Recently I was in Montana. Big Sky Country. Former home of limitless speeds on the roads. I don’t have time to go into all of the details, but I’ll run down some highlights.
Canadian Passport Stamp
I drove about a half hour from where I was staying to the Canadian border. The crossing closed at 5pm so I had to get there in a hurry. Fortunately, two-lane highways have a 70MPH speed limit. Along the way, I passed a US Coast Guard station. Strange. When I got to the border, the guard asked me the standard question of why I was coming to the country. I told him that I was close by on some business and just wanted to get a stamp in my passport. He clearly wasn’t expecting this answer and seemed to think it was kind of a novel thing. He was friendly and polite (no, I’m not just stereotyping, he actually WAS friendly and polite) and after a few more routine questions and answers (and one non-routine one – he asked who I was doing business with and I said that I couldn’t tell him because of a non-disclosure agreement) he went in and stamped my passport.
I turned around and headed back to the American border. The guard acted a bit differently, approaching the car from behind like a police officer approaching a possibly hostile driver. He asked why I was in Canada and I told him that I was just there to get a stamp. He asked if I was the one who had just gone across and turned around and came back (a fact that I would have thought obvious) and said he’d still like to check the trunk. I opened the empty trunk and he closed it after a quick glance. He verified that I wasn’t some kind of wanted criminal and sent me on my way.
An American who has a Canadian stamp on his passport is pretty rare and I’m one of the only of my friends who has it. Score one for me.
If you ever get the chance to eat at Taco John’s, don’t. The food is pretty terrible. It makes Taco Bell look like a five-star gourmet place.
I stopped into a Wendy’s and it took them fifteen minutes from the time I ordered to get my food. I’d nearly finished my baked potato by the time the burger got there. There were four people working in the back, but only one was doing anything. One was filling up coffee cups with tea because he didn’t know the difference. One was walking around doing air drums against the walls.
At one point an apparent off duty employee came in to ask for her check. She also talked to the guy who didn’t know tea from coffee. Apparently the rumors around school was that the he was going to be quitting the job because the girl was sexually harassing him there. The manager came over and said that they shouldn’t be talking about it at the restaurant in front of customers (…wait for it…) because the kid needed to be working.
Great Falls Nightlife
In trying to juggle flights around to find a good time to fly out and back, I ended up making my flight for Saturday instead of Friday like I had intended. Oops. So I had an extra night to kill in Great Falls. It’s a sleepy town of about 50,000, with clean streets and lots of little coffee shops. I stopped into one to grab a quick bite and some java. I talked with the proprietor some and he advised me that there was a cool bar in town that I should check out.
It’s called the Sip-n-Dip Tiki Lounge and this is the picture I took from inside the place. They have a couple of mermaids swimming around all night to entertain the patrons. Pretty classy. In 2003, GQ magazine voted it one of the top 10 bars in the world. That’s going a bit far, but it was cool. Everything inside seemed to be right at home in an ambiguous year in the late sixties or early seventies. The other main draw of the place was the organist who’d been playing every night for the past 40 years. Crazy place.
There’s another bar that seemed pretty fun. They used to call it “Dirty Murph’s” because it was apparently really trashy. It’s located right next to a bowling alley a few miles out of town. I don’t know what the name of it is, but I went and hung out there for a while. That’s where to go if you want to dance to cowboy music.