Northeastern Montana: More than land to blast through

I’ve driven through northeastern Montana twice. The second time was last summer. Each time my husband, kids and I have blasted through on our way to elsewhere–once to East Glacier and once to Billings. With the miles it takes to get that far from central Ohio, putting the pedal to the metal is a tendency.

As we pass each town separated by wide expanses of scenery topped by endless sky, “That looks like a neat place. I wonder what it’s like?” My attention, however, is more on our friends who are waiting for us at the end of journey. After reading this travel article in the New York Times, I’m thinking that the next time we should stop longer than it takes to fill the gas tank..

First, I didn’t realize how rich in dinosaurs this region is. My son is sooooo determined to dig for dinosaur bones. Here it’s possible. When we were in Miles City, one of the region’s towns, and the only place we stopped, the only digging was by my husband who dug a pheasant that we hit back in North Dakota out of the grill of our car.

Along with digging for dinosaur bones, fishing for paddlefish is another area offering. Plus, there are several museums that pay tribute to the natural and human history and life of this part of Montana. Next time, we’re parking the car and getting out. The article is a keeper since it tells exactly where to go.The article’s slide show is a perfect enticement.

Boeing 737 makes duck soup with ducks and lands safely

Not all planes that hit flocks of birds end up making crash landings. When a Boeing 737 flew through a flock of ducks near Fairbanks, Alaska on Thursday, it did make an emergency landing to make sure that there wasn’t any major damage to the aircraft other than the crack in the outer windshield. The only other damage was a dent in the engine cowling.

The description of the ducks bouncing off the jet reminded me a bit of the pheasants (and the black bird , and the chipmunk AND raccoon) that bounced off our car last summer when we drove along the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota on our Great American Road trip. Quite alarming and unusual. We’ve been on this road before with never a problem.

It’s not that unusual for planes to hit birds in Alaska. According to the article in the Anchorage Daily News most of the time, the birds just bounce off the airplane and nothing happens. In our case, one of the pheasants was stuck in the grill of our car, something my husband discovered when we stopped to get gas.

In the case of a plane going through flocks of ducks, I wonder if anyone on board has ever yelled, “Duck!”

*Thanks to Gadling reader, Matt for the heads up on this story.

Great American Road Trip: More road kill woes and how to clean a car

The first mishap was when we nailed a possum in Illinois east of Chicago the first night of our road trip to Montana. The critter was lumbering across the interstate about 10:30 p.m. That was a sad moment.

Thursday, driving to and from Regent, North Dakota we had several sad moments. Honestly, there are some things that can’t be avoided.

I already posted about the two pheasants we hit. The chipmunk and the blackbird came later.

We didn’t hit them all at once, but over the course of several miles. Such is one of the realities of traveling on small two-lane highways–but this was ridiculous. Particularly when two raccoons made a mad dash in front of us as I was typing the previous sentence. The second one didn’t make it.

With each thump, I’m shouting out from the passenger seat, a strangled “Arggh!” Seriously, it was a nightmare. “That’s one way to damage a car,” I said.

“It’s not like I’m trying to hit them,” said my husband. It’s true, he wasn’t, and swerving too much is dangerous. He pointed out the deep ditch on the side of the road.

My son, the six-year-old wanted to stop for feathers and fur.

My daughter wanted to know why I’m making such an awful sound.

Turns out, I was onto something. While my husband was filling the gas tank in Miles City, Montana after dropping us off at a McDonald’s so our son could let off steam at the indoor playland, one of the pheasants was still with us. It had broken the grill a tad–just big enough to become wedged behind it.

Two truckers, noticing the predicament, exchanged their road kill tales with my husband and helped him figure out how to remove it. The windshield squeegee handle was somehow involved. I didn’t want the specific details.

When my husband showed up at the McDonald’s parking lot with the pheasant in a plastic bag with grand plans of showing it to our friend in Billings, I shouted, “Arggh!” and ran in the opposite direction. “No dead things in the car. Absolutely not,” I shouted from where I stood, still ready to flee if he stepped one foot closer. I hate dead things.

The pheasant was left in a garbage can in Miles City. There are a couple feathers in another bag behind the driver’s seat, but I’m trying not to think about them.

A woman told us, as she was sliding into her truck after hearing about our pheasant mishap, “Watch out for deer.”

The photo is of my son trailing his hand out the window for a moment to catch raindrops, one of the pleasant aspects of the day. Not pheasant–pleasant.

Chinatown Garbage Tour – Too tough to stomach

If taxidermy is your thing, then Nate Hill’s tour through the garbage bins of Chinatown may be something you’ll want to add to your next NYC itinerary. This artist and “rogue taxidermist” is up to some really bizarre stuff — he rummages garbage bins for dead animal parts, which he then uses to create new animals, like the fella pictured here.

If you like this sort of stuff, feel free to join Nate on one of his upcoming “road kill” material-gathering missions. The next tour is scheduled for December 13, and you can see a sneak peek from previous tours on his website. These photos are not for animal lovers. I’m repulsed by all this on many levels, but feel compelled to tell you about it anyway, for art’s sake, at least.

I’m all for art, really. Just last week my own father had an opening for a new exhibit of his artwork, in which he also relies heavily on the use of recycled materials. But he deals in paper – envelopes, scraps from magazines, reusable brown paper bags. A little bit cleaner than the bloodied parts of dead animals soaking in formaldehyde. But art is art, and as much as I find it hard to stomach the work of Nate Hill, I kinda get it. I can stand behind him “making something beautiful out of something ugly.” But I’m sure I won’t be signing up for one of his tours anytime soon.

Hill’s website provides more details about why and how he creates his art, and explains the other projects he is working on. I’ll let you guys check that out on your own. I’m a little nauseous right now.