Day 9 – From There to Here

The wildfires throughout the West have seemed to consume so much of our worry about where to go and what we can see this trip that they even invaded my dreams last night. I kept hearing helicopters coming over our motel and landing on the rooftop – over and over again. I was sure we were supposed to get word of an evacuation to get out of our room and to the helicopters, yet no one was coming to wake us with the warning. Eventually, I woke up enough to realize it was simply the very loud air conditioner kicking on in its effort to keep our room comfortable.

As I checked out of our room this morning I asked the clerk how the name of this town is pronounced. We were saying “Have’ ra” with short “a”s, somewhat like we thought Havre would be pronounced in France. ┬áBut the clerk was incensed. “Well, we’re not French around here! It’s “Haw’ ver”.” I’ve learned to always ask the locals and never assume I know something I don’t! Traveling is a learning experience, too.

Today was a long day in the car just making tracks. Some days simply have to be like that to get to the next place of adventure along our route.

The sky was overcast, still laced with smoke from fires, and the temperature 39 when we packed the car to head out. We slid onto Highway 2 and just kept going. The landscape was Montana ranch lands and hay fields with that signature Big Sky as far as the eye could see. Well, today that wasn’t as far as usual because of the lingering smoke coming down from the wildfires in Canada.

To keep us entertained as we drove, we listened to Steve West’s podcast “Philosophize This.”┬áRandy had downloaded 5 years of his by-monthly recordings and we were rapt. At one point he taught us about how Plato, as a young man, had gone on a long road trip and how it had expanded and enriched his life. “That’s what we’re doing,” we exclaimed to each other. At the end of every episode, Steve West says “Thank you for wanting to know more today than you knew yesterday.” I can’t help but think there is grace in that gratitude – and grace in the knowledge that comes from being inquisitive. I think we’ll be learning a lot more as we go.

We made comfort stops along the way: at a town park in Malta, where I saw two deer; in Glasgow, where we also filled the gas tank and had a cup of delicious tortilla soup; in Wolfe Point; and after crossing over into North Dakota and the Central Time Zone, one final stop in Williston before reaching our destination for the night in Stanley, N.D.

We had a quick sandwich at the motel restaurant and wish we hadn’t. It was a reminder that some places are better than others . . . but you never know until you try!

I took a long walk out along the parking lot and the prairie. It was a beautiful evening with the sun trying to peek through the gathered clouds and haze. A small river flows right along the parking lot of the hotel and wild flowers fill the adjacent fields. As I walked I prayed and sang: “From the ocean, through the mountains, to the prairie, now I roam. God bless America, my home sweet home.”