…Well, I’ve been meaning to finish up the travelogue, so here we go. Waking up in Missoula, I saw the city for the first time in the daytime. It was a cold morning and espressomap.com had advised me that this was probably the last place for a while where I might find some good coffee. Le Petit Outre is a small bakery outlet and cafe in downtown Missoula. I arrived shortly after opening to get an early start on the road and it was already filled with locals enjoying their morning coffee. When I walked in there was a delicious smell of fresh pastries behind the counter. I almost forgot about the coffee and lusted after a nice looking apricot pastry. Deanne, the barista on bar, pulled me a couple of excellent shots of Vivace off their Synesso. I have to say, I think I liked them more than the shots I had at Vivace itself a few days earlier, but they were also more tight and ristretto’ish. Deanne mentioned she used to work at Lava Java and found her way to Le Petit Outre via espressomap as well. I was then on my way again, this time for Rapid City, South Dakota.
Driving out of Missoula, the interstate took me alongside the Clark Fork River. It was a crisp morning and mist was rising as the sun was cresting over the tops of the peaks of the valley. It was amazing passing through all these places I knew by name in old westerns. In Butte, I got off the interstate to follow a highway up where I could take a picture of me and the truck, the same picture used the Barista Magazine article. This highway also overlapped what is the continental divide and takes you up to Calgary if you continue north.
I stopped briefly in Billings Montana for some lunch and hoped to find a decent espresso somewhere. Earlier in the week I had googled upon a youtube video of a guy coming up to a small espresso booth and telling the owner: “I’ve had a lot of espresso in Billings and yours is the best one”. I didn’t manage to find him and ended up settling in for some of McDonalds “premium” coffee. I had never tried it and it just recently became available in Canada, accompanied by a huge marketing campaign. I had read a post on the roasters guild speculating on exactly what coffees Mac’y used in their “premium” coffee. What I did find interesting is that the coffee seemed to have a roasty note which would appease your dark coffee lover but also still had a lightly roasted brighter component for those who might prefer it.
The GPS directed me via older smaller state highways in the bottom east of Montana. These were the kind of parts where oldtimers would pass you buy in their 60′s pickups and wave hello to you… Is that you Uncle Jesse?… After a brief journey through Wyoming, I finally arrived into Rapid City, S.D., at a late hour. Rapid City is well known for it’s proximity to Mt. Rushmore, but amongst coffee lover/geek circles it is also famous as the stomping ground of John Weiss aka RapidCoffee, the inventor of the Weiss Distribution Technique. It totally escaped me that John lived here and I wish I had tried to make contact to say hello or at least find out where I might find some great coffee (apart from his house).
After checking in at my hotel, I wandered into town and somehow luckily found my way to an amazing restaurant called Corn Exchange. The chef owner M.J. Adams kept me entertained as I sat at the bar…”this place has changed, I mean there’s all these soccer moms now!” The food was delightful, It was nice to treat myself as this was about the mid point of my trip.
The next morning I was up early and off to check out Mt. Rushmore before continuing on to my next stop, Sioux Falls, S.D. But first I needed coffee. I headed down to the local Dunn Bros. Coffee who I had first encountered at one of their flagship locations last year in Minneapolis when I attended SCAA Conference. I walked in and it seemed promising given they had a Diedrich roaster on the premises. I ordered the lighter of the two roasts on offer, what they called a Medium roasted Kenyan. It was extremely disappointing, roasted a bit too dark for my liking and also brewed too weak. Oh well, it was my fuel for the drive to Mt. Rushmore and made its way into the cup John Lewis had given me. Before Mt. Rushmore, you go through Keystone, which was eerily bizarre given it was November and everything was empty and closed for the off season. The gentleman at the gate of Mt. Rushmore told me they weren’t open yet, given it was 7:3o in the morning. He said I was welcome to drive up and have a look. It was actually a really nice peaceful way to experience the grandeur of the monument. Places like Mt. Rushmore fascinate me, given it’s rich and controversial history both as a national patriotic symbol but also representative of the destruction of native culture in America. On that weighty sentence…next up Rapid City, S.D. to Minneapolis, MN, via Sioux Falls, S.D. to visit the guys (and girl) at Coffea.