July 5: Glasgow to Saco, Montana - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

July 5: Glasgow to Saco, Montana

Just east of Saco is a wooden, single-room school. The door is left unlocked for visitors.
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"THOSE HOODLUMS, they oughta strip them naked and peg them out on the ground a while. Them mosquitoes'll get'em and they wouldn't bother anyone again for a while."

Jack is at least an optimist. He can see a use for the mosquitoes for which the area is notorious. We were in Hinsdale, the village where we should have been for the Fourth of July, and on our way to Saco. The only thing passing cyclists know about Saco, because they don't choose to stop, is that it has mosquitoes the size of butterflies and with the punch of a horse-beetle.

"You mightn't think you're too lucky, going inta the wind the way it's blowing," Jack said slowly, "but that's a blessing. Wind keeps the mosquitoes down and they can't feed and they die."

The "Mayor" of Hinsdale
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Jack, in his cross between a cowboy hat and a panama, was on one of the three chairs around a small table at the entrance to the gas station. He had the air of a man who'd resent our sitting there as well, the kind who didn't appreciate strangers a mighty bunch, but he was simply quiet and a little shy.

"Don't mean there're no more mosquitoes, though," he said. "They lay their eggs deep down. While back, some university fellas, they took some of the gumbo [Underlying soggy soil] to test back in their laboratory some place." He pronounced it labba-tory. "That was still hatchin' mosskeeters next seven years."

Jack has lived in the area all his life. He's retired now - he worked for the gas company down the road in Saco for 30 years - but he still "runs some cattle." When I ask how many he is slightly elusive and says "I dunno - 30, maybe 40," as though it were something a man might forget. "Get other ranchers to look after them now, though."

"And what do you do now? Sit here and drink coffee all day?"

The wild and open plains... and the tedium of US2
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He laughs.

"Good deal more than I oughta," he says slowly, a man who talks without urgency and moves with not much more.

"So how do you cope with mosquitoes when you live here?" We had been spraying on Deet and we were blessing the stiff headwind, which while it made life miserable in one way at least saved the constant irritation of itching.

Jack smiled and pushed back the tip of his hat with a finger.

"You don't cope. You just put up with them. When I was working in the fields, you just wear a hat with a net tucked into your shirt, and you keep everything buttoned up. But you can't get by them."

The cheerful woman behind the gas station counter says there are 200 people in Hinsdale and she knows them all. Jack says he's lived there 10 years and knows most, "or, at least, I know who they belong to."

The woman added: "This is a proper community. You address a letter just to 'Jack' and it'll find the right person. If not first go then the third or fourth. Write 'Mr Jack' or 'the mayor' and it'll go straight there."

"You the mayor?" we ask Jack.

"That's what they call me but we're not an incorporated village, so we don't have a mayor. But one day I was mouthing off and I said or someone said I should be mayor. And I knew some guys who'd be my town council. It was just a joke but the nickname stuck."

A strange place, the motel outside Saco. It was once a dream and now it's, well... odd.
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We are staying tonight at an extraordinary motel beyond Saco at Buffalo Rock. It must have looked wonderful on the plans because signs around it point to a golf course and an arena. Neither of them is there. The motel has a pool fed by a thermal spring. It should have been a dream. But I imagine nobody thought what it would be like to play golf or watch sport in a mosquito swarm.

The motel has been there since the 1930s and word has it that it has been struggling against bankruptcy ever since. At some stage outdoor motel rooms were protected from weather and

A subtle little corridor at the Saco motel.
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mosquitoes by building a wall which connected them by a corridor. It has given the air of some abandoned government office block. The insulation is falling from the ceiling in the corridor and, while everything looks as though it won't work, it does. And the rooms are fine for folk like us who don't care where they are when their eyes are shut.

"Atmospheric" is the word, I think.

We are truly on the plains now. We thought Montana was going to be majestic, rugged cowboy country where sunburned men said things like "You two stay with the girl; the rest of you come with me and we'll cut them off at the pass." Here, though, there are no passes. The land just

But the hills are starting to appear
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rises, then falls, then rises again, all the time through open, green, empty, windswept scenery that could have been what it was an hour ago and looks like being what it will be in another hour. But it will all come to an end. One day it will all come to an end.


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