Having plied the highways and byways of the US for almost a month, we were into the final week of the tour. Seattle was left behind in the side view mirror and the remaining dates were Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, Montreal and Brooklyn NY.
Our driver Sean had left Seattle right after the show the night before and had 2 "drive-days" to make it to the next gig in Chicago. After driving a good 850 kilometres it was time for him to sleep, while the rest of us headed into the stunningly exciting town of Billings, Montana... on a Sunday.
Expectations were not high, but they proved to be wrong.
After finding a suitably average spot for some typical American fare, we started looking for a bar to have a cold one and sit still for a while after being in the bus all day. What happened next was straight out of a movie.
Billings is not a big town, but we ended up crossing some rail-tracks and finding a bar with a line of Harley's outside. The name was Golden Wheel or something like that…. I can't remember, but it even had swinging doors like in a Western film. As soon as we walked in the entire room fell silent and we were the recipients of about 40 pairs of staring eyes. We shuffled nervously to the bar and took our seats in a line across the side. Beside me were two empty seats and the rest of the guys sat to my right. (Remember this, the guys had played a show the night before and still had some eyeliner, or make-up on).
At first the bar tender, a rather tired looking woman in her late 40s, preferred not to pay us much attention, but her curiosity got the better of her and she ended up asking where we were from.
- NORWAY? Wow ain't had no Norway folk here... Welcome.
From then on at least her mood improved and the rest returned to staring at their beers. A few minutes later a gangly biker with a beard that would intimidate ZZ Top planted himself 2 seats away from me, leaned forward, looked down the line of Norwegians and said to me:
- You boys like Brokeback Mountain?
I froze instantly, and panicked to answer in a way that wouldn’t get us beaten up: “Oh no, i’ve heard about it but not seen it”.
At that second Espen piped up and shouted, “Yes it’s a very good film”.
A moment later a huge man came and sat right next to me, I felt my skin begin to go pale. He too leaned forward, but asked me “Is he bothering you?”… now i’m in that position of not knowing if they are friends, looking for a fight or what his intentions are so I just told him no. He explained to me that we don’t understand the mans provocations and ended up turning to the guy and telling him that if he wanted to mess with us he had to go through him first. After that he bought us beers and the bartender took us into a backroom to show us their taxidermy collection. The skinny runt never bothered us again.
Upon returning to the bus at midnight we encountered a weird loner with a backpack standing at the door of the bus (door was closed). He moved out of the way when we approached but then began pleading with us to take him away from Billings. We told him we couldn’t offer him a ride, at which point he reached into his backpack and produced the biggest, sweatiest block of cheese I had ever seen and tried to offer us the cheese in return for safe passage. Again I politely declined. He became so persistent that our driver (who was trying to sleep) woke up, came up to the door and told him to fuck off or his face would be smashed in. The man retreated to the back of the night-liner where he jumped up on the bumper, grabbed the side of the bus with his arm and screamed “Take me with you”. Again he was told to leave or face painful repercussions so he finally filtered into the darkness.
The bus roared into action, and we were on our way again.
The Bitter Man
A backpacker by default since birth, have scanned almost 100 countries in the search for perfection and imperfection in equal measure.