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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Rust Never Sleeps

In the midst of a long, long Montana valley, South of Pray, north of Emigrant, off an obscure but paved county backroad numbered "540"—East River Road to "locals"—is a modest white gravel lane signed "Old Chico." It heads east, straight as a shot arrow, where, in a dusty mile or so, it lands you on the doorstep of Chico Hot Springs, a collection of sundry old west edifices that house, feeds, bathes, waters, and magically soaks away nervous tensions that plague the huddled working masses of our cutthroat every-man-for-himself society. Some say it's the "mineral water," others, the Jack Daniels.

We have driven to North Yellowstone's monumental stone-arched gate several times over past decades of travel without once stopping to see what lay beyond the grassy flanks of Route 89 South. In those days, Yellowstone was thought of as a big "Safari Park," outside the gates of which was nothing worth seeing. It'd be like stoping to look around in Jersey on the way to New York City. Thus, Chico Hot Springs and Old Chico were as out of mind as they were out of sight. But thanks to a long overdue reconnection between Bobbie and one-time fellow school teacher, Debbie, we had reason to land in Pray, Montana. It's a verb, so you best comply now and get it out of the way (moment of silence).  

It was through Deb that we found historical Chico Hot Springs, a pleasant resort with an old-timey atmosphere, horses, and free wi-fi in the lobby. With the help of my good friend, Jack Daniels, I got all caught up in the period romance and old leather ambiance and, of course, hot springs mineral water. With a perfectly good RV parked outside, we decided (okay, I decided) to spend some money and the night in "the cheapest room you got," as in, "the bathroom's down the hall and to your left. Have a nice stay." What an "inconvenient truth" that turned out to be...

The next morning, about noon, Bobbie and I went for a walk, following the lane as it continued toward the mountains. A few miles later we found ourselves in Old Chico, and years back in time. It's more the ghosttown-ish rustic charm of Old Chico that is the reason for my flashback post. Consider it an on-your-way-home "Heads Up" to all my wanderlusted RV mates who migrated north en masse this year, apparently to attend the "Tour De Brew-Pub" in the great Pacific Northwest. Alas, if I had only known…

Without further ado, I give you Old Chico—where steely old Montana men and their work-trucks go to rust away in silence.


  1. Our bikes look like those old rusty vehicles. That Pacific NW air is not good for them! Enjoyed the pics, as always.

  2. I always love the posts of old things and where they go to die. Love all the old trucks.

  3. You should read "Blind Your Ponies" by Stanley Gordon West... Montana stories with a hot springs mention in this one. Check him out but you might have to search the dusty aisles. Love the cartag fronted photos!

  4. Cool...love the rusty old trucks!

  5. Nice! I always love old, rusty towns. Like being in your own little history story.



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