They call it Big Sky Country for a reason. The heavens seem to stretch on forever. But the enormity of the sky is matched by the state’s mountains and rivers and valleys. Even this single tree has a statement to make.
I don’t really know if you can make a wrong turn in Montana. Almost everywhere you go the skies are big, the mountains high, the rivers clear, and the views forever. With that said, I am not 100% sure about my bike route through the state. For most of my 10,000-mile journey I had maps, or my journal, or letters, or even just logic to retrace my route of 27 years ago. Many of the roads I traveled down were the only roads available or at least the only roads I could use and get where I wanted to go without a major detour.
And often there were significant events that reminded me where I traveled. Many of the views I saw in Montana could have played this role— except those views were just about everywhere. The two events I do recall happened on my first day. One, I bicycled 120 miles with the elusive tailwind I had hoped for in North Dakota. Two, I found a restaurant that offered a free pancake to anyone who could eat the whole thing. It was a yard across, two inches deep and took the whole griddle to cook. I passed. But I watched a giant consume one and go on to eat a second. I thought he deserved a standing ovation, but hesitated with the thought that he might not like standing ovations. I try not to irritate mountains.
But my memory aids were unavailable for Montana. Still, I know most of my route. About 250 miles are in contention, which in Montana isn’t a big deal. Now if I were talking Rhode Island or Delaware… Anyway, if you are a map fiend, I either traveled from Malta on Highway 2 to White Sulphur Springs, or from Havre on Highway 2 to White Sulphur Springs. Both seem logical choices. Since the former route came first, Peggy and I drove it. Sections seemed quite familiar. Others not so much. One of these days, I will go back and start from Havre. Anyway, here are some views Peggy and I saw along the way.
Another perspective on Big Sky Country. This one along US Highway 2 as it makes its way through northern Montana.
If ever there was a modern catch phrase in the writing, art, and business world, it is “branding.” Over and over we hear about how important it is that we establish our own unique voice or product. Well, there was a time when the concept of branding was a lot simpler. 🙂 We found this fence at a small museum in Culbertson, Montana. These are cattle brands from the region.
We also found this fun weather vane at the Culbertson Museum. Somehow, it reminds me of the recent election. (grin)
Another photo from the Culbertson museum and another bit of post-election humor: After the election, Mrs. B decided to head for the beauty parlor to have her hair done— and her brain rearranged. (Move on Curt.)
Whoa! Another roadside attraction. Dinner? We came on this unlikely pair along with another 20 acres of other such creatures along Highway 2. There was no sign to tell us why they were there.
Here’s a cowboy with high hopes, “high in the sky apple pie hopes.” The Native American is saying, “Go get him guy. I’m behind you all the way.”
Peggy and I came across this old house with its life-affirming message along Highway 2. It’s a great message for these troubled times from a poem by Sam Walter Floss: “Let me live in a house beside the road/ Where the race of men go by/ The men who are good and the men who are bad/ As good and bad as I/ I would not sit in the scorner’s seat/ Nor hurl the cynic’s ban/ Let me live in a house by the side of the road/ And be a friend to man.”
Another Highway 2 site featured the Sleeping Buffalo Rock covered with carved petroglyphs. This symbol is usually interpreted to represent a badger.
In Malta, Peggy and I picked up US Highway 191, which runs from the Canadian Border to Mexico. Unlike most of America’s historic north-south/east-west blue highways, 191 is a combination of many north-south roads that were put together in the 80s.
Another view of Montana countryside along Highway 191.
A calm stream…
And the mighty Missouri River— Montana style.
This is Montana! Cowboys and cattle. Two cowboys rode horses, and one is using an ATV.
Tempting! A trout contemplates a fly in a Lewiston, Montana mural.
I found this town fun. The high school looms in the background. The vote for the 2015 commencement speaker was unanimous. Dakota Jolliff asked her uncle to give the address. She was the only senior. The principal lives across the road from the school. First thing in the morning during winter storms, she looks out her window. If she can’t see the school, classes are canceled. The school is also haunted. Lights are turned on at night and locked doors opened.
You may have noted the windmills in the Judith Gap sign. Check out the cattle at their base. (Tiny dots at the fence line right center— they may be antelope.) There are 90 of these 40-story high structures. They provided electricity to the 80 homes in Judith Gap plus another 360,000.
When it comes to mountains, Montana is not shy. These are the Rocky Mountains.
Peggy and I stayed at an RV campground in White Sulphur Springs that featured wild animal cut outs. I really liked this moose family with its reflection.
