To the West

It was my effort, in depicting the West, to depict it as it was. – Buffalo Bill

My last day in Montana was pretty special. I got up earlier than I had previously. They are an hour behind Central Standard time so 5am felt like 6am etc. I wanted to get some better pictures from an off the road viewing site I had found the day before. I never want to forget seeing the sun coming up in Montana. It was beautiful.

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The picture doesn’t express the breathtaking view very well but it will have to do.

There is something about that view that makes you feel like a pioneer, like the only person braving the wilderness, like an cowboy or an Indian will be riding over the hill at any moment. You can’t see a house, the fences look much as they did a hundred years ago, and there were no people to be found other than me. Even though I was stepping out of a brand new rental car on a paved road it felt like a moment out of time. We need places like this, at the base of the Beartooth Hwy, at the foot of the mountains to remind us that we are both significant and insignificant and that’s ok. We can make a difference in the lives of those around us but sometimes we get caught up in every little crisis. Its good to remember that those mountains and that sunrise were here before us and will be here long after us.

I didn’t manage to take a decent picture of myself this last day but I did take a neat artistic-y one with my glasses reflecting the mountains.

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It is actually one of my favorite pictures of myself. Definitely the best one I’ve ever taken.

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I do want to take a minute to say an ode to this little coffee shop called Honeys Cafe. It was hip and amazing and awesome. They had neat custom drinks with names like the Oregan Trail (white chocolate and blackberry with espresso) and all sorts of feminist literature and neat progressive and funny items. I came to Montana expecting all conservatives and while I saw a ton of Pro-life propaganda, Red Lodge at least, was full of neat people, both young and old who were clearly not stuck in the 1950s. I really cannot wait to take Faith and Carl back to Montana with me one day.

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The call of the Trail

I could never resist the call of the trail.

-Buffalo Bill

Most of my time in Montana was spent in a little town called Red Lodge. When asked about how I ended up there, which I was asked a lot, I told the truth. I’ve traveled everywhere close to Florence. Every state within a few hours I’ve driven to and every state along the east coast below New York I’ve visited, most several times. I’ve never been west (with the exception of Colorado) but I’ve always wanted to go. Once I realized that the cheapest ticket was likely going to be to Montana and the cheapest activities were also there to I settled on flying into Billings. Once I had settled on Billings there really aren’t a lot of towns nearby, especially not ones close to the mountains and the Wyoming border. One thing it was hard to get used to was the lack of towns, and people…and the abundance of cattle and casinos. I drove the hour south to Wyoming and only saw two people until I got to Cody…and they were in a wagon. Literally.

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After my trip to Cody, and a nap, because the elevation is exhausting for someone who doesn’t live on a mountain regularly I got out of my hotel to spend a little more time exploring the city since I knew I had to leave Tuesday. I managed to eat dinner and try an ale at the Pub at the Pollard Hotel. The Pollard was another place that Buffalo Bill touched during his travels around the west.

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I actually almost stayed at the Pollard but the Comfort Inn was a little bit cheaper and breakfast was included. I am glad I stopped in though. It wasn’t as interesting as the Irma, and its clearly been heavily updated, but it was still neat. The nice thing about the off season is that I was one of the only people in there.

After a salmon and cream cheese pizza I finally got around to trying out one of the bagillion “casinos” advertised with every bar. Honestly I’ve never gambled, never even purchased a lottery ticket and I probably wont do it again but it was interesting to see it. Basically its the saddest arcade you’ve ever seen, just for adults. I played slots and poker, bet in $0.10 increments until my four dollars was gone, had the bartender buy me a drink and crossed that whole experience off my bucket list. It was weird and sad and not a way I’d like to spend time ever again, but it did make me laugh a little at the absurdity. There were only a few other people in there, one older woman who reminded me of my Nana, and a young man who was determined that tonight would be his lucky night (egged on by the pretty bartender of course).

For the love of adventure

Ever since I booked my flight to Montana (less than a month ago) I’ve been thinking about driving to Wyoming, specifically to Cody, Wyoming. This morning, after I wondered around a mountain I decided to just do it. After I changed shoes, grabbed a snack and picked up some extra batteries I was on the road again. The drive to Cody was amazing.

But the love of adventure was in my father’s blood.

– Buffalo Bill

Adventure may have been in Buffalo Bill’s family, but my father only traveled out of Corinth, MS a handful of times that I know of in his 50 years and two of those occasions was on my insistence. Cody, Wyoming is unlike any place I had ventured thus far. It was far more tourist friendly than Red Lodge or Billings and actually quite pretty. The mountains rise up from the historic down town in such a way that I actually parked the car and was out walking down the street, camera in hand before I really thought much about what I was doing. I walked a ways on foot just taking it in. It was truly something special.

