Colorado wasn’t the first stop, but it was the first stop beyond a Wal-Mart parking lot or a roadside sight that demanded more than a drive-by “Hey look! Oh you missed it? Oh well.” It was/is the first real stop, other than Devil’s Tower, which was incredible! Forgive the grammatical past tense and present tense contradictions. I write this recalling what happened as it happens. If that doesn’t make sense it’s because it doesn’t.
Colorado is the first real stop. Everything up until now since leaving Canada has been a step on the way here. It started with the border. Neither of us have had anything to be afraid of crossing a border in the past but this is different. We are towing a trailer that’s 45 years old with no visible serial number, registered as something it isn’t because nobody knows what it is, peppered with bullet holes. Add to that we have 4 dogs with us entering a country with security that is at an all time high, with inaccessible compartments in the trailer. I’ve watched a few episodes of Border Patrol and have seen people’s setups ripped apart for less to justify this fear. The process was surpisingly smooth though. The usual questions of “do you have any firearms?” or “any drugs or alcohol?” to which our answers were yes and no respectively. Of course we brought along some of our local brewery’s finest fun juice. And then they asked about food, plants and so on, specifically dog food. We admitted having about a 1/3 bag of dog food with us, to which we were asked if it contains any lamb or pork. I’m not sure why that would matter other than maybe some little known disease concerns. Of course we said “no, pretty sure it’s bison”. The border agents asked for trailer keys and went back to take a look for themselves. Upon returning they welcomed us to the country and wished us luck on our trip! The sense of relief after that was almost overwhelming. High fives were exchanged between Angela and I and at least one dog. The other good high fiver was in a kennel (Jake the asshole) and unable to exchange accolades. We were over the moon. The adventure has officially begun! Fast forward 4 hours and it’s time to feed the dogs. We pull out the bag of bison dog food to see there is no bison at all. The first two ingredients are pork and lamb! I wonder what they actually looked at in the trailer?
I’m not sure what I was expecting but for some reason I was surprised to see that Montana looked a lot like the Saskatchewan we just left. Maybe the high of the start of an adventure deluded me into expecting something completely foreign. It wasn’t. Not at the start at least. But as I stopped counting kilometers and started to count miles it started to change. The endless flat landscape began to roll. The horizon became pock marked with brown pimples. The scenery was changing.
Along with the scenery I noticed the quality of road had changed. Saskatchewan roads are well known for being some of the smoothest in the universe. That is when compared to the cratered surface of the moon. When it comes to North America smooth is not a word I would use to describe them. It’s typical in other provinces to hear complaints about drivers from Saskatchewan, but it’s not their fault. I’ve spent a lot of time in a vehicle mostly as a driver, but also as a passenger in multiple provinces. One observation I’ve made is that when someone displays any sort of below acceptable driving behavior the immediate reaction is to look at the plate, and then the person. “Damn Alberta drivers” or “of course it’s an Asian woman”. Well Saskatchewan drivers get as bad a rep as anyone else. But there is a reason for it. We drive like we’re lost looking for a street sign everywhere because we’re actually just trying to navigate potholes. Even if the road is smooth, I believe it has become genetically engraved. That said, as I realized all I had to do was keep it between the lines I began to observe my surroundings more and enjoy the new sights I was seeing. Montana is a beautiful state!
The rolling hills slowly grew tall. And the smooth rolls began to tear apart exposing sharp cliffs of brown sand supporting tufts of yellowish green grassy bushes looking ready to fall over the edge. The further south we drove the bigger the cliffs grew and more jagged the hills formed. Soon it became layered sand towers sticking up 50 feet tall from a monotone desert looking field. With no water in sight. So what force shaped this place? Water did. Millions of years ago. The entire landscape we were taking in was formed by ancient seas at a time so far past I can’t even associate it with time as I understand at all. It’s a humbling thought. To think our presence there is not even a blip in history. And yet the current impact in my own history I will never forget.
As we continued winding our way South through Montana the sandy towers changed back to rolling hills and back to sandy towers again. Dry creek beds were lined with ancient looking trees that rose 80 feet in the air, dwarfing large barns. Many of the leafless trees looked like they’d been through hell twice at least. The 15 degree weather likely tricked the mind into expected fall leaves but none were seen. Instead what stood were ragged broken, fallen and regrown relics that appeared burnt. Dinosaurs not buried with many dead neighbors lying about. Who knows the last time they had water was. Soon though we saw green again.
The hills on the horizon grew spikes. Pine trees started to scatter about the landscape providing some much missed color. And the ground was stained red in places. We’re close to Wyoming now. Within minutes of crossing the border it’s as though a page has turned. We are almost instantly in a mountain pass winding through spindly pine forest and trying to focus on the road while spotting deer around every bend. This is more like it. Something about being in the mountains just feels like home. Always.