Friday, April 28, 2017

Going on - to evening

I was grateful that Charlie and I  traveled alone.

 No one else could have endured the rigors

and single-mindedness of purpose of this expedition

trekking westward toward the Land of the Setting Sun.

“Life is a journey, not a destination,”

was a philosophy endorsed by some,

 but the truth was, those who tooted this horn the loudest

 freaked the most at the least disturbance in their own comfort zones.


The little u-haul resolutely labored along behind the trucks zooming on I-90,

crossing the final screaming bridge over Clarks Fork River near Missoula,

and passing soon thereafter into the panhandle of Idaho,

where for some reason Idaho Highway Patrol vehicles appeared out in force. 


This was surprising, as I had seen no other police vehicles anywhere.


I drove into the sun now, lower in the western sky.

 Charles didn’t bother to whine anymore. He had given up.

.....The land of Chief Joseph, and the Nez Perce.....


.....Coeur D’Alene, Idaho….. There, circa 1910, my grandfather

 Charles Whipple  had married a strange and unusual woman

who concealed her identity.....


Then, Spokane.


The zooming trucks on I-90 continued on.

The little u-haul quietly turned off to Highway 2.

...to be continued....

Going on- the third day





Montana is Indian country, dominated by the Iron Horse. Place names tell the westward story.  

As it is now: The battlefield in Montana has marble markers pinpointing the spots 
where soldiers in the 7th Calvary fell on June 25, 1876




The battle - Custer's Last Stand - was between the U.S. Army and the combined forces
 of Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians.

It took place in June 1876 near the Little Bighorn River in Montana
 and was the most famous action of the Great Sioux War.

Led by Crazy Horse and inspired by the visions of Sitting Bull, 
the natives won a famous victory against the 700 men serving under General George Armstrong Custer.

Five of the 7th Cavalry's companies were annihilated
 and 268 U.S. Army soldiers were killed and 55 wounded after they were outnumbered at least four to one.
                
 General George Armstrong Custer  was killed with 267 of his men at the Battle Of Little Bighorn.



 He has been portrayed numerous times in films,
 including by Errol Flynn in 1941's They Died With Their Boots On 



                     
Had I ever somehow lived a previous life as an American Indian, it would have been in Montana.  

 The vast terrain, the flora and fauna, the rivers, the plains, the place names,
 the histories, the shanties and shacks -- all were deeply intuitively familiar, as if embedded in me.  

 Somewhere I saw a Blackfoot Indian man standing at the rear of his car 
rummaging in his trunk while talking on a cell-phone, 
and he reminded me of someone I had known in my misspent youth, 
who was misspending his youth too,
 telling the story of how he had lost his right arm
 to a shotgun blast while raiding a chicken-coop in Montana. 

He was extremely drunk when he said it, but he claimed,
 “The greatest love you can have, is the love that you can’t have,”
 and I always wanted to prove he was wrong about that. 

….. Harden…Billings….Livingston….Deer Lodge….Missoula….

To tell you the truth I don’t remember very clearly driving through Montana behind the Iron Horse. 

Montana just went on forever. 


...to be continued....


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Going On -the second night

Going on: 

“She had an unusual experience at the rest stop last night but I will let her tell you about that.” Puppy’s transmission to the crew.



Montana’s interstate rest-areas were few, far apart, poorly maintained, dimly lit, difficult to access and exit, and this one was out of cell-phone range.

It was so remote that a caretaker lived behind it in a trailer.

 The little u-haul pulled in and lodged for the night in the shelter between two big long parked trucks. A black wind was blowing.

The second night of ‘sleeping’ on the road was much worse than the first.

 The night was colder, I was tireder, hungrier, and in more pain; Charlie was in despair. I tried not to even think about the poor caged cats.

 Instead, I focused my thoughts upon an unlikely imaginary scenario that afforded at least an element of comfort.

 At some point I must have dropped off into something resembling sleep, because I next became aware that I had awakened urgently needing to pee.

The cellphone plugged into the console reported the time as 2 a.m.

I struggled to untangle myself from the meager bedding. Charles was tangled up in it too.

I would have to once again confront the irrational fear of leaving the cab and go inside the Visitors Center, hoping I could get in there in time.

 Charles screamed and barked as I hurried away in the black wind.

As I approached I encountered some prepubescent Asian boys playfully rough-housing with each other around the Visitors Center entrance.;

 they stopped playing, fell silent, and dropped to squatting positions, watching me, as if I had caught them doing something they shouldn’t.

