observational and one is metaphorical.
It was soothing and comforting to me that for many miles along the interstate, one could see a river or two running parallel to the road and the railroad for that matter. One especially long one was Clark Ford, a medium sized stream that had just enough force behind its flow that you could see little ripples in the water as it ran past rocks and tree roots. I thought about how constant these larger bodies of water are, from Clark Ford right up to the Mississippi River, which I crossed earlier in the trip, and the Missouri, whose headwaters I passed today. They flow, day in and day out, pretty constant, level and non-changing unless weather conditions take a drastic turn. They were lovely to look at .
The other thought was about trains. In the east, back home, we tend to look at freight trains as impediments to getting to work. We see them going by at the crossings very, very slowly, just a few cars at a time, and we wonder how many cars there are and how long it will take then to run their course and be gone. We don’t know how many engines are laboring to pull the cars. We never know if we are sitting and waiting on a twenty car or a hundred car train.
Out here, the whole train is often visible, coming at you from way down the track, but visible for virtually its entire length. You can easily see how many engines there are, how fast they are pulling the cars, how many single or stacked cars there are, and where the end of the train is.
This reminded me of how we process problems. If we can’t easily define the problem we’re dealing with (start, length, severity, end) then it’s very hard to tackle it effectively. If we can better see it and the extent of it up front, including how much energy we have to process it, how big or long it is in its entirety, and when it will end, we are more likely to see it as a whole that can be dealt with and has a finite ending.
On one of my stops for gas today, I met a 185 pound Great Dane, white and black spotted, and friendly as can be. Her owner told me that she had been owned by a man who was in the military, and he would often “haul off and pop her one in the head” if she dod not do what he asked her to do. When this adopted family rescued her, she weighed 65 pounds. She is now happy and healthy and looks big enough to ride! As I got into my car after chatting with the man who owns her now, he called out, “Sir?”
“Yes?” I answered.
“For what?” I asked.
“For asking about her. Thank you.”
Spokane was pretty tonight, from dusk to the rising of the moon over the city. This is a shot of that time of the evening here.
I decided to once again find a local place to get dinner, instead of eating in at the hotel. Yelp directed me to several places, and I picked Italia Trattoria at 144 S Cannon Street, Spokane, WA. I was not disappointed.
Jesse was my server, and from the very beginning when asking about my preference for sparkling water, he was a real pro. He never gave me a bad tip (and mine to him reflected that after the meal was over) He showed just the right amount of balance between being attentive and giving me time on my own to enjoy the meal.
The meal consisted of scallops and chard with a very thin base of potatoes, baby carrots, and grapes and was heavenly. A nice glass of Sauvignon blanc complemented the dish. Dessert was some of the best tiramisu I’ve ever tasted, with a perfectly done double espresso.
This meal was by far the best I’ve had on this trip, and may have been one of the best I’ve ever had anywhere. If you’re ever in Spokane, stop by Italia Trattoria and ask for Jesse.
Tomorrow will complete the outward bound portion of this trip, as I will get into Seattle for a three night, two day stay there. There will be lots to see and do, a fun reunion dinner of sorts, and a show on Saturday night. I’ll post pictures and try not to make them too incriminating for those involved. I also need to do some grandkid gift shopping, and Seattle may just be the perfect place to do that.
I hope you all have a good day tomorrow, whatever you choose to do.
Good night from Spokane.