By John Matonich
I would hazard a guess that not too many people anymore would remember the Chevy ad that told us to “See the USA, in your Chevrolet”. I seem to remember watching the ad about every Sunday night while the family watched Ben Cartwright and the rest of the gang from “Bonanza”. I think it was also one of the sponsors for the Ed Sullivan Show (I liked Topo Gigio the best). I believe the advertisement’s message is still valid today.
I just got back from my trip to Montana with some of my buddies and we had a great time. We were all successful in getting deer, but we were also all successful in laughing way too much and accumulating stories that I know will be re-told several dozen times over the next dozen years or so. We also met some really nice folks who were eager to help us find the right spots to hunt as well as fill us in on the history of their area. This particular area was and still is one of the hot spots for finding dinosaur remains. There were a couple of museums close by as well as a few tourist traps, but we learned all we needed from our local friends.
It was a long trip from Michigan to Montana, but I enjoyed every mile. We saw the country’s largest Hereford and a special sign made of metal symbolizing the migration of geese. We went through small towns and a few cities. Each had their own unique personality and look about them. We crossed the Mississippi River and the Yellowstone River along with countless smaller rivers and streams. Once we got to our destination, one of our local friends took us on a long slow drive up and down the countryside to the headwaters of the Missouri River. It was a reservoir tucked in a valley that looked like the good Lord placed there as a place to go and reflect… something I found myself doing as I looked over it.
I did have to shake my head over the speed limits we encountered. Two-lane roads in Michigan while designed to handle more have been at 55 mph since the early 70s and the oil embargo. Wisconsin is about the same as is Minnesota, but once you cross into North Dakota…the race is on! 65 mph 2 lanes were not uncommon and once we hit an expressway, 75 mph was the norm. We could have followed the signs, but most folks were at least 5 mph more and not happy if we didn’t keep up. The roads were in good shape and the weather was beautiful, so we just set the cruise and found some good classic rock on the radio and kept heading west.
Not to be outdone, Montana kicked it up a few notches to 80 mph on their expressways. That still wasn’t too bad, but once we exited their freeway system and got on some 2 lanes even we couldn’t keep it up. The Montana State Highway system we drove on really wasn’t at the same level as Michigan’s state highways. They don’t have as much access to good aggregate in that area and I am sure they have a tough time building the kind of roads we can here in Michigan (I know Michigan has some work to do as well). Even though their roads were wavier and narrower, the speed limit was 70 mph. Speed Racer himself would have thought twice about setting the cruise that high.
We made it there and back without incident and the smiles and laughs didn’t stop anywhere along the way. There is merit to seeing the USA in the automobile of your choice. Even though it is quite large, the largest Hereford in the country is hard to see out of an airplane window…
And that’s the situation as I survey it …
After a 35-year career downstate amongst da trolls, during which he built a successful engineering and surveying business, John Matonich is back home in da U.P. His column will appear here occasionally, don’tcha know. His book “Surveyin’ Da Situation” is available on Amazon.com.