The road trip. Day 8: Montana
I almost didn't write this post today, as I was busy watching ESPN's O.J. Simpson documentary, Made in America. Harris and I didn't manage to watch all 8+ hours in one day, but we got half way through, and wow, that is powerful stuff. It feels inappropriate to offer my voice on much of the subject matter presented in the first half of the series, but it really brings home just how much injustice is still in this country, happening today. And we're still sitting by, complicit. And it's sicker than ever.
We also had our own interaction with the cops today, which probably wouldn't have gone as well if we were black. We filed a criminal complaint about our neighbour. He has so little going on in his life that he's made it his mission to drunkenly berate us about our (correct as per our lease) trash disposal habits. Last night he came up the two flights of stairs to our deck despite us telling him not to, informing him he was on private property, and that he was trespassing, to harass us and tell us to "go fuck" ourselves.
He pleads with us to be "good stewards of our environment" so the back alleyway that is home to scores of rats doesn't get dirty. He tells us this while puffing on a cigarette, polluting the larger atmosphere that we have to live in for many years. But as long as that back alleyway is clear for him and his two cats, the world is all good.
But back to Bozeman!
As soon as we crossed the state line into Montana, Lia and I were struck by the awesome lighting the sunset was putting out for us on the surrounding mountains that looked like they could be straight out of the Lion King opening.
I'd been looking forward to driving through Montana, "big sky country," since I first had the idea to drive the length of America. I'd read about the insane natural beauty of the area, and as Lia was on driving shift, I was free to admire. And admire I did.
After our first sleep in 3 nights in a real bed, we head out in search of something to eat for our morning in Bozeman. Our first stop was a place we'd read about prior to the trip; a donut shop, called Granny's Gourmet Donuts.
Granny greeted us as we walked in the door. He was a tall man with a white beard, who clearly believed in his product (as any good pastry chef should), but also had the common decency to be jolly. He offered Lia the chance to dip a fresh donut into icing and sprinkles - a practical treat he usually saves for six-year-olds, he told us, but felt bad for Lia on account of her black eye that I promise I did not inflict™.
I wolfed down my two donuts that I'd purchased for just a dollar each; a risen glazed donut and a chocolate frosted. Lia was a good person and only ate one of hers. We sat for about 10 minutes, just enjoying the cosy shop and watching Granny and the middle aged female employee in a Seattle Seahawks sweatshirt interact with customers.
One such customer was Russ. Another old bloke, Russ joined us at our table - his "usual spot" - after getting a coffee on the house from Granny and a donut. Russ was clearly a regular, and any regular at a gourmet donut shop that sells its goods for a dollar is a man after my own heart.
Clad in a grey cap with scruffy white hair underneath, Russ struck up a conversation with the two of us. We swapped stories about Yellowstone, as he used to be a contractor there, and he advised us on some of the more scenic routes towards Seattle. We must've chatted for about 30 minutes about life, the universe, and everything, during which time Granny brought over a plate of four fresh, hot donuts for the three of us to gorge ourselves on while we talked.
Needing to get on our way, we began to say our goodbyes, and I went to purchase another donut for the road. Russ insisted on getting it for me. For those of you keeping track at this point, that's a total of 3 donuts we paid for, and an additional 6 free. I love this place.
Granny recommended the neighbouring spot for real food, and thankfully trusting his seemingly sound judgement, Lia and I stuffed ourselves with great omelettes, hash browns, toast, and tea.
(Incidentally, one of Lia's roommates also drove across the country this summer, via Bozeman, sometime last week. He went to Granny's and gave our regards. Russ wasn't there and was likely to be recovering from a hangover somewhere, Granny said, but he'd pass them on.)
Now bursting at the seams, it seemed like a prime time to explore downtown Bozeman. We'd heard it compared to Portland, Oregon, and having visited about this time last year, we agreed. Bozeman had a lovely, clean main downtown street, with plenty of interesting antique shops and artisan coffee haunts and eateries to keep any local looking for a little city buzz happy. As we drove out around midday, the rest of the appeal - that stunning view - became clear once more.
Our next destination was Bannack State Park, a gold rush-era town, now deserted. A ghost town.
It was in the middle of absolute nowhere, so no wonder everybody left. But the town itself was really cool! It looked straight out of a Western movie; a single strip of town, with a boardwalk leading down each side, connecting the schoolhouse, the saloon, the hotel, and the homes of the former gold diggers.
It was pretty cool to see the largely unrestored buildings slowly sinking into the ground, almost as if the earth that gave the natural materials to build them was reclaiming them. According to a plaque on the wall, the town was so lawless that the barber who worked in the saloon wouldn't miss a stroke with a straight blade razor when the bullets started flying. You don't get service like that at Great Clips.
We also dipped into the schoolhouse, which was about as oppressive as private school in the U.K..
There were also questions about America written on the blackboards which I didn't know the answer to which made me feel bad about myself, so I left reasonably quickly.
Neither of us had had cell service for a few hours now, which meant we couldn't plug our overnight stay in Lolo, Montana (purely for convenience and cost's sake, because were the fuck is Lolo, Montana?) into the GPS on our phones. We actually had to talk to the information officer who pointed our directions to us on an actual paper map! This town had no shortage of historical relics.
Listening to one of the seven albums I had actually saved to my phone (streaming's where it's at - unless where you're at is Bannock State Park with no service), we set off again into the eternal horizon for what might be the final day of the trip? I can't quite remember. We'll find out tomorrow!