Dispatch from the Field: A Big Damn Country


I just returned from a three week 5,000 mile solo trip across the northern plains to Oshkosh WI and back, and it seemed to take forever.

The purpose of this trip was to attend the world’s largest aviation gathering that you’ve never heard of and do not care about (EAA.org/AirVenture). Please note that I am NOT providing dispatches about my experiences at this gathering because I know that NONE of my readers care about airplanes. For those who pretend that they DO, see my other website: www.ohcomeonyoudontthinkIamreallythatgullibleastobelieveyouactuallywanttoseeairplanephotos.com

Two years ago I went on a similar road trip. Not much has changed.

Teddy Roosevelt National Park is still a jewel with incredible geology. Not a rock hound? OK, how about this? Hills made of various layers including a thin layer of coal. When lighting strikes every 10,000 years or so, the coal layer will light up and burn inside the mountain for years until it is all gone and the hill goes poof and crumbles down on top of the now empty space with orange residue sprinkled around.

burning hills

Is it just me or is that really amazing?

I went into the historic town of Medora, where Joe Reid performs in character as Teddy Roosevelt. It was masterful, and made me long for the days when Presidents were towering figures who commanded – and deserved – respect and loved their country more than themselves. Yet even he raged against the press, calling them “yellow journalists.” joe-reid-as-tr.jpg

Buffalo still roam freely around the Park’s visitor center, and their butts still make my grandkids erupt in gleeful laughter, so here you go kids: buffalo butt

Sign of the Day in Miles City, ND: “Live every day so you can look any man in the eye and tell him to go straight to hell.” I still do not know what that means.

Missoula, Montana, it turns out, is a hip town. Weary after days of driving across the country and half way back, I stopped at the Missoula KOA. This was considered by KOA to be an RV Resort, meaning they have a pool and playground and therefore can charge an additional 10 bucks a night. No matter that I needed neither, it had power and water so I cranked up the air conditioning, took a much needed shower, changed into business casual, and decided to check out the town. It reminded me of Fresno: hot and hazy. Lots of vacant lots and old buildings that had seen their best days, yet there was obviously new vitality, with hip new shops and restaurants sprouting up.

I plonked myself down in a restaurant called, appropriately, Plonk! My travel guide said it was the best place in town. I sought and received ordering advice from Helen, who told me I had indeed found the best place in town, partly because her daughter Anika worked there. Helen writes screenplays from Missoula now, to be close to her daughter, but once lived the fast lane life in LA. Her friend Jeri joined her to celebrate Anika’s birthday. Jeri has had an illustrious life. Though slight of build she once ran cattle with her ex-husband, and broke wild horses, before becoming a public servant in the employ of the US Forest Service. Now retired, she serves as editor of Helen’s manuscripts, and landlord to Anika. We sang Happy Birthday to Anika, and I took a photo of the three of them (Jeri on the left, Helen in the middle, and Anika, well, you know):

Jeri Helen Anika

On their advice, I had brunch the next morning at Catalyst, just down the street. Both Plonk! and Catalyst could easily be airlifted into the Portland foodie scene and thrive. My server, Cameron, cameron.jpgcould not have been nicer, and took great care of me though the place was packed and bustling. She asked where I was from. “Portland” I responded. “Oh,” she replied, “my step-mom is from there. I go there all the time.” We discussed Portland and other things, and then she asked where in Portland I lived. “Do you know where South Waterfront is?” I asked. “Yes!” she replied, “my step-mom lives in the John Ross Building.” “That’s my building!” “On the 19th floor.” “That’s my floor too – we must be neighbors!”

I am not kidding about this. Having now returned home, I just walked down the hall and introduced myself to Cameron’s step-mom, my neighbor and new friend. Things like this make long distance travel worth it, even though it is one big damn country – and you have to wait for a lot of trains.


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4 thoughts on “Dispatch from the Field: A Big Damn Country

  1. I learned something new. I didn’t know about the coal in the Park. That is pretty cool! Buffalo are amazing creatures and I am glad they are still with us! Not so sure about the coolness of their butts though 🤣.



  2. I always look forward to your posts. Keep ’em coming!

    There’s no such thing as coincidence, you know. Perhaps you were meant to be friends with Cameron’s step-Mom. Interesting that my 2 grandsons are on a trip with their Dad and his girlfriend whose parents have a ranch in Missoula, Montana; they were just there for a few days this week and loved it.

    I will be in Portland at the end of this month to help Kate get the boys start off their new school year. It’s going to be one of those quickie trips; I may run into you in the hall!


    On Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 11:09 PM 2 WASTED MINUTES wrote:

    > Ken Fransen posted: ” I just returned from a three week 5,000 mile solo > trip across the northern plains to Oshkosh WI and back, and it seemed to > take forever. The purpose of this trip was to attend the world’s largest > aviation gathering that you’ve never heard of and do not” >


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