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Cody is another of those towns with a historic downtown area. Buffalo Bill had a hotel there named after his daughter Irma which is where I had lunch after meandering around town for a few hours.

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I had a Buffalo burger, and it was pretty good. What was better was the authenticity of the place in general

On the Montana side there was snow

And on the Wyoming side it was mostly sand and dead bushes and cows. Very little snow to no snow.

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Cody, Wyoming was everything I could have wanted. It was beautiful. And weird. And funky.

There were some neat building decorations.

A ton of John Wayne stuff at this one store. I ended up picking up some gifts there for the family.

Whilst eating lunch I had to take some touristy pictures of the Irma.

The dining room

At the booth where I was seated

A moose

At the bar

In the hotel area

Finally me outside

I want to go back during the busier season. They have fake gun fights in the street and tours through Yellowstone. Much of the road into Yellowstone is closed right now. I’ll definitely be back.

Chasing the dawn

โ€œWomen need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away.โ€ โ€“ Barbara De Angelis

Few things in life are quite so irritating as a toddler with a large vocabulary. The last thing any parent wants is for their two year to tell them he is just angry right now. Or that he is putting me in time out…Or any number of other perfectly fine phrases that are just expressions of his current feelings but that make me want to throw things…or laugh depending on the moment. This morning when I heard him demanding white milk of his dad it really seemed much funnier than when he does it to me. I am really grateful for that vocabulary though because I can send him off to Disney with his dad and know that when I talk to him he can actually tell me how he is and isn’t shy about doing it. He has told me all about the Tea Cup ride and Winnie the Pooh. As for my own little adventure, I’ve discovered that once you let batteries warm back up again you can get some charge off of them. I am about to head out into the great Montana dark and try a trail and some pictures of the dawn. One of my goals for this trip was to take some good pictures. I need to actually take one of myself today. Ha! This has been the longest period of time I’ve been away from Carl as of this morning. He took off with his dad at 3:00pm Friday and it is 7:00am Monday morning. I’m not going to do the math but I think it has been good for me, maybe for him as well. I want to see as much as I can on this trip but I’ve also been giving myself permission to do very little in between. Its been unspeakably nice to just be myself. Read if I feel like it, listen to my music, finish Longmire (finally), eat when I am ready and whatever I want. Drink if I want. These are things that we take for granted before kids but are never certain after them. If not one other good thing comes from this trip it will be that I remembered a little more about what I actually enjoy and what I want out of life. Most of what I want involves impetuous trips to places like this. I have a home now, a pretty good job that is fulfilling to me, a child that I couldn’t be prouder of and a reasonably good family. The only other thing I ask for is the world. And mom, if you are reading this, I also want a pony.

Travelling (wo)man

We have always been dreamers in Montana. – Brian Schweitzer

Red Lodge MOuntains

This Montana adventure is something else. I’ll probably always remember it as the weird quarter life crisis adventure I had a little bit late. I got up super duper early as per usual with a call from Carl who is having the time of his life at Disney world. On my way to pick up the car this morning I met a man who was in his 40s, divorced and new to Montana from Idaho of all places which he apparently hated. He talked about his video game playing and needing to get away from his ex wife while also telling me about the rimrocks in Billings. Then I wandered around Billings trying to get used to my rental car before I drove the hour south to Red Lodge. It was a pretty and quiet drive. I learned that the speed limit on a normal two lane in Montana is 70mph. This state is something else.

Road to Red Lodge

This picture may or may not have been captured while driving. Its hard to say ๐Ÿ˜‰

Red Lodge is beautiful. It’s like a hippie, less tourist trap-ie Gatlinburg. It’s got coffee shops, casinos, bead shops, rock shops, and a really pretty downtown walking area. It’s also at the foothills of some amazing mountains. The Beartooth Highway is closed, but I drove as far as I could today. There were people everywhere getting Christmas trees and strapping them to the hoods of everything from compact cars to station wagons ala Christmas Vacation. There are also several trails I want to explore early in the morning. I think I’m going to do that and skip skiing. I just don’t think I have the balance or energy for all that.

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I took this magazine worthy gem

Driving into the mountains today was like being hit with a familiar scent. It was comforting and beautiful and it made me happy. I felt the same elation in Alaska and Colorado over the years during my travels. I usually prefer the beach but I’ve missed the mountains.

After bee bopping around town today I discovered a Mexican restaurant themed after Humphrey Bogart called Bogart’s. It was really interesting. I mean Mexican would not have been what I would have paired with the hero of Casa Blanca but to each their own I guess. The food was pretty good and the coconut mango margarita was huge and delicious. I may have to get another one before I leave. This place is neat and I’m excited to explore more tomorrow.