Escape: See Americans First

Camp Patriot shows combat veterans the way home

By Jack Lewis, Photography by Shasta Willson

On the far side of the lake, the road is choked by trees so low we could smack their lichen-limned boughs. Buttered with cold patch and peppered by rock slides, the road nuzzling Koocanusa's anfractuous edge will give any fast rider the grinning cold sweats. Two shaky thumbs up!

At Blackburn's River Bend, a fishing resort and roadhouse offering solid grub and longstanding support for Camp Patriot's "Fishing with Heroes" program, our apple-cheeked waitress was the only one surprised when Tony ordered the one sold-out item on their menu. After dessert, Tony swapped his 2ID sweater for my Harley gloves.

"I can get another hoody," he smiled. "I want those gloves."

It was his turn.

Crossing the Kootenai River below Libby Dam, we eased onto Montana 37 and followed the river into Libby, stopping at Kootenai Falls.

We were nearly mission-complete. At Libby, the Warrior Transition boys would break off and RTB. Pretty Wife and I would exfil at oh-dark-30; Camp Patriot would welcome more dented veterans; Adventure Motorcycle would facilitate another escapade somewhere in Montana.

And after that? As Jon put it, "Once you've walked around in 130-degree heat waiting for some douche bag to blow you up, life's pretty boring after that."

Maybe. Bender and Clark found their way in this slowed-up, stateside world. Tony and Jon will, too.

They have motorcycles, time and riding buddies. On a good day in Montana, maybe that's all you really need.

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