Great Fail, MT

by Rachel Gertz

Calgary Upon Arrival

This is the last written post of our trip. And thank you for making me aware that we’ve been home for almost a month now. Whatever.

It is written.

In a delirious bid to get back in time for my mommy’s graduation,* we swung through Big Sky Montana. Don’t laugh but I had to watch A River Runs Through It (filmed in Missoula) to try to capture that big open wilderness feeling again. Calgary makes you forget things. Anyway, we drove up through Bozeman and on to Billings. Nothing eventful happened there except that a teen yelled at me from the Walmart parking lot: “I want to have your babies.” I declined.

Travis and I cooked steak in a frying pan and hunkered down for our last night of sleeping in a Walmart parking lot. I vowed this, you guys. I must NEVERNEVERNEVER sleep in another Walmart parking lot again. And if I do, you can completely slap me silly while yelling, “Whhyyyy?”

So then there was Great Falls. We had already driven 22 000 miles for eight months, so it seemed like a good time to stop. Another important lesson learned. Never sleep in another Walmart parking lot, and NEVER stop in Great Falls Montana. 

Great Falls is like if Calgary got all hepped up on snorting gasoline and injecting steroids, and then ripped its camouflage shirt open with a banshee yell while riding an ATV. It’s crass. It really is. But here we were. So make the best of it, right?

We heard there was an outlet mall with a Victoria Secret (I had a couple requests from fellow Calgarian friends), but this was really an exaggeration. There were three stores and the lights kept flickering. It felt like the entire city was declaring its lack of excitement.

I have to confess, last year my friend Karissa and I drove all the way through Great Falls to Missoula to shop and get drunk, and all I remembered about Great Falls was the billboards touting urgent warnings to stay off crystal meth. Some of them were even homemade. Anti-drug banners painted with giant lime green skulls on black that warn, “Meth. Your first time is your last.” Needless to say, that frightened the pants of us because we were sure that meth-crazed, scabby-faced addicts would jump out of the alleys to rob us of our drinking money. I shared my fears with Travis as we pulled into that degraded shopping mall, and instantly he began laughing at me. Said he had to do some research, but was pretty sure I was full of shit. Well, who’s full of poop now, Mr. Gertz? Read about the Montana Meth Project. The fact that the population of Montana is only 975 000 (and so the likelihood of having more than three drug users in Great Falls is slim), isn’t important. What’s important is people like meth a lot in Montana, and we were in Montana. Stick to the facts.

That whole meth thing kind of had me tweaking my need for sleep in the Walmart lot. But I’m pretty sure Trav slept like a baby, unaware of the skulking lowlifes that surely plagued Walter’s hindquarters looking for scrap metal to pawn. I may or may not be speculating. 

A couple funny things happened while we were in Great Falls, Nothing ground moving, but you know, Trav has had his masculinity challenged three times (maybe six) while on this trip. So this had to be brought up…

Travis, being a gentleman, offered to carry my neutral looking orange laptop bag. No more than 30 seconds into our walk, he had three things happen: 

  1. A man whistled in our direction. Specifically he whistled at Travis.
  2. Another man with an uneven grin revved his giant truck engine while we gingerly walked past. That one was definitely for Trav.
  3. A man hollered out the window of his big truck, “Nice purse!” Again, talking to Travis. My my, mister Popularity.

Really, it should be Travis writing this post. He got more action out of Great Falls than anyone has in like thirty years. I’m glad Great Falls is comfortable with its sexuality.

Travis even had the supreme opportunity to drink beer that smelled of shit. Actual ‘human feces’ smelling beer. It was the house special at a little steakhouse we ducked into. What was that one called, Trav? A Lager (get it? like a log?)? Nevermind.

After wearing out our welcome thoroughly, we revved our own engine and began the five hour journey back to little cowtown Calgary. The funniest part of that highway trip was the torrent of Audie TTs that zoomed past us. The first was bright green, with a luxury plate that said ‘MNSTRTT.’ Didn’t catch if those were Montana plates. Next came a yellow one with cheesy decals. Then another black Audie TT. This time: ‘NEGOT8R’ flashed on the plate. Even worse? The Audi had an asshole driver and a bumper sticker that said, ‘I <3 Beaver’. Our curiosity peaked, we glowered at the plate to see if we could detect its origin. And not that you’ll be surprised, but only because it seems like an important detail…

The plates were from Alberta.

Ahh, it’s good to be back.

*She went back to school in her forties and took the 13 courses she needed to upgrade from a nursing diploma in ‘73 to her Bachelor of Nursing. I am so proud of her, my eyes get all garden hose on me just thinking about it. 

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