2012-10-26 / Columnists

On The Road Again

9/30 Bozeman, Montana - Missoula, Montana
Commentary By Ed ‘Shevy’ Shevlin

It is often said that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. Now, while I am not suggesting that I am locked in a battle here, or that my itinerary and I have some kind of adversarial relationship, I am saying that unforeseen circumstances often change my well considered plans. For example, while planning my ride over the Beartooth and subsequent scoot through Yellowstone, I neglected to allow time for photo-ops and time consuming equipment changes. The result was that I did not finish my days ride in Butte, Montana, but in lovely Bozeman, Montana. I use the word “lovely” in describing Bozeman because that adjective roundly covers every aspect of the town that I came in contact with. The restaurants, shops, people and general atmosphere were all very welcoming to this grungy, leather clad stranger who suddenly rumbled into town. I had the good fortune to attend Mass at the Holy Rosary Church in Bozeman before beating a path for Butte. I always feel good after attending Mass and this Sunday was no exception. It was a very special day for all of the congregants, they were welcoming a new parishioner into their midst. No, not me! There was a Christening taking place during regular Sunday Mass. Little Matthew was kicking and screaming as Father Leo immersed him in the Baptismal font. The congregation applauded and the proud parents beamed their approval, what a warm feeling came over me. I was elevated, I felt like I was back at 15,000 ft like I was the day before! The service came to an end and I was looking at another few hundred miles on the road to Missoula. would be stopping for lunch in Butte and then motoring on to my final destination further north.

My kickstand went up with a quick prod from my left toe and with a twist of my throttle I was in the wind again, bound for points north. Up shifting all the way to sixth gear my bike settles in to a comfortable eighty mph cruising speed. Now before you think that I am some kind of reckless speed demon, I must tell you that the speed limit in Montana is seventy five mph, so everyone goes eighty all the time! Talk about making time! If your destination is one hundred and sixty miles distant, it will take you two hours to get there, forty miles = 1/2 hour. Brilliant! It used to take me up to three and a half hours to drive the thirty three miles to Lehman College, oohfah! Before I knew it a bunch of octagenarian church ladies passed me doing ninety in an old Chevy Vega! I had better pay attention.

Butte was a disappointment. Many of the men were away fighting fires all summer and the town was desolate. There were a few pubs open, but a peek inside revealed a sad seen that often repeats around the world. A few lonely punters sat canoodling their beers while blearily dividing their attention between the too big woman behind the bar and the game on the too big TV. Time for me to skedaddle!

Back on the road and off to Missoula, one hundred and twenty miles or an hour and a half away, take your pick!

Missoula is similar to Bozeman if you ask me. It is an old town but one that has kept up with the times. It helps that the University of Montana is the centerpiece of the town. The proliferation of jobs created by the presence of the school and the jobs in the school itself, insure that a thriving downtown has remained a hallmark of Missoula for many years. am visiting Missoula at the invitation of Dr. Traolach O’Riordain, Chair of the Dept of Irish Studies at the University. My new friend Traolach has asked me to speak to his Irish Language students the following day and I am only too happy to oblige.

It is great to be the guest of the clan O’Riordain for two nights! The road can be a very lonely place when you spend day after day riding by yourself. The chance to interact with this beautiful young family is invaluable and it buoys my spirits. Within a minute of entering the house the children are climbing all over me like a jungle gym, laughing and joking, it was a gas. We shared a fantastic Shepherds Pie for dinner prepared by the lady of the house, Erin. After dinner we all had a chat “as Gaeilge” as all in the O’Riordain house are Irish speakers, even the little ones, Roisin and Sean. The children’s bedtime was cigar time for Traolach and I. Many years ago, following the attack on the World Trade Center I gave up drinking, but cigars, that is another thing! Putting a torch to our Monte Christo Media Noches, we settle into our comfy chairs under the Montana stars as the smoke and our Irish language intertwine like Celtic knot work. Off to school in the morning. My visit to the University of Montana Missoula was very enlightening, as every visit to a university should be. I attended Traolach’s class and observed his teaching style which I found to be both engaging and exciting. Following his opening drills, Dr. O’Riordain introduced me and asked me to say a few words to his students. I spoke to them in Irish about being a NYC Sanitationman, college student and Fulbright recipient and encouraged them to continue their language studies. It was a great experience altogether. I got back on my motorcycle a short while after the class feeling rejuvenated both physically and spiritually. It was time to get a little giddy-up in my git-along. I am off to Pocatello, Idaho this morning.

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