Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,
This is our tenth stop on the BWRT and one chosen just a week ago, for no reason other than it seemed like the right distance between where we would be and where we needed to eventually go. It is a three-night stop because there's no sense in stopping if there isn't time to explore and learn a place, at least a little.
Friday, June 4, Drive from Buffalo to Bozeman
Friday started with saying goodbye to Barbara and Ace and Zoe, her two loyal companions. Zoe tried to get me to add her to our suitcases, but I had to turn her down. We will miss all three for a most welcoming visit and one that gave some insight into life in a small town in the middle of Wyoming. We couldn't ask for more.
The first leg of our trip was short, just up the road to Sheridan. Carla needed a fill before we traveled very far and the stop would be good timing for our own breakfast. The Supercharger station was a small four-pump affair, quite a bit smaller than the 8- or 12- or 60-connection affairs back in California. This would be the norm for our three stations on this almost-off-the-beaten-path day. Breakfast at the Cowboy Cafe was hearty, with antelope sausage and eggs for me. Diets will come later.
Our course for the day had us drive north on empty roads from Wyoming into Montana, where we would go onto the more-traveled Interstate 90. The 312 mile trip required two refueling stops, one stop at a National Monument, and a drive-through of Livingston, Montana, one of the small towns on our route. Roads started out empty, but by the time we were driving west toward Livingston and Bozeman, traffic picked up. Some of this was local, but a lot was also traffic bound for Yellowstone. I remain convinced it was the right decision to avoid the super-crowded National Park.
Our history lesson for the day came from a stop at Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument. The place used to be called "Custer's Last Stand" and was apparently devoted almost exclusively to honoring the U.S. Soldiers who died there. Nowadays, the presentation is more balanced, with descriptions of both Army and Native Warrior bravery and sacrifice. It becomes easier to view this as a civil war, fought on the lands of the losing side, despite their victory on this particular battlefield.
From Little Big Horn to Bozeman was a considerable drive. Marianne and I split the driving duty and, since we had Superchargers along the route, we could zip along at or near the 80mph speed limit. Mountain ranges kept popping up on the horizon, reminding the Europhile among us of the best drives in Austria or Italy. According to Google, our destination Bozeman is surrounded by seven separate ranges and we saw at least a few on the way there.
Just short of Bozeman, we took a detour to drive through the old-town section of Livingston. It was bigger than Buffalo, probably smaller than Sheridan, but had a similar feel, with a few buildings and houses from the late 1800's, some fixed up and others not so much. As we pass through these towns, we have been saying: "This would be a nice place to live, except for the Winters." Maybe we should opt for Fresno Winters and Rocky Mountain towns in the summer.
After picking up key-cards at the Royal 7 Budget Inn Motel, a 1950s rebuild, we hurried to downtown Bozeman to find dinner. According to our tour guides, Bozeman has a good dining scene, undoubtedly due to the prosperity and relative sophistication stemming from the University of Montana presence. Our meal at Plonk held up the reputation, and a summer storm offered entertainment with lightning, thunder, and heavy rain drops.
We were in a hurry, because we needed to start our weekly Zoom meeting for games with Colorado and Maryland families. We made it with minutes to spare and enjoyed chatting about our activities since we left the Colorado family on Monday. Our team, Marianne, me, and Jen, managed to go the whole evening without winning a game. It's not about winning!
A good start for our discovery stay.
Saturday, June 5, Museums
I got an early start, working on a diary in a Safeway parking lot. The only Starbucks that was open relatively early was inside the grocery store, so I got my wake-up drink and retreated to our car Carla. Soon, I think Starbucks will allow inside dining and I can get back to the pre-pandemic custom of writing while watching coffee customers, but for now it's outside or, when too chilly, seated in our heated Tesla. It's all good.
Our main goals for the day were museums and galleries, starting with the Museum of the Rockies. The drive across the older part of Bozeman gave us a chance to see neighborhoods near Montana State University. It was clear that this is a prosperous small town, with at least a century-and-a-half of history, old by Western U.S. standards
The Museum is a division of Montana State and an affiliate of the Smithsonian, primarily because of the paleontology research centered here. The museum's Siebel Dinosaur Complex was indeed impressive, including the fully-reconstructed T. Rex skeleton hanging over the largest gallery. Montana hills are the source of ancient artifacts, including this T. Rex, but also ocean floor specimen from when the area was a huge inland sea. All the displays were well done and I came away with a greater appreciation for the size and spookiness of dinosaurs.
The museum's traveling exhibit was called "Vikings Begin" and told the story of my Norse relatives, although none seemed to have sailed all the way to Montana. This was an interesting enough show, but we had the feeling we'd seen it before. I think it was in Seattle at the Norwegian Museum in Ballard, but Marianne was not so sure. In any event, if Vikings Begin makes it to your town, go and see the dark story of northern conquerers.
