We pull off for a piss stop in near darkness. Paul L runs blindly down the straight dirt road towards a fading blue patch that persists in the dark sky. A brief Indian chant, shout out to the people we wish we could be, or be part of. Back in the Yukon.
Billings or Miles City? It’s ten p.m., we’ve powered 700 miles in a day, and DJ Shawn is keeping us artificially pumped with his pied piper iPod mix. Three hours to Billings, less than an hour to Miles City. Shawn dials up Joni Mitchell. Our pulses slow.Miles City it is. Eight motels a stone’s throw from the I-94: Best Western, Motel 6, Comfort Inn, and all the rest. All booked up. The Best Western clerk points his steel claw northward. “I’ve booked you two rooms at the Olive Motel. Left on Main, under the bridge about a mile.” Do they have wi-fi? “You’d better take these rooms. They’re holding them for you.” This burly man with the artificial hand is intimidating. He’s implying that if we don’t take the Olive Motel rooms we’ll be sleeping in the Yukon.
Next to us is a young father who is quietly losing his mind. Hook hand doesn’t see any reservation for Best Western on his computer, even though young father made them through OnStar hours ago. Apparently the Onstar radio ads aren’t sharing the dark side of this modern miracle. Hook picks up the phone again, makes reservations for young father and family at the Olive. Young father races out the door, into his Explorer. He wants to get to the Olive before we do, in case there’s another screwup. He guns the motor. Our Yukon is blocking him in. He backs up towards us. Okay, okay. We back up. He backs up, but doesn’t have room to cut right and out of the lot. He cuts left. We make our move, cutting right behind young father, who indeed tries to back up to block our exit, but he’s not quick enough. We’re on the road to the Olive Motel, young father hot on our tail until a slow moving Falcon cuts in front of him. We drive slowly to display that this is not a race, this is the land of plenty. Although it is strange that all rooms are booked in the middle of the Dakota plains on a Wednesday night.
We arrive at the Olive, a stately and decrepit hotel with wood columns and swastika patterned intricate tile floor, built in the 1880s when Miles City was a boom town, centered around a federal fort and Indian outpost. The whole town moved when the Yellowstone River shifted course. The Olive Hotel is too funky for young father. He and family flee in their Explorer. Lord save them. We ask about Internet access. The gray-haired night clerk with the injured ear looks down, closes his eyes, and shakes his head despairingly.
Our upstairs rooms smell, and there appears to be some kind of young hooker action going on down the long The Shining type hallways. One of the beds isn’t made up, so downstairs the clerk hands us sheets. But damn it, the TV has better choices than any Hampton or Comfort Inn we’ve stayed in so far, endless channels. The beds are comfy. One of the showers works. A late night Maker’s Mark party, watching an old Pee Wee Herman episode. And so to bed.