Sunday, May 21, 2017

Quick Trip to Montana - Part 2

Before heading into the bar for a burger and (hopefully) some insight into the town, I snapped a couple of pictures of the outside of the building.
They came out sideways and I have no idea why.
There's a way to flip them on my computer and I have no idea how.
Such is the vaguely frustrating life of one who is barely computer literate.
I know how to do what I know how to do, and that's ALL I know how to do.
When I first opened the camera I searched the box for a user manual and found only a one page "getting started" page (printed in English, Spanish and five or six other languages), which was enough to.........get me started.
Included was the one sentence at the bottom of the page (in all languages) encouraging the new owner to download the manual from a www address.
When I got home from Montana I downloaded the 90 page English language manual, and even though I glanced through it, it may as well have been written in Spanish (or five or six other languages) for all the sense it makes to me.
So.........learning about my fancy new camera is going to be a process..............

Most of the pictures of the inside of the bar are blurry because of the low light, but I posted a few anyway, just to give a sense of the atmosphere of this small town establishment.
It was obvious that this bar had been around for a very long time and the decor was nothing short of interesting and eclectic.
Filled with pictures (including an old and very large picture of a beautiful and bare breasted woman immediately over the bar), animal heads, old license plates, pool tables, tin signs, a small dance floor in one corner, and so much more.
Behind the counter was a large, older lady in a short skirt, tight top and flip flops, and sitting at a table in the middle of the room were two men, one woman, and a toddler. 
It was a lot to take in.
New people and a large room filled with endless things to look at.
Both LC and I had to use the rest room and by the time I was done he was already sitting on a stool at the bar ordering burgers for both of us.
Once the waitress went to prepare food I leaned over and told him that if he wanted to have a good time he could call Jennifer (whose phone number was proudly displayed on the wall in the ladies stall).
He smiled at me and told me that Jennifers' name was also posted in the mens.
Well alright then.  Somebody gets around...............

As LC sipped on a Pepsi I wandered around the room taking in all the very interesting sights.
I snapped a few pictures knowing that they may not turn out well because of the low light, but I took them anyway hoping at least a few would be presentable enough to post in a blog.
This place was pretty awesome and it was obvious that it had been in business for decades and that the decor had sprung up organically over time.
Very likely with individual visitors adding random pieces and contributing to the effort.
It really was a hugely interesting place to see............
Quarters pounded into wood................
If anyone reading this blog ever finds their way to Reed Point, Montana there are three things you MUST see.
The Yellowstone River.
The old flour silos.
And this bar..................
After doing a quick walk-about I returned to my stool next to LC.
The waitress had not returned, and it was becoming very obvious that we were likely not going to get much information during our burger-eating bar-visit.
Looking around me I non-chalantly (I hoped) scanned the people sitting at the table in the middle of the room.
Little boy was fast moving and the woman repeatedly ran to retrieve him.
Somebody had been hung over that morning from the celebrations of the night before, and laughed that he would be hung over again tomorrow morning.
A shared picture of an ultra-sound.  Somebody's wife was pregnant.
About 15 minutes after we had ordered our burgers they finally arrived, and the food was good.
The waitress disappeared immediately after delivering our food but returned a few minutes later to see if we needed anything else.
LC and I both tried to engage her in conversation.  
How long had this bar been open?  She wasn't sure, but she had been working here for 46 years.  
Do you get a lot of people passing through town?  Yes, lots of tourists all year long.  
We could understand tourists in the summer because of the river, but what draws people here in the winter?  The river. 
Do you know anything about the building a few doors down that was empty?  No, not really.  It's been empty for a long time. 
How often do the trains go by?  About every hour. 
During our brief conversation the womans' adult son walked in and ordered a beer and the woman laughingly commented that he had been raised in this bar.
Indeed. 
After a few more uninsightful non-answer answers her cell phone rang, and she was on the phone for the rest of our meal.
 LC and I just looked at each other, finished our burgers and left.
It had been a very long day, it was now almost dark, and we needed to find a place to stay.
After a few minutes of debate (should be go back to Big Timber or go on to Columbus), we quickly decided on Columbus.
It was closer.
And we were tired................
Immediately after pulling into Columbus we filled up the tank and then drove down into the small town proper in search of a motel.
Grateful to see a sign for a reasonably priced family-owned motel we pulled into the parking lot, and I walked in the lot with Kory while LC went to see if they accepted dogs.
A few minutes later he walked out looking disgusted.
Sixty five dollars.
No internet.  No refrigerator.  No coffee.  Just a room.
From the looks of the outside, I assumed that the room would be nothing to write home about.
Eager to look on my lap top and check out some of the other towns in the area between Bozeman and Columbus, I suggested we try the chain motel up the road.
A few minutes later LC walked out of the second motel looking even more disgusted.
$115 plus tax.
Holy Cow!  Maybe he and I are just cheap.  Or maybe that was the going rate for motels in 2017.  We had no idea.  It had been a few years since we had stayed in a motel but that seemed very expensive to us for one night.
OK - probably we were just cheap.
But in one instant we decided to go back to the family motel.
Hopefully they at least had a TV.
They did.
But an hour after we checked in LC and I were sound asleep.
Right before we fell asleep we heard a train go by across the street.
We just smiled at each other and shook our heads....................
All three of us woke up early the next morning and while LC went on the hunt for coffee I rounded up all the gear we had thrown carelessly all over the room in our exhaustion the night before.
As we drank coffee and woke up, we both looked at each other and quickly decided that there was no need to meet with the real estate agent later that morning.
I sent a text.
We had told ourselves we were tire kickers (after all - we had sold one house in Tennessee but still had a house in Idaho to sell).
But the place had had.........possibilities.
Aside from the river, our trip to Reed Point the day before had been uninspiring.
But it had answered a lot of questions for us and that was a good thing.
From this point on we would begin to worm our way back towards Idaho.
Maybe we would spend another night on the road.
Maybe we would travel home.
We didn't know this early in the morning but, in a good mood and eager to just wander, we quickly loaded the Tahoe and headed out.
We'd grab something to eat on the road...............
Traveling the interstate back towards Reed Point, we pulled off the highway when we arrived and slowly took one more spin down the few streets that made up this little community.
Looking wistfully at the Yellowstone River we decided to stay on a secondary road instead of picking up the interstate again.
It would wind our way back towards Big Timber and possibly beyond, and travel would be slower and more leisurely.
We would see what we would see, and be in no big hurry to see it.
20 minutes later we pulled over to the side of the road so that I could take these pictures.
With no agenda to speak of, no rush to be anywhere in particular, and no idea what we would run into in our travels, suddenly we were both having a very good time.
And the scenery was spectacular ................
Alright, I'll just fess up right now.  
We spent the day driving back roads as much as possible, took endless pictures of mountains, rivers, live stock eclectic buildings.
And we blew through every single town big and small we saw along the way.
Big Timber................
After blowing through Big Timber without seeing a restaurant to eat breakfast, we hungrily pulled into a gas station to pick up coffees and snacks before continuing on.
Consciously still staying on slower secondary roads, what we DID find time for was to snap random pictures of random signs, and to seek out the river.
During one of those side trips we realized that we had an audience and I joked with LC that the one lone young calf that was staring at me as I snapped picture after picture of his brethren, would be made famous on my blog..............

