This one time in Dillon Montana...
The unbridled relentless passion for adventure, the pursuit of excitement, is what Americana means to me. Peter Fonda riding across the country on a chopper, denim short shorts with bikini tops, gasoline guzzling muscle cars, and the promise of a dream so wild and unfathomable that you can create success from absolutely nothing.
For me, it's the dangerous allure of the Wild Wild West that still feels alive on those lonely secondary highways and back roads. Like pulling into a tiny 1000 person population town and eating at a diner that hasn't changed in 50 years.
I've been to hundreds of these diners and dives all across America, and on more times than I can remember, the offer of a Bloody Mary with breakfast is as common as free refills of coffee.
The hospitality of small town America is incredible yet sometimes still surprising. I was riding through Montana one time, after being on the road for about a month. I was exhausted, dirty, and ready to stand, sit, walk, anything but ride this rattling engine on wheels in the wind. I pulled into a small town with a sign that read: “Population 3000", looking for a cheap motel where I can relax and enjoy all the comforts and amenities of shitty motels that I love so much.
I stop at the first place I see; a run down, dilapidated, enchanting old building that once resembled a half decent motel "the Creston". I turn into the empty parking lot, and am welcomed by the sight of a man sitting on the stoop of one of the rooms, in his underwear, smoking and drinking, without a care in the world. With my engine still running, earplugs in (ya ya...), I ask the man on the stoop if this place is even open for business.
"Hey man, uh, is this place open?"
"Nah man, I just watch the motel, kinda like a security guard yknow? There's another motel about a mile down the road"
I am a little bummed because this place looked easily a hundred years old and probably was awesome, so I clarify:
"Ahh ok, so just this way, down this road?" (Pointing in the right direction)
"Ya man, just down there"
Well alright, looks like the Creston is a no go. At some point during this strange exchange I had taken my earplugs out and shut my bike off. As I lean forward to fire up the ol' girl I hear the man on the stoop say:
"Hey man, you want a beer man?"
I am elated. (inside)
I kick that goddamned kick stand with the effortless precision of Marlon Brando with a stolen trophy on his handlebars and hop off. I stroll over to the man on the stoop reaching for the cigarettes in my shirt pocket when a lightbulb goes off above my head: I have so many beers in my bag! You see, on the ride home on these motorcycle trips, I usually find myself falling into a strange state. I subconsciously/intentionally end up trying to squeeze every ounce of fun out of every moment, not wanting the trip to end and in turn usually making the trek home bittersweet and much longer than it should be.
(The night before I had checked into a very similar motel with aggressive plans of "living it up" big time. I stopped by the gas station/liquor store to stock up and swiftly retired to my room to ignite the night. I dive into the 24 pack of PBR I had just strapped to my fender a few moments ago like a crazed thirsty animal. No more than 4 beers later and I jolt awake to spilling my fourth from dozing off. I set the half full can down and proceed to wake up in my clothes the following morning. So much for a wild night.)
I retrieve the boozeries from my duffle bag and toss them into the cooler beside the man on the stoop. I settle into the antique lawn furniture chair while the man heads inside to put some clothes on. He emerges still shirtless and shoeless, but now sporting some blue jeans that look every bit of 20 years old. I learn that the man on the stoop is named Christopher and that he's living at this motel, allegedly he knows the owner and his job is to "watch the place". He tells me he wishes he could give me a room for the night but it's not his call. We talk for a few more minutes when he stops abruptly and disappears into his room (this seems to be a reoccurring theme). He comes out moments later and presents me with a key:
"Daniel, you're alright man. Stay in this room for the night just don't tell anybody ok?"
I thank him profusely and at that moment see no reason to do anything but crack another beer. It's around 6pm, it's still about 30 degrees and the sun has just begun its descent. Another one of those moments. I'm sitting on a lawn chair outside of a broken down motel, drinking a beer with this random dude who just put me up for the night... isn't life amazing?
We continue on with the conversation, I find this guy extremely interesting and continue asking questions without a second of dead air when Christopher surprises me yet again.
"Hey man, have you eaten? My woman is coming over in a bit, she can bring you a plate".
I laugh to myself at how serendipitous and strange life can be sometimes. Christopher and I begin quoting lines from "Blazing Saddles" (his favourite movie), howling with laughter at how ridiculous that movie is. His woman eventually shows up in an old rusted out minivan, complete with two plates of delicious barbecue covered in tin foil. In between bites of the first home cooked meal I've had in a month I am told that Christopher's woman just received a promotion at work. Also, there is a plan to celebrate at the local (only) bar in town "the Moose". At this moment I'm definitely a few beers deep and feeling on top of the world, so I offer to foot the bill for the evening celebration, my way of saying thanks for the room. They look at me like I'm crazy and hurriedly accept my offer, almost as if they feared I’d change my mind.
After countless beers and non stop laughter (this dude's stories were seriously incredible) it's time to head on over to The Moose. A short 5 minute drive down the road and we’ve arrived. We walk into one of the greatest dive bars I've ever seen, and if you know me at all you know I am extremely well versed in attending bars. Maybe it was the plywood walls, maybe it was the one pool table or the real jukebox, maybe it was the neon signs and cheap booze. Who knows maybe it was just the fact you could smoke inside. Either way I was in my own personal heaven. Drinks were so cheap it felt like I was making money by drinking here.
Unfortunately I don't remember everything that happened because sometimes that's what liquor does, but I do remember at one point playing pool with Christopher's woman's boss, and explaining how well deserved her promotion was.
The night goes on and on and I am just getting into my sweet spot of inebriation; ”I love you man". At this point I'm fairly certain I had said hi to everyone at the bar and most likely bought them a drink. Around the 2 am hour I'm looking around the bar and I can't find Christopher or his woman. Next I decide I can totally find the motel even though I can't remember the name of it. Keep in mind I've been drinking since 6pm and it's now 2am ish. I stumble out of the bar and walk with a purpose in the direction of the motel (I hoped). After 20 minutes of aimless searching I realize this may have been a flawed plan, I'm in a strange town, completely wasted, and it's pitch black. I walk and walk and search and search and slowly I'm feeling discouraged. It's close to 4am at this point and I have no clue what I'm going to do, I mean I'm shitfaced and my bike and bag etc are at the motel which I cannot find. I'd like to think I was staying positive but realistically I was moments away from snoozing on someone’s lawn and figuring out this mess in the morning. However, I persevere and due to the reality that this town was very small I somehow found my way back to the Creston.
I have no recollection of getting into my room, but i do remember waking up in my clothes terrified that there may be bed bugs or who knows what else on this bed. So, I slept in my clothes again on top of the covers just to be safe. I wake up in that unforgettable hangover haze and begin to question what i am doing with my life.
Another ridiculous night spent in small town America.