Alas, here is the long-awaited conclusion of “The Out of Town Experience” travel miniseries. To refresh your memories, I took a three-week trip back in August and it’s taken me nearly 6 months to tell the story! Which is just in time for the next travel blog… Dweebcentric! In an Adventure with Smarmy Europeans! But the Paris trip isn’t till March. But this, my friends will be a short follow-up to the tales of life in small town, Montana (read the previous part about a teeny tiny town called Opheim here).
I call it… 8 Things to do in Opheim!
1. Play a round of golf at the airport! This is a picture of Phil at the airport (read: air strip) playing a bona fide round of golf at sunset. Well… as much as you can play before you have to go digging in the ankle-high grass off the green to find out where the borrowed balls went. It was my first game of non-miniature golfing and I lack the finesse for this sort of thing. My swing is better suited for baseball.
2. Go Plinking! “Plinking” is Phil’s Dad’s term for shooting, which I didn’t know when I agreed to participate. Though, it wouldn’t have stopped me from tagging along anyways because of that important rite of passage where you prove you’re not too chicken shit to fire a gun. A manageable size one that won’t take your arm off with the kick back. So Phil’s Dad’s old Lugers were perfect. And I found I’m a decent shot, which is perfect, in case I’m ever being threatened by someone wearing very large, bright polka dots. Well, so long as I’m packing heat when they do threaten me.
3. Ride on a Combine! Opheim is farming country and there are combines aplenty! We visited Phil’s Aunt who had a walkie talkie system for when the guys were working out the field, since she had to be ready to hop on her combine and go out cutting. Some families have their own cars, but this family had their own combines! Or so that’s what I gathered from the whole exchange over the walkie-talkies. But, since they were busy, we weren’t able to bother them for any rides. I’m saving that to check off the To-Do on the next trip.
4. Take in the Local Sites! Just a few minutes away from Opheim, on the way to the nearest largest town (Glasgow) is St. Marie, where this picture was taken. It’s the former site of the Glasgow Air Force Base There’s a whole housing development of homes just like it, that have just been left to wither away. For a cool $10K this little fixer-upper can be yours! And some actually have bought them. Fully restored them, too. Which is a strange site to see – restored housing standing right next to one just like this.
5. Eat at the Cafe! For such a small town, there’s a lot of scandalous backstory to the lone cafe in Opheim. As the story goes, Bill Hosko, an artist from St. Paul, at one point made Opheim his second home, living in an off-the-grid house on a hill on the oustkirts of town, earning him the ninckname “Bill on the Hill. Although he speaks fondly of Opheim on his website, he made some enemies among the town residents when he took over the cafe, redesigning it as The Old West-styled Outpost Cafe, adding a kind of Disney-esque character to the place. But, being that he was only a part-time resident, Hosko put the cafe up for sale at a whopping $90 grand, or offered to sell shares as a co-op for $8 grand, both exorbitant prices for the area. For now, the only non-alcoholic social establishment in Opheim is run on a limited schedule and with a limited menu.
6. Gardening! Phil’s parent’s neighbor, Marge, is an old widow who has lived in Opheim a long time, if not her whole life. Her entire backyard is a lushish garden, and I was at first surprised by that, what with the surrounding dirt roads implying an arid environment and forgetting that hell, Eastern Montana is farm country! Willing things from the ground with seeds, water, and photosynthesis is what they do! Marge let me pull some carrots out of the ground, because, how often do we city folk get to do that?
7. Visit the watering holes! There are not one, but two bars in Opheim. Which is weird, considering how there’s barely one of anything else. But there you have it, Mike’s Bar and The Mint Bar. Separated by only one building, which makes it easy for competition to flash the Hairy Eyeball at the other bar’s patrons. I’m sure each has their own regulars. I go to bars in small towns like these with some trepidation for we are but lowly city folk. You can tell by our designer shades and fancy walking. And when we stepped into Mike’s Bar and showed our I.D.s, he said “Long way from home, ain’tcha?” I felt an icy chill at the moment, my friends. The beer was super cheap, of course, but we had to settle for whatever domestic bottles they had since there were not yet any taps. The bar was undergoing some changes in management because the guy who owned it wanted Mike to take it over (it was prematurely named for bartender Mike). For a while, we were the only ones there, which was fine because no one could witness our lousy game of pool (except bartender Mike), but eventually three sunburned Canadians in town for summer work took seats at the bar. And over straight whiskey, one shared the common working-class miseries of rehab, divorce, and restitution (not all in that order). But at least he made people laugh about it.
8. Go for a drive! There’s lots of open road in Montana, and if you’re lucky enough to own one of these hot numbers, it makes that drive lots of fun, though really really bouncy — this van’s rockin’ all the time you drive! If Phil’s dad wasn’t so attached to the Daddy Wagon (featured here), complete with it’s loose handling, 1980s interior, and complimentary collie that followed us everywhere we went, we could really have fun banging up this banger! In the meantime, it was still fun to drive in this brief glimpse into a life free of traffic jams.
And there you go, 8 things to do in Opheim. Of course, it’s not the only 8 things. Just 7 things I had pictures for and 1 I had a story for but no picture.
Travel blog: Out!