A lovely morning yesterday found us headed down into NE Oklahoma and we are presently camped in Twin Bridges State Park along the Lake of the Grand Cherokees. We have needed a place to just â€œBEâ€ with little to no responsibility. We have had to travel somewhere, be somewhere, or â€œbe in chargeâ€ for well over a month now with no breaks and the road hazards, etc. We took today totally off. We have slept and walked the park. The oak trees are just starting to turn and like so many places we have seen are colorful this year. Not as many reds but the colors are just getting started. It is pretty but not the quiet we crave with a highway running through it that has 32,000 cars a month. We are looking for another beautiful but quieter place to stay so will probably be driving on tomorrow as we head to Dallas for a class and maybe some of the winter. We may end up being snowbirds!
We had a short but sweet two days in Kansas City with our life friends, the Oakes. Debi pastors a home church in Gladstone, MO. She has become our Pastor in this season, giving counsel, holding us accountable and challenging us. It was so great to have dinner together and just talk the evening away instead of trying to make phones, texts and emails all work. Their boys have become young men before our eyes. Travis shared about wedding plans and played a video of Preston’s big basketball shot of the night before! We had opportunity to share some of our plans and pray together. It was much too short but so good!!
I send a blanket apology to readers and participators alike as we have been horrible taking pictures since leaving Montana!
IOWA Trip Day 1 (which is all it SHOULD be!)
We headed out of Colorado Springs on a fairly warm, clear but breezy day. This is a 11 hour road trip we’ve made many times over the last almost 10 years. It is a familiar route and we were putting the miles behind us but the winds kept increasing. By the time we got to Limon, headed towards Kansas on I-70, the flags were flying straight out and hard on the flagpoles. Our trailer/truck combination handles the wind remarkably well so I had not realized just how the wind had increased. When we made a rest area pit stop just past the Kansas border, I took Abby out to the pet area. We had to lean into the wind or risk getting blown around. The lady at the visitor center said the winds were 40 mph with gusts to 50 mph. I didn’t like the idea of continuing but we had little choice (there are very few places to get off the road in Western Kansas) and the rig seem to be largely unaffected by it so we pressed on. We had only gotten a few miles down the road when one of the trailer tires picked up some construction debris blown onto the highway and blew out a chunk of the sidewall. Thankfully, only the tire, and not our trailer, was damaged again. Godâ€™s grace for us is apparent. But we are on the shoulder, again…
Leaving Montana meant traversing several more mountain ranges as we worked our way back to the East. One of the more spectacular vistas we saw was coming into Livingston, MT where Hwy 89 heads south into Yellowstone NP. (no pictures it was partly cloudy and just after sunset) I cannot imagine a more grand entrance to the park and we had hoped to make the trip into the park. Our initial plans for the trek back to Iowa included Yellowstone and then Mount Rushmore but with the parks being closed from the govt. shutdown and an unseasonable 48″ of snow being dumped in South Dakota we revised our route. Yellowstone remains on our ‘to be visited’ list.
We spent a very frosty night in Livingston parked out beside an Albertson grocery store. It was not a comfortable night and Matt did not sleep well. We ultimately got up quite early, hit a breakfast spot at 5:30 and got back on the road. This allowed us to make many more miles that day and we made it all the way to Cheyenne, WY. As we were pulling into Cheyenne we began to see billboards advertising the Sierra Trading Post factory outlet store. RHonda needed some clothes and we have always had good luck shopping online with them, so we went a little out of our way and gave her an opportunity to do some power shopping. I gave her an hour so we could get back and set up camp before dark. She almost made it (1.5 hrs) but unfortunately, it was nearly dark before we got out of there and that made finding the Famcamp at Warren AFB a bit challenging. We went back and forth in the dark and even got in the right area once but did not drive far enough. Eventually, we found it and got parked. Since it was another night of just stopping over, we didnâ€™t level up, or extend the slideout, we read briefly and went to bed.
The following day we went on south to Ft Collins and stopped in to see my Uncle Bill. It was great to be able to spend time with him and his landlord, Susan, who is very talented working metals. She does the most fabulous, unique jewelry! Bill is working in a new medium for him. Kristina inspired him with her art pieces and he has started some wood burning pieces. Last I heard, he was preparing for an art show! So cool!
A few miles south of Ft Collins, we experienced a tire blowout! I had heard a variety of horror stories of about this scenario but it was no big deal at all. We lost the left rear tire on the truck and I had no trouble getting slowed down and off on the shoulder of I-25. The major bummer with this part of I-25 is the three lanes wide with solid traffic whizzing by at 75mph. We decided to call Roadside Service and eventually even asked for support from the State Patrol to get people to slow down and move over. The tire had picked up some road debris somewhere and was toast. Continue reading “On to Coloradoâ€¦.”
Well the day has come. The one I didn’t want to come in many ways. We are leaving the Bitterroot Valley today. I trust that it is not forever but just for now. We have spent the last 3 weeks seeking direction. Matt is concerned the data is right and the winters here are gray and cloudy. People here offer the reasoning, â€œThis is the banana belt of Montanaâ€. Matt reminds me that the emphasis should be on â€œof Montanaâ€ not â€œbanana beltâ€ as most Montanans quote it. The grey, overcast winters would not be good for either of us but especially this solar powered wife. The breath taking views I have awakened to for over 2 months now will hold captive pieces of my heart along with some of the best memories of my life.
