The Montana Transition: Going Home

May 26, 2017. Going home to Montana was a transition (from southern Arizona) I looked forward to completing…but nobody said it was going to be easy. I stared at the U-Haul auto hauler as hard as I could. The situation stubbornly refused to change. Our GMC half ton pickup’s wheelbase was simply too long for the trailer, and that was that. As far forward as it could go, the truck’s rear tires were literally touching the trailer’s back edge, but not an inch of rubber was up there on top of the carrying deck.

Unless I wanted to run along behind, holding up the wheel ramps all the way, this was definitely not going to work.

“What can we do about it?” I asked the U-Haul manager. He put on his thinking cap and came up with a possible solution. Made a quick phone call. Then advised me, “The other U-Haul dealer in town has a couple of the larger trailers.”

Larger sounded good but turned out to be rather unimpressive. The “bigger” auto hauler did measure longer on the carrying deck, all right…a whopping two inches longer.

When I called Pam to give her the latest update, worried about having to carry two kitty cats in the U-Haul truck cab with me, my wife had a better idea. “Zach and I will take Kitten Precious; you take Gato.” It made sense. Then, once Pam, the white truck, both cats, and I were more or less firmly ensconced in Deer Lodge, I would need to fly back to Arizona to get the green truck. But the job would get done, one way or the other. The U-Haul truck should have been at the Border Fort by noon. Actual arrival time: Nearly 6:00 p.m. From then until midnight, I loaded boxes and other items into the truck, then hit the hay for five hours.

May 27, 2017. Zach (Pam’s son, who took time off from work to drive Pam to Montana on this Memorial Day weekend) was ready to go when I picked him up at 7:30 a.m. By 8:00 a.m., we were hard at it, focusing especially on the larger, heavier items until noon, at which point Zach and Pam were cut loose. They grabbed the smallest possible trailer from U-Haul, hooked it up behind the 2002 GMC pickup, and headed out. Twenty-eight hours later, they were in Deer Lodge (Montana), having matched my own road warrior running time. But me? Hah! After a quick shower and change of clothes, the loaded U-Haul truck and I headed out, too…at 4:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 28, following 22 straight hours of loading.

May 28, 2017. 4:20 a.m. at the Shell station…no billfold! It was in the load! Agh-h-h-h!!! Yet miracles do happen, even for the overly tired and mistake prone among us; the nightstand containing that billfold was thankfully loaded where I could more or less get to it without having to dig too far. Twenty minutes later, we were good to go without anyone having witnessed me scrambling on my belly, pushing boxes out of the way, snaking my arm through a tangle of garden hoses to reach the necessary drawer.

True, I’d lost the oil filler cap already and had to cobble one together out of duct tape, but hey. If you can’t fix it with duct tape, it ain’t fixable!

And away we went…all of 30 more miles, to the I-10 junction, where a whopping 1 1/2 hours of sleep at the Love’s truck stop–sitting up behind the wheel–left us raring and ready to roll by 7:30 a.m.

May 29, 2017, Monday. Three hours of sleep at the Flying J truck stop at Nephi, Utah, stretched out across the seat with Gato the yowling cat gone silent, crawling out from under the driver’s seat to stretch out on my chest. Until I pushed him away so I could breathe, whereupon he climbed into his cat carrier, which promptly fell off the dash onto my legs. Cat and carrier alike rested there until I announced it was time to visit the restroom, grab a bottle of water, and hit the road again.

We rolled into Deer Lodge around noon, 32 hours running, not bad for the much slower U-Haul truck (as compared to the flying-low pickup Zach had piloted north). Later that afternoon, leaving Pam at the Travelodge to fend for herself for one additional night (with friendly help from the motel staff), it was time to drive Zach over to a hotel in Butte, where he’d stay the night before flying back to Arizona on an early morning flight (6:25 a.m. departure).

May 30, 2017, Tuesday. Chris Holmes (lawn care guy, hired help for the day) and I unload U-Haul. I pick Pam up from the motel. That night, she sleeps on my Coleman air mattress while I rack out in my spare bedroll atop a couple of foam pads on the floor.

