Holiday Travel Survival Guide 

How to get over the river and through the woods, plus where to stop on the way

Page 4 of 4

Ski routes

Hopefully, by Thanksgiving weekend, the Northwest will have received enough snow to allow the ski areas to open their lifts and begin selling their watery hot chocolate and undercooked hamburgers. Hordes of skiers will be heading to the Flathead Valley to enjoy the slopes in Whitefish and Kalispell. Roadside attractions abound along Highway 93 North, but keep your eyes on that road, Missy! Save the uncontrolled spinouts for the slopes.

Polson, at the south end of the lake, boasts quite a few interesting distractions. You've driven past the Miracle of America Museum (36094 Memory Lane, Polson) dozens of times and always vowed to stop there one day. Why not this trip? It's definitely worth an hour or two of your time. It's not every day you see a sheep-powered treadmill. Also, look for the life-sized flying monkey from The Wizard of Oz. Then imagine a few hundred of those fellows filling the sky, swooping down to persuade people to vote for Sarah Palin in 2012.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHAD HARDER

If you proceed up the west side of the lake, keep your eyes peeled for one of the coolest signs in the area, advertising a fishing guide in Lakeside. His name? Mo Fisch.

The two-lane blacktop that runs up the east side of the lake makes for a bit hairier drive, but it's the only way you'll see the stucco teepee house just south of Bigfork. It resembles the nose cone of an ICBM warhead emerging from a subterranean silo, but the stacks of cartons and junk visible through the windows are a dead giveaway. Who lives there? I don't know. Why don't you go knock on the door and find out, wise guy. Go ahead. I dare you.

Trapped out west

Maybe you're part of the horde heading west to Couer d'Alene, Spokane or Seattle. You might get a kick out of the Trout Aquarium inside the St. Regis Travel Center (55 Mullan Road, at exit 33), about 70 miles west of Missoula on I-90. Some of these fish are as big as a full grown wolverine, and you can get close enough to see the world-weary expression on their scarred faces. Further along I-90 is the 50,000 Silver Dollar Bar (exit 16), a first-class tourist trap in Haugan. The main attraction is the shit-ton of Liberty silver dollars covering the top of the bar and surrounding walls. It's also one of the largest gift shops in the state and, trust me, you'll be a real hero if you show up at your destination with a righteous jackalope.

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If you open yourself up to the exhilarating possibilities of a well-planned road trip, Thanksgiving itself will seem almost a letdown. Then, after the last turkey sandwich has been eaten, after your family has spent three or four days deepening the bonds of mistrust and dysfunction, when your burps no longer smell like cranberry and you're eight to 10 pounds heavier than when you left, it'll be time to crawl back in the vehicle and head for home. As you and your crew sail along that winding ribbon of asphalt and you approach the end of your Thanksgiving trip, you'll surely have enough memories and stories from the road to keep people entertained for months to come.

At least until Spring Break, when you can do it all over again.

Ednor Therriault, aka Bob Wire, is a road warrior and the author of Montana Curiosities, an offbeat guide to the state's roadside attractions. He's spending his holiday traveling to Vegas.

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