Waylaid on Independence Day


It is July Fourth, Independence Day. Ironic perhaps, given that we are stuck in Billings, Montana unable to go anywhere we can’t walk. Then again, we have very few responsibilities right now. No jobs, no school, just us and a road we need to eventually find a way to the end of. Independence is a relative term.
A $500 dollar fine is in effect for anyone who sets off fireworks in the county owing to the fact that much of the state is on fire and the rest could go up at any minute. We are sharing our hotel with a group of Red Cross workers who tell us there are no rains forecast for another week at least.
I am sipping a Porter called Pigs Ass out of a paper motel cup. Dinner was from Subway tonight. My guts are in rebellion from the all-fast food diet I’ve been on since this trip began. There was no room in the car to bring food. We figured we would stop at grocery stores along the way, but that plan has proven harder than anticipated to accomplish. Now it is next to impossible. The only food sources within walking distance of the hotel are a McDonalds, a Dairy Queen, a Subway, and a gas station. How I long for lettuce other than Iceburg,and bread with more than one grain in it.

Dustin, the animals, and I spent our day sleeping, reading, and surfing the Internet. We were all in need of a rest after yesterday. The highlight of the day was walking down to the Cabela’s store. Makia and Jaques seemed confused by all the taxidermed animals. I was a little weirded out by them also. It was strange to see these majestic creatures, many of whom I saw alive in the wild just yesterday, juxtaposed with brands like Columbia, Marrell, and Thinsulate.

Since today was the Fourth, I took pictures of all the American flags I found around our hotel. There were plenty. For me, this trip has been a meditation on America. How could Seattle, Yellowstone, and Billings all share the same designation? What is “America?” The land and people within certain borders? Perhaps it is just an idea. The American Dream, “real” America, corporate America, they are all vague notions about ownership, success, and freedom, which are in turn pretty vague notions themselves. America is like an open source brand with a ready made following. All a savvy company needs to do is tap into it. McDonald’s and Super 8, slap a flag on it and call it good. Cabela’s has stuffed bighorn sheep selling shoes.

I hope we aren’t stuck here much longer. I can see I90 from the hotel window. It is the way forward and the way back, but neither is any good to us without a car. We should learn Bessie’s prognosis tomorrow.


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