Tuesday, October 23, 2012

So I went to Montana: Part Three

I should probably finish talking about my last trip before I leave for my next one on Friday. Going to Italy to meet up with my mom and her husband and meet my new step-nephew. I'm sure I'll have plenty of long rambling stories from those two weeks.

Also I finally drew something new. I'll finish working the kinks out and then post it up here and maybe on dA, since I've a few things to say about it.

One last thing, because I found it funny: "This debate is mostly two men agreeing with each other angrily" -- Todd in the Shadows. This sort of thing makes me glad I joined Twitter.

Anyway, more mundane adventures in Montana after the cut.

More Buses

A cab was called for me from the Billings Greyhound station. Upon reaching the Hilltop Inn, there was some fun getting the room set up -- it was going on my mother's card, but they needed information faxed from her to verify and all that. It continues to amaze me that people still use fax machines when there's perfectly good scanners/digital cameras and email to be had; heck, mom used an online faxing system, and last time I had to fax something I used one of those, too. I guess it's something to do with being able to verify the number it came from, but it still seems silly.

After reaching my hotel room, freshening up, adjusting my clocks to the time zone change, setting some alarms for the next morning, calling both parents to give status updates, and generally goofing off for a bit, I finally looked up the local bus system to figure out how to get to RMC the next morning. Like Metro Transit, the Billings bus site had a 'Trip Planner' option, but apparently they do it personally there rather than with a program, so you had to submit the request early and they'd get it back to you when they could. I was thus forced to try and figure out the maps on my own.

Once I had some idea of where I should go, I changed into clothing appropriate for the 37-degree day and went on down, intending to run the course while I was awake and fully-functional, rather than attempt it for the first time at 7-ish the next morning.

The employees at the front desk, both women, were unable to help when I asked about the nearest bus stop. One was just straight-up confused, the other one said she hadn't ridden the bus in years. They suggested I check at the local gas station instead.

I headed out into the day, quite glad to have gotten a weather report ahead of time and packed many warm accessories for the day. The gas station (a Cenex, IIRC) employee didn't know what I was on about either, but a woman whom I remember as having a lot of facial piercings directed me to what I later learned was the downtown transfer station, the closest large terminal. I thanked her and started walking that way, but was spared the long walk by spotting a bus sign and waiting there.

The bus I caught wasn't the one I needed, but the driver -- an old, skinny, white-haired caucasian man -- was very understanding and brought me to the aforementioned transfer station, pointing me toward the right bus and even talking to the second driver to make sure I was taken care of.

The second driver was a large jovial black man who was downright eager to help out. He not only gave me a bus schedule and pointed out my stop, but also pointed out a number of landmarks and where to catch the midday bus I'd need to heading back from the visit. He even gave me a handful of Free Ride passes for my stay, and pointed out a good place to have lunch when I finally hopped off, after hanging out on his bus for almost the entire route.

While the bus system is nowhere near as comprehensive as Metro Transit, the fact that the drivers in the Billings Met all knew each other by name and route left quite an impression on me.

I had lunch at the place the driver suggested -- a 'Tiny's Tavern', with a mascot modeled after one of the Seven Dwarfs. It was a dim place, and I sat at the bar with most of the other patrons, which made it feel very close despite there being a fair amount of space with empty tables. The other patrons were friendly with the female bartender, and the man that showed up later, which made service a little slow at times but was interesting to listen in on. I ordered a margharita on the rocks and a cheeseburger 'as rare as they could make it'. The margharita glass was huge and rim unsalted, but it was still tasty, while the cheeseburger didn't seem less than medium-done, but at the time was about the most amazing burger I'd ever had. It probably helped that I hadn't eaten anything proper since sometime the night before on the bus. Hunger is the best seasoning, they say.

I caught another bus going past and managed to find my way back to the hotel despite being more than a little buzzed from the large drink. I was very proud of myself.

Back in my hotel room I changed into my lounging clothes and continued catching up on Tehsmarty's Youtube Channel. I glanced at the room service menu and considered ordering it for dinner -- mom had budgeted for such a thing -- but curling up and sleeping for six hours put the kibosh on that, since I woke up at eighteen to midnight and room service ended around 6:30.

So instead I bought a cup ramen from the vending machine just down the hall. Since I had no utensils and didn't want to bother the front desk at midnight, I just ate it with a pair of Sharpie pens as chopsticks. Worked surprisingly well, actually.

I curled up with my ramen, improvised utensils, and silly internet videos, and proceeded to stay up until around 4, when I figured I should get some sleep since I had to be up and about before 7:30.

I don't have dinner to get to this time, but I do have Columbo, and it's half past one in the morning, and I don't feel like writing any more right now.

Next time: The RMC tour, successful navigation, ironic mall trips, and Perkins.

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