The most frequent question I’m asked about my travels is, “Aren’t you afraid to travel by yourself?”
I addressed this in part yesterday when I talked about the kindness of two strangers after I lost my credit cards in Montana, but lest you think that was an extraordinary circumstance, here’s another, also coincidentally from Montana, in a little town on the border with North Dakota.
No room at the inn
I’d been told that the oil boom in North Dakota meant that there are virtually no accommodations for travelers within 200 miles of Williston, where I had to pass through as I headed to my border crossing in Saskatchewan. Yes, that infamous border crossing.
An NPR Planet Money article recently revealed that rents in Williston are as high as those in Manhattan, but I was surprised that even the region’s campgrounds were sold out.
I got a tip from one sold-out campground about a couple of hours away that Fairview had opened its city park to campers, so I headed over, stopping at motels along the way just in case they had a cancellation (ha!).
I eventually made the park well after dark and saw that the campers were mostly inside their RVs playing cards and board games. The giant mosquitoes living by the Yellowstone River wouldn’t be deterred by tiki torches of any size or any amount of bug spray, so who could blame the campers for skipping a marshmallow roast?
I found a level patch of grass, parked my bike and began to quickly unpack my tent and a minute later four campers braved the mosquitoes to help me get it assembled.
This has happened to me elsewhere, including Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where campers dashed out in the rain to help me erect my tent and then invited me over to their RV for a bowl of chili.
Motel guests don’t do this for each other, but campers do. Why is this? Maybe there’s something about living close to the land that evokes an empathetic response. I’d really love to hear your theories.
Meanwhile, for today, maybe you’ll rethink what you believe to be at the core of human nature. Is it the selfishness of an animal? Or is it selflessness, to which all the world’s religions call us?