Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Great Falls to the Little Big Horn

Up at 9:00, not well-rested.

The sky a uniform gray. Showered, checked the Tribune on-line. It contained a surprisingly graphic account of the murder. I reflect on the fact that someone was murdered just ten feet away, and I was too out of it to help. Incredible.

It was time to move on; I’ve been avoiding this. Loaded up, checked out. Asked at the desk "how is everyone doing?"

"Everyone’s doing just fine,” I was told.

Walked into Starbucks and looked at their display case - "too sweet" - and left. I went out to see the "Great Falls."

This is certainly not the vision that so awed Lewis and Clark when they first came upon Rainbow Falls.

But this hydroelectric power helped build the cities of Montana.

Great Falls? Well, maybe Good Falls, or Okay Falls.

Skirting around Malmstrom Air Force Base, it was impossible to see much, as it's situated on a plateau, hidden from view.

Strong winds carried me southeast. Almost from the start, I was combating drowsiness. The mind starts to wander, and soon one ceases to connect with the environment, which is so crucial on a bike.

I don't know the name of this flower, but there are fields of it everywhere in Montana. It's wonderfully fragrant.


In Stanford, I forced myself to take a break. I was drawn by the sign at Candel’s Byway Café, which advertised homemade pies and cinnamon rolls, and "awesome salsa". A refreshing, family-run business. On duty today, Mike, Sheila and Brittany Candelaria. Brittany served, while the folks worked the kitchen. I ordered a cinnamon roll and coffee. The roll really was fresh and tasty. Enjoyed just sitting at the counter, soaking up the local flavor, as townsfolk came and went.

But I couldn't leave without trying the "awesome salsa". So I looked at the menu. "Do the tacos come with the awesome salsa?" Sure enough. So I ordered some chicken tacos.

"I like to eat dessert BEFORE the meal. That way I know I'll never be too full for dessert."

Quite good. I left feeling totally satisfied in body and emotion. Really nice people. And at a total of $7.75, a bargain. No tax either!

It was hard enough to pull these two timid souls into a photograph, and then I go and blow it! (I have a hard time too, asking someone to pose.) Sheila and Brittany Candelaria. Brittany served me. A great personality!

Candel's Byway Cafe, a great little family-run cafe in Stanford, Montana. I stopped for the homemade cinnamon buns and coffee, and stayed for the chicken tacos with "awesome salsa". What a combo! Owned and operated by Mike and Sheila Candelaria, the whole family works here, except the five-year-old.

More grain silos...and lots of abandoned buildings.

Cereal Country!

Cruised south through some gorgeous country, especially the Snowy Mountains, Little Snowy Mountains and Judith Mountains. I could understand how someone would leave everything behind to come up here.

The Judith Mountains between Great Falls and Billings. This is a beautiful part of Montana.

In Lewistown, I stopped at the Ace Hardware store and purchased four small rubber o-rings for $2.94. Larry Saenz at BMW of SF suggested using these as a fix for the windshield rattle that has grown progressively worse over recent weeks. Fitting an o-ring to the two plastic pins attaching the windshield to the lower swivel mount completely eliminated the rattle. Thanks, Larry! (And to BMW: you need to find a better solution!)

Stock windshield mounts (plastic pins to which the screws attach) quickly wear out resulting in excessive windshield vibration and noise.

(Larry always has some endearing words of encouragement. A few days ago he wrote: "frankly I want to kill you both [Anne Girardin and me]. No. Really. I hate you both for your joy and enthusiasm." When I was starting out, he wished me well: "have the journey of your life you rat-bastard.")

I tried to bring them closer, but the sound I made came out like a duck call.

Happy, healthy horses.

Downtown Roundup, Montana.

Across Montana, small uniform white crosses stand by the highways, obviously marking the sites of fatal accidents. Not unusual, except in the standardized format Montana seems to have adopted.

Entering Billings, I thought my engine was misfiring, but then determined the sound was coming from a nearby trap shooting range. I had never witnessed the sport on this scale. I thought the nearby Lake Elmo State Park had campgrounds, but as I drove into the surrounding "yuppies" enclave, I realized I was mistaken. Camping would not be tolerated among the ranchettes. But I had to have a closer look at this trap shooting phenomena. Parked among the SUVs and pick-ups, then waddled out to the firing lines in my suit, camera in hand.

A hundred people blasting away!

I would not mess with these characters. There weren't many misses.

And they're enjoying their beer. Oh, that's comforting! (Actually, they were drinking after they finished shooting.)

Everyone's doing it!

A woman in her second year of competition came up and asked if it were a flight suit or motorcycle suit I was wearing. She explained they had over thirty teams in this club, and they were practicing for an upcoming competition. In answer to my question, she said they were shooting shotguns, not rifles (I didn't know these things!) They shoot at a clay target. The more accomplished marksmen shoot from 18 yards behind the launch point versus (I think) 12 yards for the beginners. Teens keep score and man the pit, making sure the launcher is loaded and operating properly.


Pretty serious dudes, here.

What a strange pastime. It just doesn't seem very productive to me. But these people are passionate about the sport. And I wouldn't want to mess with them. I was amazed at the skill demonstrated.

It broke in half.


Blasted it to pieces!


After stopping to refuel and refresh in Billings, I turned east on Interstate 90. I've spent little time on interstates thus far. What a different pace! An almost frenzied, negatively-charged energy, in contrast to secondary roads. I would suspect "road rage" incidence is directly proportional to speed limit (and it's 75 mph in Montana.)

As the sun set, it became clear I'd be searching for a campsite near Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument with night falling.

1 comment:

cathie said...

Reminds me of "Hotel California" by the Eagles:

On a dark desert highway
Cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas
Rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance
I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy, and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night...
We are all just prisoners here
Of our own device
And in the master's chambers
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives
But they just can't kill the beast
Last thing I remember
I was running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
Relax said the nightman
We are programmed to receive
You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave.