24 Hours in The Windy Loft (USA Day 77)
Sitting in our sun-warmed loft, watching the cloud banks roll over the distant Madison range, we sipped machine espressos and caught up on our idleness. You’ll hopefully have seen the many blogs we caught up on. Less visible was the sleep we caught up on, the laundry, the (hip hip hooray) admin. Rest days being rest days, I didn’t touch the video editing, so that backlog’s building up nicely.
This cabin has two good dogs, two cats, a shelf of chickens and a couple of great horses that don’t actually live here but are staying for a few days. There’s a little path that runs down to a sheltered creek, where you can dip your feet in the mountain spring water. There have been many points on this odyssey where, Calypso-like, we’re tempted to stay forever, to leave the bikes rusting in the barn and become Montana people, to ride a horse, feed a chicken, wash a dog. ‘Ah, remember Ivan and Amy? Yeah, they went on a bike tour and just sort of, slowed down. Now they’re farmers.’
In the evening, we were given a glimpse into the workings of this tight-knit rural community by heading down the road for dinner with Dave, now retired but constantly building and adapting his house. There’s a new barn, a grand set of steps, a plunge pool for his dog, Sparkle. He had an enviable collection of number plates, and gave us five. He also showed us his bear gun.
Marsha used to sell guns to women like herself, and can’t imagine feeling safe without one. She tried to make grits for all the local men who helped her pull her car out of the snow last winter, but it took them so long that she cooked it into an inedible block.
Tracey’s two loves are horses and guns, in that order. She’s a cowgirl, taking her horses around the country to compete together. As far as we could gather, the sport involves screaming around a paddock, sorting cows into pens, in as little time as possible. You could tell just from her determined, proud eyes that Tracey was the best around.
Our host, Angela, used to work in San Francisco’s corporate district, but moved here a few years ago as part of a big life shift. She shot a deer once with her hunting rifle, on her land, mainly because she felt she ought to. As a friend helped her gut and dress it, she decided that’d be the only time. She’s proud of the small group of close friends in this community. They hike together, look after each other’s animals and hide from the winds in the winter.
We drunk red wine and ate barbecued ribs in the calmed evening air, ignoring the light rain that peppered the plates. Beneath the table, four dogs nipped and wriggled, only occasionally daring to poke a muzzle above the surface for a piece of the of rib action. Afterwards, Tracey brought out plates of her blueberry crisp (like a crumble, but spelled differently), warm from the oven and wonderfully chunky. We talked about blackberries; how a day foraging marked the beginning of autumn. They told us where to find huckleberries, wild raspberries, tiny strawberries that pack all the punch of the bigger ones at a tenth of the size.
Once the light ran out we retreated to our loft to sleep off the wine and prepare for tomorrow’s ride. If the rest of Montana is anything like what we’ve experienced today, we’re in for a treat.