It's minus one and snowing lightly at dawn next morning in Montana. I'm glad I had my lined jacket for the walkaround inspection. The wind is still blowing, not nearly as strongly, but enough to keep the dry snow from settling on the airplane. Visibility is good, but I'm up early to get out of here before a front arrives and blocks in the Montana mountains.
The first picture is of a butte, a rock structure that there's even a town named after in Montana. They always make me think of Roadrunner cartoons, but I didn't see any coyotes this trip, let alone coyotes on rocket skates. Can anyone see what I forgot to do this morning, that the May 29th entry and preflight inspection suggested I should have done?
I manage to escape the Montana hills without being swallowed up by the clouds, and begin the more routine part of my transcontinental journey. The sparsely-populated middle of the United States, from say Idaho to Wisconsin to Arkansas to Utah, is sometimes termed Flyover Country. This refers to the fact that people from the heavily populated centres on the east and west coasts don't go there, only fly over, on their way from one coast to the other, or on the way to Florida or Arizona. I'm not sure if it's any more derogatory than "grainbelt," but for me the term is not quite accurate. I can't make it coast to coast or from Canada to Florida on one load of gas. For me, it's fuel stop country.
I often have to go from hither to yon, with very little notice and I simply draw a line on the map, then look for airports of a reasonable size four or five hours apart along the route. Right now I might as well be using a dartboard. For example, I considered landing in Omaha, Nebraska merely because the insurance company Mutual of Omaha sponsored a wildlife program I watched when I was little. One of those shows composed mainly of dramatic footage of large predators either killing or barely missing large ungulates while a narrator applied adjectives and dramatic truths of life to the animals and their dinners. As it was I landed in Lincoln, Nebraska instead, where I had excellent service. They loaned me a nice vehicle to go and get lunch while they fuelled the airplane and cleaned the windows.
But I also I saw a new low in corporate tipping policy in Lincoln. Lunch was at Quizno's, a sandwich chain store, and there was a sign on each cash register: "Tips are appreciated and will be pooled by management for employee events and rewards (separate account)." So yes, the management solicits but steals any tips the employees get, and then gives them back and calls that "rewarding" the employees. I don't normally tip fast food employees, but I suppose I might if I felt that a particular individual did something outstanding for me. But whether fast food employees should be tipped is totally irrelevant to this issue: the management of Quizno's has just told me, in bold letters, that they don't care enough about their employees to reward them themselves. I submitted my opinion of that to the corporate website and have since twice avoided eating at Quizno's, even though it was probably a local restaurant policy.
Anyone have recommendations for quick middle-of-the-country fuel stops? I want quick but not-too-bad-for-me food, fuel, preferably pumped by someone else so I can eat while they do it, deicing in the winter, clean washrooms, friendly service, and simple maintenance available if I should need it. It would be a bonus if there were something interesting in town, even just the world's biggest ball of string, or a giant letter on the local hill, in case it's an overnight stop and I have time to take in the sight. Quizno's not required.