Travels in Montana—I

Or how three guys spent a month searching in vain for wolves in Montana while evading men with guns.


I'd been assigned toilet duty, so I grasped the nearby shovel, slid it under the pile of dug-out dirt, and repeatedly poured it over the shit—our shit—in the hole in the ground. There were three of us: Me; Jose, a former sniper in the Army who liked to strap an AR-15 with a 30-round magazine to his back; and John, a part-time actor, part-time magician, and owner of a wolf rescue center near LA.

Our shit bucket was luxurious, in its way. We'd stuck a toilet seat to its top before placing the simple contraption in its own, separate tent to shield our asses from the elements.

As I finished covering up the now-filled-with-shit-and-dirt hole in the ground, I wondered how I'd ended up stranded on the top of some hill in the Bitterroot Valley. At least we had a killer view.

Ol' Man River

In January 2016, the owner of a Los Angeles-based wolf rescue center brought me on as the embedded photographer/videographer/reporter for John and Jose's journey to western Montana. Word on the street was, hunters and trappers were decimating the local wolf population. And it was John and Jose's job to scope out what was actually going on, and to try to open a dialogue with hunters about how wolves are very helpful for PTSD-suffering veterans.

The idea was to go undercover, posing as a filming crew that interviews local hunters. There were two factors that made this idea dead on arrival. First, there was our whip, which we affectionately called Ol' Man River.


Now, Ol' Man R. isn't the most… inconspicuous vehicle out there. It also didn't help that we carted around a ~$20,000 ATV that no one else owns; the "Beast" drew attention from envious passersby wherever we went.

Second, these are the goofballs who'd be driving Ol' Man R. over 1000 miles to Montana.

Day Three

Driving Ol' Man R. was slow-going, and it took us two days to reach Idaho. I look back at my journal, and the entry for the third and final day of the drive simply says:

[We] slept in. Bought silly hats. Had a trailer chassis collapse. Rode through fog bank. Ate at McDonalds. Ran over a poor deer.

Let's break this down. I've already shown the silly hats, above. Here's footage of how we dealt with a collapsed trailer—it almost started a fire when the tire was stuck in the wheel well—and subsequently purchased a new trailer.

By the time we hit the road with our new trailer, it was already dark. And further up the highway, incredibly foggy. So foggy that we didn't see a deer dash across our path until it was too late. (We pulled over, but never found the deer, so it probably managed to get off the highway.) When we almost literally limped into our hotel in Missoula, we were pretty much over it—and we were only on day three of our outing.

A MacBook Odyssey

Migrating from the 2007 MacBook to the 2011 MacBook Pro. Note the flip phone in the foreground and the grease marks on the MacBook's palm rests.

Migrating from the 2007 MacBook to the 2011 MacBook Pro. Note the flip phone in the foreground and the grease marks on the MacBook's palm rests.

I’m Sorry

You know how hipsters who don’t admit they’re hipsters are, in fact, real hipsters? That’s kind of my relationship with Apple. I’ve always been drawn to them, and have accumulated many of their products over the past two decades. All without admitting I’m actually a fanboy. This article will prove without a doubt that I really am one of those Apple fanboys.

After finding a deal for a slightly used 13" 2016 MacBook Pro yesterday, I decided to spring for it. This particular MacBook Pro goes by a few clunky names—all very un-Apple-like. It’s officially called the MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports). This model is also known colloquially as the MacBook Pro without a Touchbar, but I’m assuming marketing didn’t want to spring for that phrase because you can’t advertise a product based on what it’s lacking.[1]

It’s obvious that Apple’s priorities have changed over the years. And so have mine.

Some History

My first computer was a mid 2007 MacBook, which my parents gifted to me for college. You have to remember that this computer existed during a time when the dorms at Berkeley still didn’t have wi-fi. [2]

The little MacBook served its purpose as a relatively inexpensive Mac for casual use. It came standard with 1 GB of memory, weighed a hefty—but for its time, sort of light—5.1 pounds. It also had a tendency to shut off after streaming videos for approximately nine minutes because the CPU would overheat.

But still! It was a fine computer for a freshman.

Over the next four years, my priorities changed. I’d gotten into photography and doing video work.[3] The brave little MacBook, my knight in white plastic, was simply “fine.” I thought I needed more of everything. That’s what being a professional is all about, right?

After much deliberation, which annoyed my boyfriend at the time to no end, I settled on a replacement: the early 2011 15" MacBook Pro, aka the “aircraft carrier.”

In hindsight, this was a confused product that was introduced at an awkward time. It came with a 5400 rpm hard drive standard, which I upgraded to a whopping 7200 rpm. By this point, the MacBook Air, with its solid state drive, light weight, and good value, had become the computer for casual Mac users.

And just a year later, in 2012, Apple released MacBook Pros with Retina displays. Those computers also came with USB 3.0 ports and Bluetooth 4.0.

My then-new-ish 2011 MacBook Pro came with two USB 2.0 ports, and had Bluetooth 2.1. This means I missed out on much faster transfer speeds—I’m talking 10x faster USB—and handy macOS features like Continuity.

It also came with a discrete graphics card, which turned out to be the model’s Achilles heel. The chassis’ design hadn’t changed from the previous generation’s, and the thing just got too hot. Fans whirred at top speed all the time. And I had to take it in for logic board replacements several times.

And yet here I am, over six years later, still using that machine—albeit a Frankenstein’s monster version of it, since only the bottom case and DVD drive (yes, it has one of those) are original.

Apple and I both made mistakes in 2011. I overestimated how much computing power I really needed, and missed out on reliability and lightness. Apple couldn’t reconcile making a mobile computer that was also powerful. The product was a quagmire that dragged its owners down with it. This powerful-yet-obsolete, unintentionally immovable computer couldn’t help but draw attention to itself.


Time has marched on; technology has definitely moved on; and I’m ready for a change. At three pounds, the new MacBook Pro is almost half the weight of my 2011 model. It’s a startling, eye-opening difference. With that change alone, my hope is that I’ll be more willing to go mobile and engage with the world. That’s the ultimate goal in the relationship between computers and people: to enable us, rather than to hold us back, through technology.

The MacBook Escape is just “fine.” And I’m fine with that.

  1. My favorite name is the “MacBook Escape,” courtesy of Marco Arment on Accidental Tech Podcast. Because the computer has a real, physical Escape key.  ↩

  2. We used ethernet cables, like animals.  ↩

  3. That’s what I’d end up going to grad school for, immediately after getting my bachelor’s.  ↩