Mike Bland

GART Update from Sheridan, WY

After driving through Montana and Wyoming during my Great American Road Trip, I better understand Dog Day Afternoon.

- Sheridan, WY
Tags: GART, Jimi, personal

Sonny: Is there any special country you wanna go to? Sal: Wyoming. Sonny: Sal, Wyoming’s not a country.

In Sheridan, WY tonight, Buffalo Bill’s adopted home, having made it to Portland over the weekend and Seattle (where I had another tire replaced) this past week. Found out that Montana is rather more inhabited than I expected, and lovely to boot, with the cheapest gasoline that I’ve seen yet this trip ($3.05/gallon). According to Wikipedia, Montana has twice as many people as Wyoming (998,199 vs. 568,158; 44th vs. 50th in the fifty states), but only barely beats Wyoming in population density (48th vs. 49th, with Alaska 50th).

See, I remember seeing Montana on a US map when I was in elementary school, and wondering what the hell it was. It was so big and I knew nothing about it, so it might as well’ve been a different country as far as I knew, yet it was part of mine. During all these intervening years, I’ve learned precious little about Montana, and that vacuum of knowledge has always fascinated me. Maybe that’s what Sal felt. Thus, given the mild winter, I took advantage of driving I-90 back east from Seattle, and what I found was a beautiful place that really did remind me a lot of my own country in so many ways, but knowing so little about it beforehand and relatively little still, it might as well still be a different country.

Just prior to finally making it to Montana, I discovered that encountering a deer walking into your lane while driving slightly downhill and around a slight curve in a snow storm just after sundown through the mountains of northern Idaho is an awesome way to test just how good you are at swerving quickly on a slippery road and recovering from the subsequent series of four or five intense fishtails without losing control and driving off into who-knows-where. From that point until the snow stopped, semis ceased to be large, slow obstacles to be overtaken, but were priceless “deer insurance” to be followed dutifully. Now when I see a road sign warning of deer, particularly at night, even absent a flake of snow, I curse to myself and grip the wheel with both hands, tightly, in fear.

Haven’t really kept up with the writing, but have with the driving and meeting up with friends—Dmitry, Nick, and Nikhil—and I finally got to absorb the Jimi exhibit in the Experience Music Project, though I was slightly heartbroken to see the Woodstock Strat was taken down from its display for restoration.

Looking to head to Rapid City, SD tomorrow, and check out Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial nearby (for some definition of “nearby”).