I was driving home from work last week and saw a sign that reminded me of the week we spent in Hamilton back in June, the first time I've been to that part of Montana since the mid-eighties. I didn't realize the entire Bitterroot valley had become a suburb of Missoula, a prime example of 'If you love something plop a McMansion down in the middle of it, then pave it, landscape it and fence it until it looks just like where you came from, only with mountains.' And don't forget the big stone gate and No Trespassing signs.
Not that this should come as a surprise. Americans have been spoiling the really good spots for generations. I remember when I was a little kid, California was the promised land. Sun! Sand! Your very own lemon tree in the back yard! Every kid dreamed of growing up and moving to the west coast. And then they all did, and California became one massive freeway traffic jam, and all the Californians packed up and moved elsewhere. Which explains why, in the nineties, one of the most popular bumper stickers in Portland read: Welcome to Oregon. Enjoy your visit. Then GO HOME.
Eventually, all the places with ski slopes and oceans were completely overrun, and the people who originally lived there got fed up and moved to other, more remote places like the most desirable bits of Montana and Idaho and Wyoming, and the natives of those places were forced to move to what was left of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Or, Lord help them, North Dakota. Oddly, no one seems to be flocking to Nebraska or Kansas, but I suppose even that day may come.
After five days in the tangle of commerce and upper middle class complacency that was once one of the most verdant agricultural valleys in the state, I have never been happier to set my feet back on Glacier County soil. Nary a Prius nor a transplanted east coast yuppy lawyer in sight, except those passing through on their way to Glacier National Park.
I suppose I should be concerned that they'll fall in love with our million dollar views and we'll be next in this tag team match of Movin' On In, but I'm having a hard time working up much of a lather. From what I've seen, folks who have the money to plant their custom-built, luxuriously rustic homes anywhere they want generally choose locations where the nearest commercial airport is less than half a day's drive, and they can't see their breath on an average of two hundred and ninety-five mornings out of three hundred and sixty-five, not counting the really cold years.
I also figure it's not a coincidence that the east slope of the Rockies has remained relatively unscathed. Our interminable west wind may play hell with hairstyles, the local McDonald's sign and my sanity, but it does a stellar job of knocking back swarms of mosquitoes and movie stars.
Now if it could just relocate a few gophers.