The anxiety set in just past Issaquah, heading east on I-90 in my gassed-up, sensible Toyota. My new girlfriend, asleep in the passenger seat in the predawn hour (we'd gotten a very early start), seemed blissfully unaware of the danger we were in.

What the hell was I worried about? I would be introducing her to my Midwestern parents--who were less than thrilled that I was bringing a girl within 100 miles of their home--and then there was the fact that we'd only been dating a few months and I'd committed to a 1700-mile road trip. But it was our halfway point on the way to Minnesota that had me freaking out. We were going to have to spend the night in Montana.

I've got nothing against Montana, really. Sure, it's flat and fairly boring, but you can do at least 80 mph through most of the state. I was a Montana veteran, too--I'd driven through the state five times before. But this time, I was afraid Montana would have something against me. Or against us. From Issaquah to the state line, I mulled over our possible Montana fates. Would we get beat up, stared at, or kicked if we were caught looking at each other a second too long--me, with recently cropped hair that was very out-of-place in nonurban areas, and her with a tendency to wear men's pants?

How far could we drive without actually leaving the car? What if we had to eat, and accidentally said, "Pass the ketchup, honey," in a roadside diner? And most important, what would happen when we had to stop for the night? Would the motel clerk think we were girlfriends (which is what we looked like to me)? Or would the clerk think we were just two buddies driving cross-country? What if we were told that the last room available had "only one bed"? Would our reaction give us away? If they did figure out we were lesbians, would the clerk alert his homophobic buddies? Would our door get broken down in the middle of the night, and would we get beaten to death?

I had a bad case of Montana Motel Anxiety. MMA can really ruin a road trip for us gays.

Like I said, I've driven through Montana before, but those trips were with my mom, a guy friend, and a college boyfriend--all inoculants against MMA. On this trip, my sixth and the first with a girlfriend, the MMA was fierce. It wasn't like my girlfriend and I failed to anticipate it. We prepped for MMA. For weeks, we practiced ignoring each other and feigning detachment, and even toyed with the idea of breaking up just through Montana. We also formulated a list of don'ts: Don't hold hands, don't look at each other too much, don't blast the Gossip or any other girl-fronted rock group.

What sucked is that even if we really didn't have anything to fear--and we probably didn't--we were still worried. It's possible that MMA is all in our heads, but that doesn't make it any better. It still takes all the fun out of road trips with the one you love.

So, straight folks, here's a challenge for you. Truly appropriating MMA will be a bit difficult in Seattle. But here's the best local option: Get the straightest vehicle imaginable (a minivan?), blast straight, straight music (Limp Bizkit?), and drive the length of Broadway. It's about a mile from Pike Street to Roy Street--the gayest stretch--so you'll need to make 850 round trips to log your full 1700 miles. Around the halfway point, you should notice people staring. But that's probably all they'll do. It's kind of hard to imagine the queers on Broadway dragging you out of your car and beating you up.

So instead, why don't you dress your gayest (too-tight shirts and plucked eyebrows for the boys; cargo shorts and unshaven legs for the girls), grab your best same-sex friend, head to Montana, and knock on the door of the Super 8 in Deer Lodge (Montana exit 184 on I-90). With your arm around that buddy of yours, ask for a single room, with a king-size bed.

You'll be feeling MMA pretty quickly.