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Friday, August 20, 2010

My Daddy's Roots

You are looking at the Crazy Mountains just out of Big Timber. I'm standing on the banks of the Yellowstone River looking north and just over those mountains is where my father grew up in Harlowton, where my grandfather was an engineer for the Milwaukee Railroad. Grandpa Al took his boys hunting and fishing in the Crazies and Dad skied there in the winter. Put The Horse Whisperer on your Netflix queue to see more.
Today I am in Broadus, way out east on the Powder River, where my grandparents and my great uncle homesteaded. I am about to go to the courthouse and the museum to find out more. I drove through the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations and the Custer Battlefield yesterday. This afternoon I am driving down to Sheridan, WY where I think Great Uncle Bud had a general store. In Sheridan there is an amazing collection of tooled leather saddles upstairs above King's Saddlery on Main Street (I think every town in Montana has a Main Street and a Stockman's Bar).
I'll stay the night with friends in Dayton, just down the road from Sheridan, who fell in love with the Big Horn Mountains and fly fishing. Now Dave is a river guide when he is not painting. He has a show at the Bradford Brinton Museum which I am hoping to visit. He actually introduced Willy and me back in 1972.
Yesterday I was feeling very melancholy about not having more time in Montana. I didn't go to my cousin's ranch in Harlow and I looked at all kinds of fantastic mountain ranges that would be heaven to hike around in. I saw campers and trailers and RV's everywhere and wished I owned one. I imagined riding across Montana on horseback, slow enough to really soak up these panoramas. Me, I'm buzzing by at 75 mph on I-90.
Today I am reconciled that I will be back and that I really would like to get home sometime soon. I guess I am already planning my next trip! For now, there are several folks here in Broadus that are curious about what I'll find out in my research so I have to report back to the Stockman Bar for lunch. Good thing that I eat beef.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A quickie from Missoula

I'm taking advantage of having wifi at a great coffee spot in Missoula, Espresso Break, on Higgins down toward the old train station near Taco del Sol, where Maggie used to work. This is just the greatest town and I have enjoyed being here for a couple of days but must be on the move. I am heading for Bozeman so it's only three hours away. A friend from the North Coast is getting her daughter enrolled at Montana State so we are going to meet up. That's where my parents met in the 30's and where I was a student for one year in 1970.
Speaking of 1970, have you heard Marc Cohn's new album? Every song on it was a hit in 1970. I really like the Dead cover of New Speedway Boogie with Jim Lauderdale singing the duet. I had been hearing cuts on The Loft - XM and then saw the album at a Starbucks so I now own it. I have picked up a few CD's here and there on the trip, mostly in Nashville and Memphis, but they have to compete with satellite radio and my iPod. Needless to say, there is not much silence in the Jetta.
Going backwards, I have to tell you what a gorgeous drive I had from the Columbia River Gorge to Missoula on Monday. It's so cool how that river broadens out and the hills are suddenly barren of trees. I left the freeway at Pendleton and drove to Walla Walla, which is a great college town out in nowheresville. Big, rolling hills covered in wheat with all of the patterns from the combines moving up and down and shooting out plumes of dusty gold into the trucks. Red barns and silver silos with shade trees around the farmhouses. So pretty.
I went by the Snake, Clearwater and Lochsa rivers before reaching the Bitterroot Valley. I drove through the Nez Pearce reservation and could imagine Chief Joseph riding over a hill with the cavalry in hot pursuit.
I came over Lolo Pass at night with not much traffic and enjoyed the power and finesse of my Jetta. I do like driving a good mountain road. It would have been nice to stop at one of the lodges along the way and I could almost smell the snow as the pines became more prevalent.
Laundry is done, eggs are boiled (my mainstay on road) and I will now traverse the Rockies and then head out into the plains with Broadus, MT and Dayton, WY my objectives; Powder River country, Custer and all that. Not as green, maybe, but stunning in its own way.
Safe travels, everyone, wherever you are.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Somewhere In the Middle of Montana

Well, I am not in Montana yet but I will be soon if I can get this blog out quick enough. I am in Pomeroy, WA on Hwy 12 en route from Walla Walla to Missoula and have just experienced the most beautiful drive through rolling farm country. I wish I could have a video of some of this trip while I have been driving. I just can't stop and take pictures all of the time. I'd never get anywhere.
My last post was titled Off the Grid but I have been back in the modern, technical world for quite some time. I am feeling great and have been completely immersed in visits with friends in Eugene and in Portland. Goodness sakes, it was impossible to see everyone but the meet-ups that happened were all wonderful. I need another two months just in Oregon! The photo is the Willamette River in downtown Eugene from a bike trail bridge, of which there are many. It was great to have a bike to use where I was staying and to have a hostess who was my bicycle partner (and to have maybe the nicest "hotel" ever). Got to check out the West Eugene Wetlands trail that Bill was very involved in creating both when we lived in Eugene and after we moved to Washington.
Today I drove along the Columbia River and wondered how many times I had been on that highway. We drove to Montana every summer when I was a kid, so I think maybe a whole bunch. I will be in Montana all of this week starting in Missoula, then Bozeman, up to my cousin's ranch (note to self: call Harry) and then down to the Big Horn Mts where our friend is a fly fishing guide out of Dayton, WY. I will definitely be listening to the Merle Haggard song that I am quoting in my title and have set my country music genre on shuffle for the duration. Yee Ha.
When I return to DC, I am going to post some notes on the great restaurants, breweries and coffee shops that I have found along the way. Needless to say, I am eating and drinking well and have lots of recommendations for mini-trips from the areas I have driven through. I will compare notes with my friend who is driving through Nova Scotia and New England in a camper van with her dog. She is my heroine role model.
Wind has been good on the Chesapeake and Bill is mastering the art of laundry. Maggie went to some SE library event and met Stevie Wonder. Katy traveled to Colorado with those percussion boys she hangs out with and they had a good time. She has the day off on Aug 26th so that is my target date for the trip.
Love to you all. Gotta go!