"The world does not reward honesty and independence, it rewards obedience and service. It’s a world of concentrated power, and those who have power are not going to reward people who question that power."-Chomsky

"The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management." -J.H. Kunstler

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."-Dylan

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

8/26/09: Sidney, Montana

Hopping into the truck with Rob, I thought this odd day would return to normal. I would be corrected.

Rob, predictably, worked in the oil fields as a tester and was on his way home, an hour away in eastern Montana. There was some confusion at first, as I asked him if he was going as far as I-94. He said that he was but I learned after we had already left Williston that he was going only as far as Sidney, 50- miles short of Glendive and I-94. A little improvisation is good for the soul, and he spoke highly of Sidney. I even had visions of taking a day to patronize the library and upload pictures, congratulating myself on finally making it to Montana.

Rob's route out of North Dakota was perfect. We passed the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers, and historic Fts. Union and Buford. I had considered venturing down this way on foot if the situation presented itself in order to satisfy my Lewis & Clark curiosity. The fates had given me the best of both worlds: proximity and a ride. Rob and I chatted about his work and my travels the entire way, but there was nothing extraordinary about it.

Passing into Montana was a nice feeling. This state been a thorn in my brain for over a year, since deciding against coming north from Pocatello, ID last July. Now, as we slid thru Fairview and approached Sidney, I was glowing in the idea that I was about to tend to unfinished business... and cross nearly the whole damn thing. I had been hearing stories about its beauty for a long time. Now, I would see for myself.

Coming in from the north, Rob dropped me at an Exxon station toward the south end of Sidney with a warm handshake and wishing me luck. He was quite boastful of his fellow Montanans, and seemed quite certain I'd be in Glendive soon. Despite still running on next to no sleep, I had long since tapped into sustained adrenaline and began looking for places to hitch, so as to try take advantage of the remaining daylight. I settled on a spot adjacent to another gas station, next to the road, and in front of a small strip mall. The traffic was brisk, and I noticed that young people were actually cruising! On a Wednesday evening! I liked Sidney immediately.

My first indication that Sidney would continue the oddities seen in Williston was the the abundance of curious, friendly looks. It was obvious that Sidney had not had many passers-thru donning backpacks. I was quite the curiosity, particularly to a truckload of young girls who repeatedly drove by yelling. It reminded me of the cafe scene in Easy Rider, without the ensuing bludgeoning in the woods... I hoped.

The spontaneous acts of kindness crossed state lines with me. After half an hour, I turned around to see a man carrying a bag of McDonald's he'd picked up for me. He said he was sorry he wasn't going anywhere, had "been there" and figured I could use a meal. Then, shortly before the sun had set a young girl of about 17 walked all the way across the parking lot then, without saying a word, handed me $10. When I asked, "What's this for?" she just smiled and said, "Take it easy, dude." It's one thing for middle aged people to do this, but this especially touched and impressed me, considering it came from her. I am still kicking myself for not giving these people my cards with the website address, so they all could know just how astounded I was. In my surprise, it never even occurred to me.

As in Williston, rides did not accompany the gifts. So as the sun fell, I had to think about places to sleep. I noticed a police car occasioning by through the evening, but she had not bothered me... until I took my first two steps toward finding a nest. I was a bit taken aback by this particular cop. She was in her early 20's, and easily the most attractive lawdog I'd ever seen. However, I had to conceal a chuckle as I thought, "I wonder if she'd perform at my bachelor party in that uniform!" Sexist? Maybe. But, I would pay good money for that! Anyhow, apparently someone had seen the girl give me money, and made a complaint that they thought I was "soliciting work," which is illegal in Montana. When I explained why I was there, where I'd come from, and where I was headed, it was obvious that I wasn't interested in finding gainful employment, but she still asked for my ID. I diplomatically asked her what she thought of this arbitrary invasion of privacy, since by her own clear admission I was breaking no laws. She responded that it was Montana procedure to run the ID of everyone law enforcement comes in contact with. I found that laughable, but she was serious. I also found it amusing that she had never heard the phrase "papers please." Hearing that, I concluded that this pretty, well intentioned young lady may actually be better suited to a profession in the exotic entertainment field, rather than law enforcement. There are fewer ethical questions, and at least mindlessly following dictation (no pun intended) while performing a lap dance is an asset (again), and probably more lucrative!

Madame Law did give me some very good information on where to camp. She said that I could nest nearly anywhere off private land, as long as no one saw me & complained. The fine folks of Sidney were apparently freaked out by drifters, after having to endure a mentally ill vagabond who had hung around a bit too long. Understanding this, I assured her that no one would see me and I would be on my way at the first opportunity.

Keeping my word about not being seen was easier said than done, and nearly cost me a leg. I executed my misdirection technique, which entails walking one direction, then backtracking the opposite way to throw off anyone who sees me and is interested in my whereabouts. This is especially useful in populated areas. It was completely dark, and as I was backtracking beneath a bridge along a small stream, I learned the hard way that Montana has the same small gullies as New Mexico. But, here they're hidden beneath vegetation! I first discovered this after suddenly finding myself on my belly with my pack driving my face into the dirt. I was then reminded, again, when I found my left leg in a 3ft. ditch submersed to the knee in water. Lovely!

Once I found a decent spot behind a hotel, I didn't move. Not even to pee...