Friday, July 23, 2010

Route 3 to Great Falls

We left Billings, heading for Great Falls.

We headed north-northwest on Route 3, which featured beautiful scenery and little traffic.

Some new additions to the landscape were these windmills on a wind farm.

But mostly, it was an isolated small town or ranch or farm that had been around decades that broke the expanse of prairie.

We photo-graphed these scenes without stopping along the road and without taking notes on locations or names of towns.

It was the Big Sky Country that was the center of our attention.

It was the kind of sparsely-populated drive that encourages one to fill up whenever one has the chance "just in case . . . ."

As an indication of the importance of Eddie's Corner is the fact that this isolated gas station, where Route 3 joins Route 87 about 12 miles west of Lewistown, is identified on some state maps.

We came upon fields of yellow flowers during the drive, and only after reaching Great Falls did we learn that these were canola flowers.

But it was one aspect of the clouds that we noticed for the first time. I don't know if it was because we have not had the opportunity to view this great expanse of clouds until this trip, but we had not noticed the flat bottoms of these clouds.

A little research revealed that this is a very common pheno-menon: "Clouds are formed when moist air rises, often when the ground is warmed by the sun. The air adjacent to the ground rises as it is warmed. As it rises, it slowly cools-at about 5.4 degrees for every thousand feet it rises.

"As it cools to what we call 'the dew point,' the air becomes saturated at that level and the water vapor condenses into water droplets...forming a cloud. Because that process of condensation occurs at the same elevation, the clouds have a flat bottom."

We've looked at clouds from both sides now--the artistic and the meteorological.

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