The nature trail that starts a block from my home and runs down to the wild Bitterroot River and back through the mixed forest will remain a treasured part, too. Just last Friday, I became one of the first to enjoy the 100 yard completion to this end of that trail. The trail is a labor of love built by 3 local peopleâ€™s tenacity and perseverance. Two of the three are our own Travellers’ Rest owners, Jim Anderson and Mary Morris. We have heard and seen some of the smaller challenges they have faced which would have made a lot of folks quit but they pressed on through those AND bigger challenges, over an 8 year period, creating a legacy benefiting families for generations to come.
On this trail, I have been blessed to stumble upon a moose quietly grazing in the marsh as I took a resort guest for a walk and had the thrill of watching the ospreys feed on the river and raise their young, including the first flight of the young! The young bucks often are sparring in one of the fields and the ducks of all varieties have come and gone to a neighboring pond. Always when you turn around, right behind you, are the ever changing, but always constant, views of the rugged Bitterroot Mountains and breathtaking glacial canyons with their unique splendor. Currently, they are dressed in a lacey coat of white from the unseasonable first snow storm last night.
We leave behind hikes that have beckoned us, left untraveled; canyons unexplored, rivers and hot springs not experienced but they will remain for hopefully a future chapter of discovery. A piece of my heart will stay here in what is sometimes called, “the last best place”. We decided that with 3.5 million acres of public lands here, we could live here and be over a hundred years old yet never experience all Western Montana offers. The million dollar question is, will we? Only God knows and He is saying, “no, for now”. So we â€œsaddle upâ€* and move out with the bumper sticker one of our favorite CDT hikers gave us in the window stating, “Keep it Wild”. For Montana is and I rejoice that there is a place in this great land of America that still is. Goodbye, Montana, and thank you for the treasures! Please don’t change.
* We often say that when we get ready to leave and it always triggers an old song in my heart by Steven Curtis Chapman. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVFPjIp6nkk if you care to listen. The chorus says, saddle up your horses, we’ve got a trail to blaze……..this is His Great Adventure! We do and it isâ€¦..
Well we have been in charge for 10 days straight, the owners count it as 11 (they came home last night) and are paying us a stipend! COOL! I think they are being gracious. We worked hard and the place was full most of the time. we didn’t ‘make’ it full but we were charming to the folks the Lord brought here! 😉 One of our hikers wrote an email to the owners about how wonderful we are! Was nice to hear.
I took the opportunity to deep clean some of the cabins as they needed a mid-summer clean to make it to October and closing in style. There were some challenges- we washed the curtains and they fell apart so I had to go and find something in a thrift shop to cover the windows. There are no Walmarts, Kmarts, etc here and I have no sewing machine here so what I found had to be ready to hang after a quick wash. The Thrift shop is about the only place to find something you need. I was successful! I had to be able to cover windows for the night’s reservations.
The irrigation ditch dried up. Hard to water the lawn and landscaping without that! It took several days but the water returned and life resumed as normal. Someone must have been poaching up stream.
More CDT hikers descended upon us in 2 or 3 bunches. They are so much fun but do take more time to entertain and clean up after. Since they are sending packages ahead to their next “resupply” stop with food and trail supplies, as well as replacing shoes, food bags, bear spray, water cartridges, camp fuel or various other things, they make a lot of recycling and garbage. They bring a lot of the forest in with them, not just dirt but pine needle pieces and little stones, too. Fortunately for Suzy, our housekeeper, some do tip her for her efforts. There is a trail smell that has to come out of the cabins. We have run our ozone machine to overcome that. Who would have thought when we bought that to “remove the dairy farm” from the truck that we would be needing it to deodorize cabins in Montana?! Only the Lord…..
While I was curtain shopping, the health inspector stopped by! This is all about day 3, so we didn’t have a groove yet and had all these fun things happening at once. Matt showed the inspector around the clean rooms we had just finished and our laundry – we passed inspection! We had just cleaned all the carpet between the Forest Service employees varying schedules (some are nights and some days) when a guest got ill and we had to clean all the linens, bedspread, and carpet all over. We are nothing if not practiced! It doesn’t sound like a lot but in a full house with people in early, out late, etc, it was a lot to keep all the beds clean, the rooms cared for, the laundry done, and the irrigation managed.
This was a great practice run. Matt and I have talked about running a place similar to this so it has been a great practice run. The jury is still out as to whether we would actually embark upon such a commitment at this point in life. We have run a sort of Bed and Breakfast most of our marriage. We are enjoying our freedom. We have talked though. The owners would love to sell to us. It will go on the market soon……in case any of you need a life change. We can vouch for how amazing the Bitterroot Valley is!
What the last week has been…. I know we have been silent but with good reason.
We have been busy getting back to establishing a pattern in our own lives – learning the new finance software has been the biggie, the second one since leaving in June! Matt’s new computer didn’t like the ancient software we have used for over a decade. Matt found one on line that met our qualifications, was fairly inexpensive. We tried it but came away less that pleased with the results. Now, we are learning Quicken. Not too difficult but one more thing to learn and get set up, life seems to be a never-ending, accelerated learning curve on this new adventure! Some days, I wearily ask the Lord if I have to get back up on the “Potters Wheel” again today……