Remembering the Days of Summer

Woke up to snow and wind this morning.    It made me think back on the sunny days of summer.   I went back and looked at some of the photos I took while on the road this summer.   On the crest of the hill in the distance you can see a windmill.   It was a “real” one that still pumped water into a stock tank for cattle on the range far from home.

windmill

Taken in Lake County, Montana

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View from the Interstate

I recently read a blog post done by a person who said they traveled through Montana via Interstate.  Their post talked about how they did not see all the wonder that so many talk about in Montana.  This post got me to thinking about how we travel.

The signs on the interstate don't even hint at the potential places have if you visit.

The signs on the interstate don’t even hint at the potential places have if you visit.

Many of us travel via airplane.   When we fly, we accept that we are miles above the earth and what we see is from a perspective that many will never see.   We also accept that at this elevation we will miss much of what is below us. The most we will get is a mosaic perspective on the earth.

Others of us will travel via auto and the interstate.   When we travel this way we assume that we are getting a look into the world through which we travel.   I had always assume that to be true until I spent my summer on the backroads of Montana.  It was having my summer job and reading this blog that lead me to a new discovery, interstate travel really is only a common denominator for speedy travel.  It is not the way to see the USA.

An interstate was designed to allow a truck to travel from point A to point B with the least resistance.  It was to have the least amount of curves and hills. Business are located along the interstate to save truckers time and milage when traveling from business location to business location.

Knowing the objective of the interstate highway system it makes sense that when traveling to a vacation destination that we too will take the interstate.   We want to get to our vacation location as fast as possible.  When we travel at 65, 75 or even 80 miles per hour down the road we only get a glance at what lies along the interstate.  It also means that we sacrifice the places we drive through. When traveling through Illinois or Montana when we hit a town it will be lined with exits with easy access to the Home Depot, Target and Costco.   Each town will appear to have the same national chain restaurants.   No one would ever claim that McDonald’s and Chili’s are as good as the culinary experience you could find in neighborhoods in Chicago, but if one were to judge the Windy City by the restaurants named along the interstate one might assume that to be true.  The same is true of the viewshed offerings.   What lines the interstate will feel very same, almost monotonous.   This is why people claim the Dakotas are flat, the mountains in Colorado are just ok and Chicago is just tall buildings.   It also explains why driving seems monotonous and hypnotic.   The interstate is designed to be the same on each mile.  When we travel via the interstate; we get the interstate view.

So the next time you go on holiday and decide to drive remember that when you drive though a place and you never get off the interstate for more than gas or to eat you really have not visited that place.

If They Still Made Westerns

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This sort of reminds me of the opening panoramic view in the Big Valley, but this is found today in Montana.

Growing up the TV was full of old-fashion westerns.   They glamorized the history of the old west.   Bonanza, High Chaparral, Gunsmoke, and Big Valley were a few of the ones never missed at our house. One of my favorite parts of these shows beside the handsome heroic cowboys was the scenic lands of the west. This summer I realized that as the world has become more populated and we have more and more urban sprawl, the places where you can go to imagine what the west may have looked like long ago are becoming pretty hard to find.   Lucky for me Montana still has lots of places like that and I got to see many of them.   I always wanted to visit places like I saw on TV westerns and now I have.

Bear Country

There are many places in Montana that are bear country.   People have a tendency to think of bear country as the big woods, but in many cases is the open prairies that surround the woods. This summer I carried bear spray in my truck.   When I surveyed places where I felt that it was potential bear country, because signs told me or my gut said bears are possible here I strapped on my can of bear spray when I got out to do my surveys.

Not all likely bear places have signs like this.

Not all likely bear places have signs like this.

Only once this year did I feel uneasy about wild animals.   It was a place that was not really bear habitat, but mountain lion habitat.   They actually scare me more because they are so stealthy. I felt the whole time like I was being watched.    I got my business done and got out of there.   All the time singing any song I could think of or make up, making my body big and purposeful.

No matter where you go, no matter how short the time there if you are in bear country remember your bear spray.

Travel Recommendations from a Road Warrior

This summer job has made me a road warrior.   I spend four days each week on the road.   Every Thursday night I appear at home with dirty laundry and Monday by 6, I am heading out for another week of work.   Organization is everything in this kind of lifestyle to make sure you take everything you need  when you leave home for work.  Many of the places I visit don’t have much more than a couple of restaurants/bars, a gas station and a grocery store.   No place to buy socks if you forget to pack them.

The surprising but indispensable travel item for me this summer has been my collection of eBags packing cubes.  As a sewer I seriously thought about trying to personally engineer a collection, but in the end I bought mine.    I love them.   My bag has a certain number and size of cubes.   On Sunday, I pull them out and pack each of them and when they are all back in my luggage it means I am ready to go.   Some of my cubes have a spare pair of socks or underwear in them to remind me of what goes in each.  For this job each cube holds one of the five pieces of clothing I put on each day, but I used to be a business suit traveler and think that each cube could just as easily carry your daily outfit.   There is nothing worse than the last day of a professional business trip and realizing you wore the wrong blouse with the wrong suit and the one left does not match the suit you intend to wear tomorrow.   Ranger Sir and I will sometimes travel with just one bag if we go for a night or two.   It is not usually a pleasant experience.   I am thinking a second set of cubes in his own color may solve that problem.   Shop around for your set because the amount the retailers are asking you to pay varies widely.

Everyone has their favorite bag for toiletries based on what they want and need.  Most of us take some supplies from home.   My favorite choice for this is the GoToob products.   First reason for recommending this product is that it is easy to fill.   It actually has an opening you can put shampoo in without it traveling all down the sides.   Second is they stand behind the product no questions.   I broke a top, emailed them and I got a new top.   It is a one time purchase.   Lastly if you travel via airlines it was designed with that in mind.   The only negative is it is designed with words like soap, shampoo, lotion, conditioner on the neck.   Without my glasses in the shower I can read that stuff, so I had to shop around to get assorted colors to work for me.    In spite of that I really do like these the best of all the travel containers I have ever owned.

The fabric I used in this pillowcase always makes me smile because it is so crazy unexpected.

The fabric I used in this pillowcase always makes me smile because it is so crazy unexpected.

My last recommendation is a pillow case from home.   I have made a collection of bright don’t forget me pillow cases, but anything will do.    Pillow cases from home can be used to cover and double up hotel pillows to simulate your personal pillow.   Pillowcases from home can also be used to keep your face and skin away from the harsh hotel laundry soaps.   It also puts another barrier between you and the pillow that hundreds of others have slept on.   Lastly this is what I put all my dirty clothes in to take them home.   It is like having a personal laundry bag to keep your dirty clothes from soiling your luggage and anything you may have clean left in your bag for your next stop in your travels.

Another of the Unusual Things You Might See in Montana

Last week I was traveling down the road I happened upon Medusa, or at least a rendition of her.  It was so amazing I had to turn around and take a picture.   This was huge as you can see by the fence in the background for scale.    People are amazingly creative and this is another example of that.

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You will find this head of Medusa near Hobson, Montana.

Bees Are Important for the Open Range Too!

Most folks have heard about colony collapse and bees.  I had read about how this was going to impact our crops.   Everything popped into my mind from berries to nuts and everything in between.   Never though did I think about grass, pastures and rangeland needing bees until I took this job.   I have seen hundreds, maybe even a few thousand bee hives out on on the open range.  Bees impact more than I had imagined in agriculture and our lives.

One of the many bee hives out there on the open range.

One of the many bee hives out there on the open range.