As I looked over the menu, I noticed that the meat choices were bacon, sausage, ham and....SIDE PORK!!! Oh my gosh! "What is side pork?!" I asked the waitress eagerly! "Well," she asked innocently, "...do you like bacon?" I didn't burden her with listening to the bacon-on-a-stick song to prove my ardor, but I think she got the idea that I was a big fan anyway. I ordered up two eggs over easy with crispy hash browns and white toast to go with my nice big helping of side pork. I could hardly wait to see what would arrive on my plate!
After I floated out of the 600 Club on a cloud of porky pleasure, I got in my car and started driving west, parallel to the interstate, but on a small highway that snakes through a number of tiny little towns, some without even a gas station or grocery.
One town I passed by (Vananda) had nothing but a group of about six dilapidated old houses and this abandoned school building. It was apparently established in 1908 as a water stop on the railway, but fell into decline in the 20s when people realized farming in the area was just too difficult. Now it's considered a ghost town. I walked up to the door of the school building and peeked in. It looked intriguing, but I just couldn't muster the nerve to go in all by myself. Even the most intrepid urban explorers seem to agree on this point - poking around abandoned sites by yourself is risky. For the wise trespasser, it's considered a buddy sport only. I did find half a handle to an old rusted cap gun on the front stoop as a consolation prize. It was the perfect souvenir to carry away of that past tense place.
I spent most of the rest of the day meandering through a series of tiny townships, absorbing the realities and pleasures of living in remote and sparsely populated places. Every little town I passed through had it's own character. I spotted quite a few wonderful 50s era signs, many of which elicited a 180 in the middle of Main Street so I could snap a picture.
Above: Rough Riders Bar in Miles City, MT
Left: A lawyer's office in Harlowton, MT. Notice that it's an old enameled gas station that the loosers have painted over, trying to disguise its identity (and true beauty).