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Published: August 14th 2020
Still here. It's just been... well...
I guess I could complain. I could complain about the rain. About poor wifi or cell service. About how wrong our GPS sometimes gets things. About the lights in that campground and the stupid blue light on our window fan. About cramped tiny showers and cramped tiny restaurant booths and cramped tiny bathrooms and cramped tiny face masks. I could complain. All the little pains and inconveniences and surprises and unexpected events. It all seems so personal sometimes. As if the gods are messing with us. I could complain.
And in real terms, it seems true to say that Montana has kicked our butts these past few days. Most people, when scoping out real estate, are looking for properties in a certain city or town. You know. Chapel Hill and maybe Carrboro, say. Maybe even consider something on the south side of Durham. Maybe even something over toward Apex or Cary or Raleigh. But we're in a different situation. We've come to Montana to scope out the whole state. And even part of Wyoming. That's a bit like moving to the South and considering properties in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia all
at once, from the outer banks to the mountains and everything in between. Imagine coordinating with various realtors to go see properties over that entire three-state region. With three and four and five hour drives every day from one region to the next. And they don't do it here the way they do in NC. Here, at least with the pricier or large-acre properties, your showing is likely to include your buyer's agent, the seller's agent, and the seller themselves, who often end up doing the actual showing. And with panicked urbanites from both coasts rushing to Montana to snatch up properties left and right, it's a wild ride, a bucking bronco of a process. (It seems appropriate to use cowboy metaphors whenever possible here.)
Yeah. It's a big deal. A really big deal. And yet we're doing okay. Staring at our computer screens back in Chapel Hill, scouring the listings and putting together our own list of possibilities, it all seemed so do-able. But the actual Montana is a bit larger than the maps on our screens. It's huge and vast and beautiful, and it's been kicking our butts. And only slowly have we been able to get
into the groove, and narrow our search fields, and zero in on some possible areas to explore in more detail. And only today, an hour ago, did we finally find a campsite with water, electricity, working wifi, a picnic table, a fire pit, and open bathrooms and showers. We're going to stay here at least two nights. Maybe all week. The weather is beautiful, near 80 during the day and down to around 50 at night, with cool dry breezes and blue skies. And we've got plenty of sticks for Sally's twig stove.
When we last checked in, we were just heading out from Billings. We did go look at that property an hour north. A beautiful house on 293 acres. Much to recommend it. But no creeks or rivers or ponds. A possibility, but too early to decide anything. From there we headed west on 12, through more small towns, and then Helena, and on to Missoula. We stopped at a WalMart to get camp chairs, which is a whole story in itself, coming soon as a major motion picture, if they ever make movies again. We learned on the way that the campground we had reserved a
site at south of Missoula had no open bathrooms or showers, due to the whole and alleged "deadly pandemic" thingy. So we cancelled that and ended up in a KOA in Missoula, which would have been fine, had it not turned rainy and cold. So we grabbed some Chipotle and crawled into the caRV early and slept. Got up the next morning - a sunny and nice day - and headed down into the "banana country" of the Bitterroot Valley south of Missoula. Saw a property there. A big ranch. Nice house. Lots of land. Chickens and horses and black-bellied Barbados sheep. Not all of the soil was very good quality. It seemed overpriced. Then we headed north of Missoula to Charlo to see another place: two houses on 20 or so acres right next to the National Bison lands. It took us and our agent a very long time to actually find the place, because sometimes listing agents don't do their job very well. Nice views, but the houses looked manufactured, rather than stick-built, and the land was not suitable for much food production. Took a long, dusty, and regrettable tour through the Bison park (Our Motto: Bison are
Big), then headed off to Anaconda. Sally had found another campsite there and our next-morning's viewing was a house nearby. Strange little campground. Full. Next to a rushing river. We just parked on a field. No power or water. Tiny, cramped, single-serving bathroom and shower, but at least the water was hot. We had a nice dinner at a local restaurant and headed to bed.
That brings us to this morning. Got up early. Showered and left. Went to the same restaurant for coffee and breakfast at 7 AM. Caught up on our list and the listings. Crossing things out. Making plans. Then we went to our 9 AM showing. Marvelous house in a pine forest near a sweet, large lake. A second house, more average, in need of work. Outbuildings. A pond. A nice ratio of wooded and pasture. Suitable for a small herd of cattle and a couple of horses. A really nice area. A real possibility, and priced well for what it included. (Turned out later there may be a problem with herbicide use there.) We talked with the agent and the seller for a couple of hours, then got back on the road for three
more hours of driving, heading east to Big Timber, an area which might serve as a base camp for a four-county area we're quite interested in. Sally busily set up showings and drive-bys and such for the weekend while I drove. For now, a chance to stretch out, breathe, repack the caRV, rest, write, and work on our computers, and our list.
It's funny. I brought books. I brought music. I brought our new tuning fork to work on my back with. What made me think I'd have time or energy to do anything but drive, look at properties, work on the computer, and sleep? So many assumptions to kill off, so little time.
Enough for now. I'll upload a few photos and call it an entry. Iza asked about coffee so I've included a few coffee-making photos. And photos of the window inserts we built for the caRV to keep our air fresh and cool at night. And a couple of shots of our current location. Tomorrow we'll rest for a while. Nothing to hurry up and go do. More computer work. More listings to peruse. More emails and calls. Thankfully I have Sally to do the
parts which include communicating with human beings. She's a gem in that way.
Pax out, ya'll. Leave us a comment if you can. It's pretty lonely, here in our own episode of Alone.
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