Random Musing About Montana

Now, the first thing you have to understand is that when I say the ‘state of Montana’, I’m talking about a geographic region and not a philosophical state of being (like Connecticut, for instance).

As some of you know, I went to college in Montana.  I graduated an indeterminate number of years ago (I mean, it’s determinable—I’m just not mentioning the number here except to say it was the perfect amount of years ago [to be coy]), and I hadn’t been back in several years.

Recently, I was forced to return by circumstances beyond my control (that is, I was deposed.  I won’t get into the details of that because I don’t have any interest in my myspace account being subpoenaed.  If that’s how you spell that).  I didn’t want to go because I was busy, and flying into Montana is expensive.  Plus, all my friends have moved away now.

But, over the course of the three days I spent in Butte, MT, I was reminded of some of the things about the state that I really liked.

Things I liked about MT:

1) The traffic.  There is no traffic in Montana.  If you learn one thing from this blog, let it be this: Montana has a lot of land, and not a lot of people.  Low population density* = no traffic.  Also, no one’s really in a hurry to get anywhere.

2) The weather.  When it’s nice, it’s really nice.  When I was there in April, temps ranged from mid-30s at night to mid-50s in the day.  It was clear and sunny—gorgeous weather. 

3) The people.  Because there are so few of them, they just automatically seem nicer.  People are happy to see you (annoyingly so, depending on whether or not you’re hungover).  Strangers chat with you in lines.  It can be a little disconcerting (though not to me, because I do that in Hollywood).  Fast food employees are staggeringly competent.

4) The economy.  Stuff is cheap.  There’s no sales tax (order off the 99 cent menu at Wendy’s and you need not bring change).  The food is good, although not in comparison to the South (where I hail from).  But they eat a lot of beef, which is something I can get behind.

Things that I neither like nor dislike about MT, but that you might find interesting:

1) They have an awful lot of vanity license plates.  This goes back to the population density thing.  I’d guess somewhere between 35-40% of cars in Montana have vanity plates, which is a much higher percentage than anywhere else I’ve ever lived.

2) It’s pretty country.  Mountains, plains, and rivers, all over the damn place.  There are tons of national parks (which I don’t get into as much as an adult after having been force-marched through them as a kid**), and plenty of outdoorsy stuff to do in both summer and winter (which, by the way, are the only two seasons in MT).

3) There is, in fact, a speed limit.  The most common misconception I’ve come across since moving out of MT is that everyone knows it as the State Without A Speed Limit.  Um, that’s not the case.  The interstate has a speed limit of 75, and the various highways and city streets have them as well.  The story is that, at one point up until about 10 years ago, Montana highways had no posted speed limit. Rather, they had signs telling you to use your best judgment (or something along those lines—I don’t remember the exact wording).  Even during those times you could be ticketed if the officer felt you were exceeding the safe speed for the road.  Another thing worth mentioning is that, even if there were still no speed limit, the weather is bad enough that it wouldn’t be safe to drive even 75 8 months out of the year.  So, while it’s nice to imagine yourself flying along I-90 at 110 mph, it’s just not going to happen.

So, in closing***, I leave you with a few pictures I took while I was there.  These pics were taken through the windshield of my rental car, a practice which neither I nor any insurance agent worth his salt**** would recommend.


*Montana is the 4th largest state by landmass (~150,000 sq. miles, behind Alaska, Texas, and California), and the 44th largest by population (as of ‘06, 997,000 people).  So, the population density there is less than 7 people per square mile.

**Just kidding, Dad.  You know I loved all those hikes. smile

***I learned early on, in various English classes, that an essay should always have 3 things: an intro, a body, and a closing.  And you should put your name on it.  And, if it’s not long enough, try messing with the fonts and margins.

**** “Worth his salt” is an odd expression.  Since when do we use salt to measure worth?  Not since the invention of refrigeration, I’d bet.  Anyone know the etymology of that phrase?

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