May 31, 2017, Wednesday. Turn in U-Haul. Chris gives me a ride back from Anaconda (nearest town with a U-Haul dealer) to Deer Lodge. I get Pam’s Sleep Number bed set up, and she’s full of joy for much of the day, loving her new residence…until we get word from the clinic that her appointment with a new medical practitioner has fallen through due to the FNP not being able to work on Friday. Appointment is rescheduled for the following Tuesday, meaning some of Pam’s key meds will have to be severely stretched. (They were due to refill on Saturday.) But we figure out a better pharmacy than the one I’d been going to use, so there’s a silver lining. Pam goes through a bout of depression but snaps back and, despite the increased pain and other issues, begins to power through the wait time.

June 1, Thursday. I get my Sleep Number bed set up…with a scare. Couldn’t find the remote for the bed’s air pump! It finally turned up on the floor. Must have bounced out of a drawer in that same nightstand that held my billfold, then hung up on the bottom rail between a sidewall and the bottom drawer, until I “shook things up” enough with all the drawer opening and closing I was doing. Another miracle.

June 3, Saturday. We discuss maybe trading in the white 2002 GMC pickup truck for a Subaru Outback. Our 2001 Outback, given to Zach when it had something like 206,000 miles on it, had been used hard and showed it–though he’s still using it as a daily driver to work. Living on grid in town now, we hardly need two trucks, and most of all, we do need a vehicle that will fit onto a U-Haul auto hauler trailer. I’m in Butte, running many errands. Stop at the Subaru dealer on Harrison, just to give them a heads up for when we have a little more cash on hand later on. But the Universe has something else in mind; Melaney the salesperson shows me a dusky blue 2006 Outback with 94,000 miles on it. They’ve only had it on the lot for a few days. I know from thirty feet away that this is the vehicle Spirit has set up for us…and by the time all the haggling and discussion is done, the cost works out to something we can handle now instead of later. The car is immediately named Baby Blue, being considerably smaller than the last blue vehicle I owned (a Chevy Silverado).

Baby Blue the Subaru, sitting in our Deer Lodge driveway.

June 4, Sunday. Time to hit the Laundromat. We’ll be purchasing our own washer and dryer soon enough, but–thanks to the car purchase–not for a little while yet. After the duds are sudsed, it’s time to hit the computer and book a flight back to Arizona. That flight won’t be for a while yet, but having the arrangements made will be a good thing. Hours later, said arrangements are in place:

–Reservation to stay at a Butte hotel the night before the flight (Pam’s idea; she feels very safe and comfortable here and assures she me she will be fine during my absence of two days and nine hours or thereabouts.)
–Flight reservation from Butte to Tucson, via Salt Lake City.
–Cab ride arranged to take me from Deer Lodge to the Butte hotel.
–Cab ride arranged from hotel to airport at 5:00 a.m. on the day of departure.
–Cab ride arranged from Tucson to Zach’s in the Sierra Vista area.

Late in the afternoon, we take note of two flowers in the back yard. One is a small yellow bloom on the mystery bush growing outside Pam’s bedroom window, the other a larger fuschia beauty growing near the garage wall.

Flowering bush outside Pam’s bedroom window.

Fuschia beauty near the garage wall.

So, do we miss the wildlife at the Border Fort? In a word, yes, though Pam is hit much harder than I am, most likely because I’m far too busy to give much thought to that which is not right in front of my face. Certainly, our “bunnies and puppies,” i.e. the Arizona desert cottontails and Mearns coyotes who befriended us and vice versa…being apart from them does bring a tear to Pam’s eye now and then. (Not mine, of course, as we all know real men don’t cry, right?) But, though I’ve not yet had time to focus on getting photos, we aren’t exactly “wildlife free” here, either. The striking black-and-white magpies are seen foraging every day, and there are a pair of doves who seem to be drawn to us, often hanging out in our front yard under the spruce trees or perching on the chain link fence until I come meandering outside.

In summary, we have here our first observations from Powell County, Montana, with many more to come. Ah! Almost forgot. Check this photo out.

4Bs restaurant in Deer Lodge, Montana.

Okay, the picture doesn’t show the entire restaurant, but here’s a clue for our regular readers: This is the 4Bs restaurant occasionally featured in scenes from the Treemin Jackson saga (aka They Walk Among Us, followed by The Wizard and the Weaver). True, the internal layout of the dining area would not quite allow some of those scenes to happen exactly as described, but hey. Literary license.