You should have filled your gas tank in Aberdeen, especially if you're planning to travel after dark. For many years there was no gasoline available at night (except in the summer) between Aberdeen and Miles City, Montana, a distance of nearly 400 miles. Currently there are two 24-hour stations in towns nearly 200 miles apart. On the last stretch, the 78 miles from Baker, Montana, to Miles City, there are no towns of all, just a spectacularly desolate moonscape of sagebrush. Farmers will usually give or sell a little gas to stranded travelers, and small-town police forces often have keys to the local service stations so they can sell you enough to get you on your way. But the message is clear: you're in the West now. Pay attention to your gas gauge. Pay attention, period.
But it's hard to pay attention when there is so much nothing to take in, so much open land that evokes in many people a panicked desire to get through it as quickly as possible. A writer whose name I have forgotten once remarked, “Driving through eastern Montana is like waiting for Godot.” I know this only because a Lemmon Public Library patron brought me the quote, wanting to know who or what Godot was.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Today's quote is only partially about Montana, but it's evocative enough that it needs to be posted. This description of Highway 12 in Montana and the Dakotas is from the 1993 volume, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, by Kathleen Norris.