2010 USA Roadtrip Helena, MT to Flathead Lake at Polson, MT

After visiting the Helena Farmer's Market on Saturday morning we left Helena (at about 10 a.m.). It was 182 miles to Polson and we arrived at about 2 p.m. Our new Subaru Outback got an average of about 26 mpg on the trip and we were very happy about that.

We drove west on US #12 to Elliston in order to take scenic roads through the Helena National Forest and over MacDonald Pass (at 6320'). It was a lovely ride through farm grazing land. From Elliston we took MT Hwys #141 and #200 to Ovando. Then we took MT #83 on the Seeley Swan Scenic Corridor, a 90 mile drive through the Swan Valley from Seeley Lalu to Swan Lake. Our car handled beautifully on these roads.

We drove to Polson on the #35 from near Bigfork in order to see more of Flathead Lake. Flathead Lake had been highly recommended to us as a beautiful part of Montana. There were lots and lots of cherry trees in full bloom along the hills around Flathead Lake. We ate our lunch of crudites and fruit in the car, with a view of Flathead Lake. It was very nice.

We had trouble finding a place where we wanted to stay in Polson. We stopped and looked at three hotels before we decided to stay at Flathead Lake Inn (125 Anchor Way, Polson, MT 59860, tel. 406-883-6251, e-mail: reservationsflatheadlakeinn.com, web: www.flatheadlakeinn.com) for one night only. The rate was $54.57 for room #225. It was very small but it had a nice view of the lake. It had a bed, a refrigerator and a desk and that was about all. A second small chair was brought to the room. We had wanted to bike around the lake with our new Giant bikes but the weather wasn't great. Also Polson wasn't that pretty. There was some kind of wood pulp factory near Flathead Lake in Polson spewing ugly black smoke.

For dinner we went to Maxwell's on Main Street (325 Main st., Polson, MT 59860, tel. 406-883-6246) and had a surprisingly good meal for $30. The room is nice in an old-fashioned kind of way, but not kitschy. There was an pot belly-like stove and we were warm sitting near it. The service was very good and we shared a halibut baked in olive oil and white wine and served with a lemon and caper sauce. We asked for it rare and it was cooked perfectly. The meal came with soup and we had the mushroom, Italian sausage and white bean soup to start; it was delicious. In addition, the meal came with a baked potato and broccoli, both portions of which were huge. One meal was plenty for us. We had 2 glasses of a riesling that was a bit too fruity for us. All in all a delightful meal.

The next morning, before breakfast,  Audre made coffee in the electric coffee maker that the nice young man working at the Flathead Lake Inn brought to our room when we checked in. For breakfast the next day, we sat in continental breakfast room and had our cereal and fruit with their milk (Dimitri used his favorite cereal bowl and Audre used one of the ones provided). The Flathead Lake Inn had fresh fruit on the buffet table too. We drank their coffee at the buffet. And we pushed on that day to Sandpoint, ID.

For those who are as obsessed with accommodations as we are, we stopped at these hotels before deciding on the Flathead Lake Inn:

Bayview Inn, 50149 US Hwy 93, Polson, tel. 406-883-3120. E-mail: bayviewinn@centurytel.net, web: www.bayview-inn.com We looked at a queen room for $56.70; it was tiny.

Best Western Kwa Taq Nuk Resort, 49708 US Hwy 93 E, Polson, MT 50860, tel. 406-883-8365, e-mail: deeann.cates@kwataqnuk.com, web: www.kwataqnuk.com DeeAnn Cates, GM. For  $96.20 there was a very good view of the lake with one big bed and no comfortable chair whatsoever. A desk and chair and a bed. That’s it.

America’s Best Value Inn (Port Polson Inn), tel. 406-883-5385, www.portpolsoninn.com and www.AmericasBestValueInn.com We saw the Honeymoon suite #49; the price was  $84.53 and not worth it.

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