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Quick Trip To Montana - Part 1

Just over a week ago LC, Kory and I took a quick trip to Montana.
We had seen some property for sale and were curious about it.
But most importantly, we needed a couple of days away.
A couple of days around mountains and water, away from the stresses we have experienced recently.
Just.......away.
A couple of days to unwind and rejuvenate in a new place.
Although we were now done our camper (and although the weather had been warm recently) we were again embedded in dampness and coolness.
Idaho is still all over the map in terms of weather.
As it always is every spring.
Because it was cold we elected to stay in a motel overnight..................

We had only been on the road for 10 minutes, and as I looked at the deep cloud cover that was almost completely obscuring the Twin Buttes I instinctively dug for my camera, intent on capturing up-close pictures.
Reaching into my backpack I pulled out my trusty and old digital camera, turned it on, and looked at the "lens error" icon with dismay.
Tried to turn it off, but it wouldn't budge.
Took the batteries out, put them back in, tried to turn off the camera again and.........nothing.
After trying for a couple of minutes to clear the message I looked at LC and said "it finally died".
The zoom function had been touchy for months.  So had the On/Off button.  
And each time I complained about the lousy piece of junk, LC would say "you need a new camera".
Finally - on the way to Montana - I looked over at LC and agreed "I need a new camera".
We were meeting someone in Idaho Falls before heading north, who was going to buy a pair of Oakley sunglasses from me.
That money (plus a little bit more) ended up buying my fancy new camera.
That turns off and on without hesitation.  That zooms in like nobody's business.  That had all kinds of buttons and functions that I STILL don't understand even though I've now been toying with it for well over a week.
Regardless.........we were good-to-go.................