Squeezed in between dinosaurs and Vikings was a small exhibit of local history. Most of this would have been interchangeable with any western town: old cars, store fronts, clothes, furniture, etc. I did like the reconstruction of a Basque shepherd's wagon. It was as well-equiped as a modern Airstream travel trailer. I wonder if Carla could haul this vacation home.
The rest of our search for interesting galleries and exhibits was a bust. We stopped at the Bozeman Art Museum, a small strip-mall store front, and wandered though the western art, but it was not our style. We admired the skill of the painters as they depicted fish and bears and cows and cowboys, but did not come away yearning to add these pieces to our walls. Maybe if we buy a mountain cabin somewhere?
We also tried a pair of art galleries in downtown, but found more Western Art, still not our style. We did note that one artist's work was extremely detailed and showed wonderful skill and ability, but we still were not willing to part with the tens of thousands of dollars his work commanded. (Any interest in the science or computer museums faded away as we tired of wandering in uninspiring spaces. Maybe next visit.)
By now, the afternoon rain storm was starting and we needed a place to hide out. One gallery attendant recommended Revelry, just a block away. We chose counter seats where we could look into the kitchen, but the afternoon business was not creating the hectic show we often see when choosing a kitchen-view spot. That's OK, because our food was good and it all kept us out of the rain. (The picture of "Ted's Montana Grill" reminded us of one of our favorite diary readers. Ted, are you listening?)
From lunch, it was back to the Royal 7 motor lodge to wait out the rain. I read while Marianne tried to catch up on some YouTube art training she has been avoiding. We'd hoped that the wait would be short, but rain clouds kept coming for a few hours, alternating between drips and downpours.
Eventually, we decided that we needed to get out and at least take a drive. We turned north, away from the clouds and explored the suburban hills. We discovered neighborhoods with nicer homes than we had seen in the older part of Bozeman, many of them with spectacular views of the city and the mountains surrounding it. Maybe this is the area we need to move into - except for the winters!
Sunday, June 6, Chores and Hike
Awake early, as usual, I stopped by the Tesla charger to make sure there would be no range worries for the next few days. From there it was a stop at the Starbucks in Safeway, the only one open at the early hour. I wrote for a couple of hours and finished one more diary about our long trip before stopping at the only stand-alone Starbucks in town. They had just opened at 8:00 am and I counted over 35 waiting customers. Apparently, I wasn't the only one needing coffee and a simple breakfast.
Back at the Royal 7, it was my turn to do laundry, while Marianne caught up with friend Dale on a Skype call to Germany. Remember when international calls cost money? Now, calls come as video and they are free. That's nice for travelers. Meanwhile, my extra dose of coffee had turned my stomach inside out, calling for even more laundry. Stomach problems are not unusual on travel, but we've been mostly lucky so far. Except this time.
After resting, we decided a simple town walk might be our exercise for the day. We chose to park near Montana State University and ogle at the vintage homes in that neighborhood. We speculated that the fancier ones were for professors and the apartments and small bungalows for students. Overall, it was a friendly atmosphere, but for our own Bozeman home, we might still favor those on the hills for their views. If it weren't for cold winters.
By now, it was time for shopping and lunch. It's easy to tell Bozeman is an outdoors town, because there are three or four outdoor gear shops in downtown, plus chains like REI out in the suburban shopping centers. We did not find clothes that seemed just right, but I did get a new pair of walking shoes at Schnees. The Bozeman-based company seemed to specialize in shoes with the largest selection I'd ever seen of walking, hiking, and hunting footwear. (For upwards of $500, Schnees offers hand-made Italian hunting boots, supposedly famous in that world.) We told Andrew, the young salesman, that we needed a picture for our family and friends diary and discovered our diary is older than he is. It makes one feel old.
Lunch was back at the wine-bar Plonk. We'd had a good meal there the day we arrived and we didn't want to risk a new, bad, decision. Several people have said that the town has dozen's of good eating spots, so maybe we need to come back and try more. We ordered simple, an appetizer and hamburgers, and were glad we had come back.
Fully fed, and with a settled tummy for me, we headed out onto one of dozens of walking and hiking trails that are in or near Bozeman. We chose "Hedvig's Trail" in the Snow Field Park, in the northern suburbs. The views over the valley were worth the effort it took to climb the gentle slopes. We also discovered this fenced park allowed dogs to run leash-free and we would be be inspected by friendly pups whenever we stopped and sat.
Back "home", it was time to pack a little for Monday's move. This is getting routine and easy.
Monday, June 7, Leave
Breakfast was from the hotel's selection of carbs and then we finished cleaning and packing. A new mountain destination awaits.
First impressions of Bozeman had been great and they continued that way until we drove west.
John and Marianne