Day 8 (or Day 1 of Week 2): Rural Montana

How very cool is it to drive through snow-capped mountains, meadows, lake districts AND—get this—a real herd of cows being herded across the road by 2 cowboys and 1 cowgirl on horseback with their 2 herding dogs? We had to stop on the 70-mph 2-lane highway to let the dogs do their jobs. The cows were herded right past Nick’s window. He barked a kind of bark we had never heard before. Must be his shepherding nature. Lisa is bummed she didn’t capture the whole thing on video. Now the cute little Flip video camera is in the front seat, readily accessible, should we be part of another cattle drive or anything as interesting (and as noisy).

The other big news of the day: the heat wave broke. Hallelujah, and I know it’s due to Aelred’s prayers ;-) Every time Lisa drove the heavens opened up, lightning struck, and the air cooled. Nothing like driving over the Continental Divide in a downpour in a 22’ vehicle. But she did great.

Many of you have commented on liking the brain droppings, so we’ll drop some more as we sit happily in our camp chairs, next to our noble steed, in 70 degree weather, surrounded by amazing mountains in every direction (we’re south of Bozeman, MT tonight).

More thoughts about Montana:
--In some places, the road signs say “Game Crossing.” In others (notably national or state wildlife refuges), the signs say “Wildlife Crossing.” Context is indeed decisive.
--How many anti-meth billboards have we seen? Very scary. The main message appears to be “Not even once.” We’ve seen professionally designed billboards and handpainted ones. We’ve read that rural Missouri has the highest rate of meth addiction, but we’re betting that rural Montana is right up there, given all the signs.
--Oh, and does anyone know what a sign saying “Break Matches” means? We saw this multiple times driving down beautiful MT 83, along Swan Lake (gotta love that). Why would a person want to break their matches? Is it after lighting? (which would make some sense, we guess) or Before lighting? (which makes no sense) Please let us know if you know what “Break Matches” means in a forest context. It’s driving us crazy.
--And what is it about casinos (keno and poker) in every bloody gas station? It’s not as if gambling is only allowed on the rez (which it is), it’s as if gambling is as legal everywhere in Montana as it is in Nevada. Can’t find anything in our AAA literature or Montana tourism literature that explains this. Any light you can shed would be much appreciated.
--We generally spend time before we get to a destination reading aloud about it from our various sources: AAA books, state tourism books, clippings, the web. But today we stopped at a historical site to go to the bathroom and eat lunch, After we left, we read about the place where we stopped. Turned out it was a national historic site and we missed all kinds of neat tour opportunities. Got this cool photo, though. Couldn’t capture the lightning in the mountains, though.

--Contemplate this. We passed a drive-in movie theater. Its sign said: Open 9:45 PM, movie starts at dusk. Think about it. It's not even dark at 10PM. The campground we were staying in had quiet hours starting at 10PM, and it was still light. Just amazing how far north we were (farther north than Seattle, although tonight we're about even with Portland).


  1. Lisa/Julie,

    I just returned form Mt. and am now reading your travelblog, how cool!. I flew into Helena and spent 5 days fishing/camping on the Smith river. I agree with your meth/casino comments. I actually could live in Mt. but I think Dana would balk at that idea. I love the country and the isolation. Only 1 million people in the 3rd largest state in the union! Maybe all that isolation causes the meth/gambling. Your trip seems to be going well and I will read the blog daily. Congratulations on your recent nuptials. - JB

  2. When do we get to see more food photos?! Have fun and stay cool--we're following your adventures from Carmel Valley.


  3. Hooray! So glad to hear the heat wave broke. Ours let up here, too. Hoping for fabulous weather for 7/4. Will keep up the prayers for a continued safe, contemplative...and comfortable trip! Can't wait to see you!
    BTW--your whole encounter with limits vs. limitations is VERY interesting and exciting for me. You are experiencing much of what I experience daily as a novice monk. There are many limits (and limitations) in my life at the moment that are completely new to me. It is very important to embrace them, as you say. It is a choice to embrace them or not. Part of learning how to live a monastic way of life is learning that real freedom comes with NOT being in control of every single thing about your life. It is living with the limits that you set for yourself, and that are sometimes set for you, that often offers the greatest sense of peace.
    At the risk of being overly Christian, I cannot help but compare the experience to that of Christ himself. He who, as the Son of God, certainly was entitled to the greatest degree of authority (and therefore control over his situation), taught (and modeled) that the path to happiness (in this life and the next) is to lay aside authority / control and become obedient to will and needs of others. As you guys seek to define your "limits" both on this trip and in life, you are negotiating how to lay aside control of this or that aspect of life, in deference to the needs of one or the other of you (or Nick!), and are finding happiness along the way. While the outward manifestation of that happiness is that you are discovering things you might not have otherwise noticed, I would be willing to bet that an unseen, yet felt / experienced piece of it is the joy that comes with loving each other, and caring for and about each other's needs.
    Well, enough e-philosophizing for today. Perhaps we can take up this conversation in greater depth when you are here, in person!
    Much love to you. Peace, Aelred

  4. Break Matches= Break the matches you leave behind so you don't set the entire state on fire. Like in (cough) California. Hahahahaha. Just had to throw that in.

    I can't believe I'm just NOW catching up on the blog. Good grief. I have been busy/distracted.

    And if you think Meth is a problem in Montana, wait until you get closer to Omaha. Ugh. I hate to say it, but the Midwest has quite the problemo. I can't wait to see you. Hug hug! You can come run Nick in my backyard if you want. :)

  5. Hey Y'all!
    I have spent the summer thus far cleaning dorm rooms--college students are the epitome of gross by the way--so haven't had much time to keep up with the blog. With that in mind, I apologize for the late response to this post. However, I googled your question regarding the "Break Matches" warning you kept encountering. At a website for depicting various Smokey the Bear posters and captions, I found the following: 1955-CFFP-17: VACATION REMINDERS. BREAK YOUR MATCHES. CRUSH YOUR SMOKES. DROWN YOUR CAMPFIRE. BE CAREFUL WITH ANY FIRE! By Rudolph Wendelin.

    Don't know if this helps--probably not much since it doesn't explain the significance of breaking the matches. But, it's all I could find.