I try to have an adventure on each of my photo roadtrips. I start with a direction to go, maybe an area to explore, and then I see where the day takes me.
Saturday I decided to head towards the northeast corner of Montana. The run out was pleasant – sunny and warm weather, found a few interesting things to photograph. Spent most of the afternoon exploring. Late in the afternoon I decided it was time to head home. As usual, I tried to pick a way home that would involve roads I had not explored yet.
I was riding along and noticed a lot of buttes and other rock formations off to my left. I kept thinking, “I wish I could get back in there.” Next thing I see is a dirt road headed in the right direction, and as a bonus it’s called “Shady Creek Road”. So I get to go look at the interesting rocks, and I can photograph and relax by the shady creek!
I headed down the road – lots of interesting rocks, no creek. No water at all. Desert country. But some good things to photograph. Out in the middle of this area Ripley (my truck) flashes a message on the dashboard – “Tire Pressure Warning!”. I check the tires – one looks a little low but it seems to be OK. So I start down the 10 miles of dirt roads towards the nearest town.
Circle, Montana. Three gas stations. Two are out of business, one is just a gas pump in front of the grocery store. No air pump or garage. Next town – about 70 miles away. Tire still looked OK. I started down the road and after about 10 miles the tire ripped itself apart.
I’m pulling the spare and the jack out and I looked up and saw something circling above me. Wow! A hawk or an eagle! No, wait, it’s a buzzard. Great…
I’m lying in the dirt, trying to get the wheel off, and I hear a truck go by. Next I hear the truck backing up the road. It was a guy who works the oil fields, had a truck full of tools, and decided to make sure I was OK. Nicest guy you will ever meet. We made short work of changing the tire.
377 miles from home, 70 miles to the next town. Just me and my mini spare tire. I made it to the next town. Low on gas. One gas station in the town, just closed. Luckily the owner saw me and let me fill up and wash up.
300 miles to go, through the Montana night. I’m driving along and I hear what sounds like rain. But the skies are clear. Then I realized – it was bugs hitting the windshield. It was like something out of a science fiction movie. In the space of about 50 miles I had to pull off the road three times to clean the windshield off. Even with the windshield washer jets and wipers it got to the point where I could not see where I was going. As for what it was like getting out of the truck in the middle of the swarm – I’ll leave that to your imagination.
120 miles to go. Around midnight, a highway crossroads miles from the nearest town. Finally clear of the bug swarm. I got out of the truck to walk and stretch. Then I looked up. Pure magic. Perfectly clear skies, totally dark. I could see the Milky Way extending from horizon to horizon, and more stars than I have ever seen before.
60 miles to go – negotiating a mountain pass in the dark riding on a mini spare. Not one, not two, but three sets of deer decided to cross the road in front of me. Missed them all.
2:30am – home. I’d call that an adventure, and overall a good day. Below are a few shots from the inaccurately named “Shady Creek Road”.
I was talking to a friend last night. I said that, when things aren’t going well, I try to let my mind go to it’s Happy Place for a while so I can recharge and move on. She asked me what my Happy Place looks like. I thought about it – it can look like many things. This is one of them. Beautiful country, some blue sky and sunshine, a road going who knows where, and even my faithful companion Wanda (my car’s navigation system) isn’t sure where I am. That’s a Happy Place for me.