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Published: August 24th 2010
I know, I know, I should have been putting in the miles north towards Alaska but there's too much to see & the people just get friendlier so it’s not really my fault. In a couple of week’s time when the cold & rain are making me suffer I still doubt I’ll think I made the wrong decision.
I'm pleased to report I have made it to Canada but I came close to not wanting to leave the States & especially Montana at all. After saying goodbye to the bikers outside Red Lodge I pushed on up towards Glacier National Park. The intention was to really cover some miles, find a campsite, see the park, hit Canada. Simple.
However, after a few hours of riding beside crystal clear lakes in gorgeous sunshine (I'm still avoiding Interstates) the temptation to just throw myself in was getting a little too much so I pulled over & bought myself a Cornetto the size of a traffic cone whilst I figured out what to do.
As I sat in the shade I got talking to a fella named Danny about bikes & such & he asked where I was
A beautiful place to call home.
staying. I told him I wasn't sure as I didn't really know where I was going & Danny suggested I could stay at his parents place as the grounds are huge & there's plenty of room for a tent if I'd had my fill of riding for the day. Danny doesn’t live there (which is possibly why he offered) & reckoned his folks wouldn't mind. He phoned ahead to let them know we were coming & I followed him back.
When I pulled up on the drive I was greeted by his step-dad Richard & his brother Austin & was told to make myself at home, help myself to a beer & relax. All of this within 10 minutes of sitting all on my own at a petrol station wondering which direction to ride in. I’m sure I’ve mentioned once or twice in this blog how kind & friendly Americans are & I hope you’re getting the message.
Danny had to go to work at a bar in town & told me to call in when I'd finished drinking & relaxing on the porch. Sometimes life can tough on the road.
Richard & Austin were busy building
The Zapata family
Without whom, I'd have been lost. No hope of explaining how kind, caring & generous they are.
a studio at the back of the house as Richard is a professional artist & from the art work on display at the house, Austin will be. Both have clearly been blessed, from paintings & pencil drawn portraits to sculpted furniture, they can do it all. The hand drawn pictures of old Native American Indians were my favorite although it was hard to believe they’d been drawn at all. Seriously, they are that good.
I did ask if they needed a hand with the building work but I was told to just relax & drink beer & they'd be up within the hour to say hello properly & for once I concentrated on doing what I was told.
So whilst they worked, I wandered around the house looking at all these amazing drawings, paintings & pieces of furniture whilst drinking their beer. Not only did I want the art work, I wanted the house & the views across to the Rocky Mountains too.
After time spent sitting on the porch & getting to know Richard & Austin I took the bike into Big Fork which is a sweet little town on the edge of Flathead lake to
meet Danny at the bar he works in. Danny then took the time to introduce me to the regulars, so not only does he provide somewhere to stay, he finds me a bunch of friendly people to sit & chat to. Thank you Danny, to a person travelling on my own it really meant a lot!
I spent the early part of the evening with some Belfast natives, one who came to the US in 1955 is known as 'All Day Ray' & I could see why. At 75 years of age he can still handle a drink or two. His brother Terry was over visiting from England & we got on really, really well. Nice lads & enjoyed their company & tales from lives well lived. Terry sadly lost his son in a motorcycle accident as he was travelling Australia & so emphasised he wanted me to ride safe. Each & everytime I've been tempted to really put the hammer down since, I've thought of Terry,a true gent.
Later in the evening Richard came in with his wife Georgia & Austin. We sat talking for most of the night alternating between bars depending on what band were
with whisky & cigar
on where. Richard & Georgia suggested I stay another night but as I was already pushing the Alaskan weather window I thought it best I get back on the road.
Approximately 2 minutes later I reconsidered & thought it's going to be wet & cold in Alaska regardless, so I may as well enjoy the sunshine & good times with good people now.
Whilst we were in the bar I noticed Dirk Benedict the original ‘Face’ from the A -Team. I walked over to say hello & once he heard my accent he tells me all about his son who recently had football trails for Manchester City FC & how he spent five months in England touring some play or other. Now it turns out Dirk is a bit of a dick. Everything from immigrants in the UK to how the Californian smoking ban was instigated by a fat Jewish women etc.etc.etc. Now I found him entertaining at first but he doesn't shut up. Richard came over to tell me we were going to another bar & as they were both smoking cigars & drinking neat whisky Dirk took a liking to Richard & in turn wouldn't leave
Danny & his mum Georgia.
him alone. Sorry Richard.
After listening to as much as we could take Richard & I left & headed across the road to a bakery with a bar in its garden. The doorman said Richard isn't allowed to take his neat whisky in, so Richard placed the whisky on the fence without the doorman noticing & simply picked it up on the other side in one simple fluid motion.
In comes Dirk a little worse for wear & he can't understand how Richard '"who isn't famous!' was allowed to bring his drink in when he wasn't. Richard then tells Dirk he's disappointed that after being a member of the A Team he doesn't have a plan. All Dirk can come up with is driving something through the fence or an explosion of some kind. The idea of simply placing it on the fence & walking around alluded him. I'm just sat there with one of those ‘is this really happening’ smiles. All those Saturday afternoons spent watching the A Team on tv & here I am sitting on a bench in a beer garden with Face who’s talking about causing an explosion. I did tell you, he’s a
Dirk & I
It only Danny & I who realised the significance on this picture. Many Saturday afternoons as a 10 year old spent watching the A-Team.
bit of a dick.
That night we were also joined by Alexis, Richard’s daughter. I’d taken a shower in her room earlier that afternoon after wading through what must be the messiest bedroom I’ve seen since I was 14 (& yes it was mine). I honestly thought she’d been burgled & the room had been ransacked. I’m assured it’s now been made safe.
On the Saturday Austin & I had a look round the Big Fork Arts Festival with Danny & then Austin took me floating down the Swan river. Basically you buy alcohol, pump up big rubber rings & then let the flow of the river carry you along whilst you chat & drink. A blissful way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Luckily I've had plenty of experience from regular canoeing trips down the river Wye at home. So Austin & I drank & chatted & used table tennis rackets for oars (Austin's invention) when the going got a little tricky. I loved it.
Once we were done with messing about on the river we headed back to town & sat in the Garden Bar watching a pub singer called Larry Myer. The day prior Richard &
The famed inventor of the table tennis rackets that double as paddles.
Austin told me about how good he is & I've been around the odd pub or two & seen many a good singer but Larry was without question the best. Quite why he was playing a pub on a Saturday afternoon is beyond me. (He was wearing hiking boots, white socks pulled up mid shin, hiking shorts & a t-shirt with a wolf/husky on the front. Added to the fact he looks quite like Ozzy Osbourne & I can see how style won out over substance & perhaps that’s why he isn't more famous then he is).
Another good night followed in the company of Richard & Georgia where Danny ensured I didn’t have to wait at the bar & Austin looked after me & made sure that I didn’t get into trouble (whilst I took the time to introduce all the girls who asked, to Austin - & there were many) & Alexis made me laugh.
I did try to tell them all how grateful I am for literally taking me in off the street, opening their house to me & showing such warmth & kindness but as it just seems to be such an intrinsic part
A Saturday afternoon
floating down a river, whilst talking & drinking. My kind of outdoor pursuit.
of who they are, it was really no big deal to them, but it was to me. So a heartfelt thank you!!!
The next morning it was time to get on the road towards Glacier National Park & Canada, despite the offer of yet another night I really had to go, but it wasn’t easy. However, Richard did mention a party on September 3rd that I may just happen to be passing in time for...
So my time in America on this leg of the trip came to end in much the same way as it had begun, with kindness being shown towards me at each & every turn. I simply love the place!
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