I went on inside.

In the Visitors Center lobby, sitting in age-groups on the floor, were many young Asian children -- too many to count.

 All were bright-eyed and wide awake, not sleepy, not discomforted, not irritable-- happily chattering quietly among themselves.

Near the Ladies Rest Room a group of six or eight young teen girls sat on the floor, each holding a toddler on her lap.

 Two Asian women of advanced age, with hooded eyelids and expressionless faces, sat on the floor with their backs leaned against the opposite wall.

All fell silent. No one spoke. All eyes watched me.

Several of the girls holding the toddlers started to get up , to give me passage to the Ladies room.

I said, “No, no, it’s ok” and stepped by them.

Like something from a grade-b horror film, this strange scene was so far out of context, as to be extremely bizarre.

These children should not have been there at all,

yet it seemed a routine event for which they were well-trained and well rehearsed.

I returned to the u-haul. There was a white multi-seat commuter bus parked along the curb, but it couldn’t have transported all of these children.

After a while a woman wearing a trench coat appeared from nowhere and walked up the sidewalk to the entrance of the Visitors Center.

The prepubescent boys at once acquiesced to her authority. She and the boys went in, and didn’t come out.

I must have finally fallen asleep. When I awakened again, it was 0530.

The Asian children were gone.

The multi-seater commuter bus was still parked along the curb.

In my conspiratorial mindset, which takes nothing at face-value, there is no way to explain this contingency.

I finally concluded it must have had something to do with the migrant resettlement program.

 Maybe they were used as poster children.


....to be continued.... 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Continuing On





The descent from the summit was more rapid than the ascent,
 and the grade down out of the Rocky Mountains dizzying and foreboding.
  The u-haul shifted and groaned and clutched and grabbed at itself, 
Charles lay dead in the front seat, and the cats in the cargo box were probably dead, too. 

But the snow turned readily to rain, visibility improved,
 and after an unknown length of time and miles,
 the feel and sound of the road bed beneath the tires suddenly changed.
 Wyoming was gone.  I knew I had crossed into Montana.  

Very soon then, I hit the first of the screaming bridges and it scared the hell out of me. 

Each of the States is responsible for the construction and maintenance
 of the portion of federal interstate highways within its borders, and methods and materials differ.  

Something about the engineering of  bridges in Montana
 caused them to emit a terrible screaming sound beneath the tires
 as the vehicle thundered across them.  

And there were a lot of bridges in Montana.  

And why had I never heard before of the epic Clarks Fork River,
 a tributary of the great Columbia with its confluence in Idaho? 

In nine miles of an 8% downgrade,
 in screeching hairpin curves along horrendous crevasses,
 I crossed screaming bridges over the Clark’s Fork thirteen times

Yes. I counted them.: Thirteen bridges over the same river, in nine miles. 
  What began high up as a trickling tumbling mountain stream 
became a raging ice-cold plunging  torrent as it rushed downstream. 

  One of the bridges at the lower, wider part of the Clarks Fork actually curved 
and turned sharply right in the middle  suspended above  the raging waters.   

References to Clarks Fork River in Montana 
 all contain the caveat ‘not to be confused with Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River,
 which is in Wyoming and drains into the Missouri River watershed
 on the eastern side of the Continental Divide.
 Although geographically not far apart, 
the two are different Clarks Fork rivers 
and are not connected. They are totally unrelated. 

Notes in an old handwritten journal account for this confusion. 

Think ‘Lewis and Clark’ here.  



 I-90 West closely resembles  the route taken by Meriweather Lewis and William Clark.
  

 The Lewis and Clark Expedition from May 1804 to September 1806, 
also known as the Corps of Discovery Expedition, 
was the first American expedition to cross what is now the western portion of the United States.
 It began near St. Louis, made its way westward,
 and passed through the continental divide to reach the Pacific coast. 
The Corps of Discovery comprised a selected group of U.S. Army volunteers
 under the command of Captain Meriwether Lewis and his close friend, Second Lieutenant William Clark.

President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the expedition 
shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 to explore and to map the newly acquired territory, 
to find a practical route across the western half of the continent,
 and to establish an American presence in this territory 
before Britain and other European powers tried to claim it.


The campaign's secondary objectives were scientific and economic:
 to study the area's plants, animal life, and geography,
 and to establish trade with local Native American tribes.

 With maps, sketches, and journals in hand,
 the expedition returned to St. Louis to report its findings to Jefferson.  

...to be continued ....