Red Lodge, Montana

May 20, 2019 - Montana

Travel to Red Lodge takes homework. 

Red Lodge attracted and held my attention from the first failed attempt to visit.  Heading there on the Beartooth Highway from Cooke City, Beartooth pass had closed for the winter on that first attempt. It was October, which in Oklahoma is far, far away from winter. It’s also a long distance from Oklahoma, so the disappointment to have gotten oh-so-close was intense. A challenge to drive there? Historic hotel?  Missed first attempt? Yes, please.

As a result, the 2nd attempt was not off the cuff. Which translated to a plane ticket, a rental car, a hotel reservation, and yes damn it, homework. The Pass, having been the road block on the initial trip to the area, was my main destination; something to be conquered. But Red Lodge’s ironic-for-a-resort colloquial atmosphere was so personal that for the first time I walked into an art gallery as if an avid and resourced collector.  Then, had the ease and confidence to ask for layaway. The allure of the Pass faded as I ate and drank, stared at the sparkle of stars in the night sky, and strode confidently into more art galleries.

It’s tempting to compare Red Lodge with my first love, Jackson, Wyoming.  The more accurate comparison is to contrast the two. As I walked the streets, the light and shadows combined in a way that defied gravity and I felt unencumbered and lighter by 20 pounds. It was easy to be in the moment; to be mindful of sounds and scents and images; to be blissfully unaware of yourself and even more liberating, of those around you. Jackson is western kitsch wrapped in high-end furs. Red Lodge is laid-back in a genuinely friendly way that Jackson lacks, and emotionally evocative as only postcard perfect mountain ranges or blissfully pristine beaches, command.  

After 4 days of unplanned, spontaneous wandering, I went to Babcock & Miles and said, “I’ve come to see the Pass.”  They obliged with a picnic basket piled with adventure worthy food and wine – the perfect reward for a destination requiring some homework.


Red Lodge's Beartooth Pass at 10947 ft Elevation

Beartooth Pass


Snow Plows Clear 40 ft drifts on Beartooth Highway

Billings Gazette


40 foot drifts accumulate in Red Lodge's heavy snow fall winters

Snow Sideboards

Red Lodge Culinary Adventures, Mountain Style

Red Lodge’s Babcock and Miles

An assortment of my Red Lodge picnic by Babcock and Miles

Great Food and a Map = Adventure


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An Order of Fries

January 6, 2018 - Perfect Slices of Time

There are times when nothing less will do than a proof beverage and an order of fries.

Heads up neophytes, ginger is not a substitute for proof alcohol.  “An extra shot of ginger”, she said.  For the ginger tea she ordered.  I’m on my 2nd martini and contemplating an order of fries and can’t stop an audible chuckle.  I’m not so far gone that the awkward moment escapes me, so I quickly look down with an extra stern glance at my phone and throw in another chuckle so they wouldn’t feel I was laughing at them.  It’s 6:00 on the other side of a long work day.  Ginger? 

The serving board has been in front of them for 20 minutes.  They’ve each had 2.  Fries. Thick cut. The color of toasted wheat. I can see from here the dusting of large crystals of finishing salt. Same women who asked for extra ginger for their already ginger tea.  Why did they order the fries if not to eat them, one after another in something of a rapid succession?

I’m sharing the trunk table with the ladies, and as they discuss whether it’s a Restoration Hardware product, they speak fast and animatedly like I would after a few ginger teas with healthy splashes of vodka.  And the fries?  They sit neglected and now cold.  Unappetizing.  Understand that I would eat them, but it’s sadly apparent that the women will not, and the fries will be tossed.  In the garbage.  Aside like red meat left in the back seat of a hot car.  Sad.  I can’t take the irritation of the situation any longer so I tab out.  They look up as opposed to re-discovering the desperately wilting fries. An awkward sob escapes me as I walk out.   


An Order of Beautiful, Golden, tragically abondoned French Fries

The Fries


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She Ate Well

she was 7 or 8. spindly.  braided pigtails. with intent and focus she raked the black olives from the top of the pizza to the side closest to her, dipped down to the plate not bothering to raise it, and took in the olives.  a subtle softening of expression; her head tilted back a bit, her eyes blinked.  she sighed. and then looked up to see me watching her.  i looked down at my pizza, surveying it with renewed appreciation — like the 7 year old had just demonstrated.  with a smile of anticipation and an intent to focus on the food in front of me, i lifted a piece to my mouth. sublime. my head tilted back a bit.  i blinked. sighed.  and looked over to see her give me a thumbs up.  

The dining room where a 7 year old demonstrated how to enjoy pizza.

A lesson learned in this dining room


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The Road Back From Long and Blonde

November 12, 2017 - Personal Journal

It’s fall.  Some things didn’t make it to the dry cleaners at the end of last winter and the long blonde hairs are stuck to the back of the navy peacoat.  My favorite.  I want to wear the coat, but I don’t want to roller tape the hair away so I look at it like it’s an alien and hang it back up.  Then leave without a coat for the Sheriff’s office where my employer has requested finger prints.  