After gratefully leaving the madness of Idaho Falls we headed north, up through our beloved Island Park, up through West Yellowstone (and the west gate of Yellowstone National Park), and continued north(ish), eager to see territory that was all new to us beyond that point.
As we continued our drive into Montana we were surprised to see YNP signs along the way.
We had always thought that the park was completely self-contained.  
That it required us to enter through one of the multiple gates in order to be in the park proper.
Apparently we were wrong, and as we continued our cloudy and very cool drive we continued to see park signs, along with other signs warning of bison.
We never did see any bison (either on the way up or on the way back).
A couple of hours after leaving the house we pulled the Tahoe off the winding two lane highway, knowing that our pup would be eager to wander for a few minutes.
The world was grey, windy, overcast, very cool.
Summer arrives late to this place.................
As we all slowly wandered along the banks of the river I could feel the stress leaving.
Already LC and I both felt better.
The mountains were calling and we had to go.
To paraphrase John Muir.
The river had been calling as well, and suddenly I was in no big hurry to leave.
Although we had planned only a quick stop, we ended up staying in this place for well over half an hour.
There was no-one around.  The place was silent aside from the blowing wind and the flowing river.  And it was beautiful.............
After finally loading back into the Tahoe, and settling in for the next leg of the trip, I looked back (as I often do during trips) to check on our pup.
The back seats were down (we keep them down most of the time).
She was laying on two pillows with her head resting on the edge of the back seat, and she was staring at me.
I smiled at my relaxed dog, leaned forward so I could kiss her on the top of her furry head, and then rubbed her ears, just as I used to do with Jaimie.
And she liked it just as much as Jaimie did.
She stares at me often when we are on the road, and smiling at her again i reached for my camera.
Leaning behind me I tried to capture a picture of her looking at me but my movements had ruined the moment.
I couldn't get her to look at me while the camera was on and could almost hear the sentence forming inside her puppy head "I don't do stupid human pet tricks"..................
By the time we reached Big Sky a few hours later the........big sky.........had cleared somewhat.
It was still very cool but by mid afternoon the sun was valiantly fighting a (losing) battle to take hold.
The world was greener.
The sky was bluer.
And I remembered just how beautiful this state was..............
LC and I could have simply stopped in Big Timber for the night and then continued on to the small community of Reed Point the following morning to meet with the real estate agent.
Instead (after a long day on the road) we pulled into the tiny town, too eager to see what the place looked like.
Driving the few roads in town LC and I saw a combination of nicely kept homes and run down homes.
That seems to be the way these days.
The town was surrounded by hills.  Was five minutes away from the full and fast flowing Yellowstone River.  It backed up to huge swaths of empty land (although it was unclear whether that land was public access land or part of large cattle ranches), and the train tracks were right at the edge of town.
Where was public access land?  How often did the trains run?  What did the river accesses look like?  What did the old building we had been interested in look like?  What were the people like?
Were we serious about buying?
We weren't sure.
Part depended on what we saw.  
We hadn't even sold our house in Atomic City yet.
Mostly we were simply tire kickers - using this place as a stop-point.  
A go-to destination on a road trip to simply check out the area, see a new place, be close to the mountains and close to the water.
Random pictures taken as we slowly drove around the perimeter of "town"..................
There was a little camp ground right off the interstate.
A gas station.
A bar.
A few nice homes.  A few not-so-nice homes.
Aside from the river close by, the vibe of this town reminded me so much of Atomic City.
As we stopped occasionally so I could snap a few pictures, we saw one train after another pass through the outskirts of town.
About every 20 minutes or so.
That answered another question.
A walk around the building we had come to see answered the first.  It was.......interesting.
Had potential.
We needed to see the river.
Let's go to the river!!....................
Oh boy.
The river was full.  Fast flowing.  And so incredibly outstanding.
As I wandered with my tired dog, and looked back at my tired man, I relished in being so close to this beautiful river...................
After reluctantly leaving the river we slowly drove the gravel road back to the paved road we had come in on.
To the right we could see town less than a mile away.
To the left the road quickly rose into a steep hill and we could not see what was on the other side.
Curious, and still trying to get the lay of the land, we turned left.
At the top of the hill we saw endless rolling hills of green stretching out in front of us as far as we could see.
All of it fenced. 
Slowly driving, we scanned the area wondering if there were any public access places.
Places with endless spaces to roam with my dog.
Yes........I know.  For people of financially humble means, we were a picky bunch................
We only drove a couple of miles before turning back.
To that point we had seen only private property.
Huge spreads of fenced rolling hills, and the occasional cow.
In a couple of hours it would be dark.
We needed to eat.
We needed to find a place to stay for the night.
We had noticed a food sign outside the bar in town, and reasoned that it would be a place to not only grab a quick burger but also talk to the bar owners, servers, customers, and maybe glean more information about the locals, the area and the town.................
Montana should come with a surgeon general warning that it's addictive. The sky is big and blue, and the air is always fresh and crisp and scented with pine. There's a frontier spirit, but also a calmness, beauty in the landscape that slows your pulse.............Robin Bielman, Keeping Mr Right Now