The High Country, Part 4

Awakening on Saturday, we had one plan in mind: to get to Cody's Sierra Trading Post outlet store so Mom could look for... clothes, I guess. I mean, she could have bought a tent or a canoe, but it would have been tough to ship it home. I found a couple of deep-sale items for myself: a bright blue technical shirt and a bright yellow cotton T, while I spotted two things for Kelly that weren't too expensive: a lime green technical shirt and a black T (which was not, as I had thought, all-cotton) emblazoned with the New Balance Robot Marathon logo, featuring a pair of runners sprinting away from the giant robot breaking through the brick wall behind them. All in all, not bad for under $40.

From there, however, we had to confront the choice before us: either drive back into Yellowstone on the way to Butte, or head due north and pick up I-90 westward. Either way, we would need to go 300 miles, which we could do faster by skipping Yellowstone, but we'd hardly plumbed the park's depths on the previous day's drive-through. Also entering into our consideration were our food and lodging arrangements; Mom & Dad would be staying at the Best Western, which allowed them a little more control over their dining and sleeping situation, while I dined and spent the evening with friends: the estimable Mr. David Abrams, author of the acclaimed Iraq War novel Fobbit, and his wife Jean. Since we didn't want to keep David & Jean waiting on us, we decided it might be wiser to forgo revisiting Yellowstone, of which we had certainly seen a good deal, and think about heading back into it later in the trip.

With that, we shifted into Drive Mode, with Dad, Mom, and I trading off time behind the wheel roughly every hour, which allowed us to not some of Montana's interesting features: the liberal laws regarding casinos, which in most states operate only on federal land... the 75-mph speed limits on most interstate (and some state) highways, which allow good drivers to make great time and bad drivers to terrify the good ones... and of course the Crazy Mountains:

Like the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park, the Crazies just sort of--happen. They're a small cluster of high, snowy, ridiculously scenic peaks rising up more or less unconnected from any of the chains or ridges around them. Despite their proximity to the town of Bozeman and I-90, they don't appear to have any development--no ski resorts, for example--and they're not even listed on all the maps. They were, however, the most intriguing thing we saw during our drive, so I took lots of pictures.

The climb up over the Continental Divide was lengthy, but not the brutal, car-breaking climb we had feared, and almost immediately after cresting it, we found ourselves descending rapidly into the town of Butte, home of Montana Tech, the massive and now-abandoned works of the Anaconda Copper Mine, and the brand-new antique/home decor store that Jean Abrams has opened: the Backyard Bungalow:

As you can imagine from the above, the Abrams' house is a fascinating place, full of old furniture and signage and objets d'art from sources I couldn't even begin to guess at. The house itself is a beautiful old Craftsman with a front porch, a back deck, a finished basement and a second floor, not to mention a beautifully refitted kitchen. The kitchen was where David and Jean first took me, once we'd said good night to Mom & Dad, picked up a few beers for dinner, and and broken into the bar downstairs so that David could let me sample a very good local bourbon. Once we'd returned to the kitchen, he poured me a brown ale, made a salad, and mixed up the filling for grilled jalapeno poppers. To our surprise, the peppers were so powerful that their odor actually stung our eyes a bit. That suggested a retreat to the deck, where David proceeded to fire up the grill and prepared three enormous steaks:

Not satisfied with this gargantuan meatfest, David went back to the grill to tend the poppers, which he did with consummate grace:

And with that, the best meal I ate in Montana was no more. Jean retired to the house, but David and I spent several more hours on the deck, talking in person about the subjects we're usually talking about online. Though I've known him for over a decade, this was only the second time we'd met face to face. (The first was a gathering over tapas as the BookExpo America convention in Washington, DC, a few years back.) We initially met as contributors to the late, lamented, and since then we've interacted on Facebook, Twitter,, and of course David's blog, The Quivering Pen, where I wrote a guest entry on Catch-22. As you might expect, the conversation quickly turned to books: the ones we've been writing (he's working on a novel called Double, and I'm of course editing Along Those Lines), the ones we've been reading (he was finishing James Salter's All That Is, while I had just started Charles Fishman's The Big Thirst), and the ones we really ought to have read by now (he confessed to not having read Lolita yet; I admitted I hadn't gotten around to The House of Mirth. Shamed! Shamed we are!).

But after a long evening of book talk and fine food and drink, it was time for sleep. David and I would be getting up early to do the one thing I hadn't done all day: birding. This was the first day I'd spent in the Rockies without logging a life bird. It would also be the last.


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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on June 19, 2013 11:19 PM.

The High Country, Part 3 was the previous entry in this blog.

The High Country, Part 5 is the next entry in this blog.

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