My goal is to raise $9,490 for breast cancer research - a dollar for every day my mother, Lorraine Raimondo, battled breast cancer. I'm driving across the country raising funds for every mile I drive.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Driving to Missoula, MT

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I spent a long day of driving towards my destination for the night: Missoula, MT. Unfortunately by the time I rolled into town I was pretty much bushed. The drive was beautiful and along the way I did meet these nice folks (pictured above) who live in a tepee burner converted into a home. That’s it in the back ground.
Now, like me you may think they burnt tepees in it. And like me, you would be wrong. They were used to burn leftovers from logging from what I could gather. They get the name because they are shaped like a tepee. However they are no longer used for that ever since the EPA put an end to them. I also drove through the Blackfeet Reservation which covers over 1.4 million acres with a population of over 14,000. The Blackfeet have quite a history in this part of Montana. It’s amazing how they survived and prospered on this land, although very beautiful is very, very cold during the long winters. Their actual name is Siksika-Saeketakix meaning “men of the plains.” I stopped by a gallery and bought a piece from a Blackfeet artist that will soon hang in my living room.
Once in Missoula my favorite part of town was the SmokeJumpers Visitor’s Center. Smokejumpers are those courageous people who jump out of planes to put out forest fires in remote areas. Tim Eldridge (former jumper) gave me a tour which was so fascinating! Here he is in a DC3.


The aircraft was built in 1943 and was originally used for the military. It holds 16 jumpers, a captain, a copilot and 2 spotter jumpers. What I thought was also interesting is that the jumpers make their own jump packs. There is a room lined with sewing machines where they make them. Well, there is so much to see here - including an old lookout cabin.

Did you know that 95% of these fires are started by lightening? They also displayed the food that also gets dropped from the plane for the jumpers. There’s candy and beef jerky, oatmeal and that canned food staple, Spam. Tim shared with me his recipe for Sweet and Sour Spam. The ingredients include grape Gatorade, strawberry jam, spam and Tabasco sauce with an optional topping of cheese whiz. Hey, I told you these jumpers are tough! They are also generous. They gave me a nice donation from the Missoula Smokejumpers Welfare Fund. Their charity should be of no surprise since they are so amazingly generous with their lives.
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