Peggy fed this one. Don’t do this at home kids. Don’t ever stick your hand in the mouth of an elk! 🙂
Here is my mandatory old barn photo for this blog with its dramatic backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. I didn’t feel that this barn was simply falling down. It looked like it was melting!
Mountain men played a key role in the westward movement, first as trappers and later as guides.
Did this guy just hear the election results? (Kidding) We watched this guy and another jump into the Yellowstone River— and come out alive. They had carefully waited for a policeman to pass. I am reminded of a statement by Joseph Campbell. “When you find yourself falling, dive.”
The Yellowstone River
A final view for today’s post. This one is near Bozeman, Montana. In my next post I will head south from Bozeman and into Idaho, another beautiful state.
54 thoughts on “I Know I Am in Montana; The Question Is Where? … The 10,000-Mile Bike Trek”
Incredible photos what an neat trip!
Pretty vistas up there!
Indeed. Thanks. –Curt
Magnificent post as usual. Your trip never fails to amaze and entertain!!
Thanks, GP. Can’t beat “amaze and entertain.” Grin. –Curt
The jumping photo is alarming. I saw a some people push someone off a ledge in Monument Valley. I thought they killed him. He was bruised but okay. He could have fallen about 10 stories. They were from Japan and were laughing and apparently thought it was funny but I was terrified and the pushed person seemed to laugh it off reluctantly. Your photo spurred memories of this. All the photos are glorious as is the incredible Big Sky Country and your excellent and amazing adventure.
Ouch, pushing, no thanks. I am no fan of jumping, Cyndie, even when I do it on my own volition. I had a friend (now passed away) who had done life long injury to his back from jumping off a bridge in Sacramento when he was a kid. I always feel that there are plenty of thrills involved in doing what I do without engaging in thrill sports. Peggy and I saw sky divers jumping off a bridge across the Snake River in Idaho a couple of days later. Even more scary. And thanks. 🙂 –Curt
Great skies Curt. I spent one night in Montana in 1995 on my coach tour of the National Parks.
Being a fan of Malta in Europe I was intrigued by the sign for Malta, Montana. I looked it up on Google there is a good story about how it got its name!
Andrew, I did the same thing with Malta, and I meant to tell the story! Just forgot. Here it is for those of you reading the comments: Malta was/is a rail town. The rail company man responsible for naming it spun a globe. He chose the name for the town from where his finger landed. It happened to be the Island of Malta. Thanks, Andrew. –Curt
It’s a good story. Lucky to land on Malta I would say.
Big sky indeed. big shy big mountains and I’m sure it takes a lot of big people to operate within it. Beautiful pictures as usual Curt. (and Peggy)
Thanks, Kayti. And I agree, it takes a special kind of people to live and thrive in that land. –Curt
We saw plenty of quirky stuff driving through the Northern Plains and Montana one summer, but my favorite shots of yours here (and mine then) are those of the open road stretching out into that huge, blue sky. That’s pure Montana.
Oh, Lex, I have dozens of those photos! It was so hard to choose. And believe me, I felt much more of that stretching out forever on my bike. 🙂 –Curt
Wow to those big skies. Looks an awful lot like the Canadian prairies. Go figure. 🙂
Right Sue, go figure. 🙂 The “in” joke here, friends, is that the Canadian prairies were about 50 miles away from where I was in Malta. Thanks, Sue. –Curt
Haha go figure indeed. 🙂
What a beautiful part of your country!
When I was 12 years old, my mom decided I should have a perm. (I have no idea why she thought that was a good idea for her tom-boy daughter.) The contraption was exactly like the one you showed, I can still smell the frizzling hair. Thanks, mom.
I am laughing out loud, Yvonne. I’d run so fast if some one tried to put me under a machine like that I don’t think anyone would ever catch me. It doesn’t sound like you had a second round with it! 🙂 And yes, the region is gorgeous. Photos don’t do it justice. Thanks. –Curt
Thanks for a great share. This is like going on a trip without leaving my own country. Your photos are great and your comments and insights wonderful.
Thanks so much, Estelle. I really like your title “Murmers of a Wandering Soul.” I can relate. 🙂 –Curt
What a beautiful country to travel through. Do love the road art – guess the equivalent here in France is roundabout art.
Your comment on French roundabout art led me to jump on Google and check it out. What fun! BTW, AC, I haven’t seen any of your posts lately although I have been a bit distracted. Are you still posting regularly? If so, there must be a problem on my end. I miss my animals. 🙂 –Curt
There are rather a lot of drawbacks in going self-hosted with WP 😦 Suggest you visit the blog and refollow as there’s some kind of oddity about old follow lists and the new follow list. Damned if I can find out how to merge the two!
