Drive your car to work? Neighhhh. Ride a horse instead.
At least that's the choice Gary Salisbury made Wednesday.
Responding to Missoula Mayor Mike Kadas' challenge to city employees to find alternative transportation during Bike/Walk/Bus Week, Salisbury saddled up at 3:15 a.m. to make the ride from Florence to his Parks and Recreation job in Missoula. He arrived, on time, at 6:30.
Traffic on Highway 93, it's generally agreed, is an abomination. But abandoning your 100 horses under the hood for one horse in the borrow pit probably isn't the solution.
Even as dedicated a horseman as Salisbury, who said he spends between two and five hours riding every evening, said he won't do it again anytime soon. In fact, he elected to haul his horse home in a trailer rather than saddle up for the return ride.
He didn't exactly feel safe riding beside the highway. "They don't respect you that much," he said.
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Salisbury said the biggest challenge was coping with the headlights of oncoming cars, which blinded his horse. That made for slow going.
Otherwise, said Salisbury, "It wasn't that much of a challenge."
Besides the headlights, he worried that glass from bottles tossed into the roadside ditch might injure his horse. Fortunately, he said, the road had been "picked up" a week earlier and he had no problems.
Salisbury trains "performance horses" in roping, reining and cutting, and spends lots of time in the saddle.
City departments are vying this week to accumulate the most driving miles saved by using alternatives to the typical solo automobile commute. Biking, taking the bus, car-pooling (and horse riding) all earn mileage in the competition.
Kadas, when told about Salisbury's effort, said the novel response to his challenge wouldn't garner any extra credit for the Parks and Recreation Department. But the mayor liked the solution. "Hey, that's great," Kadas said.