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.

12 thoughts on “The Montana Transition: Going Home

  1. Good to see you are almost settled in to unpack. Wish I had known you were thinking of selling the white truck, I might have bought it. And your beautiful fuchsia flower is Clematis, one of my favorites. My dad had the fuchsia, a white, and a purple in his front yard. I have been trying to find a fuchsia one to plant here. They are very hardy and easy to grow. They are good for a privacy screen and for shade. You will need to cut it back every couple of years to get to the dead stems for removal once in a while. I do not know what the yellow is, but it is gorgeous.

  2. Thanks for the Clematis clue-in! As for the white truck, two things: (1) We didn’t think about getting rid of the white truck until after we were here, and (b) it would not necessarily have been a good purchase for you. Driver’s side front hub and rear differential were both going to need attention sooner rather than later, to the tune of thousands of dollars (or half that IF you a shop and a mechanic in your back pocket). Engine was solid, but transmission had a great deal of slack in it, more than overdue (per typical GMC pattern) for a full rebuild. I’d have felt uneasy selling it to a friend.

  3. Just had the front hubs replaced on the van, so I guess I know which would have been the really expensive one. The front passenger side hub went out at the beginning of May. I had both replaced as recommended. I was on the way to town to have it checked out, as it had made a funny noise earlier on a run to the mailbox. It did not make it, just to the Forest Service office. I had to have it towed from there. Good thing is, I found a good mechanic close by.

  4. There you go. Humor: The saleslady who sold me the Subaru Outback called yesterday just to make sure I was a satisfied customer–but as fortune would have it, I’d forgotten my phone, left it home, and Pam answered. Pam let her (Melaney) know in polite but Pam-certain terms that (a) the passenger seat was not overly friendly to her back and that (b) both of us were aware of a driver’s side front wheel assembly (hub or otherwise) issue that no one at the dealership would admit being able to hear, possibly even a hub like the truck’s issue. I may stop by sometime to say hi to the dealership, but I’m betting Melaney won’t call back here again! I’ve also begun to mildly “customize” the car, as I always do–starting with the driver’s side headrest. This car’s headrests curve forward, good for banging my head without bothering to crash first, so I yanked that one headrest out of its mount, turned it around, and jammed it down into the “post holes” BACKWARD. I’d remove the blasted thing entirely (whiplash shipmash) except for the fact that it might be nice to have during long-trip naps….

    Went to the Driver’s Exam Station today and found out I have to go online and schedule an APPOINTMENT to have my driver’s license transferred from Arizona to Montana. Never run into this before and do know it was NOT that way the last time I moved into MT from out of state (1999). Also have to show up with not only my current AZ license but a “notarized birth certificate and proof of residence.” Obviously, having those documents will prove I’m not a terrorist, right? 😀

  5. I have never understood the sense of having a seat headrest curve forward. Your head is not shaped that way. Your head bulges out above the neck. Why do they have a neckrest that is further back than your head. No common sense in the design.
    I have never had a seat that was more uncomfortable than a Chevy Luv that my dad had. We had it recovered finally and had a 4″ pad added to the seat and the backrest. Improved the comfort level considerably. We had bought it from my dad shortly after we got married. My dad rode in it after we had the padding put in and said he should have done that years ago. It had always made his bony butt hurt. Bouncing around in it while going wood cutting was killer.

  6. Agreed on the headrest curve. My second wife and I had a yellow Chevy Luv (2 wheel drive) that we bought new. Little beast gave signs of getting ready to fall apart by the time it had 20,000 miles on it, but I don’t remember the seat being uncomfortable. Of course, at that age I could probably have ridden an old steel wheeled farm tractor and not noticed a problem. We eventually traded it in on one of the first Chevy Citations (1980) they put out, so early in the run that the bugs weren’t worked out yet. Sort of a “Beta Car.” Great machine after they had to rework the head (valve problems) at 7,000 miles. Loved it, but had to give it up after Carolyn and I were no longer together and Rose simply could not learn to drive a stick shift.

  7. I loved the one we got from my dad. He changed the engine out a couple of times in the time he had it, but I had a brother that liked to try to hotrod it. Love the 4 on the floor. It was tough as heck, and the only reason Dennis and I sold it was because it did not have room for the family and he liked vans. I hate vans and wish I had it back.
    We sold it to a friend that had to rework the shifter with a welder. It had worn so much that it kept going into a no gear. You had to be good to get it in every time, and he was not. I never had the problem, but I had been driving it for years. If it got stuck in no gear, it had to be taken apart and put back together, and Dennis could not do that. He got tired of paying someone to do it.
    Our friend that bought it was delighted to get it. He was a mechanic in TN and since it had always been in NV, it had no rust.

  8. While Carolyn (2nd wife) and I did have ours (Chevy Luv), I did manage to put it to work on occasion. Mostly it was my commute-to-work ride, but I installed a wood stove in a house we bought out in the country (North Dakota prairie), and that truck hauled all the firewood after the Stihl chainsaw and I got done cutting it into blocks. It did pretty well for a small truck.

    Pam wants to know if you’ve gotten the rose bush planted. 🙂

  9. I planted it in a large pot. I want it in a spot that is not ready yet. They do well in large pots. I have one on my front porch that has been growing there for a year now, waiting for the raised planter bed to be built.
    We used ours a lot for wood cutting. Dad used to take it places that his friends could not get their 4 wheel drive 3/4 pickups. He would take it up a hill and it would go over the pine needles and they had to dig through them. We would fill it up and he would take the wood down the hill to get it to theirs. Then he would go back up and we would fill it up again. He also hauled a trailer with it, that we would fill up. It would haul a heck of a load. Only time he ever blew the engine was when my brother was driving it. He was 16 and thought he was a great driver. He totaled 4 vehicles before he was 21. My dad would not let him drive his mustang.

  10. The large pot sounds great; I’ll tell Pam in the morning.

    I can just see that, the little Chevy Luv “floating” up the hill where the bigger trucks would bog down. I’ve only known one guy who would put your brother’s driving record to shame, though. Forget his name, but he was part of our commo platoon stationed in Germany for a while. He was 22 when he was drafted but had totaled 8 vehicles by that time. Bronx native.

  11. Glad to hear you’re settling in, Ghost. Montana seems to suit you both. Do you feel as though you’ve “come home”?

  12. I do, Sha. Plus, both of us are feeling healthier here than in Arizona. Pam has her weight back up in the nineties, too, the first time in years. There’s still a heck of a lot of scrambling, such as (but not limited to) having to buy a motorhome (class B, one of those that looks like a tricked-out van), an older (1998) model but in great shape with low mileage…and then finding out that a clerk Supervisor in Missoula County caused a glitch in the title process, meaning I can’t get plates until that’s straightened out.

    Why did we need the motorhome? Because Montana doctors wouldn’t take Pam’s case, at least not with out scrapping her current medication regimen, which means traveling back to see her Arizona practitioner, and she can no longer survive long trips in a small vehicle.

    I’ll count us as “settled in” maybe next year, when I don’t have to miss attending events like the Bull-O-Rama that’s happening right now in Deer Lodge: 30 bull riders, the top ten scores qualifying for the short go. (In a “short go,” the very toughest bulls are drawn for those ten riders, and the cowboys’ ten efforts on those bulls determine the final placements.)

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