TIO Montana: Wrap-up, Pilots And Airplanes
Let me start by saying that serendipity often reveals itself through our mistakes. I’ll explain later.
Our adventure with the family officially ended with a Friday morning breakfast in Columbia Falls. Kimm, Mike and Matthew detoured into the Park for one last hike before leaving for Bellevue, Washington, and Susan and I headed for Three Forks, Montana. The finale for our Montana trip was meeting up with old airline friends in Townsend for the rodeo. Townsend is the hometown of Brad White, one of my best friends from my Northwest Airlines days. In the ’80s a group of pilot friends used to meet at Townsend for the annual rodeo in early August. For reasons totally unknown to me, we acquired the nicknames: the Wild Bunch, or the Wrecking Crew, and because of, or in spite of that, were kinda adopted by the town.
Brad’s family and a lot of friends are still in Townsend and the stories, somewhat amplified by time, continue today. Prominent are the ones that threatened disaster, such as Brad wrecking a leg steer wrestling, or the year I rode a bull for a short time. I also wrote a song about the Townsend Rodeo and have on occasion sung it during the rodeo. Saturday night Susan got to hear me sing it to open the show.
To my recollection there were six of our old group in Townsend this year. Time has reduced the size of our merry band, and we’re a bit quieter as well. But it was good to get together and share a few lies. Saturday night we were treated to a barbecue at the home of long time friends of Brad’s, Norman and Sally Bruce, finishing up around the fire pit on a beautiful Montana evening. Susan and I left on the early side: we had to drive back to Three Forks, about 35 miles down the road. And therein lies the serendipity…
I said it started with a mistake. my mistake. In the rush to get out of Telluride to meet our family near Glacier National Park, I had neglected to secure a room in Townsend’s one motel. And the time in Glacier was so jam-packed with activity that days passed without even attempting to correct that oversight. When I finally checked on Thursday about accommodations for Friday and Saturday nights, there was no room in the inn! Oops! I tried Bozeman, some 60 miles away, where there is a Supercharger station for the Tesla, which I would need in order to drive back and forth. No room there either. Helena didn’t look good and didn’t have fast charging available. As a final effort I tried Three Forks. One of the motels had one room, and a 110 V. outlet just outside the door. Yes! Charging with household current is very slow, but leaving the car plugged in overnight for the two nights was enough to make the two round-trips to Townsend and still get us to Bozeman with a comfortable reserve.
Now the serendipity: when we checked into our room at the Broken Spur, the proprietor asked if we were there for the fly-in that weekend. No, we didn’t know anything about it, but if there is anything other than a musical event or a rodeo that is likely to get my attention, it’s a chance to look at and listen to airplanes, especially old, small airplanes.
Saturday we were free until evening, so while Sus did her work and her yoga, I went for a run around the Three Forks Airport, ending at the flight line, where I spent a few hours looking at airplanes, talking to owners and pilots, sharing stories with other old airplane buffs. Among the old airplanes that caught my eye were a beautifully restored Piper J-3 Cub, A 1928 Boeing 40 “Mailplane”, and a Travelair 6000. The Boeing was said to be the oldest flying Boeing airliner extant. In my career with Northwest Airlines I flew all Boeing aircraft, but this one was a bit before my time. Northwest never flew the Model 40, but the beautiful Travelair type was in the NWA fleet for a few years in the early ’30s.
It was a perfect day, and then time to go back to the motel, clean up, and get ready for the Townsend evening.
On Sunday, we got on the road for home, looking forward to being back in Telluride for the rest of the summer, still excited about our multi-hued vacation in Montana.
Photos by Susan Viebrock and Clint Viebrock
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