Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bugging Out

Although Montana has a lot of “dos,” it also has some “don’ts.” I am negotiating these through trial and error. I will add to the list after I have been here a bit longer.

Drive 85mph with no consequences
Bring your dog to the bar, the restaurant, etc.
Talk to everyone like you have known them for years

Try to smell nice on a hike
... and I am sure there are some other things.

The don’ts can be tricky. My friends and I decided to go for a short nature hike last weekend up in Bridger Bowl. My first Montana hike!!! I got ready, putting on my only pair of brown shorts, a black shirt, my hiking books (okay, okay… sneakers), and some deodorant and perfume. Sounds fine right? Wrong.

The second I stepped out of the car, I was assaulted by a mini swarm of (six or seven) large black bugs. They were so loud and they continuously dove for my head, neck, shoulders, etc. So, I did what any smart, confident girl who lived in a large city for the past five years would do. I screamed. I ran. I skipped. I jumped. I twirled. I said “NO!” to the bugs… My friends thought it was hilarious. I was essentially giving them an improv ballet. I assumed as soon as they were out of the car the bugs would distribute among the three of us and I would be able to defend myself from only a few bugs. Wrong.

The minute we hit the trail, the bugs multiplied ten fold. My friends were mostly ignored, while I became the center-point of a cloud of these insects. I felt like I was the nucleus of an atom, and all of these black bugs were electrons, spinning around me erratically. Every time the pests dove at my body I squealed and ran laps around my friends who continued to laugh. They finally suggested we could go – after about ¼ mile on the trail. That is, we were ¼ mile from the car, but with my running about, I had essentially jogged a mile. I begged my friend to hurry with the car keys as I danced around her, swinging my arms wildly as she fished around in her backpack.

She finally connected with the keys and I took off at a sprint. In my mind it was like a cartoon – I was Charlie Brown (okay, okay, Porky the Pig) sprinting for safety, while the swarm of bugs behind me formed large shapes to communicate their message. I pictured them forming an arrow pointed at my back, the words “get her!” and a giant sledge hammer. I ran that trail so fast my old PE teacher, Mr. Hanson, would have been proud. I made it back to the car, locked the door (in case these giant black fiends could open it with their horde mentality), and caught my breath while my friends walked back.

My friends say next time I am not allowed to wear perfume. I say next time I bring a tennis racket and kill anything that tries to get NEAR my face – or as I have begun calling it, my Money Maker… I am going white water rafting in Yellowstone this weekend. I don’t think I will even put on deodorant. The ratio of men to women here is 2 to 1 so I probably don't have to try too hard.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Training in Helena

For the past three days I was in AmeriCorps training in Helena. Training itself was long but fascinating, and I feel like I met a million people. After the first day of training, four new VISTAs went to the local Brewers game (a minor league baseball team). Seats run for $6 usually, but it was “Government Tuesdays” where government employees get a discount, so we told the lady we work for the state… “sort of… and we have no way to prove it… but we really do!” So, cheap tickets for us!

The baseball game was eventful. There were two mascots. One was a tiger, and the other one was supposed to be… something?... but we all decided it was a giant house cat wearing red lipstick. The Brewers won the game – at one point scoring 9 runs in one inning, but more entertaining than the game were the on-field promotions. My favorite promotion included an elderly man named Bob, who crouched low and shuffled his feet with a giant fishing net, while the tiger and lipstick cat mascots threw large rubber fish at him. Bob was a runner and a diver, but didn’t win. The crowd loved him!

After the game we decided to go across the highway from the hotel to a bar. With the promise of alcohol (with permission, of course), our group of four became a group of twelve. The five scruffy local men at the bar seemed shocked at the group of girls in their mid-twenties who barged in, and didn’t even complain about the noise level. We decided to get our second drinks to go… did you know you can do that in Montana? I am not talking about a closed beer. I am talking vodka and grapefruit juice in a plastic cup with ice and two straws. The bartender had also poured the wrong wine and decided we deserved 16 oz. glasses of Riesling to go…. Trust me. Montana is CRAZY!

We all surged out of the bar, drinks in both hands, and began the trek back across the highway, saluting an officer driving by with the vodka hand. One woman was brave enough to get an entire bottle of wine to go - the bartender at the hotel was nice enough to pour it into a plastic pitcher so she could drink it in the hot tub.

The next day was a music festival in downtown Helena, so we all went after training to mingle with the locals. Shortly after arriving it began pouring rain. One Helena VISTA suggested a bar across the street, so we all began sprinting - with him leading the way. He didn’t mention what the bar was “across the street” from, so six blocks later forty of us poured into the bar soaking wet and out of breath. Lesson learned. Distance is not a concept in Montana. This time the (younger and more inebriated) locals were more excited to see us… maybe too excited as they leaned close to one girl and shouted a very inappropriate chant that had her near tears. Apparently it was her first time at a bar and she officially “doesn’t like bars.”

