Driving East towards Ritzville, the first snow we've seen in weeks, coating the mountain peaks down to the freeway edge. As we cross the Idaho/Montana pass in darkness, an icy, impenetrable fog hits us like a wall, it's impossible to see beyond a few feet, snow coats the road, and we slither down the Bitterroots with our hazard lights on, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of frozen pine trees. The Radar Brothers tell me, with a twinkle in their eyes, that in Montana it's illegal not to stop for a broken down motorist - if you break down, the chances are you'll freeze to death. Our Chrysler seems to be doing OK. The fog abruptly lifts as we lose altitude, and we drive on through the pass between gigantic moonlit mountains, fields of snow and dimly-seen pine forests. I realise, looking at a map of the area in a service station, that we are very close to tracing the route of Lewis and Clark, discoverers of the North West passage.
Missoula, the hometown of David Lynch appears and disappears in the darkness, ringed by oppressive mountains, orbited by monster trucks. The snow is falling all around us, I gaze out at these streets and houses traced by lamps, before long it's all gone and we are back in the wilderness again.
The next day is very bright, snow reflecting the sun and presenting us with an alternating vista of mountains and plains, as wild and inhospitable as the desert. We eat breakfast, grudgingly, in a Denny's that has an amazing 360 degree Alpine view through bay windows. I am now so tired and upset and pissed off I can hardly think straight. A 12 hour drive ahead of us just to make it half way to Minneapolis.
We stop at Custer, MT around 4pm Mountain Time, a mile west from the site of Custer's last stand, Little Bighorn. Mark walks past a little house between the petrol station and a 'Hunter's Pub' offering 'broasted' chicken, and is accosted by two dogs and a goat that run free onto the road. The goat is friendly but the dogs are not. He retreats, and so do we. Less than half way through the drive. The goat remains on the road, gazing enigmatically at our departing van.