Somewhere in Nowhere

About the MA Program


About 150 miles south of Miles City lies a place, “conveniently located in the middle of no place.” It’s called Alazada, Montana, and is home to the Stoneville Saloon and not much else (there is also a convenience store and post office). The Saloon is a place that one must really visit in person to get the real story but I’ll do my best to portray how, despite first appearances, the Saloon is  a safe haven of friendliness and is doing it’s part to be a bit “greener”.

I was delighted to find some form of civilization after 65 miles of riding without shade or access to food or water (or any amenities for that matter)…did I mention that there are no trees from Broadus to Alazada, MT? I was a bit wary that I would roll up to find another ghost town as was my experience  a couple of days earlier with Volburg, MT. I wouldn’t say the Alazada was hopping by any means but there was a Saloon and it was open.

I entered the dark bar to find a heavily tattooed bartender with long bleach blonde hair smoking at the bar. (I would later find out that her name is Diane, she is an artist, and that it was her tiger-striped jeep parked out front.) “What’ll ya have, Hun?” she asked me in a throaty voice. I was so hungry and thirsty I couldn’t decide as I looked over the menu spelled out in plastic letters above the bar. All sounded so good yet so bad for me, not to mention the planet. Then, I stumbled upon her locally- raised and harvested bison and venison burgers. Yum. Yes, please. And, add a local microbrew from Missoula. Thanks.

As I waited for my food to arrive I began poking around the establishment. Let me tell you, it could take someone a lifetime to look at every fragment of days gone by in the joint. Everything from mining antiques to Harley paraphernalia to the collection of antlers outside. The Saloon took “reuse” and “repurpose” to a whole other level.

One entire side of the building was sided in used license plates. A pair of bent motorcycle handlebars stood at the ready over the urinal. The walls of the women’s bathroom were papered in hunky posters from my youth. The floor was covered in sawdust (to keep the dirt down) from the local sawmill. The list goes on.

As the day wore on, more and more travelers passed through, mostly bikers headed to or from Deadwood, South Dakota, and one couple from Minneapolis. I was honored and amazed at how many bikers told me I was tough for Riding the Talk. (We were sitting on the bar’s “Liar’s Bench”, so maybe I’ll take the compliments with a grain of salt.) As I watched the stars come out and the moon rise before crawling into my tent beside the old abandoned shack outback, I thought about books and how you simply cannot judge them by their covers. Kindness, generosity, and sustainability efforts are thriving in the least expected places, even conveniently located in the middle of no place.

Cindy Gilbert

Cindy Gilbert is the founding director of MCAD’s Sustainable Design program which is home to the fully online, multidisciplinary MA in Sustainable Design (MASD) that is the first of its kind in the world. In this role, she fosters a culture of awareness and creativity through sustainable, innovative and collaborative design. The MASD program blends theory, practice and leadership into a holistic, hands-on learning experience that culminates in student-driven thesis work that brings novel, sustainability-focused products and services to fruition.

Cindy has taught numerous courses and workshops, around the world and online, in the fields of biology, sustainability and biomimicry. She is founder of a consultancy that specializes in innovative online and sustainability education projects with recent clients that include VentureWell, the Biomimicry Institute, the University of Montana,, GeekPuff, and the Green Building Research Institute. Most recently, she served for nearly four years as the founding director of university education at the Biomimicry Institute where she developed and managed all higher education programs, including the biomimicry professional certification program, annual biomimicry education summits, biomimicry affiliate and fellows programs, and biomimicry design challenges. Cindy is based in Montana.