Highway 93 Haiku

By BOB WIRE

Highway 93 is my favorite Western Montana stretch of road. Entering Montana at Lost Trail Pass to the south, it hugs the Bitterroot River through the gorgeous agricultural gem of the Bitterroot Valley From there it skirts Missoula and winds north around the serpentine shoreline of Flathead Lake, onward to the Port of Entry at Roosville, where it leaves the U.S. It’s a glorious, notorious ribbon of road that takes you right through some of the most breathtaking scenery in Big Sky Country.

On certain days, especially in the spring or fall, Highway 93 can be a powerful muse. The hour-long drive down the Bitterroot Valley from Missoula to Hamilton on a bluebird March morning can be a spectacular travel movie, and the right soundtrack on a good stereo can make it a soul-shaking masterpiece. When you’re driving this highway solo, without the distraction of conversation, the poetry just flows in through the windows. For me, it usually comes in the form of haiku. (Sometimes it’s a filthy limerick, but I’ll save those for another time.)

Driving to the lake

August day with no AC

Thighs stuck to vinyl

This highway delivers beauty, but it’s also, in places, a hair-raising trouble trap that has no forgiveness for inattentive drivers or those unfortunate enough to fall victim to black ice or falling rocks. “Pray For Me, I Drive 93” bumper stickers exist for a reason.

Granny in an Olds

Forty in the passing lane

Got my road rage on

If you’re traveling north, no matter the time of year, there are few experiences on any road that always make your heart soar like that moment you crest the grade past Ravali, and the stunning Mission Mountain range looms suddenly into view. As the National Bison Range rolls by on your left, you just can’t help but wonder why anyone would live anywhere else. But you’re glad they do.

Moise, MT

Okay, this isn’t technically Highway 93, but it connects right to it. I mean, it’s right thereahead.

Doing seventy

Now the sign says forty-five

Hello, officer

Much of Highway 93 north remains a two-lane blacktop, which might keep your eyes a little more tightly nailed to the white lines, but it also makes the road less obtrusive as you glide through the heavily forested landscape from Evaro to Arlee. Wildlife peeks out from the edge of the woods, making you glad that the elegant Animal Bridge was built near the old Mule Palace to help the critters safely cross this treacherous road.

RVs on the road

Yellowstone to Glacier Park

one-half mpg

Sometimes the graceful tableau of a snow-veined mountain range on the horizon opens the mind to more philosophical thoughts. Looking at the wide range of vehicles, from campers to passenger cars to semis to work trucks, the mind conjures various stories and images of the lives contained within. Who are these people? Where are they going? Where did they come from? Are they happy? Are they driving to a big change in their lives?

Lonely Birkenstock

In the middle of the road

So many questions

Picture35

When you see this, the donuts arenigh.

Some of the most entertaining features of Highway 93 are man-made. They may even be your destination. Funky, unique mom & pop businesses dot the highway like crucial pit stops in a marathon race. M & S Meats and Sausage in Rollins, where you can buy the best buffalo jerky in the state, is full of surprises like killer smoked cheeses and top-shelf local wines. Las Mas Fina, an unassuming little Mexican joint hard by the highway in Victor, makes tamales that are worth driving half a day for. If donuts are how you roll, you probably already know about the legendary treats offered at Windmill Village at the south edge of Ravali.

Picture38

Here’s the place to stop in Rollins if you’re running low on jerky. AndGroc.

Grim South Kalispell

Missoula’s North Reserve Street

Got nothin’ on you

It’s hard to compete with some of the most dramatic scenery in the country, but a place like Museum of America does a pretty good job of it. Just south of Polson, this monstrous and crazy collection of Americana and kitsch will keep you fascinated for hours. Driving north from there, you can pull over and take in the view from Polson Hill of Flathead Lake. This is the stuff of dreams. And Monte Dolack prints.

Picture36

Kind of hard to take a bad photo from this pullout. But Itried.

Car show in Polson

Dig the tattoos on that guy

Looks like prison ink

Continuing north of the lake, through lovely Kalispell, past the picturesque ski haven of Whitefish, 93 cuts through the pines into Eureka and beyond. The land seems bigger, the vistas wider. Approaching Canada, you can make a little side trip to Lake Koocanusa, a mammoth reservoir sitting like a jewel in the dense forests along Montana’s northern border.

Jacked up four wheel drive

Gun rack in the rear window

Don’t make eye contact

There are more famous roads in the U.S. known for their beautiful surroundings, like the Pacific Coast Highway in California or the Blue Ridge Parkway in the southeast. I can attest to the spectacular scenery to be enjoyed on both of those routes. But for sheer variety, interesting attractions, wildlife action and dramatic scenery that changes from one season to the next, give me that 300-mile stretch of asphalt known as Montana Highway 93. No matter what the reason for the trip, no matter what time of year, it never fails to inspire with its heart-stirring beauty.

Summer’s here at last

Drove a hundred miles for this

Huckleberry shake

 

Road sign up ahead

Written in the Salish tongue

I got no idea

 

Semi passed me up

Windshield wipers on the fritz

Thanks a lot, asshole

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Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an openmind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.

 

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