I board the train, which departs 20 minutes later than scheduled. I follow other passengers to an open car, when I am stopped by a car attendant and told that I have to wait “because you’re disabled.” I say nothing, but wait until the access is clear before directing Jenny forward. The attendant grabs my arm to “direct” me, and I ask her not to touch me. She lets go, then follows me on to the train car. When I struggle to find a seat, she remains silent, then says “I would help you, but you asked me not to touch you.” I sit down, situate Jenny, and thank her anyway.
The train travels through Glacier National Park, stopping briefly. When it stops at East Glacier, I ask the attendant for directions to the cafe car. She provides them and offers assistance. I decline. We make it to the cafe car without incident, up the narrow stairs, through the dining car, then back down again. A passenger is panicking about catching the bus from Shelby to Great Falls, and the attendant doesn’t know what time it leaves. As this is the bus I plan to take, I tell her what time it leaves, and I am thanked by three people – the passenger, the attendant, and the guy behind the cafe counter. I order a coffee and a fruit and nut medley, and am considering going back to my seat to finish my book when I am asked if I might enjoy some company. Why not?
My companion, John, is 80 years old, and his late wife was totally blind. We talk about athleticism, autonomy, family relationships, travel, and so much more. We swap contact information, and he gives me a small charm that was part of his wife’s signature jewelry designs. When the train leaves Cut Bank, we go our separate ways, believing there are no coincidences in life.
The train pulls in to Shelby at 11:45 – 20 minutes late, but with enough time to make my bus connection. A massive weight is lifted from my emotional shoulders, even as my backpack weighs down my literal ones. How is it possible to have less weight in a backpack but have a harder time filling it and hauling it around?
It is HOT outside the station – a far cry from the cool morning that necessitated a hoodie. I tie the sleeves around my waist, then hop on the bus. We change buses in town; the bus connecting from Browning was full, so I hop on that one and settle in for the ride. The bus is so packed that the driver has to turn away a group at Conrade,. An elder sings a Native American song to calm a fussing child. I’m tired but content, and have no earthly idea what I’m doing in Great Falls.
My host picks me up at the bus station in her truck – she’s already got Jenny’s approval! We pull in to the driveway, then head around back to meet Lucy and Bella, a 2-year-old yellow Lab and 6-year-old chocolate Lab, respectively. Jenny is interested in their stuff until we take all the bones away from her… and then she meets Lucy. It’s non-stop mayhem and wrestling. We all have a ball!
I get settled in to my room. Matthew, one of my running partners in Whitefish, has put out the word that I am looking for runners along my journey. One of them has written back. Jeff and I correspond through email and agree to meet tomorrow for a run. It’s technically a rest day tomorrow, but I can consider today a rest day…
I make one final phone call, hoping against hope that SOMEONE has a Bluetooth keyboard. Miraculously, a cell phone carrier has one. I head downstairs and ask my host for directions. She says she’ll give me a lift, and we can pick up a pizza along the way. I purchase the keyboard, and pay for the pizza in exchange for the transportation. My host wishes everyone worked that way, and I’m surprised more people don’t. We chat over pizza and soda (she’s from the south, so it’s “soda”) and retreat to our separate quarters. I use AiRa to help set up my new keyboard, then enjoy a bubble bath with a good book before heading off to dreamland.
I take a while waking up this morning, but my host has prepped coffee; all I have to do is turn it on. I write for a while as I drink the coffee, and learn a few quirks about my new keyboard – short course: I need more pinkie finger strength. When I change in to running clothes, I discover I left half my socks in Whitefish. Thankfully I have packed more.
Jeff meets me for our run. He speaks like he writes – with expression and feeling. We pull in to the parking lot at the dog park, walk past Jenny’s happiest place on earth, then start running. The heat is already intense, and it feels much more humid than the 34% Google says it is. Jeff gives great information, and we talk about sight and art and running. It’s supposed to be an easy run today… Jenny has other plans. We finish our 8 km at a personal best of 56:20. That included crosswalks, stopping for traffic, and slowing down for a water break. For the first time, I am not only confident in my ability to run the half-marathon distance, but maintain a steady goal pace as well. NOT an “easy” run… but something better.
Since we’re at the dog park, and Jenny killed that run, we enter the gates to walk off our running and let Jenny play for a while. Another dog approaches me and Yanks the water bottle out of my hands. I get it back No harm done, but I alert the handler of what her dog has done. She doesn’t seem to care, and I tell her it’s my race gear, not her dog’s property. Jenny’s ignoring everybody and everything else. This same dog comes up behind me on our way out and shows too much interest in my running pack. I tel it to back off three times before it’s handler – thinking this is “cute” – giggles and calls her dog back.
We leave the dog park and make plans for another – ACTUALLY easy – run bright and early tomorrow. After showering and guzzling three water bottles, I’m ready to see some museums! Since the bus service is complicated – you go to a corner and flag down the bus at some infrequent schedule – I take an Uber to the history Museum. Dana shows me around, let’s me feel the exhibits that aren’t behind glass, and helps me take pictures of old coffee servers and telephone operating consoles and scale replicas of buildings that now only exist in history.
I leave the gift shop with a couple of small souvenirs, then make my way to Al Banco. I have no clue where this restaurant is, specifically, but I ask Jenny to “find the food! and she takes me right into the alcove, up the steps, and inside. My quiche, salad, and coffee hit the spot, and I read a while before calling an Uber back to my AirBNB. I had wanted to visit another museum, but I am tired and just want to relax.
No sooner do I get inside and lock the door behind me than the thunder booms outside. There’s no rain, but I am glad to be inside. My host arrives, and we are able to grab a quick bite at Jimmy John’s for supper. We eat on her back porch while the dogs sleep by our feet. We are all exhausted by the day and turn in early.
I don’t sleep well, waking up frequently. Once I get up, I make the coffee and start packing. Jeff meets me right outside the door, and we meet with his friend Dan for a run. It’s a steady, slightly easy run, past one of Great Falls’ many waterfalls. After a quick selfie, we get back to the AirBNB, where I shower, change, clean up, and get ready to head to my next destination.
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