We’re in Montana.
Kitty and I packed the chillin’s in the car and drove 1,500 miles (yes, with gas prices being what they are) to visit her Dad’s childhood home in Polson, MT.
The house sits near the top of a rise just at the edge of town, which is shaped somewhat like a crescent moon, cupping the south end of Flathead Lake, right where the lake dumps into the river. Since it’s on a rise, pretty much the entire town spills out below us. If it weren’t for some impressive trees (including a gigantic cottonwood), we’d have a heck of a panorama of the lake and the town.
I don’t mind the trees, though… especially that giant cottonwood. When the wind picks up, it rustles just like what you’d expect to hear on some CD that you buy in a New Age store for $20 that’s designed to give you calming ambient sounds. Except the tree works.
Driving here is always something of an adventure. The first time we came up, Jack was still breastfeeding, so the car stops were many. He was young enough to be pretty much a stationary object, though… so sitting in a car seat wasn’t a big deal for the most part. There were moments, but he fared pretty well. We’ve had some crazy times in the car, though (including our most recent trip). Two kids under five and a dog are much more stressful now than they were when I was a kid… we could throw blankets in the way back and crawl all around the van, something that would get both parents thrown in the hoosegow nowadays. My dad will probably read that last couple of sentences and laugh under his breath, but 1,500 miles in two days is suitable boot camp for parental suitability, if you ask me.
Something about crossing the Idaho border into Montana makes my blood pressure drop 15 points, though. I love it up here. Admittedly, I’ve only ever been here in the summer, so my perspective is rather skewed. The sun goes down around 9:30 pm, and it stays light until after 10:00 in July… which means that in the dead of winter it’s dark around 4:30 pm, I’d imagine. This could lead to cabin fever, especially for someone who’s been spoiled by California weather his entire life. Still, I can’t imagine having a better two or three weeks in July or August than you can have up here.
The advantage of coming slightly later in the year is that the cherries and apples on the property are in, which means Jack’s Grandpa John is making apple crumbles and cherry syrup and preserves and you can pick apples right off the tree… something the neighbor’s horses are highly appreciative of even when eating one more of them yourself makes you feel like you’re going to turn into an apple.
The advantage of coming here a bit earlier in the year (like now) is twofold. First, the heat hasn’t come in high yet, and early summer storms still rip through occasionally, so you get a lightning storm once in a while and the air isn’t smoky (one year when we were here later pretty much the entire state of Idaho was on fire, and the air quality here seemed like a bad day back in L.A.)
The second advantage is that Polson is on the Flathead Reservation. There are lots of cultural implications to this (all of which are cool in and of their own right – we went to the Arlee Powwow a couple of days ago)… but, when coupled with “early July”, this means that you can buy just about anything short of a 6″ artillery shell at the local fireworks trailer. You can buy fireworks here that kids in California only know about if they live close to the border and have a crazy relative who is willing to violate a couple dozen federal statutes and risk personal incarceration. People here spend hundreds of dollars on fireworks – heck, you can spend over a hundred bucks on *one* giant mother of a firework here (basically an entire fireworks show with a single fuse). More than one person within a mile of the house must have spent thousands. You get a smattering of small shows in the days leading up to the Fourth and immediately thereafter, but on the actual holiday it starts at around 8:30 pm with firecrackers and whistlers (what were marketed as Piccolo Pete’s when I was a kid) and goes until after 1:00 am. With the previously mentioned view from the house, a fireworks nut can have a great time without spending any money.
Of course, I bought a few. Not too many, we’re on a budget this year. Next year I think I’m going to see if I can get my hands on some additional fuse, so that I can try and synchronize a show to a Sousa march.