In Judith Gap MT I Am The Animal Whisperer


I've done the 6 hour drive to the US border so many times that I actually have no desire at all to do it ever again. Maybe I'm just lazy. Instead of doing this boring and lengthy ride, I somehow convinced Pat to drive my truck with me (and my bike in the back) to the border for this trip. I wanted to cover a ton of miles on the first day and this was my solution.

The day was off to a gloriously frustrating start. While I'm waiting for Pat to meet up very early this morning, I left my key in the ON position, y’know right before you actually turn it all the way and feel the engine turn over? It was 7 am and I was still half asleep and it made sense at the time to listen to the radio, thus draining my battery to the point where it actually didn't have enough charge to turn the engine over when Pat finally showed up. Not the most ideal beginning to a trip or any 7 am situation for that matter.


We hammer down the drive and reach our destination a few minutes from the border. Bike is unloaded and once again, I am alone on the road with nothing but my duffle bag and motorcycle.


The border crossing was extremely easy and I am on the highway in Montana enroute to the east coast. I love America, as I've said before a million times I am obsessed with with Americana and the magic of small towns. I cruise through Shelby and then Conrad until I reach Great Falls, where I planned on getting something to eat, since the last time I had eaten was around 8am. I fill up at a gas station and despite my empty stomach I decide to keep on truckin'. The next few hours were essentially just highway; riding through the never ending plains with what look like baby mountains. Gigantic hills off in the distance, yet not so gigantic that they could be called actual mountains.


I stop for dinner in a tiny settlement called Judith Gap. It seems the only restaurant in town is a bar, aptly named Bar 100. It is also for sale I might add, complete with the house in the back. This bar looks like it hasn't been touched since 1975, and that, is just the way I like it. The bar had an RV parking lot in the back and I asked the easily 80 year old owner if I could set up a tent and stay there for the evening. She politely replies that they are not set up for tent camping, but if I go about 5 minutes down the street there is an open park where “people like you” camp all the time. I pay my tab and get a 6 pack of Miller Lite to go. 5 minutes later I am at the park, which is exactly as described: an open field where people can camp. In the darkness I feel my way through my tent bag and construct my tiny one person house for the night. I am startled a little by a sound just a few feet away from me, which I discover is actually a very young deer (would it still be called a fawn? What is a teenager deer called?), staring inquisitively at me and then instinctively bounds away into the night. I decide to stay up for a while, drink a few beers and think about the upcoming trip in all its daunting glory.  After 15 minutes or so a minivan pulls up and as it creeps closer I see it is being captained by a boy i would guess is no older than 10 years old, and a passenger of the same age, both equipped with gigantic flashlights. The passenger asks “have you seen a hound running around here?”. I reply “no, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled”. They drive off and once again I am alone.


A short time passes and I am thinking maybe it is time to get in that tent and rest these weary bones, and its a little spooky alone in the middle of nowhere at night. Just like the deer, I am slightly startled by movement about 10 ft away from me and as my eyes adjust to the darkness once again I am face to face with the missing hound, a monstrous black dog also staring at me with glowing eyes reflecting the almost non existent light of the moon. We calmly share a moment of silence, sizing each other up and deducing that neither are a threat but that we are both friendly. As quickly as the hound had appeared, he was off into the deep, enveloped by the blanket of night.


Now, it is definitely time for bed. Crawling into the tiny tent I am settled in moments and waiting for the wave of exhaustion to close my eyes and carry me into a deep sleep. I drift off and wake up hours later with a start, y’know how that feels? As if you are torn from a dream into a confused state unsure where you are? I look to one side of the translucent tent walls and see the silhouetted outline of the hound, illuminated just barely by the moonlight. He was sitting by the opening, the zippered front door of the tent, almost like he was protecting the entrance and also protecting me. I think to myself as I have so many times before: “life just gets weirder every day”