The football player sized deputy sheriff takes the imprint cards and leads me to the back.  Height? Weight?  Hair color.  I’m standing right there.  Hair.  Color.  Miss.  It was a distinctive MISS.  Instinctively I reached up to the 1/2 inch long hairs.  “Well,  it’s mostly gray. Today it’s gray.”  “It WAS long and blonde”.  It came out with no agenda; bubbling forth like my hair had all of a sudden fallen victim and needed defending. 

“Is that what you want to go with, gray?”  

Not really big dude, but since I’m in an environment that smacks of truth,  gray seems to win out regardless of what i want.  


He hunts through the digital list and clicks on gray.  “Personally miss, I think red would look amazing on you.”



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10 Tips for a Fearless Solo Road Trip

If you begin “My son and I began our first solo road trip…”,  you’ve yet to take one.  Solo=alone.  No one. Not even a dog.  People stretch the meaning because they really can’t go it alone so anything less than another adult in the vehicle, qualifies.  Never sign a contract with someone given to such leaps.

There is much to fear alone on the open road – mostly the person you see in the mirror, but that’s a topic to broach with your psychoanalyst.  If you’re like me you’ll skip the outrageous bill, take the SRT plunge, and wonder why everyone doesn’t fire his or her shrink.

In Rear View

For fears of which you can’t be blamed, there are things you can do to control them.  Understand they can’t be eliminated. Cars break down and tires go flat.  If you’re okay with that, the adventure of a lifetime awaits you.  If not, take someone with you. Just don’t call it a solo road trip.

The first eight of these are about limiting risk.  There’s more you can do than this list, like a AAA membership. But that’s only good as long as you have cell service.  The more you rely on outside factors, the less control you maintain, which diminishes your ability to reduce fear factors.  Less, diminish, reduce – all used within one sentence to send a message – learn how to change your own tire. I’m an experienced SRT’er so I occasionally put the truck places I shouldn’t, hike into places I shouldn’t.  I’d prefer not to die a painful death, but I want to enjoy life a bit as it flashes past.  And so we all make choices.  Make good decisions based on your own knowledge/experience base.

No, I don’t carry a gun.

  1. Know how to drive.  It’s more than keeping the car between the ditches.  Do you know when to shift into a lower gear? If you’ve got 4-wheel drive, can you shift into it at any point or does the vehicle need to be at a certain speed?  How about shifting out of it? In North Dakota last November I drove into a snow bank that was much deeper than I expected (in an attempt to turn around).  The only way out was reverse in 4-wheel low.  Once free of the snowbank, I couldn’t get out of 4-wheel low.  Confusion.  Resorted to manual.  Some of knowing how to drive is experience; some is simply knowing what all the buttons mean on your dash.
  2. How to change a tire.
  3. Maintain a full tank of gas and bottled water in the front of the vehicle.
  4. Don’t drink an alcoholic beverage unless it’s for dinner in the hotel you’re staying or you’re having a night cap in the room.  Obviously drinking and driving is a no-no, but a loose tongue in the wrong place has equal potential for disaster.  See #8.
  5. Find lodging before dark.  Doesn’t mean you have to call it a day. Just secure a place to stay; then you’re free to explore the local area as long as you want.  See #4 and #8.
  6. Wear a seat belt at all times.  It won’t save your ass if you drive off a mountain but it will provide protection in most other cases.
  7. Keep your cell phone charged. Check in with someone daily (preferably the same person).
  8. Don’t talk to strangers.  A tricky one. The people I meet are a big part of open road adventures.  Use good judgment.  My daily routine while traveling is to awaken early and go to bed with the chickens.  This translates to striking up conversation with people over breakfast or lunch and becoming more insular as the day progresses.  To no one do I give much information about where I’m headed.  When around others, pump gas and order dinner with confidence; at all times send the signal you’re in control.  I will not go to a bar. I avoid other strays even early in the day.
  9. Get off road. Yes you can do that without 4-wheel drive.  See #1.
  10. Before you leave home practice saying “holy shit”, varying the emphasis and inflection. You’ll use it in a lot of varied applications.

** This article is mine.  Feel free to link to it, but any republishing without my consent will find me on your doorstep.  Fear that. **

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Other how-to SRT related posts:

Road Trip Coffee Can Survival Kit

3 Best Kept Travel Secrets

Take a Solo Road Trip!

Solo Road Trip Safety

Just for fun:

Road Trip Badges of Honor


The Grand Climb


Tammie DooleyAbout SRT... I’m a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons. Adventurous solo road trips are a staple for me, and a curiosity. So I created this website to share them and inspire you to step out and give them a try. Welcome!

A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone – Wolfgang Von Goethe

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