Waking up in Bozeman with the knowledge that I was going to be here for a few days (at least) was a bit of a treat. A long morning pottering around the hotel and helping myself to the unlimited supply of fresh pancakes was an unfamiliar but not necessarily unpleasant experience. The sun was shining too, so it was not long before I was out walking the streets. Well, OK, I can´t tell a lie. It was a while before I ventured forth – mid afternoon in fact – and still pretty well stocked with the super-sized breakfast. Eating in at hotels has not been a notable feature of this journey, so why not indulge? It was a holiday after all – it was the Fourth of July – Independence Day. I just hoped the locals wouldn´t view me as the bad guy in this movie, me being a Brit and all that!
Small town America is ace. And having also had the chance to have visited a few of their larger cities, I have to say that I prefer for former. The pace of life is more akin to that I have become accustomed to in my adopted home on the Mediterranean. And while I enjoyed the distinct architecture and layout of such small US towns, which contrast completely with that of the Welsh valleys of my youth, or my current home in Barcelona, it is the people that live in these often bypassed places that provide the greatest attractor.
When considering the people of Montana, for example, the first thing you tend to notice is that they are generally in good shape. More outdoorsy by nature, and not generally carrying around the surplus energy reserves that I saw much of further south (you know... fat!). Once engaged in conversation, they also seem to have more time to listen and, then, respond with a high degree of courtesy and relevance. I have no doubt that I have been lucky in the people I have met on the road, but it strikes me that there is less luck involved in the US when travelling through the lesser populated areas. People genuinely seem friendlier. Or should I say less inclined to try and impose views, and more inclined to give of their time.
Nice people in Montana, and I noted an example of that in the service gained from the local Yamaha dealer in my last posting on this blog. But another is on the way. After spending the afternoon having a wander round the town taking photos and chatting to various people in various shops (and having had a little siesta – hard work this talking lark!) I headed to a local bar with an Irish theme in the evening. The plan was to sample some of the local beers while killing the few hours that remained before the evenings fireworks display kicked off.
Bar 317 was the local of choice (called 317 as that was its address on Main Street), where I quickly fell into conversation with Shelby (and later Matt from Seattle) who were off duty firefighters. You know, the ones that tackle those incredible wildfires out in the sticks – not of the town variety, all of which would be on duty given the nights planned pyrotechnics. Fascinating work and great company, along with the lovely Ashley behind the bar (the place was surprisingly quiet), the hours simply flew by. Ah, and the beers also flew down! Montana probably hosts some of the best breweries I had encountered on the whole of the trip, and it was not long before I had settled into the challenge of sampling the whole selection supplied at the 317. Ashley also persuaded me to engage in testing a particular cocktail comprising of Guinness, Baileys and Jameson whiskey – a surprisingly smooth (but lethal) combination... as I later discovered when my foot refused to rise sufficiently to walk up a step!
Fireworks completely forgotten, and long passed, and the firefighting lads having already retired for the evening, I asked to settle my tab (the bill for the evening´s drinks), only to discover that Shelby had already paid it in full prior to his departure. Wonderful hospitality and without even sticking around for the opportunity to be thanked. So I´ll take this opportunity, thank you Shelby - a great evening. Then Ashley, seeing a man somewhat stunned by the generosity (and not the booze) kindly poured me a shot of Jameson´s on the house. One for the road. Thank you Ashley. Like I said, nice people in Montana.
Needless to say the joys of my hotel were well and truly taken advantage of the next morning too. And when I finally managed to breach the threshold sometime in the afternoon it was only for a short walk, before returning to a few hours of writing. Luke at the bike dealers rang with the news that they felt they could refurbish the shock sufficiently to get me back on the road, and all was right with the world. Just as well, a replacement would have had to be shipped from Europe and would have cost a bit in both time and cash, both of which I realised were starting to be in short supply as I planned my route north. An early night!
Another sunny day in Bozeman saw me packing up and moving to a motel on the other side of town. And for those that were thinking that I was being kicked out for guzzling all the pancakes, the move came about as they were already fully booked for the impending weekend. So aside from the move, which took me all morning, and a few hours writing, this day was not particularly productive until... Luke rang with the news that Idris was ready! Yey!
A lovely stroll and an hour later and Idris and I were reunited. Shiny clean (for the first time in weeks), serviced, sporting a new rear tyre, and not bouncing up and down like some sort of demented Zebedee (ref Magic Roundabout). It seemed that the shock´s old oil, what was left of it, was well and truly gunked up. It was felt that fine dust had opened up the seals and that was pretty much that. Monument Valley, I thought, but now all was well with the world. And after Luke had un-united me from some hard cash, we were on our way back to the motel (without a helmet, which is legal there, as I had forgotten to carry mine over!). Appropriate, I thought, to have at least one wind in the hair, freedom on the bike type experience while in the US. Though in reality riding even in such a quiet town without my lid felt a little uncomfortable. Strange what you get used to.
On arrival back at the motel, now properly on two wheels, I pulled up outside my room only to spy a couple of lovely Harleys. I had some new neighbours. Needless to say Idris´ arrival sporting its stickers, odd number plate and battle scars sparked interest. It wasn´t long before I was chatting to Bob, Starr, Ann and Doug a lovely couple of couples who were heading back home after their summer bike holidays. And before I knew it, I was being handed a large pizza for dinner, gratis! Nice people in ..... well you know the rest by now!
Thought for the day
Time off the bike and off the road provided much space for thinking, but of a different tack to that that usually filled my helmeted head. I found my night out at Bar 317 had left me missing home and the lovely Mrs Pat all the more (I don´t think Ashley´s suitably filled Daisy Dukes helped matters!). It was getting on for four months away, and I was starting to feel the pain. I was also getting road weary and was thinking that I had enough of bike travel for a while. Don´t get me wrong, I was still motivated to complete the trip. I had one more ´must do´ to complete – and that was get to Alaska. But I couldn´t help feel that I was ready to finish, ready to go home, and I wanted the remainder of the journey to come and go as quickly as possible. Which was fine, as I now only had a limited amount of riding days left anyway. I just needed to make the most of what I had left.