Will do AC. Thanks. Curt
Thanks for another great post. Many decades ago, I had a low-level job with the Congressman from that area. One of my duties was to read the local papers from Malta, Judith, Culberson etc. and write appropriate letters to people congratulating them on weddings, births, naturalizations, etc. It opened my eyes to the fact that the U.S. on the coasts was not the same as the U.S. in the heartland. In 2014, we took Montana 200 across the state. Now I will have to go back to see 2 and 191.
And thank you Ralie. Yes, it is a very different world. I lived in Alaska for a few years and it was similar in many ways, including people, isolation, beauty and climate. I have never been disappointed by my visits to Montana whether by vehicle, bike, or backpack. –Curt
Beautiful images Curt. And also, where can I go to get my brain re-arranged? It looks like just what the doctor ordered.
Laughing, Sylvia. I don’t know about brain rearrangement, but I have certainly been into a lot of escapist literature and movies this past week. 🙂 Thanks. –Curt
Curt, so much in this post to like – the brain operating hair machine, the poem, the views, the cutouts animals, the diving man. Being a fan of run-down barns this ‘melted’ one must be my favourite Picture here and of all barns ever! Stunning location and eerily collapsed and terrifically captured photo. Love it.
I absolutely love old barns, Annika. They have so much personality. And I am continually surprised at how often their background seems so fitting. It is really, really hard to beat the Rocky Mountains peaking up behind, however. I had fun with the post. Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks. –Curt
Somehow, it seems like seeing those big mountains in the distance would be intimidating from the seat of a bicycle. Pretty country out there.
Indeed, Dave! 🙂 But by that time in my journey, it was just another climb. I was more impressed with their beauty than their challenge. –Curt
Another interesting installment. I love your B&W photo of the barn. And the mural of the fish. That hair contraption in the museum is truly scary weird. Was it early treatment for seizures or something?
No, Alison, it was truly for curling hair. Can you believe it? 🙂 I was joking about the brain redo. And thanks. Can’t resist old barns… or turning them into black and whites. –Curt
Well, keep those old barns coming, Curt, and also the small streams. Loved all of them really.
Thanks Gerard. And I will! This series is drawing to a close, as it should after 50 + posts. I have Idaho, Nevada, and home left. I suspect I will continue to find old barns and streams to photograph, however. 🙂 –Curt
splendid post & pix, of course… we visited Montana several years ago and it’s one of our favourite US-states… lucky you!!! 🙂
I can go back there again and again, Melanie. Thanks. 🙂 –Curt
So I’ve been there! Way back…’96, I believe. I stayed with missionaries who were translating the Bible into Cheyenne for those who were more comfortable in that language. I wasn’t by the Rockies, though. The Yellowstone’s gorgeous.
Ah, had you been there 7 years earlier, you might have seen me peddle by, D. 🙂 Into Cheyenne? Interesting. Did you help? –Curt
Just observed. Work went very slowly. The Cheyennes are very relaxed people and didn’t always show up for the appt.
A tendency they share with many other cultures, D. 🙂 And they may be healthier because of it.
*smiling* You remind me how far off the grid I am. T put in good time on lessons today (yes, I know it’s the Eve) and has a few exercises on his desk for the morning. I know what tmrw is but the boy had two rockin’ playdates this wk and, last time I checked, has hands and eyes that work perfectly well. Keeping up w/ his work won’t kill him. *grin* Happy Thgv!
We are a bit off the ‘grid’ ourselves, D. –Curt
Lovely calming scenery and a wonderful poem. I am trying to love (almost) all my fellow men/women.
Nature is a lot easier in many cases. Laughing. –Curt
Gorgeous scenery. Such vast expanses. I remember when one of my college professors, who was from Montana, told us how he once got a speeding ticket and when he saw how much it was for (very little $), he went right on speeding.
Thanks. Yeah, you can get away with a lot in Montana. 🙂 –Curt
Your photos of Big Sky Country definitely do it justice. And the one of Peggy feeding an elk is so much fun to see. I loved the comment about the one high school senior — don’t think I’ve ever been in a h.s. that small, but Idaho City, ID was close the year I worked there: only 5 seniors!
Five seniors is exactly what I had in my social studies class in Gbarnga, Libera, Rusha. Great student teacher ration, huh? 🙂 Peggy likes to do little prank photos like that. –Curt
Talk about personalization in education. With 5 students, you couldn’t help but do one-on-one!
I loved the ratio! 🙂