Winston is an even twenty miles from Helena. It is worth noting that I am drunk off my ass. Drunker, perhaps, that is the nature of things. In for a penny and a pound.
I have planned my stop at the Bull Something-or-Other Saloon for a good week now. It is all part of my pub crawl across Montana. Typically I enjoy a burger in these places and two or three dozen Cokes. When they let me camp I buy a token beer of thanks. No more, of course, do understand. Liquor, they say, is a poison.
But the first beer I had was awfully good and my bartender was a flower. I could not bear to break her heart by failing to order a second. And by that time, you see, I got to talking to folks, and damned if they didn't l start buying me more beers. And the more I drank, the more I talked, and the more they conspired to see just how drunk I could get.
About this drunk, at final reckoning. I have been drunker, I swear. But eight or ten pints are not to be scoffed at, on either side of the Continental Divide. It took me a while to put up my tent, and I got the rain fly on backwards.
Which means the zippers don't line up. Which makes it hard to climb in. And once you're in, you are in forever.
I have been worse places, I swear to God. I am camped on a very nice lawn. The bar owner's father sees to that. He is a mad man with a mower.
I did not leave Helena until close to noon. My motel had a very generous check-out time. I would have left sooner but I got sucked into this cable show called Project Runway in which aspiring young fashion designers compete against each other for fabulous prizes. But the judges aren't all snotty like on other reality shows, and I learned a few things, as well. I confess that until now, those few fashion shows I have seen have been more about that chance glimpse of boob than the fashion itself. There's more to it than you'd guess.
Back on the road I was fighting strong. I am unstoppable these days. I hiked down the road to East Helena, where I enjoyed a hearty lunch. At a saloon, of course, though I didn't drink, though my bartender, again, was a flower. She looked like Forrest Gump's old ma, or Gidget, or somewhere in between.
From there it was a flat fifteen mile hike to Winston, uphill every step of the way. I had to climb down into a valley to get to Helena and today was my chance to break free. Fifteen miles across dry dusty plains. In truth, I enjoyed the whole thing. Walking again is fun for me. I am not sure what I did wrong.
The land here is all quite new to me. The hills have a brand new look. The golf course green grass of days past is replaced by something yellow and brittle. The pine trees remain and are thicker perhaps. The hills may be just a bit taller. It wasn't too hot and I felt good. It was a rather nice stroll.
Hell of a drive, though; I swear to golly. There was roadwork the entire way. The cars were backed up in mile long queues while I walked idly by. It was awkward, in fact, as every driver, sorely wanting amusement, was compelled to say hi to me and, after a while, it surprised me too, I was running short of witty repartee.
A greater challenge was getting out of Helena. I am learning to dislike these metropoli. Traffic is nuts and folks lack the insight to cope with pedestrians. And there are these weird cab-forward, rear-engined, inside-out, prehistoric-looking concrete trucks zooming all over hell. They drive like absolute demons.
I felt a little resentful at having to walk uphill all day. This is the downward half of my journey. But my legs were strong and I really don't mind banking a little altitude. In a perfect world I would be able to pull it out and use it whenever I choose.
Long story short, it was a good day. Montana is my oyster.
CHEERS to Larry and his spectacularly beautiful bride. I have never seen better hair on a woman. Like Lady Freaking Godiva, I swear. One in a long line of flowers.
CHEERS TOO to Derek and Dawny, as fine a couple as it has been my pleasure to meet. And to my friends the hunters and fishers and golfers and fearless infantrymen.
AND TO the one nameless soul who renamed the town, "Winston--by God!--Montana!"
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