Finally home after a 3,600-mile road trip, with a new resolve to post here more frequently, finally finish that damned novel, and mow the lawn, which has gone primitive during my two-week absence. That last will have to wait, since it's raining now. You can mow a lawn when it's wet, or you can mow it when it's a foot high, but you can't do both.
So, to the blog. I renewed ties with a lot of friends and family and was lucky enough to catch my home state of Montana at its best: dry sunny days and cool nights scented with hay or lupine or alpine fir, depending on where I happened to be. The only bad weather to be seen was in Wyoming. No problem, since I was just passing through. Back here in Wichita, where summer is not the gentlest season, I'm thankful to have missed the past couple weeks of 100-plus heat and the woolen humidity so common in the Midwest. September can't come soon enough.
Above is a picture of yours truly at the stick of a Dimona motor glider, soaring high over the pine-studded slopes and dun prairie around Flathead Lake. I'm only pretending to fly it; let's just say my rudder work is rusty after a few decades out of the cockpit and I was all over the sky during the few minutes my friend Mike Stockhill let me have a go. But as a way to see Montana, I highly recommend it.
A motor glider is a wondrous machine. No need for a tow-plane; you climb to altitude under power, then shut down the engine and ride thermals ever higher, looking down the long wing at the scenery below. Quiet, too, except for the wind rushing by. If this aircraft didn't cost about as much as my house, I'd buy one tomorrow.
Of course, you can still experience Montana the old-fashioned way, slipping on a day pack and gaining your altitude one step at a time. My brother Ed and I put in a 12-mile hike (round trip) to visit a couple of lakes below Hollowtop Mountain in the Tobacco Root range. Yes, we may have been hobbling a bit when we got back to the car, but it was worth it.
The whole trip was worth it. Venturing out on the road always is, gas prices notwithstanding. I'm afraid to total up the charges on my credit card, so I probably won't for awhile. But in the meantime I've acquired some more good memories: lifting hay bales in Eureka, plying the waters of Flathead Lake on a pontoon boat, picking huckleberries up Blacktail, digging for crystals north of Polaris, strolling through the ghost town of Coolidge, harvesting lettuce from my Mom's garden in Sheridan. All stuff I've done before, but the older you get, the more poignant these things become. Life's short. So damn the expense.
Above is a building in Coolidge -- or perhaps an example of the kind of house you can get for a quarter million these days in Montana. They say the state's real estate boom is slowing down, but I didn't see much evidence of it.
Here are a couple more photos of the hundreds I took during the last two weeks. I don't claim they're art, but I'm posting them here just because I can. The one at left shows Ed and family mining the glittery earth at Crystal Park. That day we discovered a few good-sized amethysts and lesser crystals of no particular value -- but beautiful nonetheless. Below is a sprinkler head on an irrigation line in the Tobacco Valley. The few folks still haying in the valley prefer wheel lines because no kid in his right mind is willing to take the job of changing pipes by hand. Anybody's interested, I've posted a few more pics from the trip here.