Monday, June 30, 2014
After a very, very, very long Sunday night’s drive, I arrived in Billings at 10:36pm. Limping. Crunching the numbers, I hated the fact that even though in Montana, it was still going to be about another 8 hours to catch up to my youngest son’s (Thomas) outpost in Kalispell. I put on my most comfortable clothes (very similar to pjs) and headed out at 6am for Bozeman, Butte, Missoula, and hopefully, Kalispell by 2pm.
Before hitting the road, I texted Thomas that 25 years ago he had caused me great discomfort. I love him all the same. On a stop in a little cowtown on the way, I called my baby brother, Steve, who shares the birthday. He was celebrating on an all terrain vehicle in the middle of Wisconsin.
Big Timber, Mountains, and Canola
The mountains were spectacular and so were the long rolling fields of wheat. Large cattle in big herds looked tiny as I travelled north. I tried to imagine an emergency response in remote places like Big Timber where I stopped for gas.
I’ve always imagined Bozeman and Butte to be sizable cities, but they were much smaller than I thought. Missoula was the first city that felt connected to the grid. I stopped for gas and a bloody nose and wished I did not have another two hours to drive. Hwy. 93 was a beautiful drive and I was soon distracted by the National Bison Range and the Mission Mountains. Thomas identified Flathead Lake as the homestretch. The largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, it is spectacular and LONG—27 miles.
For the 30 minute driveby, I mentally noted good vistas for painting. Just outside Somers at the northend of the lake, I passed spectacular fields of yellow. The well-contained fields had to be more than mustard weed. Turns out, they grow canola here and it is gorgeous in the landscape.
“Congratulations! You were born.”
— said the birthday bag that contained a book I encouraged my son to keep forever and a bag of pistachios. The big reason I came to Montana was to be with Thomas on his 25th birthday. I do not regret the fact that I had to travel to the end of the earth (1,879 miles one way) to do it. In the three months since I’d seen him, he grew a lumberjack’s beard and seemed taller (although, he should be done with that by now). We laughed. Ate at the Asian Buffet. Caught up on family and work stories. And, to show my unconditional love, I endured “23 Jump Street” at the local cinema. Since he is on call for work after 2pm each day, we plotted some morning adventures.
Somer’s Cafe: Twice as good as you need
We started slowly and stayed local the first day. I got up early to paint at Flathead Lake. A spectacular view from an abandoned quarry was my first little Montana plain air attempt. Great to drop into the flow of painting in a spectacularly beautiful location.
While waiting for Thomas to meet me at the boat landing, I made two new friends over the subject of food. The woman who looked like a “Janet” to me said we would get a fantastic breakfast just up the hill at the Somers Cafe (only open for breakfast and lunch). anticipating a big lunch, we split the bratwurst and Swiss scramble — and it was still huge. The homemade sunflower wheat bread was so good I bought a loaf for sandwiches on the road. Thanks, Janet.
Our wonderful waitress sent us off hiking t Lone Pine State Park. And that’s another episode…
Happy fourth to you all and Grandma P wherever you are.