Friday, March 1, 2013

Barnstormers & Mountain Roads

My hubby hasn't met a back road he didn't love.  He loves the twist,  dirt roads with hairpin curves.  You know - the ones that lead to the middle of the "Great Unknown".   The ones that are narrow and climb to the top of the world.  Me not so much.

We compromise.  Good truck, lots of prayers and closed eyes when warranted.

Sunday we left for Helena, MT to the 7th Annual Indian Education for All Best Practices Conference.    Dear Hubby had been looking at the Delorme Atlas & Gazetteer for Montana.  It has detailed topographic maps.  It even advertises maps of "Back Roads".  It is a vintage 2011 edition. 

He had been talking about taking the back way to White Sulfur, from there he planned to take a back road to Canyon Ferry Lake and then to Helena, MT.   There was a small hitch in his plan - he forgot his map.

As we left White Sulfur, we discussed the next leg of our journey.  He was all for going forward.  We came to a fork in the road the one with a sign said Townsend.  I brought that to his attention - he said he didn't want to go that way.  

Shortly a little Prius could be seen on this dirt road.  Dear Hubby asked the two teenage males about the road ahead.  The young driver timidly stated he "sorta knew the road".  As I heard this disclaimer - I thought to myself - this is not a reliable source for directions.  But - we go forward, following the youth’s assurance that this WAS the road.

As we traveled on I am silently thinking we should just turn around and use one of those modern two-lane highfalutin paved roads, to get to our destination.  Our discussion continues as proof that the land is inhabited comes into view.  I suggest we stop and ask directions.

Dear Hubby, “I’m not lost.”

“Honey, why don’t we stop and we can ask which is the way to Canyon Ferry.  They will probably tell you that you’re right.  And you will prove that I was wrong.”

As we get closer there is a building – on the roof is faded yellow paint with a big arrow.  Helena is painted inside the arrow.  Beside the arrow are coordinates.

Me, “We’re going in the wrong direction!”

DH, “What makes you say that?”

Me, “The roof – it says Helena that way.”

DH, “Why is it on the roof?”

Me, “Looks like its for a plane.  The writing is very large so they can see it from the sky."

I should have taken pictures of the roof then.  The light was just right.  But I didn’t, I waited.

We turned in at the driveway and drove up to the house.  As I got out,  the front door opened and a worried lady asks, “Are the twins ok?”

I was a bit perplexed and unsure what she was referring to when she continued, “Our cow had twins this morning, and they are down by the barn.  We saw you slow down as you looked in the corral.  Are the twins ok?”

Comprehension telegraphed, “Cows – twins – ranch- livelihood.”

“I didn’t notice the twins, we were looking at the roof.”

She laughed, “That was from the barnstorming days.  I need to contact the Historical Society to see if there are grants to help preserve it.  I don’t know who to call though.”

In my mind I thought "Got that one covered.  Out loud I stated “I can help with that.” 

I gave her a name and number, exchanged email addresses and told her I would find out.  I figured she must have been thinking hard about this problem.  You see it has been my good fortune to work as a freelance writer for one of their departments for the last couple of years.  I am always amazed with synchronicity.   

We go inside, she asks me if we were going ice fishing because they have a pond and we wouldn’t have to go all the way to Canyon Ferry.

I explained that we were on the way to a conference where I would be presenting.  She secured a topographic map and started to explain about the roads.  I heard “Confederate Gulch” and knew this was not a road I was going to like.  I asked her to explain the roads to my husband.  So outside we went. 

Susan explained that the roads aren’t maintained in winter and they go over the mountain but with 4-Wheel drive and chains we might be able to make it.  She encouraged us to come back this summer when the roads would be passable.

Dear Hubby is salivating at the thought of going over those mountains on twisty, hairpin - dirt roads.  

I guess I’ll buy him a new map.


  1. Your tale is just like one of those back roads, twits, turns, bumps and marvelous little serendipities around each turn! I can sympathise a little. My dad loved the back roads and so did we kids in the back seat. I could never understand why my mom was holding on to the armrest with white knuckles!

  2. I had such a good laugh reading this. Your hubby is like mine - stubborn in his belief that he knows the way. We have had some adventures over the years due to this habit - some interesting, some weird and some scary. But, you'd know all about that!

  3. I can relate a little...if you take away the mountains. One of my dad's favorite sayings (when we were lost on a back road some where) was, "We aren't lost. We have plenty of gas!" I guess gas = knowing where you are. Better fill up the tank next time you see Dear Hubby pull out that map! Thanks for was a great story!

  4. elle1955.wordpress.comMarch 2, 2013 at 12:23 PM

    I love that Dear Hubby is the only name you use for your husband throughout the piece of writing. There is sarcasm but also love in its use.

  5. We always start with a full tank. Sometimes gas stations are far and few between, though.

  6. Yikes! Sometimes I am glad I never married! Your story made me laugh more than once! At the same time, it sounds like you had an adventure, encountered a little history, and met a nice lady! Great story!

  7. Yep - I wish I was more fearless.

  8. Oh Ruth, I have missed your story-telling! This is such a story, & you didn't even tell us what happened! How is it that men will not ask for directions? I love that you have the adventures, but am sometimes a little worried for your safety. Sounds like pretty country though.

  9. I am so happy to be back riding with you and your hubby Ruth. Keep em coming...

  10. We turned around and traveled on well maintained paved roads. He really is a safe driver. He was a long haul driver for over 30 years. He is now retired because physically he is in lots of pain because of his back and legs. When we travel it is now relatively short in comparison. But it still takes its toll on him.

  11. I'm glad you are here!

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