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Published January 19, 2009, 12:00 AM

COWBOY LOGIC: A long ride home

TOWNER, N.D. — I don’t live in mass transit country. This winter, I’m not even sure if I live in transit country, of any kind. We’re fast becoming a no-transit zone as the snow falls, blows and drifts across our roads.

By: Ryan Taylor, Special to Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — I don’t live in mass transit country. This winter, I’m not even sure if I live in transit country, of any kind. We’re fast becoming a no-transit zone as the snow falls, blows and drifts across our roads.

Last week, I was at a rancher meeting in Boise, Idaho. We somehow got there without having to drive through a blizzard. We had three people in our car driving straight through for 17 hours. We like to carpool when the weather gets hazardous. Harder to freeze with more people in a small space.

Making connections

My fellow carpoolers were going on to California, though, and I had to get back to North Dakota. I was hoping to take the train. Passenger rail service is mighty scarce in America, but our ranch is lucky enough to be just 12 miles off the line. On a still night, we can hear the trains go by. That’ll give you a little insight into the general lack of noise pollution around our place.

The train option was not to be, however. Flooding and mudslides in the wintry-then-warm West had knocked out rail service for two or three days.

I cobbled together another mode of travel. I needed a car for part of the trip. I couldn’t afford to buy one, and I didn’t feel right about stealing one, so I decided to rent one.

It’s one of the amazing benefits of capitalism that you can jump in a $20,000 or $30,000 vehicle and drive away leaving nothing but your name, address and, of course, an imprint of your credit card.

I could drive the rental car to Bozeman, Mont., drop it off there and make the next transportation transfer in my epic journey, going Greyhound.

Never say never?

I haven’t ridden a cross-country bus since I was 20 years old when I went from Abilene, Texas, to Fargo, N.D. At the conclusion of that trip, I’d had my fill of bus travel. I think I even promised myself, “never again.” As they say, never say never.

I found myself at the Bozeman depot in the middle of the night waiting for a 3:10 a.m. eastbound bus. Of course, the depot was locked, so I stood outside and waited. And I waited and I waited. The 4:05 a.m. westbound came and went. I’m relatively weather tough, but this was Montana in January and I was starting to get cold.

I finally found out the bus would be there at 4:30 or so. A kind taxi driver let me sit in his car to warm up while he waited for the same bus and a possible fare.

When I finally crawled on the bus, I swear I saw some of the same people I rode the bus with 18 years ago. Let’s just say bus travelers are a funny group. Funny, hmmm, not funny, ha ha. And I was one of them, so I can’t pass much judgment on the rest of them.

Many hours later we rolled into Bismarck, N.D., where my pickup grudgingly started and backed out of its snowy tomb. It seemed only fitting that I end my trip with a little more travel excitement, so I gave my new friend and busmate, Jose, a 100-mile ride north to Minot, N.D.

He didn’t speak much English; I speak just a bit of Espanol. We taught each other a few key phrases as we finished my journey.

One author, years ago, said you can’t go home again. I know we can go home again. But in some places and some winters, it just takes a little extra effort.