Ginny and the SAG wagon met us at the other end of 15 miles; the rainstorm surged again, and we called it. We disembarked, broke flags down, lashed bikes on top and climbed into the van to avoid yet another deluge, which pelted the caravan as Ginny drove to our lodgings. As she drove, the rest of us stripped off soggy, clay-covered clothes and pulled on warmies, onward to our first night of this leg.
We drove toward Missoula, through rolling green meadows, juxtaposed with clear-cut patches, and evergreens in formation, second- and third- growth lining up to the ridge of the mountains that hugged the highway as we careened along. Nine bikes lashed on top of the van with a trailer of provisions, tents, suitcases, cook stove, and camp chairs weaving behind us. I kept thinking we were in Montana, Frank Zappa included; my brain a broken record replaying stories of what might lurk in this gorgeous, feral world outside our van windows... militias, gun warehouses, red-state wonders and hide-out of Ted Kaczynski. My gerbil-wheel brain's media spew focused on Montana and went into hyperdrive. Bright green valleys out the window, identical to the heartbreaking Brokeback Mountain’s early scenes of high meadows. The sweet play of two cowboys and their ramshackle trailer.
The rain stopped. Onward we drove to see tiny houses alongside the highway, a semblance of small-town communities. We descended into the “low country” approaching Missoula.
Here we are, Montana. We are trying to inhale what you are, beyond what the media hath wrought. My brain dislodges more crap: Demi Moore lived out here somewhere. Abortion Clinics shut down. And then, actual billboards appeared, announcing Axman Firearms, Ak-47's and Glock's For Sale! Ginny, our driver and guide, reminded us that here in Montana, it’s open carry, i.e., people carry guns openly in holsters. Big sky country, folks! Welcome to Montana. Where’s that yellow snow? We’re going to Montana now.
Once in the outskirts of Missoula, Ginny started looking for where we would sleep that night. She followed GPS, highway signs, and six backseat drivers giving opinions. She pulled off the highway at the crossroads of a dusty second-hand store and a side road. We drove into a subdivision and then towards the east and a mountain range. The dirt road opened up to fields, more fields, forever skies and signs promising pony rides. Horse trailers everywhere. The GPS coaxed us onward to a three-house farm where we unloaded, made dinner, found beds and took turns using the washing machine to wash our muddy clothes.