Hard, Ain't It Hard

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North America » United States » Montana » Billings
August 12th 2020
Published: August 12th 2020
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Things were going well. Then they got hard. Now they're okay, and looking up. Unless they're not.

We left our campground in Medora and drove south into the badlands. It was two hours before our realtor appointment, but we knew it would be difficult to find the place, and wanted to see the area. We drove into the badlands. They were beautiful. We drove over cattle guards and amongst the cattle. We drove past oil derricks. We drove on paved roads, gravel roads, dirt roads, and what turned out to be a private drive. We never did find the house, but realized that there was no way we'd be interested in it. It was just too far out from too small of a town. So we high-tailed it back into town, to get enough cell service to call, text, and email the realtor and call off the appointment before she drove all the way out. Then we hit the road for Montana.

More badlands. Beautiful country. And I sure did enjoy the 80 MPH speed limits on I-94. Sally snoozed some more in the back of the caRV while I drove, scanning the distance for the first sight of a mountain range, wondering when we'd start seeing them. At some point, Sally found an alternate, non-Interstate route to our Air BnB for the next two nights. We got off on Montana Highway 12 and kept heading west.

What a desolateā„¢ road. Beautiful countryside. Long straight stretches of nice, smooth pavement. More badlands, rivers, and a big blue sky. But no traffic. No people. No houses. And just a couple of tiny towns along the way to Roundup. The road was not posted, and Sally had said something about roads with no speed limits in Montana, so I pushed Empedocles up as high as 103 at one point, just to see what he could do. Reading later, I read that there were no longer such roads in MT, and that the limit on the road we were traveling was 70, even if not posted. Ah well. It was fun while it lasted.

Finally we neared our landing spot, and then three "bad" things happened. First, our GPS failed us by neglecting to tell us where to turn, necessitating a u-turn and a 6-mile backtrack, and provoking a bit of a tiff between myself and Sally (reliable reports say that either Sally was being a bitch, or Tim was being a bastard, but there were no witnesses.) Then we got to the Air BnB to find it a run-down mobile home with no AC, little cell service, stinky and undrinkable low-pressure water, and no WiFi. When hunting for properties, getting online is a must, so while I re-packed the car, Sally went and told the owners we were leaving and got a partial refund. Then she got a message from the realtor she'd been working with saying he couldn't show us properties the next day after all.

So we were out of sorts, out of contact, tired, disappointed, and feeling rather lost. We drove up the road to the firehouse, where we'd been told we would get some Verizon service. Sally called the realtor and found out what was going on. Then we sat there for 20 minutes waiting for his return call. Sally made meatloaf sandwiches. I talked to a passing Census taker concerned that we were having trouble. We were not at all sure what to do.

It turns out that Montana is experiencing it's biggest real estate market ever. We're not the only ones, apparently, looking to retreat to the mountains in these infectious, socially unstable times. Properties are selling like hotcakes and realtors are busier than they've ever been. And when you're viewing a more expensive property with lots of acres, you have to have both the buyer's and seller's agents present. So, our assumption, that we could just show up in an area and call some realtors and get some showings in the next day or so turn out to be unwarranted. You have to plan in advance, and coordinate very busy schedules. All of which makes the job much more confusing and difficult. And all the while we're confronted with the question of where to get our basic needs met as we continue our quest. Where to stay? Where to get food and coffee and showers and wifi and cell service? All of that.

We headed south to Billings. Sally found an Extended Stay America room for fairly cheap and put it into the GPS. Then she got on the phone with the realtor again and they talked through our plans and about various properties while I drove. Well, when there was cell service, that is. An hour later we made it to Billings, unloaded into this thoroughly blah hotel room, put everything on a charger, took a shower, and made arrangements for the coming few days. The first realtor has hooked us up with another on in the Missoula area, and she's going to show us a number of places on Thursday and Friday.

I went to the store for some scent-free detergent and did a load of laundry. Sally took a bath. Eventually we made a salad and watched an episode of Alone. We should be filming our own episode. Alone in the Montana Real Estate Market. I'm sure Netflix would buy it.

Scored some Starbucks coffee this morning. Found a car wash because Empedocles was filthy with bugs and dust. We've made a plan. Found a nice campground in the Missoula area, central to the properties we are going to look at. Sally found another realtor willing to show a property he's listing in this area so we're going to go look at that one at noon and then head 5 hours west to Missoula. Hopefully we'll be able to stay there two or three nights. Make a bit of a base camp. A bit of known. Need to grab some camp chairs. An extension cord so we can sit by the fire and charge our devices. Might have to get some beer.

It's scary, making a plan. You know what they say about plans. You make a plan you give the gods a way of thwarting you. You set yourself up for possible disappointment. And there are so many unknowns that could muck things up. Every day we're dealing with feeling out of control. I guess that's just the name of the game for now. And we might remember that while the gods will likely thwart one plan or another, they have no other way to guide us to our goal. That was the whole point of taking action and hitting the road and coming out here in this strange time.

We'll check in again as soon as we can. Pax, all. T


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