Highway 200, long neural pathway.
Ascending, descending mountains, one lone scooterist tracing the Continental Divide. Entering into Eastern Montana, the landscape flattens, with rolling hills offering just enough crest to see where I will be in 2 miles. Montana, with Missoula on one end and Circle at the other. The gates, but providence where?
Here, here in my head. I’m staring ahead to the East, the homestretch, stretching for miles without sight of anything except mesmerizing grain. To the North and South the miles of landscape stretch into a blue sky. Yes Big Sky country, big enough to make me understand just how little people really are. And here they are survivors.
“M’am, I’m going to run out of gas before I reach Jordan.”
“Ok, I’ll turn on the pumps for you.”
With little interest in government taxation and changing times, credit cards are just as obsolete as the dinosaurs that once roamed Montana. It all feels like a joke, but it is my fault for running out of cash. I hate using my credit card. She gives me the gas instead, with promise I will help someone down the road.
“How long have you been here Daisy?”
“At the shop since 1956, but I was born here. People don’t come around the same anymore.”
Here is there, Sandy Springs Montana. 30 miles from Jordan, MT.
Jordan, refuge to the Freemen militia. In a state where people are bound to the land.
I am eating at Hell Creek, talking to strangers and Daphne is texting, don’t let them buy your drinks, don’t get drunk. Of course not. But there is common ground to find. Crawford, Waco, Jordan, New Orleans, Selma (Alabama), Seward (Nebraska). Places of extremes. They are on the Peace map for a reason. Each location brings me closer to understanding, myself and others.
Paleontology Bob is reveling in the journey. He is connecting to the spirit it takes to do this. This is where we relate. We are both surviving. The next day I will mysteriously run into him twice, by the hotel. He will tell me he’s been thinking about me.
Mr. Ross is asking, “you aren’t vegan are you?”
“Well no sir, I just had a hamburger.”
Montana is the place to eat beef if you must. So I’m invited over, I’ve passed the test. He makes what little money he can from beef. Here cows wander, they are grass fed, they are free of anti-biotics and GMO grains.
Once we are in good I tell him I’ve been vegan. He wants to be disgusted but I am too busy playing both sides. Using expressions and body language to calm him. I present the case of the vegan. A nod of acceptance happens. I will not push my luck this night.
Militia men and dinosaur diggers commend my journey because it mirrors their own desparate survival, adaptation and sometimes conquering of nature. Here, they listen only because I’ve traveled so far.
What will we have to show for it at the end of these days that fill chapters and time?
It has been a long ride, I will go home to my affordable lodge that usually shelters hunters and fishermen. The mileage was 403, short of my hopeful 467 miles to Circle. I was frozen from temperatures that fell 30 degrees short of the previous day. Four layers on my top (two jackets) and two on the bottom. The scooter loved the temp and so we rode.
Rode through a land that could resemble the moon, if only it was covered in grass. A cloak of pink lightly settled over the landscape, like a shawl. In the summer night it is but a quick fix; the sun sets late, at 10pm and is up early. So was I, greeted by a wind that had me at a 45 degree lean most of the day. I have learned to watch the grass and trees to predict the force and direction of the wind. There will be a wind advisory most of the day, with 50 mph gusts.
Now in Circle, the Bermuda Circle, my scooter won’t start. It is the bond we have there. My bike breaks and they help me fix it and we discuss local gossip. They are surprised I have been led through there twice. Our conversation goes back and forth with ease and I have the feeling I have walked into another set. One where I don’t belong, but am welcomed. I am offered a husband and a job as a ranch hand. Hugs are passed around and I am back on the road.
Leaving Circle, I am overwhelmed with all that I have seen, all the places I have left myself, and parts people have given me. I have passed through that final gate, and into North Dakota.
My nose is both bloody and black from dusty winds. I think if I was to cry it would happen right….now, but my eye sockets are just as dry as my nose from this arid climate.
If Montana was a woman she would have ruby lips and piercing blue eyes that make me see into my own soul.
Montana, you are better than therapy.