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Unexpected art

By Stuart Lowe on

I had no cellphone coverage in Montello but the motel had wifi. The weather forecast was for 24 mph winds. My next stretch to Corinne would be 130 miles and two days away from civilization so I decided to stop in Montello for a rest day.

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View of Pilot Peak from the motel

Montello is much smaller than it would have been in Stevens' day when it was a busy railroad town. These days it only took about 15 minutes to walk around the three streets of the town. We'd hardly even call it a village back home.

My eye was caught by a colourful yard and taking a closer look I saw amazing "trees" made from glass insulators from the telegraph. A man was pottering around at the side so I asked if it was OK to take pictures. He was called Jerry Tidwell and in the last few years he waas turned into an artist making sculptures using a job lot of insulators he acquired from a friend. He was a wonderful eccentric and showed me around his work. He told me to come back at 6pm to see it all in better light. I did. Jerry even provided me with a step ladder to get a view from higher up! Such a friendly guy.

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Artist Jerry Tidwell with cat

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Glass sculptures in Montello

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Glass sculptures in Montello

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Glass sculptures in Montello

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Jerry wasn't limited to glass insulators. He also used wine glasses.

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Jerry's art in Montello

I headed to the Cowboy Bar to get food. The barman - Jonathan - was originally from out east then moved to Washington then bought some land he hadn't see in Montello and moved here. This was similar to the man who ran the motel who had bought it on eBay for $400. The common theme was that they found cities too large for them to be comfortable. So they'd moved to a hamlet in the middle of nowhere.

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Barman at the Cowboy Bar

Jonathon introduced me to Russ who had an amazing beard. He was from North Carolina but had spent much of his life at sea. He'd sailed around the world three times. His first big adventure was at the age of 12 in 1960. He had read about someone sailing from North Carolina to Bermuda in National Geographic. He wanted to get in National Geographic so decided to do it too. He got to Bermuda and was found by a local policeman who asked him if he had a passport. He didn't so the policeman, who had a son of a similar age, let him stay with him for two weeks whilst the embassy sorted out his return. He was flown back home at a cost of $800 to his family. The following summer his dad sent him to work on a boat at sea. I'm not sure if this was to gain experience or as punishment. When he returned his wages were used to pay off the flight. His dad gave him $20 of what remained and the rest went to his mum for the worry he'd caused her.

Montello was a place full of interesting people and stories.