Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â By: Jacob
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Our lady of the Rockies shown bright on a cliff high above the old mining town of Butte.Â Once boasting over a hundred thousand people and the fame of being the first town to get electricity, it is now a fragment of what it once was.Â Hardly a quaint ghost town, however, with about 35,000 people you can see the city sprawl from the top of the divide as you coast your way into town, traversing acres of scorched earth (mining), under the watchful eye of the 60 foot illuminated statue.Â Â Â Â Â Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â We contacted a Couchsurfing host by the name of Abigail who was somehow willing to let 3 strangers sheâ€™d never met instantly take up residence in her home.Â After getting the grand tour of the house, we unloaded our worldly possessions off our bikes and moved in.Â Replaced the family photos on the mantle, hung up our towels in the bathroom, and began walking around the house in our boxers.Â
Â Â Â Â Â Couchsurfing is one of the newest and most unrecognized marvels of the modern world.Â Â It reminds me a lot of hitchhiking, except that you get to have a slumber party and use their toothbrush.Â While it may not be for everybody, there are over 100,000 people signed up, creating a global network of places to be â€œthe dude on the couch.â€�
Â Â Â Â Â Â The conversation could go something like this, â€œHi, Iâ€™m Jacob, a fellow Couchsurfer who you have never met in your entire life. I just came into town and read that you had a couch available to sleep on?â€�
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â€œYeah, very true.â€�Â They would then continue to humbly acknowledge that they have little to offer but would be happy to have you over.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â€œWhere can we meet up?â€�
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â And within 5 minutes of entering a town it would be set.Â The first night is easy enough, after that you have to prove to them that you actually donâ€™t smell that bad after a shower, and that you can cook without smearing bacon grease over all surfaces in the kitchen.Â Â Â Â Â
Â Â Â Â Â Abigail is a partial owner of a vintage clothing store that she describes as a boutique, and not to be mistaken as a thrift store.Â She is 24, goes to school, and works until late in the evening.Â Her photograph on her Couchsurfing profile shows her with brown hair, but we saw her with very blonde hair and a smile just as bright.Â She grew up in California and could tolerate the unrelenting, and often incoherent nonsense that bushwhacked bicyclists pour out in an attempt to communicate.Â We got along nicely.
Â Â Â Â The apartment was shared between Abigail, Nick and another couch surfer.Â Nickâ€™s father, Ron, had taken up a more permanent residence in the house a couple days prior to our arrival.Â He (and his Shit Zhu dog that would compulsively hump your leg) instantly became a household fixture, growing roots the moment he arrived.Â You could even hear his limbs permanently grafting themselves to the home as he woke up at 5 AM to loudly wash the dishes and drink his morning cup of coffee.Â Â Â Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Nick is an eccentric individual, capable of hours of humorous banter, punctuated with a loud contagious laugh.Â The dynamics between him and his father are nothing short of a comedy routine you might encounter in the performance hall of a cruise ship.Â Constant bickering exposing the underlying absurdity of Nickâ€™s couch surfing dad filled the home with the warmth of a quality family dispute.Â The two danced around the generation gap with a flair for the dramatics and an entertaining father/son role reversal.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Due to health conditions Ron has recently retired from his career as a car-salesman and has moved in with his son.Â The medication he was prescribed, lead to the loss of his botom front teeth, which was recent enough that he was constantly tonguing the area, as if playing with dentures.Â His straight grey hair was long enough to comb back, but still short enough that with any intervention, could stand straight out, giving him a mad scientist look.Â He wore surplus military pants pulled up to his belly button and a t-shirt with a picture of Osama Bin Laden framed by the words â€œWanted: Dead or Alive.â€�Â Â He is an endearing character, and the extent of his personality and charm could only be refined and established with a long life and a few tours in Vietnam.Â From the moment you meet him, he is like your best friend you havenâ€™t seen in years.Â I believe he must have been one hell of a car-salesman before he retired and moved into his beloved town of Butte, MT.
Â Â Â Â Â After a couple nights in town, we could see why he liked it, and not only because we were enjoying the same rent-free accommodations.Â It feels very much like a small western town.Â While checking out the nightlife we saw dogs running freely around inside the bars, a man get thrown through a window in a bar fight as high schoolers casually hung out around the pool tables.Â I had a conversation with a lady that night who found out I was from California and quickly made it her goal in life to recruit me to dissuade all people from Cali from ever coming to her city.Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â The one notable quirk about the Montanans Iâ€™ve met was that the overwhelming majority of them canâ€™t stand â€œthe Californians,â€� who are somehow responsible for all the problems in their state.Â Getting a rational explanation for their feelings about us â€œleft-coastersâ€� is nearly impossible.Â A few have shared their frustration that Californians buy up all the land and block access to public property or they are bunch of â€œtree-hugginâ€™ hippies who donâ€™t care â€˜bout nothinâ€™.â€�Â The best example of this underlying state discrimination is a comment from the lady we rescued after she slid on black ice and rolled her truck (nearly hitting Goat in the process), injuring her neck.Â After we laid her down on a Thermarest and put our sleeping bag on her and rushed to get further assistance she commented, â€œYou guys are so nice.Â I promise I wonâ€™t say anything bad about Californians ever again.â€�Â Â Â Â
Â Â Â Â Â Being in Butte on Halloween weekend, we had to attend the festivities and use our imaginations for costumes since we had not planned on dressing up. Goat was Floyd Landis, adorned in bicycle spandex, complete with a yellow jersey, Sean was a California surfer boy, sporting only board-shorts and curly hair, and I dressed as a hobo with a bindle on a stick.Â Pretty outrageous costumes for Montana, realizing that at the beginning of winter, not too many folks wear costumes that do not include a shirt or long pants.Â Throughout the night, I was happy as a hobo heading out of town to be wearing plenty of clothes to ward off the Montana cold.Â Couldnâ€™t help but laugh at Sean out in the cold northern night, shivering without his shirt on.Â
Â Â Â Â Sean & I quickly got bored at the party, abandoned the house to explore a huge metal mining rig, towering 100 feet above the city outlined in red LED lights.Â Hovering above the city, we could see the expanse of lights for miles around.Â A tremendous feeling of wellbeing swept over me, with the realization of what a crazy adventure we were on.Â That we get to ride through this city and back out into the wilderness; that we get to ride our bikes every single day across the globe.Â At that moment it felt like â€œOur Lady of the Rockiesâ€� was smiling a gentle approval.Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â It wasnâ€™t until our first night back out into the Rockies, that I began to wonder if her smile wasnâ€™t sinister in natureâ€¦..Â Â Â Â