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Published: August 20th 2020
July 16th 2026
According to the computer in the campground office, this is the 2183rd day of our Montana property hunt. That's almost six years we’ve been here, if my math is correct, though some people are certain that the aliens have messed with the timeline, and that it may be much longer than that. We're having to search farther and further afield, still looking for that perfect place to land. This morning we're heading north to look at a ranch in Fairbanks. Then later in the afternoon we've got a showing in Santa Fe. So another day with lots of driving. I hope we can find gas.
The driving is slow going these days, even though the speed limits are now anything we want them to be. What with the quasi-civil war that’s been sputtering along since the second Trump election (and running now into his third term) there’s nobody patrolling the roads. But having had that old VW Microbus welded to the top of our Odyssey to give us more room, we dare not travel much over sixty, for fear of toppling over on a curve. The Odyssey-Microbus mashup looks either like a stack of derelict vehicles at the junkyard or a London double-decker on acid, depending on whom you ask. Our fellow campers here at the KOA might laugh at our rig, but that didn’t stop them from electing us Kamp Hosts of the Year for the third year straight. Let ‘em laugh. It works for us. And now we get free site rent AND water and electricity and official KOA windbreakers. When there’s electricity. And water. Which mostly there is. But not always.
I think the whole Kamp Host honor thing comes from our ability to diffuse and help resolve conflict, of which there is no shortage these days. It’s not too bad here, when all is said and done. I hear the vast shanty towns outside Billings and Bozeman, filled primarily with refugees from the East Coast urban corridor (fleeing either deadly invisible particles or political insanity, take your pick) have had no end of trouble. Food and water riots. Government crackdowns. Gang warfare. All the health problems associated with bad food, toxification, modern medical practices, and over-crowding. All of that. Here in Big Timber it’s small potatoes by comparison. While people at the KOA certainly polarize around all sorts of political and social issues, most of the fighting comes down to a matter of how to wear your mask.
After COVID-19 there was COUGH-20, SNIFFLES-21, UPSETTUMMY-22, and VAGUEFEELINGOFDISCOMFORT-23, each pandemic more mild and deadly than the one before, each more frightening than we could possibly imagine, according to those brave, corrupt journalists of the corporate media machine. In all the time we’ve been out here, the masks have never gone back into people’s drawers, and whole religions have sprung up around matters of their import, usage, and style. Some now wear masks even while sleeping and bathing. Some, like Sally and myself, never wear them. And while the Re-Breathers insist on a medical mask which covers both nose and mouth, there’s a group, the Mask Mafia, that dangle masks from their ears, and another group, the Thieves, that wear nylon stockings over their entire heads, and, my favorite, a group, the Chin-Strappers, that wears their masks over their chins, as if the CDC had published a study showing that the chin is the most vulnerable part of the human body. So righteous and vociferous have people become about these details that rarely a day goes by that we don’t have at least a shouting match, if not fisticuffs, over some issue of mask etiquette.
The reason I have to use the campground computer is this: my laptop started falling apart about ten days into our journey. Enough of those tiny specialty screws had finally fallen out of the case that it started to pull apart and, with no ready or easy source of new screws, or of the specialty screwdriver needed to screw them in, I resorted to the obvious fix: duct tape. That worked well enough. Until it didn’t. My guess is that either dust, water, or grasshoppers eventually got in and gummed up the works. One morning, it just wouldn’t turn on. That was it. Sally’s computer is gone now as well, though it suffered a different fate. Sally’s habit of looking at the computer while in the bathtub finally caught up to her. I will say no more about that.
Our phones still work, though, so we can get directions and maps and bits of info from the outside world, though our Maps App is quite moody and only speaks to us when she feels like it. Mostly we try to ignore the news of the world as much as we can, of wars and rumors of wars and wars over rumors and rumors of wars over rumors. We feel all the better for it. One thing that’s become more and more clear to everyone these past years is that, as far as the corporations and their government lackeys are concerned, no lives matter. People may soon tire of fighting each other, and tire of their increasing poverty and ill health, and turn their attention to those with money and power who do not and have not had their best interests at heart. Time will tell.
Though we do still have our phones, cell service and GPS are both spottier than ever these days. When they work they’re nice to have, as we never did find a printed booklet of Montana road maps. GPS has become particularly sketchy, which makes meeting realtors at properties a rather hit-or-miss affair. We’ve heard that people are targeting 5G satellites with home-made SSMs. Perhaps that’s having an effect. Take that, Elon Musk.
No matter how we try to ignore the world, news reaches us. We’ve heard, for instance, that our tenant back in North Carolina, after we failed to return at the end of August, has taken over our whole house, changed his name to Ramadingo, and started a cult based on the worship of Chik-fil-A. We’ll have to get back there at some point and see if we can run him off and kick out his followers and pick up a few of our belongings, if they haven’t sold off our stuff to purchase more chicken sandwiches. We’ve also managed to keep up with Sally’s kids, and so understand that Vejibags continue to sell like hotcakes on Amazon, which is nice, as the income from that keeps us in gasoline, cheddar cheese popcorn, and lattes, though we could easily give up the latter, since we’ve yet to have a decent cup of coffee or espresso drink in Montana. Speaking of income, we’re thinking of renting ourselves out to sellers, because as soon as we start feeling some real interest in a house or property, somebody makes an offer on it and it goes under contract. For a fee, we could express interest in your property and help it sell.
I’m sure the kids and grandkids are all awaiting the successful resolution of our property search, so they can at last come for a Montana summer adventure, just as Sally’s brother sits by the phone ready to jump in when we find the exact right place. For now, we keep searching, scanning the listings, reading the papers, meeting with our realtors, walking parcels of land and touring houses, always on the lookout for our own “last best place” here in what some call “God’s Country.” It has to have enough acres. A substantial creek or river. Room for growing vegetables and raising animals, with enough sun and warmth and water for such things to prosper. Enough housing for us and the rest of the family. A view, something moving and inspiring and awesome. And fairies or gnomes would be nice. We could use a bit of magic right now. But until we find our landing place, our fellow campers at the KOA have coalesced into a community of sorts. It’s rather sweet, in its own weird way. Perhaps we’ll just end up welding a school bus to the side of the Odyssey and stay put until the madness is over. There are worse places we could be.
Big sky. Dry air. Gorgeous sunsets and amazing thunderstorms. Distant mountains looming over us. Clear streams. An eclectic group of campers. There’s even a pool table in the game room. It’s not bad. Tomorrow we’ll go see a place in Sioux Falls. Maybe that’ll be the one.
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