We are now in an arduous portion of the trip. North Dakota and Montana are not gentle places to be. Population centers are sparse. There are more cattle than humans. And more hay fields than families. Internet is sporatic at best, even with cell phone accessibility. Luckily we have Sirius Radio so we can stay with a single radio station across the whole country, if we want. Of course, that is all satellite-driven, so it doewn’t matter where we are, if we are in sight of one of the satellites.

We have settled into a routine at night. There is enough food for days in the trailer, so we won’t go hungry whether there is a market over the next ridge or not. We try to be at a populated area by dinner time so we can relax and have some electronically – driven entertainment.

By western Dakota, the terrain had begun to change. The flat land had become hilly and the horizon was not miles in the distance, but, rather, just to the next hill. The last 30-odd miles of the western part of the state is a large National Grasslands range. And in the middle of that is the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It is centered in Painted Canyon, otherwise known, back in the day, as The Badlands. Unstable grounds and sedementary rock formations in a variety of colors give the land its two names. Cliffs are steep and if would be almost impossible to find someone who wanted to hide in that area.

By eastern Montana, the hills had gotten higher and closer in to the highway. There are no longer miles upon miles of corn. There is hay. And Black Angus. And horses.

You can tell the men who are long-time residents of Montana. They and their boys wear what is commonly referred to as cowboy hats. No fancy Stetsons here. So far all I have seen is white straw. Haven’t seen a woman or young girl with more than a dot of makeup. It is a different way of approaching life out here.

I read the description of the media in Bismarck. Six TV stations, one newspaper and 27 radio stations. And the town is the size of Utica, NY! But it is also the capitol of the state of North Dakota, so that makes a difference. However, the remarkable part is that of those 27 radio stations, 6 are Christian rock, pop or talk and one is Catholic. Hard metal and rap are laughed at out here.

You know how when you read a map the roads are color coded? A double red line is a divided highway; a solid red line is a primary undivided highway, a solid black line is a secondary undivided highway…..Well, out in Montana, there is no difference I can identify between red and black except that every so often there is a rest stop built by the state. There are so many miles between any two places. There are ranches which are just grassland for animals and a house or a barn or silos every few miles. But you rarely see people!

Dear Hubby and I were discussing what do they do with the children? Schools seem out of the question unless the children spend several hours a day bussing. There are schools in the towns, when you find a town! I am willing to bet that a lot of homeschooling is done out here.

We spent 9 hours driving from Bismarck to central Montana yesterday. Then we started to get tired. We have over 2100 miles clocked so far. We found a town sizeable enough to have several stores. (And the central Montana crematorium! Signs for that and the best spring water in the state on the same sign post.) We thought we would stop at a store that looked like a grocery store, Shopko. So Hubby pulled into the parking lot and swung around into a space when we heard a really odd squeeking sound. He looked at me and I at him. Never heard that sound again. Then we looked out at the parking lot and several people were looking at the trailer. Oops! The swing wasn’t quite wide enough and we sideswiped a truck taking off its right rear light cover. The damage to the trailer was more cosmetic as we now have a smear streak along the side of the trailer and one of the storage unit doors is jammed. But Dear Hubby did the right thing. Wrote down the description and the license number and headed into the store. He questioned everyone he found. No one recognized the truck. Best he could do was leave a note for the driver with an apology and the cell phone number. But, 14 hours later no one has called.

This morning Hubby is repairing the storage unit door after having a Montana style breakfast of fried potatoes and ham. This is our last day in the lower 48 for about a month. Tomorrow we meet the long lost cousins. Gee, there’s a lot of that going on lately!