We had our final day of training and were all sworn in. I am officially a government employee now, so it will be legit to get discounts on Govt. Tuesdays! I am back in Bozeman now. I started work on Friday, and I will have more details soon!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Road Trip!

My road trip to Montana was less than smooth. I could write pages and pages just about driving here! My one-day 12 hour trip turned into a two day adventure. I was counting on stopping along the way, I just didn't expect to HAVE to stop in Idaho for 26 hours. Oh well, life goes on. Plus, I found a lot of comedy in Cour d'Alene. But alas, let me tell you about my car... and the little clutch that couldn't.

My clutch started slipping going over a huge mountain and the mechanic in Kellog sent me back over the mountain I had just come from. As I was driving, the clutch was getting worse and worse and started to smell like it was burning. I was really worried! Then the clutch went completely out. I could feel exactly when it happened. I had no power at all. Fortunately, I was able to coast into an exit for a "boat check" station, where these four people were checking boats for invasive species (mussels, they said). Even though my phone didn't work, one of the woman had service and called me a tow truck. Then they all sat with me and talked with me until the truck came. Bev (My car. That's right. I named her) stopped working at the only place along the 40 mile drive with people. What luck!

The tow truck driver was nice, but started talking about how I would probably be in Idaho for a few days... I think he could tell I was about to cry because suddenly he switched topics to how he was going to "pimp his ride" on his other tow truck. He went into all the details about the engine, the paint job, the custom back seat, etc.. He didn't seem too impressed with my idea to add spinners to his wheels. He said, quote: "Um... no. If we add new rims they will be solid aluminum. Tow trucks don't have spinners." Then he went into detail about the difference between automatic and manual semi trucks, and seemed impressed that I knew the automatics would have less power. He was still rambling though, so no crying for me.

After I arrived at the garage, I was told they would look at it the next day and that I would have to find a hotel. They called around for price quotes for some local motels, and even drove me to the cheapest one (trust me. It was CHEAP). I was told to get everything out of my car that I "wanted," which seemed odd to me, because I wanted everything in my car... I had hand selected everything for Montana. Oh well. I grabbed my laptop, a change of clothes, and my makeup bag. When we pulled into the hotel, the man didn't even park. I was told, "this is it." So I checked in. I started watching Castaway, which should have made me feel better, but I felt as stranded as he was - six hours away from anyone I knew, with no car (yes, yes, I realize being stranded on an island with a volleyball for a friend for five years is worse than spending one night in Idaho... barely).

The next day the mechanic called and said that I had welded my clutch to my fly wheel. In his 15 years as a mechanic, he had never seen anyone do that before. I think he was impressed at my ability to break a car. I checked out of the motel at the last possible minute, and asked the front desk clerk what I should do to kill an hour. He pointed me to Big K... like shopping at Kmart would make my dreams come true. He also told me that both Portland and Bozeman are "shit holes" and I should choose somewhere else to live. He warned me about the "gays" in Portland, and the "Indians" in Bozeman. I smiled largely at him, and said, "Oh! I work with the queer community and I LOVE the Native American population. Bozeman sounds GREAT!" He seemed a little shocked, so I went on my way. I ate lunch, which was good because I hadn't eaten since noon the day before, then walked every aisle of Kmart three times. I am sure they thought I was robbing the place, so I bought new flip flops and some hair ties. I also read every greeting card in the store. I should start a greeting card company some day. It would be called "Actually worth it greeting cards." And all of the cards will actually be funny. But I digress...

I was finally able to get back on the road! The mechanic gave me back my car along with a HUGE bill (Thanks mom!) and sent me on my way. He told me I had two nails in my tire and sent me to Les Schwab. When it was finally Bev's turn for her check-up, the mechanic said he couldn't find any nails. I told him a mechanic had sent me here and he offered to check again. This time he found them! He came out and said, "There were two nails... your mechanic circled them for me!" I thought it was weird that it took him two tries to find nails that were MARKED on a tire, but it was FREE and I was on the road again!

After that the drive was pretty uneventful. The speed limit is 75 in Montana so I FLEW down the freeway. There was one scary hill where my speed limit remained 75, but trucks were cautioned to go 25. I felt like I was in a rocket as I cruised by all of those trucks! I had dinner with a friend in Missoula, then finally arrived in Bozeman! I haven't seen much of it yet, but I am sure I will have more to report soon.

I can't wait to see BOZEMAN!

About this Blog/About Me

Hi readers!

I am starting this blog along with my new life! After graduating from Portland State University, I was accepted into AmeriCorps in Montana. I will be here for a year and then I will need a new plan. For now the plan is to keep doing what I always do: find humor in life! It seems that people take themselves too seriously (I am guilty of this too), but it is possible to laugh every day, and I do.

I like to laugh, giggle, chuckle, chortle, and occasionally let out a big HA!

I hope you like what I have to say! I can't wait to get settled in Montana!